30 September 2009


Our homeschool group is doing a "World's Fair" where each family picks a country, learns all about it, then presents it to the group. Our family (read: me) picked Switzerland. That was a no brainer. Figured it was time my kids learned a little bit about one of their ancestral homes. Granted, I'm a lot more Irish (technically, of Irish descent) than I am all the other nationalities combined, but so many people can claim that whereas not so many can claim being of Swiss descent.

On a side note, as an American, I learned very little, probably nearly nothing, about European history, other than things related to pilgrims and the world wars. At the library the other day, as I was scanning through the courses on CD that they have (my new past time since I now spend a good deal of time in the car driving my kids to their history club that meets three times a week), I found one on early medieval history. This is the period we are learning about in the history club, so I was pretty thrilled with myself...I'd be able to "brush up" on the time period and not look totally clueless in front of the kids and especially the other moms! This time period was never taught in school. I don't know how I learned the minuscule amount I do know. Minuscule.

Just down the shelf from the early medieval history course was a course on the French Revolution. Did I mention I learned very little about history, other than American? I know little of any history. My liberal arts degree ensured I took at least one history class, but to soften the blow to my GPA, in the wisdom of my youth, I took my one required class on Early American History to 1875...or something like that. Basically, I was repeating the only history I had ever really learned a fig about. Who cared about English history? Our Founding Fathers had left that country behind so who I was to quibble with that...and who cared a lick about the French?

Being a genealogy buff, I have gone on to learn a few things about the countries my ancestors were from, sans the Brits and the French (inherited bias and German pride that was ingrained in me by my father). I know more about Irish history than I probably do American and I know some German and Swiss, along with Scottish, as much as one can without opening their eyes to how it all overlaps and connects.

I finished the course on Early Medieval History, the French Revolution and am now on a course that focuses on Napoleon himself.

I know very little, but I really don't like Napoleon. What on earth was going on in France...the place was mad. Terror is an understatement.

I read Trianon (see Elena Maria Vidal's blog), which I enjoyed for its unique perspective. Historical fiction though it is, I hope it was half true, especially when one learns of the hideous things said about Marie Antoinette! Leave it to the French...what a mess.

Anyhow, in learning about the French Revolution and Napoleon, I learned about this famous painting of him, which must be familiar to most folks, of his crossing the St. Bernard Pass (Napoleon Crossing the Alps by Jacques-Louis David)...which is in Switzerland, not too far south from where my ancestors are from.

I just read a story to the kids on the monks and the St. Bernard dogs that live near the pass. Funny how things go off on tangents, but then seem to bring you back to where you started.

But, what is interesting about this painting, other than it's connection to Switzerland, is how it was painted. There was a very deliberate method to this painting...it has an orthogonal scheme and Napoleon on his horse forms a "Z" for effect. There are five versions of it. To be brief, I'll just link to it on Wiki.

Oh, and it has Hannibal's and Charlemagne's names inscribed on the rocks...which fits right in with the early medieval history!


elena maria vidal said...

Oh, dear Swiss Miss, the most hideous things that happen to Marie-Antoinette in my novel Trianon are all entirely true, I hate to tell you. I wish it had not been so bad for her. Thank you for the mention!

swissmiss said...

I'm really looking forward to reading Madame Royale. I'm adding it to my Amazon wish list for Christmas. The entire period of the French Revolution is very sad.