May my readers, when they have finished this little book, composed according to the rules of the boy, Paul Bailly, lift their heads and seek in the sky whither he carried, so often and so high, the tricolor of France, an invisible and immortal Guynemer!
In his book on Chivalry, the good Leon Gautier, beginning with the knight in his cradle and wishing to surround him immediately with a supernatural atmosphere, interprets in his own fashion the sleeping baby smiling at the angels. “According to a curious legend, the origin of which has not as yet been clearly discovered,” he explains, “the child during its slumber hears ‘music,’ the incomparable music made by the movement of the stars in their spheres. Yes, that which the most illustrious scholars have only been able to suspect the existence of is distinctly heard by these ears scarcely opened as yet, and ravishes them. A charming fable, giving to innocence more power than to proud science."
[Footnote 5: La Chevalerie, by Leon Gautier. A. Walter ed. 1895.]
The biographer of Guynemer would like to be able to say that our new knight also heard in his cradle the music of the stars, since he was to be summoned to approach them. But it can be said, at least, that during his early years he saw the shadowy train of all the heroes of French history, from Charlemagne to Napoleon.
Georges Marie Ludovic Jules Guynemer was born in Paris one Christmas Eve, December 24, 1894. He saw then, and always, the faces of three women, his mother and his two elder sisters, standing guard over his happiness. His father, an officer (Junior Class ’80, Saint-Cyr), had resigned in 1890. An ardent scholar, he became a member of the Historical Society of Compiegne, and while examining the charters of the Cartulaire de royallieu, or writing a monograph on the Seigneurie d’Offemont, he verified family documents of the genealogy of his family. Above all, it was he in reality who educated his son.
Guynemer is a very old French name. In the Chanson de Roland one Guinemer, uncle of Ganelon, helped Roland to mount at his departure. A Guinemer appears in Gaydon (the knight of the jay), which describes the sorrowful return of Charlemagne to Aix-la-Chapelle after the drama of Roncevaux; and a Guillemer figures in Fier-a-Bras, in which Charlemagne and the twelve peers conquer Spain. This Guillemer l’Escot is made prisoner along with Oliver, Berart de Montdidier, Auberi de Bourgoyne, and Geoffroy l’Angevin.
In the eleventh century the family of Guynemer left Flanders for Brittany. When the French Revolution began, there were still Guynemers in Brittany, but the greatgrandfather of our hero, Bernard, was living in Paris in reduced circumstances, giving lessons in law. Under the Empire he was later to be appointed President of the Tribunal at Mayence, the chief town in the country of Mont Tonnerre. Falling into disfavor after 1815, he was only President of the Tribunal of Gannat.