"The Great Illegal Immigrant Crowd Surge, c. 1348"
Jean Fussart

Jean, or Jeannie, as she preferred, was one of the notable camp followers of the Hundred Years More or Less War, from around 1337 to maybe 1440 or so. When she wasn't entertaining the troops she was an accomplished painter of events that happened in her lifetime, more or less. Not exactly being a role model of ethics and moral behavior, she sometimes sold identical repaintings to various rich merchant types whom she also entertained when the war slackened off for a couple of years. 


The subject painting supposedly records in striking detail the often-repeated medieval scene as various groups of mobs hoping to escape the Black Plague, which was popular at the time, attempt to flee by sea.¹ Each time the Plague struck one part of Europe all the peasantry and lots of the nobility fled to someplace that was rumored to be free of the affliction, usually bringing it along with them. This painting allegedly records the Great Evasion of Sluys in France, known in England as the Great Invasion of Sleaze from France. Unscrupulous people smugglers using ships they found abandoned with dead or dying crews would charge the penniless peasantry what little they had and the aristocracy whatever the traffic would bear. Often they would oversell tickets to the same ships in their enthusiasm, leading to the situation Jeannie has so accurately documented here.

 

Or maybe not. Jeannie, illiterate as the custom was in those days, kept no records, and a conveniently faulty memory led her to sell this same painting as the Battle of Sluys, 1340La Grande Bataille de la Rochelle, 1419The English Channel Naval Campaign, 1339; the Battle of Brest— Franco-Breton Faction, 1342, and somewhat shamelessly as Das Narrenschiff, no date. Her even more unscrupulous great-grandchildren sold it as La Niña, La Pinta e La Santa-Maria, 1492, and later as Defeat of the Spanish Armada, 1588. The nefarious family was not brought to justice until Jeannie's great⁵-grandchild tried to pass it off as The Invasion of Normandy, 1944.
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¹ Although she did not inspire the popular I Dream of Jeannie with the Light Brown Hair as is sometimes reported, Jeannie was the inspiration for the medieval ragtime hit, Let Us Flee, Let Us Flee By the Beautiful Sea.

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