Sunday, November 27, 2011

Anne and William: Not Just "Second-Best"

   Their marriage was and still is filled with controversy. Was it a marriage of  love, or did it only deserve the "second-best bed."
Anne Hathaway

Anne Hathaway was born in the year 1556, in the small hamlet of Shottery about one mile from the town of Stratford. William Shakespeare was born around April 23, 1564 in Stratford. His father was John Shakespeare, a glove maker, and Mary, daughter of an affluent landowner. The age-difference between the two was an astonishing eight years! There are two ways people think of Anne Hathaway. One, as a 16th century cradle-snatcher and another as women who simply fell in love. Their wedding is also a very different from the norm at the time. Anne was expecting the couples first child at the time of the marriage. Maybe things would have been different if they had been betrothed, but they weren't. Anne was 26 at the time and William only 18, still considered a minor. The couple had to pay 40 pounds to buy a special bond so they could hurry up and be married.From the will of her late father it seems that Anne Hathaway brought a dowry to the marriage. Six months after they were married Anne gave birth to a daughter, Susanna. There is speculation that it was about this time that William might have offended Sir Richard Lucy by poaching a deer on his grounds. What with this, and what with the general misfortunes of the family, William left his young family and Stratford to seek his fortune in London. Acting troupes regularly visited the town of Stratford and this would have been a major form of entertainment. It is likely that William Shakespeare knew Will Kempe and possible that Shakespeare went to London with a troupe of actors when he left Stratford between 1585 and 1592. The rest, as they say, is history.Life continued for Anne with her children and in-laws in Henley Street. She never moved away from Stratford in the whole of her life. William, meanwhile in London, had started to become a success as a poet and was also making his name as an actor and playwright in the theatres of London. He occasionally returned home to see his wife and the family. He still kept an interest in the family businesses. 
William Shakespeare
           By 1592 William was mixing with the elite of the literary and theatrical worlds. But the role of a playwright was still not viewed as a creditable occupation. It could, in fact , be a very dangerous one as plays could be used as vehicles for propaganda. The State understood the power of plays. Therefore, all plays that were to be printed had to be registered, which ensured a form of censorship. Shakespeare never published any of his plays during his lifetime.In 1596 the Shakespeare family continued to prosper. But the good fortune came to an untimely and abrupt end when, in August, their son Hamnet died at the age of just eleven years. There is no documentation which records the cause of Hamnet's death but it is highly likely that he died of the plague, which had wreaked so much devastation in London 6 months before. Hamnet was buried in Stratford. 
        In 1610, with his fortune made and his reputation as the leading English dramatist unchallenged, Shakespeare appears to have retired to Stratford.  Anne had her husband home at last. His business interests took him to back to London on occasion but the majority of his time is spent at home. He would have been able to enjoy life with his family including his daughters and granddaughter, Elizabeth.
          Shakespeare did, however, draft his will in January of 1616. Perhaps he was unwell. There are no records or documented evidence which throws any light as to the health of Shakespeare in 1616. The strain of the scandal surrounding Judith would not have helped. William’s son-in-law, Dr. John Hall, oversees his final days and treatment. And in April 1616 William Shakespeare dies. (The exact date or cause of death is unknown but it seems fitting that he died on April 23rd April, the same approximate date of his birth, on St. George's Day, the patron Saint of England). The funeral of William Shakespeare was on April 25th 1616  when he was buried in the chancel of Holy Trinity Church in Stratford. Anne, of course, would have been the chief mourner supported by the family of William Shakespeare.The only mention that Shakespeare specifically makes of his wife was to leave her his "second best bed." This is probably the most famous entry of any last will and testament. To bequeath such an item sounds totally ungenerous. It is, however, understood that it would have been Anne's right, through English Common Law, to one-third of William's estate as well as residence for life at New Place. So one of the most famous slap-on-the-face postmortem gifts, could actually not be that at all, and instead be a symbol of the love Anne and William Shakespeare shared.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Roseanna McCoy: Juliet of the Mountains

               Hers is the classic story of a girl who loved too much. Young and starry-eyed, she blinded herself to clan hatreds, and one spring afternoon, claimed Johnse Hatfield as her lover and intended husband. Little did she know how completely her happiness was doomed. Nor that she would become fuel in America's most famous, brutal feud. 

