The year was 1373

Was it arrogance? He was known for it. Was he bitter? Yes. John of Gaunt spent his life merely third in line for the throne when he clearly thought he was most qualified to be king of England. Did he see this as a way to prove to England that he was a better military…

The year was 1903

Langley insisted his contraption was “capable of flight.” Not that it could fly. It couldn’t. Langley wasn’t just anybody. He was Samuel Pierpont Langley, blue blood, Harvard graduate, astronomer. Determined to be first with a manned flying machine, Langley built two ¼-scale models that seemed to succeed. But were they flying? Or were they being…

The year was 1392

Geoffrey Chaucer, an accountant, had the good luck to marry the sister of the mistress of John of Gaunt. And John of Gaunt’s father was the King of England. To impress his high-born friends, Chaucer started writing what we would call dirty stories. They were impressed. Chaucer found a way to link his stories together…

The year was 1356

In a stunning, shocking defeat, the French king, John II, was captured on September 19th during the Battle of Poitiers, fought southwest of Paris. He was taken to London, a prisoner – except that King John’s jailor, the king of England, was John’s very own uncle.  And the knight who had beaten him in the…

The Year was 1415

Roman Emperor Claudius the Cruel needed Roman soldiers, but they were not volunteering. Why not? Claudius thought the reason was that they wanted to stay home with their wives. His solution? Ban marriage. A Catholic priest, Valentine, disobeyed him, marrying young lovers in secret. Off with his head! The priest was beaten and beheaded in…

The year was 1818

Tonight was Christmas Eve. The organ at St. Nicholas church in Oberndorff was broken. In the afternoon, Father Josef Mohr, 26, walked a couple of miles from St. Nicholas to his friend Franz Gruber’s home in the nearby town of Arnsdorf, to give him a six-stanza poem he had written two years earlier. Franz, a…

The year was 1593

Some called Grace O’Malley a pirate. Even as a young girl, Grace O’Malley wanted to be part of the action. In Ireland, this was pretty normal, but her father said no. Her gorgeous long red hair, he said, would get caught in the rigging of the sails. Grace cut her hair and joined the family…

The year was 1343

The shocking breach of chivalry was blamed on Queen Joan. It was the summer of 1343, and 16 of the finest knights in Brittany had come to Paris to take part in a royal joust. They had been invited by none other than the king of France himself, Philip VI, to celebrate a truce with…

The year was 1048 [or so]

Young Matilda of Flanders was royalty. And a spoiled brat. Plus she was descended from Charlemagne. Her grandfather had been king of France and now, her uncle was. With thick blond hair braided down her back and blue eyes, she was a beauty. There was no question, Matilda would make a good marriage…if she would…