II 53 The Great Lady Who Would Not Relinquish Her Governance Over Her Territory
1555 Lyon Bonhomme
La grande peste de cite maritime
Ne cessera que mort ne foit (foi?Foix?) vengée
Du iuste sang, par pris damne sans crime
De la grand dame par feincte n’outraigée.
The great maritime city of plague
The deaths will not cease while the blood of justness remains unavenged
For the unholy contempt of the great lady of Faith
Without accusation yet taken for condemned.
This first translation is redolent of ‘Old St.Paul’s’ the Norman Cathedral that stood in the place now occupied by the St.Paul’s Cathedral of Sir Christopher Wren.
This was a significant and grand structure that was gutted within by the Great Fire yet refurnishable and reusable as before, i.e. it was entirely possible to reconstruct it and this course had even been proposed before the fire of 1666 making it a prime candidate for saving with the unfortunate gutting being rather convenient in some ways. Nonetheless it was condemned to demolition (luckily for Christopher).
Although the UK Central Criminal Court called the Old Bailey, close to St.Paul’s, features a statue of the maiden ‘Justicia’, a.k.a. ‘the Scales of Justice’, the medieval courthouse destroyed in 1666 and its replacement of 1673-4 had nonesuch figurehead. The latter held its Sessions in the front courtyard, a place where the lawyers witnesses and court staffs gathered in the open-air to lessen the risk of contagion! The Old Bailey destroyed by fire was an extension to a heinous, disgustingly ill-managed and stinking prison house where disease was rife permanently. Wat Tyler was so incensed by it that he broke out the prison population setting them (and their diseases?) free during the Peasants’ Revolt. But the worst plague of gaol fever typhus occurred in 1750. It killed the Mayor, two judges and many dozens in the locality.
Certainly the quatrain is reminiscent of such legal miscreants as the ‘Hanging Judge’ Jeffries and others throughout history. If OF ‘foit’ were OF ‘loi’ (Justice, Law, enforcement of Sovereign authority, God’s prescription, Church’s decree) we might build a case. But either way the Nostradamus prediction as a whole is then rendered unsound because the plague, other than the deadly prison typhus, did in fact become subdued after that. (Excepting if ‘vengée’ should refer to the replacing of the destroyed buildings that represented England’s notably enduring social institutions.)
As usual I now give you, to the best of my small ability, the ammunition either to compile your own translations or to fire away at mine. I am no fan of ‘power point presentations’ that lead to a single conclusion by the ease of omitting pointers for any other directions to take.
Line 1, OF ‘peste’ is a sickness, a pestilence or a plague epidemic. OF ‘cite’ is likely OF ‘cité’ or from the OF verb ‘citer’. The former can apply to a whole city and its inhabitants or just to its original walled section, an administrative-customs-ecclesiastical stronghold, around which the later urban agglomerate has spread. The latter has the meanings to quote or to declare or to incite/excite activity. Its metonomic use could be one who has been duly assigned to face justice.
The “maritime city’ chimes with the Great Pestilence/Great Plague in Europe.
The Great Plague of Marseille 1720-22 killed 100,000 but a ‘plague wall’ was built to isolate the city and within two years Marseilles had restored a semblance of normality. More likely we are facing the Black Death of the 1340’s and the subsequent Bubonic Plagues at a rate of about one per generation up into the 1700’s, about 100 separate epidemics altogether, a pandemic probably caused by yersinia pestis that was brought in to Crimea and distributed around Europe and North Africa by cargo ships. The total number of deaths worldwide over three centuries is estimated at 75 million people with up to two-thirds occurring in Europe. A series of later outbreaks comprised the Plague of the North of Italy which was carried on-and-off by the soldiery of the Thirty Years War. It’s often called the Great Plague of Milan but the sea-city of Venice also suffered an especially high death-rate following the retreat to home of their troops.