          First, there are the people ... Giants with fierce pride and strange names like Devil Anse. Cotton Top. Bad 'Lias. And "Squirrel Hunting" Sam. Men bred from the rugged individuals who scorned the courtesies and restrictions of their native, stifling Virginia society and chose to strike out for open spaces to the west, a wilderness where they could be free.
         The Hatfields and McCoys forgot the tensions and injustices of the Civil War. Again, the families intermarried. Even the patriarchs, with Ole Ran'l considerably older, added to their expansive families. In West Virginia, times were good. Devil Anse's logging enterprise prospered and his crew grew to 30 men. Through a lawsuit , he gained 5,000 acres along Grapevine Creek, turning him into one of Logan County's wealthiest men.
But near Kentucky's Blackberry Creek, the tide was about to turn.
           It happened one autumn day in 1878 when Ole Ran'l stopped to visit a Kentucky Hatfield, his wife's brother-in-law, Floyd. There Ran'l spotted a familiar-looking pig and claimed it as his own, accusing Floyd of theft. (Pigs in those days roamed free until herding time, marked only with an identifying ear notch.) Tempers flared and soon the two faced off in court. Ironically, Preacher Ans Hatfield, a hard-shell Baptist minister and justice of the peace, presided over the jury of six McCoys, six Hatfields and a courtroom littered with jugs and rifles.The final verdict rested on the testimony of Bill Staton, a nephew of Ole Ran'l and brother-in-law of Ellison Hatfield, who swore to Floyd Hatfield's ownership. Floyd won. But Staton was marked for death. Within months he found it at the hands of Paris and Sam McCoy. Though Sam was tried for the shooting in a Hatfield court, which writers believe Devil Anse had instructed to acquit for the sake of peace, the gesture was futile. The McCoys were enraged that Sam had stood trial at all. Instead of gratitude, they felt an even greater hatred for the Hatfield clan, and it would take little more for the seething frustrations to burst into all-out war.

