Madame Marcia Smith has a unique teaching tool at Celina High School. Located right outside the media center is a showcase filled with depictions of French history to supplement her French language classes. Madame Smith filled the showcase with tiny figurines in history depicting military battles including: the French Foreign Legion; Napoleon Bonaparte’s Empire expansion; the armor of French Knights; the American Revolution; the French Army as a premier fighting force; Saint Joan of Arc, who led that army – for a while, that is; and the beheading of the monarchy at the guillotine during the French Revolution.
The most interesting piece in the showcase is the brand new guillotine!
Madame Smith explains, “Jon Clouse (recently retired Tri-Star CAD teacher and woodworking hobbyist) kindly donated his time, materials, and expertise to the making of the 1/10 replica on display. His research, generosity, enthusiasm, and attention to authenticity are greatly appreciated.
Below are the topics depicted in the showcase which Madame’s students use:
The French Foreign Legion is a military wing of the French Army established in 1831, unique because it was exclusively created for foreign nationals willing to serve in the French Armed Forces. Today it is an elite military unit whose training focuses not only on traditional military skills but also on its strong esprit de corps. Training is not only physically challenging, but extremely stressful psychologically.
Napoleon Bonaparte is one of the top five military minds of all time. His approach to war revolutionized European armies and military systems, and took place on a scale never before seen, mainly due to the application of modern mass conscription. He created an Empire that stretched from Spain to the steppes of Russia. His campaigns formed the basis of military education throughout the western world and much military thinking is still influenced by the great emperor.
French knights wore steel plate armor of great thickness and sophistication. Two-handed swords came into vogue as the battle weapon of the gentry. Otherwise common weapons remained the lance, shield, sword, various forms of mace or club, and dagger. Each knight wore his coat of arms on his surcoat and shield.
The American Revolution was well received in France, both by the general population and the educated classes. Benjamin Franklin, dispatched to France in December of 1776 to rally support, was welcomed with great enthusiasm, as numerous Frenchmen embarked for the Americas to volunteer for the war effort. The colonists would not have been successful without the financial aid of Louis XVI.
Marie Antoinette was born in Austria but moved at age 14 to France to marry the future Louis the XVI, becoming queen at 19. She was deeply resented by the French people who saw her as a spendthrift at a time of economic crisis. She never said, “Let them eat cake.” Several months after it claimed the king, the guillotine claimed Marie’s life as well. One of her last acts is to apologize to the executioner for accidentally stepping on his foot.
La Guillotine was named for Dr. Joseph Guillotin, but was not invented by him. He proposed it as a more humane method of execution than those commonly employed. Its nickname during the French Revolution was “The National Razor” where it claimed the lives of more than 15,000 people. The Nazis made extensive use of the guillotine during WWII. The last execution in France by guillotine took place in 1977.
Contrary to popular opinion, the French Army was the premier fighting force in Europe from the Middle Ages through the 19th century. France has had more victories, more innovations in warfare, more great military leaders, and more wars won than any nation in the world.
Joan of Arc was born in France in 1412at a time when France and England were engaged in The 100 Years War (which actually lasted longer than a century). This peasant girl claimed to hear voices and see visions of angels and saints telling her to take up arms and lead the French Army. She eventually persuaded the desperate king, Charles, to give her military authority. She inspired the troops and turned the tide of the war. She was eventually captured by the English and betrayed by the King and the Church. She was tried and burned at the stake for wearing men’s clothing. Ironically, not long after the French vanquished the English, the Catholic Church declared that her trial had been a fraud; she was canonized in 1920 as the patron saint of France.