Welcome back! I’m Benjamin Bernier… and we’re supposed to be on break, right? Well, yes, we are, but I’ll be honest: this show is never far from my mind. While we’ve been on hiatus and had a short amount of time to catch our breath and pull ourselves away from the overall narrative, we’ve had the chance to talk over some of the things we’d like to do a bit more of, and episodes such as this are a big part of that. So far we’ve done three Bonus Episodes on T+M – a look at Saint Geneviève, a review of Procopius and how he viewed Brittia and Francia from his perch in Constantinople, and an interview with Marco Cappelli of the Storia d’Italia podcast. In each case, the episode had been about something amazingly interesting, yet just far enough removed from our main narrative that I felt they didn’t quite fit within a regular episode. They were all, for lack of a better phrase, a trip down a rabbit hole, a moment in time when I couldn’t keep my curiosity in check and instead, like Alice, ran after the rabbit “never once considering how in the world [I] was to get out again.”
Staying with that theme, we're looking at a rabbit hole I came across all the way back in Episode 3! On 5 November 1831, thieves broke into the Bibliothèque Nationale de France and stole more than 2,000 pieces, most of which they considered to be little more than simple golden objects; in reality, they had absconded with the irreplaceable and priceless items taken, in 1653, from the burial site of the second king of the Merovingian Dynasty, King Childéric.
The man called out of retirement to track down Childéric’s treasure was none other than Eugène-François Vidocq, the Parisian detective who, when he wasn't cracking cases, served as the literary muse of Victor Hugo, Honoré de Balzac, Edgar Allen Poe and the elder Alexandre Dumas. Vidoqc served as the inspiration for both Jean Valjean and Javert, and is one of the most intriguing personalities I've learned of yet. More important than any of that, for us anyway, is the fact that this confluence of affairs made it possible for us to discuss the Merovingian King Childéric, dead now for nearly 1,550 years, the French Revolution, Napoleon, Victor Hugo, Edgar Allen Poe, and even one of the most popular Broadway musicals ever produced, all in the same story. It's an intriguing rabbit hole to explore, and I hope you enjoy the story as much as I do!
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