Line 2. By virtue of English understatement, OF ‘que mort’ would translate adequately as ‘such death’. Modern Fr. can give us the meaning ‘until’ for ‘que’ but we should persevere in the quest for one best fit in OF.
The OF construction ‘ne … que’ was never a negative and meant ‘only’. (The OF negative ‘ne’ could sometimes imply ‘aucun’, certain, and it seems OF could use a variety of linking substantives with ‘ne’ or else none at all.)
OF ‘que’ can take the meaning ‘why?’ as an adverb of exclamation with the interrogative negative. Unfortunately we are missing ‘pourquoi’. (OF ‘quoi’ is related to ‘que’, hence the related hybrid, ‘per qué’.) OF ‘que’ could also be used to avoid repeating a conjunction or to substitute for ‘than’ or ‘when’.
The Vietnamese emphatic exclamation ‘qua’ has the Latin equivalent ‘quam’, one of the roots of ‘que’. As the Romans never went to ancient Vietnam it might well have entered via the French colonial soldiery and merchants who founded modern Saigon three hundred years ago.
OF ‘foit’ does not seem to exist other than as a noun. (OF ‘’fouet/foit’ was a wand with a strap, a small whip.) In this context ‘foit’ probably has a mistaken printed final letter. This was a common problem but once a letter-space vacuum opens then many similar words rush-in to fill it:
OF ‘foi’ is not only faith (from ‘fides’) but also relates to a thicket that hosts wild animals (from ‘fortis’). Faith, the theological virtue, is the most common meaning but this could also indicate a swear or oath of allegiance or, metonomically, the trust put in someone. So ‘foi’ could be good faith, loyalty, sincerity.
OF ‘fois/foys/feiz’ is time, especially legal time: locating the time of entering a case for trial or marking the frequency of appearances. It may also mean rendering a major report on something. otherwise an exception conceded as in ‘nevertheless’ or ‘just this once’. As with the English ‘times’ it may signal the multiplication symbol x.
Another alternative to ‘foit’ would be the famous old French name ‘Foix’ which may bring to mind the Château de Foix which was taken only once (in 1486 due to treacherous behaviour between branches of the Foix family at war). The castle, the County and the family Foix have each played decisive roles in history. In 1479 the Counts of Foix became the Kings of Navarre and would later produce the pivotal Henry IV King of France and Navarre.
OF ‘foir/fuir’ was to go hastily, abscond, escape to survive, to flee, to get away, be cast out, evade or shirk. Used as a noun it could mean a leakage or one who turns his gaze away. Alternatively,
Ja n’i vei jo de blé un grein
Dunt tu puisses ici guarrir
Par laburer ne par fuir.
from the Thirteenth Century or before. This is my translation ‘off-the-cuff’,
Ne’er saw I a single grain of wheat
Which you could hereby guarantee be meet
To drill the row not cast out indiscrete.
Line 3, OF ‘pris’ is perhaps ‘prix’, price, either a commercial or another value or, figuratively, the price to pay for an action or its absence. It can be an award or a rise in compliance or estimation. There is also the OF verb ‘priser’ for which we use the English ‘to prize’ for some of its meanings. OF ‘pris’ is also available from the OF verb ‘prendre’ including its metonymic use, ‘to seize land owned by another’.
OF ‘damne’ seems to be of ‘damner’ the verb and represents the religious domain and the eternal punishment of its subjects there, the damned. One can wish damnation on another or draw a person to their damning experience but basically it means to exert blame, a very political-judicial notion.
Should the intended line have read ‘dam ne’ then this ‘dam’ is a masculine noun for someone very bad or else some material or moral damage done. OF ‘dam’ may also be a sound signalling surprise, even perplexity. OF ‘dame’ meant a lady, married or not. It was to engender respect for a female’s social status by suggesting or underlining her nobility. It contains the notion of dominance, ownership and worthiness but in the appropriate context it could imply low social status. It was also a noun for a religious woman living in a devotional commune.
