The year was 1745

Sophie von Anhalt-Zerbst was supposed to change her language, her religion, and even her first name to be suitable for her prospective husband’s family. While he stayed in his rooms playing with his massive collection of tin soldier armies, Sophie, alone and friendless in her new country, was studying, often pacing her suite of rooms…

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 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 was 1297

Princess Joan had a very big problem in the summer of 1297. Joan, 23, was political gold. Her father – the feared and volatile 6’4” Edward I of England – was arranging a second marriage for her. Joan was a widow. Edward had married her off at 17 to the powerful, red-haired Gilbert de Clare,…

The year was 1800

The painting, The Naked Maja is known as the first pornographic picture ever. The horrified Church authorities demanded the artist, Francisco Goya, paint clothing on her or they would destroy the canvas. Worse, the model was suspected to be the13th Duchess of Alba, and she was looking straight at the painter – no embarrassment here!…

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 455

If you are going to call for help, be careful whom you call! In 440 A.D. or so, as a means of keeping peace with the Vandals, Roman Emperor Theodosius II betrothed his five-year-old daughter, Eudocia, to Huneric, the son of Gaiseric, king of the Vandals. When Eudocia was 16 (and still not married), her…

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 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….