King Edward of England inherited control of Gascony in France from his mother, Eleanor of Provence, a French noble. But when the 27-year-old King of France decided in 1295 not to let the King of England control part of his country, Edward asked his English nobles to raise an army so that he could regain control of his real estate on the other side of the water.
His nobles said, “Edward, Gascony doesn’t really belong to the nation of England; its revenues belong to you, personally. So we’re out. You need to deal with that on your own.”
A con man who wants your money will present you with a phony opportunity. But a con man who wants your vote will present you with a phony emergency.
Having thus been rebuffed by the Earls of England, Edward summoned a vast assembly of barons and bishops, knights and burgesses, men of the shires, and representatives of towns and cities, and told them their nation was in danger. He said,
“The King of France, not satisfied with the treacherous invasion of Gascony, has prepared a mighty fleet and army for the purpose of invading England and wiping the English tongue from the face of the earth.” 1
It was complete bullshit, but it worked.
Alarmed, outraged, and afraid, the people of England gave lying King Edward the army he needed to invade France and fight for his real estate. And thus the fuse was lit that would later explode as The Hundred Years War.
Edward’s lie cost the lives of tens of thousands of English husbands, sons, and fathers.
Fifty years later, Edward II told that same lie to a new generation of English husbands, sons, and Dads. In 1345, he began spreading propaganda throughout England that the French were spies and aggressors whose only goal was to invade England and convert the population to French speakers. He got the people of England so worked up that when they got to France in 1347, “they tore it to pieces like a pack of distempered dogs. The army marched through the countryside, slaughtering and brutalizing as it went.” 2
The war that Edward II started that day lasted 116 years, 4 months, 3 weeks and 4 days, and resulted in more than 3,000,000 innocent people dying violently in France. In the end, the French won. The English lost all of their possessions in France except for the city of Calais, which they held until 1558.
Fifty years apart, two different kings told the same lie to create a national emergency. And both times, it worked.
And it still works today.
Roy H. Williams
1The Plantagenets, by Dan Jones, (2012) p. 284
2The Plantagenets, by Dan Jones, (2012) p. 393
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