The year was 1163

That was the year a fateful progression of events began with a single act: a priest in England was accused of a murder. The king, the powerful Henry II, demanded that the priest be tried for the crime in his secular court system. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Becket, who was Henry’s good friend and…

The Year was 401 BC

Mother liked him best. She really did. But his father, King Darius II, did not. Cyrus, a golden boy, was the second son. His older brother, Artaxerxes, was heir to the Kingdom of Persia. When the king was ill and dying, after a 24-year reign of political intrigues and open revolts, Cyrus’s mother rushed him…

The Year was 1956

Called by many one of the worst films ever made, The Conqueror, a movie about Genghis Khan, packed a secret, lethal punch. It was an RKO movie, made when the studio system was king. Dick Powell, an actor turned director, was given the script. He thought it was horrible. But while he took a break,…

The year was 1890

When he died in 1890, his mother threw away a lot of his weird paintings. And no wonder – he had never sold a single painting in his entire life. Well, that’s not exactly true. His younger brother did buy one. He had been was a problem child. The son of a Dutch minister, he…

The year was 1948

Lyndon Johnson was a born wheeler-dealer.  While still in his 20s, Lyndon won election to the U.S. House of Representatives from Texas in 1938 and again in 1940.  But it quickly became apparent to him that the senate was where the power was.  Lyndon was in luck – in April of 1941, Morris Sheppard, after…

The Year was 340 BC

That was the year the Macedonian king decided he couldn’t be bothered to deal with a troublesome rebellion in southern Thrace. So he sent his 16-year-old son to take care of it. Not only did the teenager succeed, he renamed the major city after himself – Alexandria. That was the beginning of Alexander the Great….

The year was 1581

Okay, one of the Ivans was truly terrible. But he had a pretty authentic reason to be. When Ivan, the Grand Duke of Moscow, was three and his little brother Yuri, a deaf mute, was two, their father, Czar Vasily III, died. Their mother acted as regent for the babies, but when Ivan was seven,…

The year 1938

  When 23-year-old Sister Rosetta Tharpe took the stage at Carnegie Hall just before Christmas, 1938, she took the audience’s breath away. First, she was playing a guitar; that was for men, not women. Second, she was playing it in a way no one had ever heard before. No one, that is, except the small…

The Year was 1953

Five days after her father died, Antha Belle was born on Jan. 6, 1953. Her mother had signed away her parental rights to the dad. And he had arranged to have his own mother be legal guardian for the unborn baby. Which she did, then she adopted Antha Belle, giving her a new name: Catherine…

The year was 1916

Col. Mark Sykes called Gertrude Bell (among other things!) a “conceited, gushing, flat-chested… blethering fool.” Both were British. Sykes joined with France’s Francois Georges-Picot to draw the 1916 Sykes-Picot Agreement, but it was Bell who was the power behind the map that carved up the old Ottoman Empire, willy-nilly creating the countries that are now…