Enter Romeo and Juliet

        Against this background of bubbling resentment, nothing could seem more foolhardy than a love affair between a daughter of Ole Ran'l and a son of Devil Anse.
But Roseanna McCoy was not wise.
By the best measure, the spring election of 1880 proved her downfall.
           To mountain folk, elections were great social events. Men came to swap goods and stories, to drink and laugh and doze in the sun. The women grabbed the chance to visit, gossip and show off their gingerbread, a token bribe to influence votes of their choice. All in all, elections were not to be missed.Johnse Hatfield understood that. Though only 18 and a West Virginia resident, he descended on Jerry Hatfield's Kentucky grounds that day dressed in his finest yellow shoes and new mail-order suit. A notorious lady's man whose looks set hearts aflutter, he had romance in mind.
Then he spied Roseanna.
      Soon Roseanna, considered one of Pike County's most beautiful girls, sauntered away into the nearby bushes with Johnse. The two returned hours later, when the sun was beginning to set and Roseanna realized her brother, Tolbert, had left for home without her.Panic-stricken and with fear in her eyes, she turned to her new lover.Johnse rose to the occasion, suggesting that she come home with him to the Hatfield cabin.
It seemed the only thing to do.
          Some say Devil Anse thought Johnse too young for marriage. Others swear he simply refused to have his own blood mixed with that of Randall McCoy. Whatever his reason, he turned deaf ears to Roseanna's pleading and when, months later, her mother sent her sisters to beg for her return, Roseanna went, in part, according to some historians, because of Johnse's wandering eye. But her stay with her own family, punctuated by Ole Ran'l's nagging and reproaches, was short-lived.In desperation, Roseanna fled to her aunt, Betty McCoy, at Stringtown, Ky., a spot closer to her lover and where the two could meet again with no prying brothers' eyes to disturb them.
But Roseanna had underestimated the male McCoys.
             One night, as the lovers rekindled the magic of their attraction, her kinsmen surrounded them, took Johnse prisoner and set out for the Pikeville jail. The alleged destination didn't fool Roseanna, who understood Johnse would be killed at the first convenient spot. In an act of sheer devotion and family disloyalty, Roseanna borrowed a neighbor's horse and rode, hat less, coat less and saddle less, to Devil Anse. Quickly gathering sons and neighbors, he led his forces over a shortcut, cut off the McCoys and reclaimed his son without a scratch.For her bravery, Roseanna received a cruel reward. From that day, Johnse never again risked returning to her side. Hopeless and pregnant, she went back to the father who considered her ride an unforgivable sin. There, amid hostility and shame, she contracted measles and miscarried her child.
To add to her heartbreak, Johnse married Roseanna's 16-year-old cousin, Nancy McCoy, only months later, on May 14, 1881.
           In little more than a year, the Hatfield-McCoy feud would burst into flames, perhaps not coincidentally at Jerry Hatfield's home during the 1882 election.There in the shadow of Roseanna's first blush of love, her brothers, Tolbert, Pharmer and Bud, would, without seeming provocation, stab Devil Anse's brother Ellison 26 times and finish him with a shot in the back. After his death three days later, the trio paid with their own lives, tied to bushes and riddled with bullets, despite their mother's cries for mercy.Soon after, when the Hatfields decided someone was leaking their plans, they turned on Nancy McCoy Hatfield's sister, Mary Elliott, bursting into her home and switching her and her daughter with a cow's tail. When her brother Jeff McCoy tried to seek revenge, he was arrested, escaped and quickly shot at the banks of the Tug.
Before the feud's end around 1891, the death toll numbered 13.
              To answer a legion of real and imagined wrongs from Ole Ran'l and with considerable influence from his political ally Perry Cline Ð the man who had lost 5,000 acres to Devil Anse so long before Ð Kentucky's governor appointed special officer Frank Phillips in 1887 to arrest the murderers of the McCoy brothers. To sweeten the pot, he also offered outlandish reward money that unleashed an army of bounty hunters on the West Virginia ridges.
         Determined to leave no living witnesses to convict them of their crime, the Hatfields raided the McCoy family home on New Year's Day 1888, killing daughter Alifair and son Calvin and burning the cabin to the ground.
           Suddenly public opinion shifted against the Hatfields, and Phillips began his work with glee and new names on his list, though he lacked properly executed extradition papers.
              In response, West Virginia's governor put up his own reward offers, sued his neighboring state for unlawful arrest of nine prisoners and eventually saw the case to the United States Supreme Court before the men were returned to Kentucky for sentences of death and prison terms.
But there was little joy at the verdicts.
             Roseanna herself was gone. After tending her mother's wounds from the New Year's Day raid, Roseanna grew more and more depressed, slipping away from life soon after. Less than 30 at her death, she lies today buried in Dils Cemetery at Pikeville.
         In a twist of fate, Johnse Mc-Coy, convicted separately and later than the others of feud crimes, was pardoned when he saved the life of Lt. Gov. William Pryor Thorne as the latter was attacked by an inmate during the officials prison inspection. Johnse's wife Nancy had long since left him, moved in with and, upon the pair's mutual divorces, eventually married his pursuer, Frank Phillips. She died at 36.The evil Jim Vance was killed in the feud. His young comrade, Cap Hatfield, went on to become an attorney and the father of Logan County's first woman lawyer.*

*Some information was gathered from an outside source

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Finding Ithaca

Springs once used to water pigs
All through reading Homer's The Odyssey, a reccuring theme is Odysseus's longing to return home. Odysseus had went to fight in the Trojan War, a war that lasted ten years. Odysseus spent an additional ten years trying to return to his island kingdom of Ithaca. Homer wrote:

Around her [Ithaca] a ring of islands circle side-by-side,
Doulichion, Same, wooded Zachynthos too, but mine
lies low and away, the farthest out to sea,
rearing into the western dusk
while the others face the east and breaking day

But was Ithaca a real island, or just the creation of a master storyteller at work?

The narrow isthmus connecting the
 mainland and peninsula
This question not only haunted me but also, thankfully, amateur archaeologist Robert Bittlestone. Bittlestone believes that a peninsula on the island of Cephalonia was once a separate island, Ithaca.He believes that the low-lying isthmus that connects the main island and the peninsula was once not land, but the sea. When a team of geologists dug as far as possible without hitting bedrock they decided, the peninsula, called Paliki, had once been its own island. "I am convinced," said Bittlestone, "that in Ithaca, Homer describes a real place, and I think he talked about locales that people knew and could recognize. His audience say, 'Oh, yeah, I know that cave, that mountain, that bay.'" You can trace the steps Odysseus could have made upon his return home and match all of Homer's descriptions. The mouth of a harbor clearly matches the description of Phorcys Bay, where Odysseus was returned home, "with two jutting headlands sheared off at the seaward side. You can also still see a pig farm matching the location and time period Homer gives as Eumaeus', the swineherd. Up on a 830-foot-high cliff called Kastelli, lie the remains of a once grand palace. Could this be the place where Penelope waited twenty years for Odysseus? More than likely, yes.

