August 3, 1573
An open letter to the Huguenots:
We, the French Catholics (aka the Hugueyeses), are feeling a little sheepish. We wanted to create an open space for dialogue about religious belief and practice among two Christian denominations. Instead, things have gotten a little…massacre-y.
Of course, we French–we are still one nation!–are known for our hot tempers and even spicier sauces, but that doesn’t mean we can’t be civil. In fact, we will have a long history of tolerance and intellectualism if the Enlightenment ever rolls around!
What about the Massacre of Huguenots at Merindol, you ask? Ahem. Well, we’re really, really, really sorry about that. It was all a big misunderstanding, things got out of hand, and we killed some people we shouldn’t have.
We’re also sorry about that whole Massacre of Vassy thing. It’s not so hard to understand when someone commits one massacre, but when you do it twice, that is inexcusable.
And we’re not even going to mention what you guys did to us at Michelade, because that would be petty. Sometimes with massacres you just have to forgive and forget.
Like you guys should forget the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre, which we’re also really, really sorry about. Really. Everyone makes mistakes, but after the first 10,000 killings we should have realized we were doing it again.
Massacres can be fun, sure, and the satisfaction of smashing in the head of another damned Calvinist is unrivaled even by the most buttery, flaky pain au chocolat. But that doesn’t make it right. And if we’re going to restore the vague sense that future history students will have that France was the birthplace of human rights and whatnot, we should really stop with the massacre-ing as soon as possible.
The French Catholics
The discovery of this letter amongst the possessions of a madame in mid-20th century Chicago rocked the foundations of American historians to their core. Here, finally, was definitive proof that not only did France exist before World War II, but that the French were just as good at killing each other as the English, Germans, or even Americans. Thus, the completely laughable stereotype of the French as namby-pampy croissant munchers who would surrender at the slightest hint of getting their perfectly manicured pencil mustaches singed, and who were not fit to lick the boots of someone like George S. Patton, was banished from history forever.
The religious turmoil in question is actually a fascinating period of European history, as a wave of barons and large landowners used this newfound interest in “Protestantism” to grab more land and wealth from the Catholic church. These barons were to a man indifferent to the actual tenets of the religion, which were seen as “dull, dour, and really not a lot of fun at all” (The Duke of Normandy, writing in 1670). Here are the beginnings of the strife that would lead the great minds of the 18th century to reject the Reformation in favor of the rationalism of the Enlightenment, until everyone remembered what fun it could be to massacre a village worth of people for wearing the wrong hat. It did not help matters when the Duke of Nantes, an important leader of the Hugeuyeses, was discovered to have signed this letter with his fingers crossed.
One curious bit of information here is the note about the French having spicy sauces, which seems out of place. Most Frenchmen to this day take pride in their variety of savory, creamy sauces, which are granted special favor in the French government. Charles De Gaulle was famous for consulting his Minister of Sauces on important nuclear matters. However, it’s important to remember that this letter was written before the widespread introduction of New World and Asian spices into European cuisine, and any recipe containing something besides wheat, carrots, and rotting fish was considered “spicy” by the standards of the day. When a chili pepper was first introduced to the court at Paris in 1745, it led to a massacring of peasants at Arles now known as “Le Massacre du Vegetable Azteque.” Once again, apology letters were mailed out, but they did little to stem the rising tide of spicism across the continent.