Monday, August 14, 2006

One Battle's Legacy


After that last post on the Paris rally, I took comfort in this brief item from Novopress, reminding us of how the French National Archives were founded. Philip-Augustus was King of France from 1180 to 1223. He was born (1165) in a residence on the Ile de la Cité in Paris, a residence that would eventually become the Palais de Justice. Apparently the King loved his home despite its starkness. I don't believe anything remains of it today.

All that it would take was one simple battle, in the eternal conflict between France and England, for one of the most important institutions in France to be created, important especially for historians: the Royal Archives.

It was July 3, 1194, and Philip-Augustus was defeated in battle by Richard the Lion-Hearted at Fréteval. In itself the incident would not have had great importance if the English had not carried off with them the archives that the king took with him everywhere.

Swearing that such a thing would never happen again, Philip-Augustus decided then and there to preserve the Treasury of Documents right in Paris, in his palace on the Cité. It is possible, therefore, to date, from this event, the creation of the first royal, later imperial and finally national Archives.

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