The Avion Army of Sôquiet

Courtesy of the British Library

Courtesy of the British Library

During the Hundred Years War, an army of English mercenaries lay siege to the small Norman castle of Sôquiet. The English force of 300 outnumbered the few French defenders inside, and they decided to starve out the Comte de Sôquiet and his family.

After two days of harassment, the Comte began to despair. He knew he could not defeat the English invaders encircling his fortress, nor could their food stores outlast the week.

His daughter, Helénes, then went to the cages where they kept their hunting hawks. She was proficient in hawking and was said to have a strong bond with the birds. She would refer to the hawks as “mes sœurs” and would talk with them for hours, as if they were actually her sisters. She went to the ramparts, whispered something to the hawk, and set the creature free.

A few hours later, the English noticed something strange: A dark cloud was moving across the sky. When the cloud loomed close, they were horrified to realize that it was a flock of birds—not just hawks, but gulls, doves, flamingos, partridges, and innumerable other species. They descended on the English, pecking at eyes and tearing into skin. The army disbanded, fleeing for the woods, but so many of the mercenaries were blinded that the French called their platoons “l’armée aveugle.”

Helénes de Sôquiet was briefly considered for sainthood in 1345, and a statue of Helénes was erected in front of the castle, but the Vatican declined to canonize her, because she effected only one miracle. The statue and chateau were both destroyed during The Great War.

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