Lent of the year 1282 had been especially trying for the Sicilians. Besides their fast and their sacrifices offered up in anticipation of Easter, they also endured the humiliations of the occupying French who grew more repressive with each passing year. Rape, theft, and murder had become regular occurrences and they were stressed to the point of breaking.
When Easter finally arrived, the Sicilians breathed a collective sigh of relief. At last, they could let loose some of the frustrations they had been holding inside. They took to the streets. Wine flowed freely. It had been this way every Easter for nearly sixteen years, ever since the outsider, Charles of Anjou, claimed control over the kingdom.
On the evening of March 30th, in Palermo, the townspeople were gathered outside of the Church of the Holy Spirit. Their mood was jolly but there came an uneasiness in the air. Some French officials had arrived, with soldiers. They were randomly searching men, supposedly looking for weapons.
Sergeant Drouet was in charge of the soldiers.
“And don’t just check the greasy young men! You can’t trust the old ones either, they may try to hit you with a coin! Seize anything you find on the scum!”
Drouet grabbed a cup of wine from the hands of a cripple and barged his way through the crowd, roughly shoving aside anyone in his way. He stopped when he came upon a group of young women.
“Woman! What have you got hidden in your bosom?” he said maliciously and gripped her tightly by the arm and pulled her into his chest.
The bells began to ring in the church tower. It was vespers.
Drouet, along with 2,000 other Frenchmen in Palermo, died that night as a moment of husbandly protection turned into a full scale rebellion.