19th March 2022 marks 60 years after the signing of the Evian accords that brought to an end the Algerian war of independence. At 11o’clock, in a small village on the way to the château de Montségur, a service of remembrance is taking place; lines of white-haired men and women stand in silence around the small memorial and a single, immaculately uniformed soldier salutes. By all accounts, this was a most painful decolonisation for France; for a long time she felt she had an inalienable right of ownership over her near neighbour.
The road runs along the base of a river valley and the château de Montségur suddenly appears on top of a high hill with steep drops to all sides. A field at the base of the château marks the spot where on 16 March 1244 more than 200 Cathars were burnt at the stake having withheld a siege for nine months before being overrun by forces loyal to the king and the Catholic church. The empty château, rebuilt twice after it was entirely destroyed in 1244, has a melancholy air. The ruin is rudely brought to life by a pair of noisy ravens that nest on the cliff below and watch the visitors with an eye for a tasty bargain. As the sun shines, a wall brown appears on a dandelion beneath the walls.