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 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 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 1492

No one died from gout – the Disease of Kings. So the doctor was not particularly worried about his patient, Lorenzo de’ Medici, called Lorenzo the Magnificent, one of the richest men in the world. But because Lorenzo was suffering from a pretty bad episode, the doctor changed the treatment. To the usual ground-up pearls,…

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 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 1904

What Czar Nicholas desperately needed was a son. Czarina Alexandra quickly gave birth to five daughters, all healthy. Finally, on Aug. 12, 1904, a son arrived. Baby Alexei seemed healthy, but when he was six weeks old, he began bleeding through his naval. The blood could not be stopped. The horrible truth – hemophilia! This…