The Year was 1254

On November 1, 1254, when she was 13, Eleanor of Castile married her first cousin, Prince Edward. At 15, he was tall and strong. And he detested his father, England’s King Henry III. Heir to the throne he couldn’t wait to get his hands on, Edward had to wait another 16 years. Henry in fact,…

The Year was 800

It was a power struggle. Who was the most powerful man in their world? Pope Leo III? Or Charlemagne? The Pope, to keep his position as head of the world, said he would crown Charlemagne emperor. Charlemagne, believing himself to be the head of the world, said no way. Charlemagne was tall, maybe as tall…

The Year was 1559

This prophecy, in Quatrain #I-35, made Nostradamus famous   The young lion will defeat the old one, In the field of battle in single combat, He will pierce his eyes in a cage of gold, Two wounds in one, and then a cruel death.   But what did it mean? The French King, Henri II,…

The Year was 1965

In France, there is a system called en viager. It is like a private reverse mortgage. In 1965, Jeanne Calment, 90, owned a great apartment in Arles. Her lawyer, André-Francois Raffray, 47, wanted it. He made an agreement to pay Calment 2,500 francs per month for the apartment (about $500 at the time). When Jeanne…

The Year was 1793

On a hot summer day in Paris, concealing a butcher knife in her long skirts, Charlotte Corday appeared at the gates of Jean-Paul Marat’s house. She told the guards she had names of Marat’s enemies – for the guillotine. And she would give them to no one but Marat. His wife had a bad feeling…

The Year was 1118

Canon Fulbert of Notre Dame wanted an excellent education for his brilliant teenage niece, Heloise. Who better than the most preeminent and respected scholar in the land, the monk Peter Abelard? At 39, Abelard was a famed philosopher and teacher, handsome and regal. Not only was Heloise brilliant, she was also strikingly beautiful. Shockingly, Abelard…

The Year was 1922

Lee Duncan and his dog were watching a movie crew shoot a scene with a wolf for a movie called Man from Hell’s River. The wolf could not get it. Duncan called to the crew, “Hey guys, my dog could do that on the first take.” “Oh, sure!” they said. “Get lost!” But after more…

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…