Friday, October 14, 2011

The Night Sky: A Journey from Dachau to Denver and Back

     Ask any bestselling author what the most important marketing tool is for selling a book and they’ll exuberantly proclaim BLOGGERS!   That’s why I was thrilled when Katie Sue invited me to do a comment on her blog for The Night Sky:  A Journey from Dachau to Denver and Back.  Awesome bloggers like Katie Sue can do amazing things for first-time authors like me.

    The Night sky is my first book and I wrote it because many people told me it was an extraordinary and inspiring story that could encourage other people to pursue their hopes and dreams.  The overall message in this book is about never giving up, and seeking so you can find.  The story has a little something for enthusiasts in all genres:  History, Genealogy, Mystery, WWII, Germany, Poland, and Ukraine -- but for me, it’s a tragic love story.  I wrote the book from a special place in my heart, and I wanted readers to see, hear, smell, touch, taste, and, most importantly feel what I saw, heard, touched, tasted and felt.   One of my reviewers wrote that sometimes the honesty in the book was almost too painful to bear.  I will admit I cried when I wrote some of the sections in the book, but I knew it was my story, and it may not evoke that same emotion in readers who don’t know me.  It has been gratifying to find that readers have shared my pain and my joys – and that’s the best validation for which any writer could hope.

    Thank you, Katie Sue for giving me the opportunity to comment on your Blog.  The full product description can be found by searching for “Maria Sutton” on, or:

-Maria Sutton, author of The Night Sky:  A Journey from Dachau to Denver and Back

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Don't Cry For Her, Argentina!

     Eva Peron, or Evita as she affectionately became known has become the subject of many books, movies, and even a couple of musicals. Born in the Argentinian village of Los Toldos in 1919 Eva Peron was not bound for greatness. So, at the age of 15 she left for the country's capitol of Buenos Aires. She dreamed of a career as an actress and actually scored a few roles in B-Grade movies.  She signed a five-year contract with Radio Belgrano, which would assure her a role in a popular historical-drama program called Great Women of History, in which she played Elizabeth I of England, Sarah Bernhardt and the last Tsarina of Russia, Alexandria Romanov. On 15 January 1944, an earthquake occurred in the town of San Juan, Argentina, killing six thousand people. In response, Perón, who was then the Secretary of Labour, established a fund to raise money to aid the victims. He devised a plan to have an "artistic festival" as a fundraiser, and invited radio and film actors to participate. After a week of fundraising, all participants met at a gala. It was at this gala, on 22 January 1944, that Eva Duarte first met Juan Perón. Eva referred to the day she met her future husband as her "marvelous day". Shortly after meeting in San Juan, Eva Duarte and Juan Perón began to live together. This move is said to have scandalized some in Juan Perón's inner circle. During this time period in Argentina, entertainers and politicians were seen as two distinct classes of people. Additionally, it was considered improper for an unmarried couple to share quarters. Perón, however, introduced Eva to his inner circle of political associates and advisers. He even allowed Eva to sit in on his meetings with close advisers and members of government. Eva and Juan were married discreetly in a civil ceremony in Junín on October 18, 1945 and in a church wedding on December 9, 1945. Juan Perón decided to campaign for the presidency of the nation. Eva campaigned heavily for her husband during his 1946 presidential bid. Using her weekly radio show she delivered powerful speeches with heavy populist rhetoric urging the poor to align themselves with Perón's movement. Although she had become wealthy from her radio and modeling success, she would highlight her own humble upbringing as a way of showing solidarity with the impoverished classes.Along with her husband, Eva visited every corner of the country, becoming the first woman in Argentina history to appear in public on the campaign trail with her husband. (Incidentally, she was also the first woman in Argentine public life to wear trousers.) She was very popular with the general public who knew her from her radio and motion picture appearances. It was during this phase of her life that she first encouraged the Argentine population to refer to her not as "Eva Perón" but simply as "Evita," which is a Spanish diminutive or affectionate nickname roughly equivalent to "Little Eva" or "Evie."
She developed lung metastasis and was the first Argentine to undergo chemotherapy (a novel treatment at that time). Despite all available treatment, she became emaciated, weighing only 79 lb by June 1952. Evita died at the age of 33, at 8:25 p.m., on July 26, 1952. The news was immediately broadcast throughout the country, and Argentina went into mourning. All activity in Argentina ceased; movies stopped playing; restaurants were closed and patrons were shown to the door. A radio broadcast interrupted the broadcasting schedule, with the announcer reading, "The Press Secretary's Office of the Presidency of the Nation fulfills its very sad duty to inform the people of the Republic that at 20:25 hours deceased Mrs Eva Perón, Spiritual Leader of the Nation." Eva Perón was granted an official state funeral.

