By Ishbel Addyman
While many are familiar with Edmond Rostand’s famous play inspired by the astonishing life of 17th century novelist and freethinker Cyrano de Bergerac, the man behind the legend is more or less forgotten.
Sharper, funnier and more modern than the romantic hero he inspired, the real Cyrano was a death-defying soldier-poet in the age of the musketeers. He risked his life with harsh critisms of the church and state, going on to promote diplomacy and peaceful conflict resolution and even coining the famous slogan ‘make love not war’. Years ahead of his time, he was almost certainly gay or bisexual, a taboo he refused to acknowledge.
A man of many talents, he established himself as a pioneering writer, gifted musician and expert swordsman capable of single-handedly fighting off a hundred men, before dying at the age of 36 in suspicious circumstances. The story of the real Cyrano de Bergerac is the story of a man who deserves to be celebrated for his independence of mind, his heroic courage, his sparkling wit, his unfailing good humour and riotous creativity.
Ishbel Addyman was born in North Yorkshire in 1976. She was educated at Oxford University and Paul Valéry University in Montpellier. She took fencing lessons in preparation for writing about the legendary duellist Cyrano de Bergerac but is not yet up to fighting off one hundred assailants single-handedly.