"Without doubt because of my old Norman blood, since the war in the Orient, I am mad at England, and getting mad at Prussia! After all, what do they want? Whom are they attacking? That presumption to defend Islamism (which is in itself a monstrosity) makes me angry. I demand, in the name of humanity, that they crush down the Black Stone, blow its ashes in the wind, that they destroy Mecca, and that they defile the tomb of Mohammed. This is the least that can be done to demoralize the fanaticism."Commenter FPB sheds some more light on the background of Flauberts anger, which I saw as the Crimean war. France and Britain declared war on Russia in March 1854, following the events around the coup d'état of 1851 in France, when Napoleon III sent his ambassador to the Ottoman Empire in an attempt to force the Ottomans to recognize France as the "sovereign authority" in the Holy Land.
(Gustave Flaubert (1821-1880) in a letter to Madame Roger des Genettes on January 12 and 19, 1878)
FBP, whose thoughts on this deserve not to disappear in the blog bilges, says:
Actually, Flaubert must have been speaking of something much more recent. In 1877, the Russian armies swept through Romania and Bulgaria and forced Turkey to accept a peace treaty that created a comparatively enormous free Bulgaria including the whole of modern Macedonia, most of Thrace and access to the Aegean. This was clearly a provisional settlement at best, because the boundaries forced on Turkey by the new Bulgarian state made the rest of European Turkey untenable and clearly ready to be invaded and freed in its turn as soon as Greece, Montenegro and Serbia felt strong enough. This had followed a horrendous series of massacres in Bulgaria that had revolted the whole of Europe. Britain, however, had a tradition of supporting "legitimate" Turkish power that went back at least as far as the Congress of Vienna, and refused to accept this settlement, effectively rescuing Turkey from annihilation. What followed was the Congress of Berlin (1878), which redrew the borders to make the Turkish European remnant manageable, and in which the two biggest cynics in Europe, Disraeli and Bismarck, formed a bloodstained, Islam-backing mutual admiration society that, looking back, leaves me a bit queasy. This is clearly what Flaubert is speaking of.Very convincing, and I think we have an eerie premonition of the British policy in Mandate Palestine here as well.
There is a post-script. Bismarck showed his chronic incapacity to understand free people. He and Disraeli may have thought they had achieved a diplomatic masterpiece, but the British public were not impressed. And neither was old Gladstone, who had retired to private life. He came back to politics like a whirlwind, roused the country with a series of brilliant anti-Turkish speeches, and swept Disraeli from office.