Dante and Beatrice- A "Comedic" Romance

          Dante Alighieri was perhaps one of the greatest poets of the Medieval Era. But, before last week all I thought about him was he wrote a freaky book named Inferno. What I failed to realize, however, was Dante a hopeless romantic. Dante was only eight years old when he laid
The famous greeting
(Dante and Beatrice by Henry Holiday)
eyes on Beatrice Portinari, the daughter of a wealthy banker. How many eight year-old boys would notice what a girl wore, let alone remember it for the rest of his life! He wrote she wore a dress of soft crimson  and a belt about her waist. He noted her noble qualities and angelicness. He also stayed at places where he could often catch a glimpse of her. The first time they spoke was when they were 18 and she greeted him while passing him on the street. Her mere greeting caused him to flee to the solitude of his own room where he fell asleep and dreamed what would become the first sonnet in his La Vita Nouva, one of the greatest love poems of all time. In 13th century Florence, arranged marriages were quite normal. So at the age of 21, Dante was married to Gemma Donati, to whom he had been betrothed since the age of 12. Sadly, Beatrice was married later that year, only to die three years after that at the age of 24. Dante was devastated. Beatrice remained his muse for the rest of his life. In the last book of the Divine Comedy Paradise, it is Beatrice who escorts him into Paradise.

Monday, September 26, 2011

O, Juliet by Robin Maxwell

    Everyone knows the story of the star-cross'd lovers from Verona. In this novelization the equally doomed lovers hail from Florence, are quite older, eighteen and twenty-five, and Dante Alighieri biggest 15th century fans. When Romeo Monticecco attends a Medici ball in order to gain a peace-making audience with the the city's patron, Cosimo de'Medici. At this ball Romeo meets Juliet Cappelleti, the daughter of the man his father hates. Juliet is the daughter of wealthy silk merchant, Capello Cappeletti. Capello wanting to further his wealth and prominence seeks a partnership with Jacopo Strozzi, whose family's wealth and power is second only to the Medici. In order to cement this partnership he offers his daughters hand in marriage to sweeten the deal. Jacopo, however, is no Prince Charming. He stinks, is cruel, and will do whatever it takes to get the handsome, verse-writing Romeo out of Juliet's head. There isn't a nurse in this retelling, but Lucrezia Tournabuoni de'Medici serves as Juliet's confidante and best friend.
      This retelling make the come to life in a new way. Shakespeare's version is still yet to be eclipsed , but this way way easier to understand. I hate to give any part of this book away to spoilers but the way Juliet's cousin, Marco, not Tybalt, gets murdered creates for far better drama. I would really recommend this book. But one thing that hasn't changed is there was never a tell of more woe than that of Juliet and her Romeo.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

What to wear to your execution?

     I know this is a macabre subject, but it has always intrigued me. What did royals choose to wear before they lost their heads?
Think about it. You are most likely going to be buried in it and it will be your last public viewing. How do you decide which outfit to wear for such a momentous historical occasion? I think the last choice of clothing says a lot about how royals chose to be remembered.

King Charles I
Charles decided to dress warm for the occasion and broke out two heavy shirts. He was worried that he would shiver in the cold and consequently look fearful. Charles had always been viewed as the weakling in the shadow of his stronger, older brother, Henry so even at his death he was concerned about appearing brave.Charles I strikes me as the kind of ruler who focuses on the details instead of seeing the big picture. At his death, he is worried more about his hair than the head he is about to lose.

Queen Anne Boleyn
Queen Anne
Anne traded in her square plunging necklines and went to her execution with a conservative make-over. She chose to wear a loose dark, gray gown of damask trimmed in fur with a matronly mantle of ermine covering her regal shoulders. More interestingly, she adorned her soon-to-be-missing head with the simple, gabled head-dress which was frequently worn by her demure predecessor Jane Seymour. This hairstyle choice is an obvious contradiction to her signature, and far more risque French hood which all her attendants had once copied. With one swipe of the executioner’s sword…French hoods were out and making your head look like a church steeple was back in vogue.

