Everyone who has ever visited Paris would have heard of the Rodin Museum; it is among the most popular touristic sites in the city. No person that has ever tried a Rodin Museum tour has been able to fully deny that is was exciting – you get to see the old charming house which is encircled by a beautiful garden, a number of Rodin’s famous sculptures on these grounds, and lots of architectural elements worth staring at in naked awe.
One of the artist’s beautiful sculptures is positioned in such a way that all people passing by can see it before even getting into the museum. This is none other than “The Burghers of Calais”, placed beside the glass wall that makes it easily viewable to anyone who is passing by the Rue de Varenne. There is actually a story behind this artistic work which most people are unaware of.
By the beginning of the Hundred Years’ War, a battle for Calais port was organized by Edward III of England. This battle lasted for almost a year, and by its end, the people of Calais were forced to submit to the English forces. Edward III then ordered six distinguished citizens from the place to go out of the city with loops of rope tied to their necks, and also to bring along with them the keys of the city. The six inhabitants then left the place to meet the king; they came before the king barefoot, gaunt and in rags.
The King then ordered them beheaded, although Edward’s wife came forward to prevent that from happening. It is said that the pregnant queen fell at her husband’s feet and told him, “Gentle sir, since I have crossed the sea from my home in great peril to be with you, I have desired nothing of you. Now, therefore, I humbly beg you, in honor of God and for the love of me, that ye will have mercy on these six citizens.”
The king then said to the queen “Ah, dame, I would you had been elsewhere, for if ye make such request to me, I cannot deny you. Wherefore I give them to you, to do your pleasure with them.”
The queen then brought the six miserable people to her apartments, gave them good clothes, and organized a grand dinner for them. This is the scene depicted in the magnificent sculpture which has in it six men, a stern king, and a kind queen.