Monday, February 13, 2012
The French always start a job like this by displaying their credentials. So, in deference to them, here we go.
I don't have a general in the family but my cousin is a French Knight. Michael (above) is a Chevalier de l'Ordre des Palmes académiques.
And I have in my possession a letter, from the Chief Conservator in the National Library of France, thanking me for an article I wrote which he says "illuminated in a very useful manner a period in the history of Franco-Irish relations". If you don't believe me you can click on the image below and keep clicking until it gets big enough to read.
And now to the point of this post.
Minister Varadkar has just opened an exhibition, in the French War Museum at Les Invalides in Paris, which deals with Franco-Irish cooperation on the battlefield over a period of three centuries. If you don't believe me, look at the picture below and read the news item.
Now, this cooperation, often directed against the English, does raise a heap of tricky philosophical questions. I am thinking, for example, of attitudes to Flemings and Bretons who collaborated with the Nazis during WWII in an effort to secure a measure of independence for their own people against an occupying imperial power. However, that is not my purpose here, and it will keep for another day.
My interest is in a French Major La Chaussée who did some magnificent work in Ireland in 1797 (note the date) analysing the strengths and weaknesses of various sections of the Irish coastline and how these weaknesses might be exploited in any French seaborne attack against the British in Ireland.
So far so good, and that is what I thought myself. Until, that is, I found out the Major was not working for the French as an advance party spy. Rather, he was working for the British in order to help them thwart any such invasion.
I doubt if he is included in the current exhibition and I am aware of only one place where his work is on display in this country, and that is in the restored Martello Tower (No.7) in Killiney Bay.
So if, unlike the Minister, you cannot currently afford the trip to Paris, even for the replay, you might like to see the work of a Frenchman who cooperated with the other side on the eve of the glorious Rebellion of 1798.