Mary Queen of Scots
Mary chose a crimson petticoat – a clear symbol of a catholic martyr. When Mary was convicted of plotting Queen Elizabeth's assassination, she knew her death would bring outcries from Catholic nations such as Spain and France. By her simple choice of clothing, Mary shifted the cause of her downfall from treason to religious persecution. Although religion was undeniably a huge factor in her death, that blazing red petticoat was one last stir of the pot from a tragic queen.After her death, Mary’s red petticoat was burned for the fear that it would become another saint’s relic

Queen Marie Antoinette
Marie didn’t get much say in the matter. She was even forbidden to wear the tattered and torn, black mourning dress she had been wearing for two months straight, most likely because the revolutionaries did not want any public sympathy for her. Instead, Marie climbed into an old, rubbish cart wearing a clean, white chemise that she had saved for the occasion and a fichu (large, squarish kerchief) over her shoulders. A pleated white cap adorned her famed, strawberry-blond, hair which had been cropped at the neck.
Not as glamorus as you'd think, right?


Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Becoming Marie Antoinette

    Becoming Marie Antoinette is a novel that was released this August by Juliet Grey. It is the first part of a planned trilogy and the book features an excerpt of the sequel Days of Splendor, Days of Sorrow. The first book follows Marie from when she is ten until she becomes Queen of France at 18. To me this books feels a little long at 400 pages, but it is great with the little details that make the French and Austrian courts come alive. Filled with smart history, treacherous rivalries, lavish clothes, and sparkling jewels, Becoming Marie Antoinette will utterly captivate fiction and history lovers alike.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

New Twitter Account!

I recently made me a twitter account so please follow me!!!! @The1HistoryNerd

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

She's way to old for you Henri!

                                                                Catherine de' Medici
           Ok, so how would you feel if your nineteen year-old husband of five years was in love with woman twice his age!! Catherine de'Medici had to deal with exactly that problem and that problems name was Diane de' Poitiers. Diane de' Poitiers was thirty-eight years old when Henri fell for her.
           The two eldest princes, François and Henri, were retained as hostages in Spain in exchange for their father. Because the ransom was not paid in time, the two boys, eight and seven at the time, had to spend nearly four years isolated in a bleak castle, facing an uncertain future. Henri found solace by reading the tale Amadis de Gaula. The experience may account for the strong impression that Diane made on him, as the very embodiment of the ideal gentlewomen he read about in Amadismentor to him and teach him courtly manners. At the tournament held for the coronation of Francis's new wife Eleanor, the dauphin, François saluted the new queen as expected, Henri addressed his salute to Diane. Diane and Catherine were actually related to one another, being both descendants of the La Tour d'Auvergne family. Indeed, to Catherine, Diane was an intrusive elder cousin as well as a rival. Diane helped nurse Catherine back to health when she contracted scarlet fever. Diane was in charge of the education of her and Henri's children until 1551;  While Henri and Catherine would eventually have 10 children together, and despite the occasional affair, Diane de Poitiers would remain Henri's lifelong companion, and for the next 25 years she would be the most powerful influence in his life.
Diane de' Poitiers

Friday, August 12, 2011

Tell Me What You Think!

            I am like so curious as to what and who people are interested in so please leave me a comment. If you leave something really interesting I may even do a post over it!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

The Royal Disease

     Hemophilia is a disease which impairs a body's blood clotting ability. Commonly, it is carried through mothers who do not show any symptoms of the disease making it really hard to detect. Hemophilia became prominent in European royalty due to the Grandmother of Europe, Queen Victoria. Queen Victoria was a silent carrier who passed it on to her son, Leopold and her many daughters who in turn passed it onto many of the Royal families of Russia, Germany, and Spain. 
Photograph of Queen Victoria, 1882     In Russia, Tsarevich Alexei Nicholaevich, son of Nicholas II, was a descendant of Queen Victoria through his mother Empress Alexandra and suffered from hemophilia. It was claimed that Rasputin was successful at treating the Tsarevich's hemophilia. At the time, a common treatment administered by professional doctors was to use aspirin, which worsened rather than lessened the problem. It is believed that, by simply advising against the medical treatment, Rasputin could bring visible and significant improvement to the condition of Alexei.
    In Spain two of Queen Victoria's Great Grandsons died of internal bleeding after separate minor car accidents.