OF ‘crime’ meant the charge voiced for a prosecutory trial over a serious criminal act. Or a moral or religious breach. Or some kind of misrepresentation. Or merely to go against a familial/social code of behaviour.
Line 4, OF ‘seincte’ is likely in error. Possibly it should have been ‘ceinte’, cede. Or it might be a version of OF ‘saint/saincte’ a Church worthy celebrated as a pietous exemplar or one of irreproachable conduct and supernatural purity who is afforded the sanctity of divinity. It might even have been a mistaken OF ‘feint’, a false pretense or concealed appearance or lack of depth or weakish enthusiasm.
OF ‘outraigée’ is difficult to pin down. Whereas OF ‘outrance/outrage’ was extreme injury or insult to a person or a community, including by reckless presumptivity and gross negligence, OF ‘outragée’ simply meant outraged.
OF ‘raigee’ could be ‘regie’ meaning an administrative region. (OF ‘réger/régir’ is the verb ‘to govern’.) OF ‘out’ could refer to governance by division of such a town or territory making ‘out-raigee’ applicable to the diminished or relinquished governance of some territory.
Should ‘avoir’, to have, be said to imply the value of some ingress then I suppose that ‘outraigée’ could represent the opposing value attaching to its egress. To have not to a degree.
OF ‘outregie’ – not quite ‘outraigée’ but very close to it – was the same as ‘entrejet’, a fate conjured or sheer vicissitude.
The plague was always somewhere in Europe from the Fourteenth to the Seventeenth Centuries.
It came in via the Silk Road and through various maritime cities like the Port of London. Assuming the link between pestilence and noble abuse to be purely temporal we are seeking closure of an event within that period. However, Michel’s accuracy at deeming a moment of downturn in plague epidemics yet to come is something we cannot be sure about.
As OF ‘fois’ and foir’ don’t seem to be a proper substitute for ‘foit’ and its literal translation would seem too awkward, I have selected the family name Foix to replace the inexact ‘foit’ in Line 2. This at least can be moulded into some kind of sense:
The great epidemic of the maritime city
That death will stop for certain only when the just blood is avenged
Of the great lady of Foix who would not relinquish her governance over her territory
She who was without a charge yet for a price condemned.
Gaston III (Phoebus of Foix), d.1391, was a loyal defender of France against the English. Nevertheless he warred with his peers until retiring into a relative independence and neutral sovereignty (like John of Foix, father of Gaston IV, who coined the motto “ni Anglais ni Français”.) He had one – unnumbered – son Gaston who Froissart chronicles as the attempted assassin – at the behest of the King of Navarre – of his own father Phoebus who imprisoned Gaston and later slew him accidentally. Without a legitimate heir Gaston III de Foix bequeathed the Foix lands to King Charles VI of France. On his death the County of Foix was passed directly by the King to a descendant of Gaston I who later bequeathed them to his sister Isabella/her husband Archambault the Count of Grailly.
Isabella of Foix, d.1428, was in her own right the Countess of Foix but she shared power with her husband Archambault. As the last living member of the House of Foix she was heiress to much territory about the Northern Pyrenees. The French Crown disliked her husband as his family had supported the English during the 100 Years War. To prevent Foix-Grailly from aiding England any further an army of Charles IV of France invaded Foix and occupied large parts of it. Given that this was so, Isabella and her husband ceded authority to the French Crown. But that was not the end – the 1399 Treaty of Tarbes saw Isabella reinstated as Countess over all Foix on the understanding that her husband ceased any alliance with England. The wronged lady must have put up a fine fight and on two fronts.
Germaine of Foix, d. 1538, daughter of John of Foix, married to become Queen consort of Aragon. She had a son John, Prince Girona – which was the very purpose of the marriage to ambitious Ferdinand who had made acquistions conditional upon having a male heir – but the boy died soon after being born. Ferdinand King of Aragon was regent of Castille due to the supposed mental ill-health of his sister Joanna, locked away. After Ferdinand’s death Germaine eventually remarried and the couple were appointed Viceroys of Valencia. (The union of the Aragonese and Castilian crowns occurred in 1474.)
