Maybe you have already read the famous comic strip “Asterix and Obelix”: about two Gauls who live in Armorica, a village that has resisted against the Roman invaders. This must surely confirm the strong spirit of the Bretons who have always been very proud of their area and historical roots. But what is exactly the History of Brittany? Why does this area attract so many people despite the constant rain that graces the land? Is it the particularly charming culture?
The Kingdom of the French Brittany was born in 851 AD thanks to Erispoë, the first Breton King. At that time, in the Kingdom of Gaul created by Clovis a few centuries before, the Bretons were considered barbarians. After a long hostile period, Brittany was finally annexed to France in 1532 A.D.. During the struggle, the Brittany also faced its first war against England. In 1341 A.D., the first Breton war of succession arose after the Duke John III died without leaving any descendants. A battle between Jean de Montfort (ally of the English King, ready to have alliances with the English and Charles de Blois (who has the legitimacy to become the chief of Brittany) took place. It’s what, in Brittany call the “War of Breton succession”. Finally, after wars for independence from France Brittany succumbed to its fate of becoming a part of France, but this region has retained its unique culture and identity. And up until the French Revolution in 1789, the Breton Nobility defended the sovereign rights of Brittany to be an independent region under the king and fought against oppression by the French crown. Paradoxically, during the Revolution, the Breton farmers were loyal to the King in a similar way to the “Chouans” in Vendee, many of whom died to stay loyal to the King Louis XVI.
This history has imprinted a rebellious and reactionary attitude towards the Government on the Breton character. Today, Bretons value the history of their region above French history. They remember Blue Beard, respond to the sound of the Bagpipes and Celtic songs. They dream of wandering in Broceliand forest where King Arthur is said to have lived. Children love to see rock of Menhirs that is featured in Asterix and Obelix. The more romantically inclined are drawn to the Francois-René de Chateaubriand, and the creator of the Surrealism Movement André Breton. We want to sail like Olivier de Kersauson on the Atlantic which most of us can see from our holiday houses.
Just to conclude with a question for you readers. If you haven’t yet visited French Brittany, what are you waiting for?
By Priscille Pialoux, an intern at WYA Europe.