Come with us, dear reader, on a journey through time and space. Well, just time actually. And geography. We wonder: how would some of the world’s cruise destinations look if those ancient battles and politics had gone very differently? What kind of places would we be cruising to today?
For our first look at alternate histories in popular destinations, we’ll focus on cruises to France – and what could have happened, in a Marty McFly fashion, if a certain folk heroine didn’t come forward to fight.
It’s the early 1400s. Kings and noblemen ride through the land to the sound of clopping coconut shells, if Monty Python are to be believed. These weren’t the best years for Anglo-French relations, since we were engaged in brutal, bloody conflict over the French throne. The Hundred Years’ War had taken its toll on the French, and it was only the miraculous appearance of a teenage girl on the battlefield, a certain Miss of Arc, who helped to inspire the French armies and turn around their fortunes. After decades of conflict that blew holes in the French national identity, suddenly a girl appeared and claimed God was behind her and behind France, and she started saying things like this:
“Of the love or hatred God has for the English, I know nothing, but I do know that they will all be thrown out of France, except those who die there.”
Although she wore armour on the battlefield, Jeanne had a reputation for not wearing a helmet – a common thing for military leaders to do at the time, essentially because it was easier to see the battle (and spit rabid insults at the people invading your home soil). If she hadn’t worn her headgear during the Battle of Jargeau, however, the war could have gone very differently. With the French forces falling back from the town, Jeanne took up the flag and rallied the troops to lead an assault on the walls. Scaling the siege ladder to the top of the wall, Jeanne took a stone projectile to the head, which could very easily have martyred her much sooner.
If Jeanne d’Arc fell at Jargeau, the forces she captained may never have won back the Loire River. The English would have had a strong foothold, maybe enough to win the war, and may never have been fully dislodged from the country. And today, rather than a wine trip in Bordeaux on cruises to France you could be sampling English ales and ciders in the sunny orchards of southern France. There may have been no French Revolution, and with France as a British territory King George III of England could have had double the forces to pitch against the American Patriots during the War of Independence. And though the Americans may still have won their independence, an English-held France probably wouldn’t have gifted the Statue of Liberty to the New York skyline.
Cruises to France often travel to the port of Le Havre, for Paris. A shore excursion in an alternate, anglicised Paris could reveal the Arch of Triumph, premium steak and chips in age-old British pubs, and The Franco-British Museum in place of the Louvre – and hence The Da Vinci Code may never have existed. We could have seen the cast-iron Brunel Tower take the place of Eiffel’s in the heart of the city, photographed by tourists and looked on from a distance by so many of the world’s fiancées-to-be. Without a distinctly French France there would be no French cuisine as we know it. There may even have been no standard metric system, or perhaps it may have come much later – and we could have been left measuring everything in bushels, cloves, hands, nails, noggins, minims and scruples. Thank you France, for the metric system. Just… thank you.
In a France where the English had won there would have been no Amélie; no Misérables, no Little Prince and no Monté Cristo. There would be no Regrette Rien, no Paul Gauguin, and no Jacques Cousteau diving beneath the ocean waves. Cruises to Corsica would have no landmarks of Napoleon, and the French Caribbean wouldn’t have been French at all. So all we can say is, vive Jeanne, and vive la France!
Second article image courtesy of P. Svendsen.