As Viceregne she put down the Revolt of the Brotherhoods, an antiseignurial uprising by artisan guilds of Valencia, and she personally approved at least 100 executions. Fines that were to take an exceedingly long time to pay off were imposed upon those local authorities that had favoured the guilds. The next rise of secular anti-monarchism in Europe would not be until the French Revolution more than two hundred years later. This was all within the timespan of the plague epidemics, as Nostredame envisaged.
Yet another ‘death’ of sorts was that of the Valencian Catalan tongue which had reached a peak absorption around the time Germaine arrived and was promptly to experience dieback as linguistic snobbery favoured Castillian Spanish, the language of the Court that pleased Germaine the most. Although legally supported today, Catalanese was once or twice prohibited after that in Spain including by General Franco. (For somebody like Nostredame, a master of the mix of words in the South of France, the inconsistent use of ‘ne’ in OF could possibly be expandable by its Catalan variants; the anaphoraclitic ne or ‘n and the cataphoraclitic n’ or en. Could these have slipped through linguistic links and into the field of this quatrain? In this special case the ‘ne’ of ‘damne’ might stretch ‘dam’ to the place of the damned, ‘damnable to Hell’, and ‘n’outraigée’ might suggest ‘removed from (the rulership of) Foix”. For what it’s worth, ‘n’outrage’ could mean ‘so many times outraged’. The modern Catalan for outrage is ‘ultratge’, by the way. I do not have a working portal to the Old Catalanian/Catalanese vocabulary.)
Françoise de Foix was once the favourite mistress of Francis I King of France. It was a long semi-discreet arrangement which elsewhere might be called ‘a second wife’ but probably she is best thought of as ‘La mye du roi’ (by my translation: a lover who has got under the King’s skin). Her murder would be too surprising if her husband had been one selected for her and granted grand employment by the King (a convenient arrangement which persists today in regal circles) but it seems the original couple had already forged a strong permanent relationship having had a daughter that died before they were called to Court by the King and at first she had resisted Francis. Her husband Jean and his family received considerable benefits from the king and yet he is said to have murdered her for jealousy of Francis on October 16th 1537. Her ghost is said to haunt Château Châteaubriant upon midnight of every anniversary of her death. This ‘crime of passion’ took the unlikely form of him imprisoning her in a darkened padded cell and subsequently poisoning her or else leaving her to bleed to death which seems pure premeditation. Or she died of an unnamed sickness. We will probably never know the intimate reasons behind her untimely death. She had returned to Châteaubriant after she lost the King to a competing lover but for a while he still visited them there. We do know the King’s mother had a deep dislike of the Foix family and Francis had announced his affections for Françoise at Court against this lady’s wishes. The ghostly sightings seem a red herring but should we once choose to take them seriously then the lady is not yet avenged.
The lands of the Foix family and its cadet branches lay upon the border with Spain and most of the intrigues involved had something to do with who would possess the neighbouring Kingdom of Navarre. Certainly there were deaths linked to this wrestling for position, both directly and incidentally. The French-Spanish conflicts here were eventually placated by the largely unforeseen accession of Henry of Navarre to the throne of France (his popular apellation was ‘le bon roi’ despite that he was subsequently murdered/assassinated in 1610) marking a welcome turn away from the aching Wars of Religion and towards redeveloping the French economy. (Henry was a Protestant but turned Catholic for reasons other than religion which was to bring about a happy national progress, perhaps sowing subtly the seed of future secularisms in Europe.)
