Bernard Natan was one of France’s first well-known pornographic directors. Perhaps taking slight advantage of his role, he often cast himself in his own pornographic films in homosexual scenes. Apparently, his favorite roles were as the giver of oral sex and the recipient of anal sex.
After Richard Lionheart’s death, Philip II of France set to work at absorbing the Angevin dominions into France. The Rock of Andely was an especially impressive fortress, constructed by Richard, which Philip needed to conquer if he wished to complete his conquests. The fortress was nearly impregnable, but Philip was perfectly willing to starve out the defenders. His recent attacks had driven a large number of noncombatants into the castle, who would help deplete the food stores of the castle. Already, the commander of the castle, de Lacy, had sent out a number of elderly as worthless mouths, and the French had allowed them to pass through unmolested.
When he tried to expel all noncombatants, though, the French fired upon them, in order to keep them from escaping the castle. The men, women, and children now tried to return to the castle and safety, but de Lacy had raised the drawbridge and shut the gates against them. These people now had to survive between two armies for weeks, eating rats and grass, huddling in the moats together for warmth. When the castle released its dogs in order to improve its food situation, these people tore them apart and devoured them. Before long, they resorted even to cannibalism in order to stay alive.
Finally, Philip took pity and gave the order to let them go and give them food, but they had starved for so long that they were now too weak to survive, and almost every one of them died immediately after their first taste of real food in months.
When the potato was first introduced to Europe, many were wary of the mysterious tuber. Believed by some to cause leprosy, peasants had no desire to try it, and often used it solely for animal feed. Only in fits and spurts did far-sighted individuals realize the crop’s potential and seek to share it with the world.
Antoine-Augustin Parmentier was a Frenchman taken captive by the Prussians during the Seven Years War. During his captivity, he was fed almost exclusively potatoes, and came to realize their value. Upon return to France, he became determined to spread them and their benefits throughout France. He managed to introduce potatoes to the aristocracy, but the peasants were less susceptible. However, he concocted the following plan.
He planted potatoes at Les Sablons, on the western edge of Paris, and had soldiers guard the crops during the day, ordering them to chase away any curious peasants. At night, however, they promptly left, giving the peasants time to sneak in and steal the crop, eager to try something so valuable that it needed to be guarded so thoroughly. Soon, potatoes spread throughout the city as people tried them and discovered their quality.
As for Antoine-Augustin Parmentier, he was awarded the Legion of Honor by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1802 for his accomplishments and efforts.
Gustave Doré is a famous French engraver. Although not necessarily well known today, then, his work was widely known, and his engravings spread the Bible to more people than most written editions ever will. Most astonishingly of all, he appears to have acquired this gift before he had any training, although later training in life did refine his talents. At the age of 15, though, his father brought him to Paris, where he saw an illustrated edition of the labors of Hercules, stories which he knew very well. He found the illustrations in the book to be inferior, and so the next day he feigned sickness, in order that he might be left alone at home. When his father and brother left, young Gustave drew up six pictures in two and a half hours.
He brought these pictures to the director of the Journal pour Rire, who recognized the great talent present, and asked the boy to draw another sample for him in order to verify the provenance of the drawings. Gustave’s talent being proved, he was granted a three year contract, during which time he would also attend school at the Lycée Charlemagne, an education that went unfinished, since it became clear that Gustave knew more than his teachers about art.
The folding chess set was invented in France, in 1125. The bishop of Paris had forbidden priests from playing chess, but one chess-playing cleric was unable to resist, and so invented a folding chess set that, from the outside, looked like two books lying together.
Carp, if left to themselves in a fish pond, become lazy and apathetic, unwilling to exercise more than necessary. Therefore, pike must be added to the pond to nip at the fins of the carp in order to keep them fit, active, and healthy, a practice which was especially common at Versailles.