At the beginning of Summer 1943, France is in shreds.  In the little town of Montmeyran in the Drome, there has never been so many people.  Today is the first Friday after the Octave of the Holy Sacrament, so it is therefore Jesus’ Sacred Heart which is being adored today.  Half the faithful present can’t fit inside the church.  Even the confessionals are crowded.

When the service ends, a considerable procession goes towards a calvary situated beneath the ruins of a castle.  In front of the cross, a little estrade covered in red carpet has been raised.  A very young man, with a pale complexion and of singular beauty, climbs onto it.  Over a sky blue shirt, he is wearing a white linen surplice which falls to mid-thigh and makes him look like one of those crusaders who left from here for the Holy Land, more than a thousand years ago.  The illusion is reinforced when someone hands him a heavy white standard, fleurdelysed in one corner.  In its centre, a blood-coloured heart, pierced with arrows and surmounted by a cross…

Slowly, the young man raises the emblem on high with his left arm, so that is is very visible to the crowd, then, impervious to the sun or fatigue, he holds it aloft for more than an hour, his face and torso dripping with agonizing perspiration, from the effort.  He imposes his right hand on the faithful as they file past him and gives them the flag to kiss.  The first to kneel are very young, only boys, sons of the local notables.  Afterwards, they assemble in the sacristy to enrol and become “crusading knights”, making a vow of chastity and swearing on the Missel that they would not return to their families nor take a wife, before the White Prince is established on France’s throne…

What is the aim of this crusade preached by the White Prince in the Rhone Valley, with a success which grows each day?  Kick the Germans out of France and seat himself on the throne of his ancestors, Saint Louis [Louis IX] and Charles V who was the last of the House of Anjou rulers…

A few days before this strange celebration, Jean Moulin, betrayed, had been arrested at Caluire, near Lyon.  Repression is getting worse everywhere, closed trucks unendingly take Resistants [called “terrorists” by the Germans] towards “the night and the fog”, and a few months later, 700 Patriots [still “terrorists” to the Germans] would be cut down on the slopes of the neighbouring Vercors.  It is therefore a desperate France which attempts to discern the end of the night on the white banner…

The Saint-Apollinaire Cathedral in Valence, where, in 1943, the White Prince preached a crusade to kick the Germans out of France and place himself on the throne…

A few days later, it is in the antique roman cathedral of Valence, consecrated by Urbain II, who preached the First Crusade, that the White Prince’s knights assemble.  Their chief is among them for a novaine which lasts the whole night.  For hours, he remains on his knees on the marble tiles, indifferent to the sufferings that this posture inflicts, still praying, very straight and motionless, while the most courageous of his companions have let themselves go, with no strength left, onto the benches…  This evening, he had announced a great day of mission which must culminate with a solemn service in the Saint-Apollinaire Cathedral in the presence of the Bishop of Valence…

A few days later, the cathedral is full.  Doubtless because there are never more religious people than in times of distress, but also because the whole of Valence knows that the Prince will be present.  He is sitting in the choir stalls, among the officiants, right beside the Bishop Monsignor Pic.  He rises and, wearing his white surplice, advances towards the pulpit.  Evidently, this was not supposed to happen, for the Bishop is seen to turn toward his Assessors and whisper to them.  The White Prince slowly climbs the steps which, in the centre of the nave, permit the predicator to dominate the audience.  For an instant, his blue gaze wanders tenderly over the assembly, then he leans forward and strongly grips the edge of the pulpit.  In a clear, carrying voice, he begins a sort of speech.  With such ease that at first it could be thought that he is reciting a speech learnt by heart.  But the tone, the elegance and the rigour of his words, which he underlines with appropriate, expressive gestures, soon indicate that he is a born orator.  Monsignor Pic is not happy:  he is seen to leave with precipitation his prie-Dieu and go towards the sacristy…

The inspired preacher, who is not yet twenty years old, having placed France under the protection of [the Archangel] Michael, its patron saint, assures that God is not insensible to the sufferings of the Church’s Eldest Daughter [France].  That clerics and laics, whatever their manner of interpreting Heaven’s music, must now give the Good God some help…

Then, his finger raised, like Saint Bernard calling Crusaders to attack the Infidels, he announces that the Virgin had appeared to him and that she would appear again soon in Montvendre, to announce the day of the Allied Landing.  The Bishop stands anxiously crumpling his stole in his hands.  His ordeal isn’t yet over.  With words of great elevation, the one whom the whole region now calls the White Prince or King, continues to speak of a France soon to be liberated and placed under the protection of a very christian monarchy…

Too fascinated by the young man’s extraordinary oratory talent, the audience has not seen Monsignor Pic approaching the pulpit accompanied by two priests…  But it is the peroration and, after a moment of intense silent prayer, the crowd sees the orator descend and go towards the sacristy escorted by three ecclesiastics…

The White Prince’s family is said to have spent the war at Lourdes.

It is, of course, fear of German reprisals which has led the prelate to have the prophet expulsed through the cathedral’s little door.  Thereby assuring him even greater popularity.  But from this day, the authorities begin to search for his origins and the stages of his notoriety.  It is noticed that no-one has ever succeeded in making him say where and when he was born.  His lieutenants think that his father is called Millet, although, speaking of his parents, he just says:

“My mother is of the nobility, her name is Placida de Baruete and she gave me the first name of Leon because my patron saint is the one who was able to stop Attila!”

Some think that the Millets come from Lorraine or from the Territoire de Belfort.  But the authorities, who investigate there, are unable to find the slightest clue on the Registers.  It is thought however that the White Prince’s family “retreated” to Lourdes in 1940 and that he then spent a lot of time in the miraculous grotto.  That he met there a priest, the Reverend Father Michel Collin, to whom a revelation from Heaven gave the order to found the Croisade du Rosaire et du Magnificat.  The future White Prince will be one of the first to enrol in the “Croises des Temps Nouveaux”, whose chief is Abbot Collin.  The Abbot leads his little association to Romans, where Monsignor Pic, impressed by the quality of his faith, puts the parish locality of Saint-Croix de Romans at his disposition.  The Sisters of Niederbronn are already camped there.  They have been evacuated too, and each evening public prayers are organized in the Community’s chapel.  One evening in November 1940, while the little group of faithful is beginning the Miserere, tears are seen to fall from the eyes of an alabaster Holy Virgin.  Leon is the most emotional, and Father Collin observes that, from this day on, his qualities of Initiate and Proselyte will become stronger.  So rapidly, that he thinks to make him the chief of the crusade which is going to be organized.

To be continued.

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