The plague was in Europe from the mid-Fourteenth to the late Seventeenth Centuries. Although plague still exists it is no longer epidemic and so we can hope that this is in our historical past (apart from those amongst us who insist that we should live through the biblical plagues that they insist are yet to come). Assuming the historical link between a pestilence and some ‘noble disoblige’ to be purely temporal we are simply seeking an appropriate event within that period which certainly houses neatly the Early Modern Period of France, the Kingdom from the Renaissance to the French Revolution.
The plague centuries in Europe were, of course, at full blast during the lifetime of Michel de Nostredame.
If we can find the appropriate event that starts and ends within his gauge of the plague times (the Black Death was all over France by 1350) then we are home if not dry. For example the death of the heir to Gaston III of Foix leading to the semi-dispersion of the Foix lands is one, maybe, that stood to be avenged. And again in the Fourteenth Century the lady Isabella of Foix was wronged by the French King acting hastily over ‘geopolitics’ and a felt need to compromise her rule over her own territory. History suggests she may never have given up the fight for her rights and Nostredame may seem to confirm this.
The coat of arms of Henry IV of France as King of Navarre and Duke of Vendome and Bourbon features two bulls as does the coat of arms of Germaine of Foix after her marriage to Aragon-Castile, highlighting as it were the proximity problems of France and Spain: are we to consider the tosses and turns of the relationship between loyal supporters of the King of France and its keening Southern neighbours as extinguished by the accession of King Henri of Navarre to the throne of France? Or did the French Revolution, more or less coincidental with the end of of a run of bubonic plague epidemics, bring about the anti-monarchy and secularism so desired by members of the artisan guilds of Valencia and around who were so cruelly squashed by Germaine de Foix centuries before?
The shade of Françoise de Foix may seek vengence or not and could even be calling for a third translation of II 53 from me but I find it difficult to persevere with this spook story. (Out of interest, in parts of Asia where the existence of ghosts is not doubted as it is in the West at least one person in ten unhesitatingly speaks of seeing them, plain as the nose on your face.)
A peril of war and of politics, past and present, is that possessions houses and lands are seized by over-vaunting authorities and the distress caused is such that all cases probably could warrant comment in Nostradamus. Likewise there were a run of devastating European pestilences over the centuries to choose from, for example the great plague of London 1665-1666.
This was very close to the Great Fire of London which is investigated in the Article UNDERSTANDING NOSTRADAMUS: EXPLORING SOME SUBJECTS RECURRENT IN THE CENTURIES under the subheading SECT, quatrain II 51, where I wrote of
slaughtered French-Dutch or, as some have said, blonde Scandinavians who were blamed and run down by the mob during the early aftermath of the Great Fire of London
Textual similarities between II 51 and II 53 suggest that they might be a pair:
Londres/de cite maritime,
Le sang de iuste/Du iuste sang,
La dame … de place haute/la grand dame.
Now something novel occurs which benefits from adding the letter ‘g’ to the word ‘vint’ in Nostradame’s quatrain II 51 to create the alternative OF spelling, ‘vingt’:
Having made a case for ‘de’,
OF ‘de’ can be a connecting word or it represents the arithmetic ‘regle de apposition et remotion’, the rule of addition and subtraction.
I wrote in my investigation of II 51 that,
The conventional interpretation of ‘de vint trois les six’ is that it means 20 x 3 + 6 = 66 and the leap is then made to London in 1666 so as to match the Great Fire
although concerning the phrase ‘de vint trois les six’ it is most likely that ‘de vingt trois les six’ was intended although this leaves us with the self-same ‘fructions’ (fun phono fractions?) to juggle with: twenty, three, the sixes.
In OF the plural ‘vinz’ but not ‘vint’ should have been used in conjunction with the multiplier x3 (‘trois vinz’ = three twenties = 60) but it was not; which would leave us with numerology:
The three sixes, OF ‘les trois six’ = 666.
I also wrote that,
OF ‘vint’ means either ‘vingt’, twenty, or is from ‘venir’ to come. (If so, ‘vint/vînt’ is a literary usage and suggests that the main clause before it is in the past as far as I can see.)
