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…

The year was 1844

Alexandre Dumas had so many ideas! But he didn’t have time to do all that bothersome research, all that cumbersome writing. So he set up a kind of factory system to get it all done in one lifetime. His grandmother had been a slave in Haiti.  That meant her children with the French nobleman who…

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 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 1863

It was a June wedding in Paris. Multi-millionaire Isaac Merritt Singer, 52, was marrying the very young, the very pregnant French model, Isabelle Eugenie Boyer, 22. The baby, born the next month, would be Isaac’s 19th child – or maybe the 21st – or…?  But who’s counting? Isaac was the Singer of Singer sewing machines….

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 1193

Philip’s new bride, 18-year-old Princess Ingeborg of Denmark, was described as having a good heart. That might have been a clue to what happened next. The 15th of August was the royal wedding day. The widowed Phillip II of France, 28, was marrying for the second time. His first wife, the tall (5’9”), lovely Princess…

The Year was 1794

Each day, the victims to be guillotined were given numbers. In that order, they would be killed. Beautiful young mother of three, Marie Thérèse Françoise de Choiseul, princess of Monaco, was given #28. As Marie Thérèse awaited her gruesome turn, she felt ill and was told to go into an adjoining room and lie down….