Season 1 Trailer
Welcome to Thugs and Miracles, the podcast where we’re looking back at history through the eyes of the kings and queens of France – from the fall of the Western Roman Empire to the fall of the guillotine.
Now, this premise might sound pretty constrained at first glance, but let me tell you: nothing could be further from the truth. This history, while nominally just the history of France, is in reality a major part of the history of Europe as a whole. You see, the French started off as a small Germanic tribe in Roman Gaul, fighting with and alongside of myriad rival tribes – and the Romans as well. This tribe, the Franks, would go on to dominate the landscape by emulating many of the customs and traditions of the Romans, and would battle with and intermarry with the Goths, the Lombards, the Angles and Saxons, leaving their mark on all of them while at the same time being equally influenced. And this barely gets us to the 7th century. Long story short, to be “French” is to be part of a tradition that has influenced and been influenced by almost every civilization in Europe – and beyond.
If that’s not enough for you, well, that’s fine, because we have more. You see, the Franks drew on a mythological foundation to give credence to their monarchs, justifying their right to rule by claiming a mandate given to them by the gods. The Merovingians, the first dynastic line we’ll talk about, claimed the divinity of the Roman gods was in their veins. Later on, when religions changed and new stories were needed, they would claim the Christian god – and specifically, the Catholic god – gave His favor to them in battle, preserving their leader to rule in His name. From that point on, the fate of the French and the Catholic Church were wedded together – for better or worse, until death did they part.
Alright, at this point, you may be asking what sets this history podcast aside from so many others from which you could choose, and that’s a fair question. Well, I offer you two answers: first, T+M, while using the royals as a unifying thread to tell the story, doesn’t look at just the kings. We try to understand what life was like for the people living under these monarchs. How must it have felt to live and die, all within a 10-mile radius of where you were born? What reasons would entice a person to leave their farm and family to go on a military campaign for a distant king? And for women, how must it have felt to live in a system that, under the Salic law, prohibited them from owning land or inheriting wealth? Just how was life in the Middle Ages, this so-called “dark age”?
My second answer to this question of “Why T+M?” is summed up in one word: storytelling. You see, almost every episode of this podcast starts with a story that sets the tone for the rest of the show, a story drawn from history and illustrated by us here at the podcast. We take you inside the mind of a broken and beaten ruler, running for his life from the Franks. We tell you the story of the beautiful Frankish queen who, according to the mythology, had an affair with a god and added divinity to the Merovingian line. We explore Clovis and his call to God from within the deepest lines of battle, and we explore his wife, Clotilde, and why she pushed so hard for her husband’s conversion – even risking her own life to get the King to come to the One True God. We tell the story of how brothers turned against one another to expand their kingdoms, how a cryptic message involving a pair of scissors and a sword forced a grandmother to make a life-and-death decision for her grandchildren, and how the Merovingians led multiple civil wars in the quest for that highest of all positions: King of All of the Franks. Finally, we will see how two women in particular were able to rise into positions of power, even when everything seemed against them. They ruled their Kingdoms and won battles for their people, and we’ll put you on the ground to see the bloody ways in which they gained power and held it. We’ll also be there when these two turn their forces against one another; one will have her son become King of the Franks, while the other will be torn apart – literally.
Anyway, we hope you’ll join us in the year 451, at the dawn of a new age in Europe and the rise of a new Empire that will lead into the West as we know it today. We’ll see how strong men and women flourished and how the Church aided them – and sometimes destroyed them. So please, join me, Benjamin Bernier, as we get started on the adventure with Season One of Thugs and Miracles.