In these present circumstances I must believe that OF ‘vint trois les six’ is likely to be ‘vient’ from ‘venir’ (which in the future tense can mean either ‘to come in’ or ‘to go to’ whatever terminus is being envisaged) so producing ‘comes 666’ and this phrase in the year ‘555’ would have been fairly routine vernacular, expressed in modern English as “the coming year of 1666”.
OF ‘venir’ can also mean ‘to enrol in time’ (come aboard) or even ‘to convene or bring to justice’ (come to Court) which is somewhat redolant of the fearful 666 who comes to haunt the Book of Revelation.
Michel de Nostredame died in 1566, of course.
Although it seems hardly worth saying, an old unit of length was the OF ‘lieue’ (English translation, a league) most often measured at 1666 toise with each toise being the width of a man’s outstretched arms, (from AD 790 up to the French Revolution when the metre was introduced).
A Translation Update for Nostradamr’s quatrain II 51 1555 Lyon Bonhomme would be:
In London the blood of justness will be mistaken
Consumed unrecognizably by the shocking blaze in the coming year of 1666.
The ancient lady will fall from her high place:
Some more from a particular group will be slain.
To the Medieval mind to be a just person was part of being a worthy one. It may be coincidence that the Mayor of London in 1666 was named Bloodworth but I would be surprised if ‘Le sang de iuste’ as ‘the blood of just worth’ were not an example of Michel Nostredame’s word plays, albeit a foreign one. Having initially misjudged the Great Fire the town’s greatest worthy then reacted far too slowly to be altogether just.
Back to my Second Translation of II 53: here’s something a little startling
The letters of some of the following lines from quatrain II 53, 1555 Lyon Bonhomme, seem arranged anew in the quatrain II 51 below, bottom (with the excepted words shown here in parentheses):
La grande peste de cite maritime,
Ne cessera (que) mort ne foix vengée
Du iuste sang, (par pris damne sans crime
De la grand dame par feincte n’outraigée.)
More so the letters of each the following separate lines of quatrain II 51 below, 1555 Lyon Bonhomme, which seem arranged anew in the whole quatrain II 53 above (with three excepted words shown below in parentheses):
Le sang de iuste à Londres sera faute
(Bruslés) par fouldres de vingt trois les six.
La dame antique (cherra) de place (haute):
De mesme secte plusieurs seront occis.
being nearly the whole quatrain! With the exception of those three complete words in II 51 (which may be omitted without significantly altering the meaning of the quatrain as a whole) it is phrases, extracts or whole, and not individual words that seem to have given up their letters for rearrangement in the quatrain II 53.
The other way around the situation is not so complete, granted, but once again it is letters from phrases more than discrete words that have passed from one quatrain to the other to be reassembled. (That the two do not agree exactly is because the skill & method employed is not mathematical.) If the poet Keats is considered an acute artist for playing around with vowel sequences in his neat verses then here is high art!
Irony aside, obviously these quatrains composed by the genius of ‘Nostradamus’ are very closely related indeed and the Cathedral of St.Paul (or the Crown Court of Old Bailey, or both for that matter) would so seem to be “the great lady who did not relinquish her governance over her territory”, i.e. her institutional fame and function survived the gluttony-inspired Fire of London (many disasters in the City have seemed linked to greed or gluttony) and played a virtuous part in the wait for her to be rebuilt better than ever.
This does not preclude any one entry in the Opera Nostradamus from bearing more than one prophetic meaning, of course, including present Nostredame quatrain II 53 for which I have supplied herein two separate translations.
A Historical Note for 1381AD:
This was not only the year that Gaston the sole heir to Gaston III of Foix died somewhat bizarrely but also the year that Isabella of Foix married and partially ceded power to her husband, the royally disliked Archambault of Grailly, and it was also the year of the English Peasants’ Revolt led by the impassioned Wat Tyler.
Nigel Raymond Offord © 2015