Friday, July 22, 2011

The Lost Crown by Sarah Miller

      The Romanov's have to be one of those families that you feel sorry for. All seven, plus a few servants, were killed by Bolsheviks on July 4, 1918. And naturally a family like that will get a book. The Lost Crown by Sarah Miller is a novel told in the fist-person by alternating narrators, the last four Grand Duchesses. Ms. Miller did a very good job giving each of the Grand Duchesses a distinctive personality so the reader didn't get confused. One bad thing about that to me was I noticed as it got closer to the end I found myself hesitating to finish the book. I didn't want them to die. I was somehow hoping history would rewrite itself and Olga, Tatiana, Maria, and Anastasia would survive. It follows them up until the absolute end it's very sad to hear the thoughts going on inside someones head as they and their entire family get sentenced to death. I liked this book and recommend it to anyone interested in the last Imperial Russian family.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Anorexic Empress of Austria

        Elisabeth was born in 1837 of the eccentric Bavarian Wittelsbach royal line, and married the young Emperor Franz Joseph of Austria-Hungary when she was sixteen. After the relative freedom of her Bavarian childhood, she found herself thrust into Europe's most ossified court. Her sense of personal dignity and independence as well as her very real democratic and humanitarian instincts continuously offended against the role into which she was cast.

The Empress' mania for sport and violent exercise, her preoccupation with her physique, her peculiar diet, her attitude to dress - all had one common denominator: the preservation of a figure which was naturally very slender, small-boned and muscular. She was tall , five feet seven 1/2 inches, and never weighed over 111 pounds all her adult life. Her legendary beauty and charm brought her oppressive adulation wherever she went in Europe. She preserved her youthful appearance in the face of what press and medical opinion viewed as bizarre, not to say improper, excesses in sport, diet and slimming.
       She hated to have to sit down to eat. She abominated banquets. For long periods she lived on a daily diet of raw steak and a glass of milk or orange-juice. She struck people as hyperactive, and astonishingly hardy. Her illnesses were all evidently psychosomatic, and her neurotic crises always cleared up when she was away from court, and was free to travel and ride, free of the gaze of courtiers and public, which she experienced as physically painful.
       Elisabeth followed a strict and draconian diet and exercise regimen to maintain her 18-inch waistline, wasting away to near emaciation at times. This was years before such symptoms would be diagnosed as a classic case of Anorexia nervosa.
One of Elisabeth's dresses

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Montagues and Capulets: Fact or Fiction?

The opening lines of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet tell of two warring families, the Capulet's and Montague's, also telling the tragic out come of " two star-cross'd lovers" right from the start.

 Two households, both alike in dignity,
In fair Verona, where we lay our scene,
From ancient grudge break to new mutiny,
Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean.
From forth the fatal loins of these two foes
A pair of star-cross'd lovers take their life;
Whole misadventured piteous overthrows
Do with their death bury their parents' strife.
The fearful passage of their death-mark'd love,
And the continuance of their parents' rage,
Which, but their children's end, nought could remove,
Is now the two hours' traffic of our stage;
The which if you with patient ears attend,
What here shall miss, our toil shall strive to mend.

But the question on my mind after reading this was who were these two families?


Shakespeare based his most popular tragedy, Romeo and Juliet, on two very real people. These young lovers lived in Verona, Italy ,just like his characters, and died in a real-life tragic love story in 1303. The Capulet and Montague families were prominent citizens of Verona at the time.Apparently, Shakespeare uncovered their story in literature. A poem, "The Tragical Historye of Romeus and Juliet," by Arthur Brooke, was written in 1562. William Painter, a prosist, penned "The Goodly History of the True and Constant Love of Rhomeo and Julietta. Matteo Bandello had written a novella of the story in 1554, revising Luigi da Porto's "Guiliette e Romeo" ("Juliet and Romeo"). Even earlier, Masuccio Salernitano had recounted the story of the tragic young lovers in "Mariotto and Gianozza of Siena" (which doesn't sound nearly as catch-y) in 1476.Italian traveling theater companies performed the drama throughout Europe and England. So, in all actuality Romeo and Juliet is not the original work of William Shakespeare but  just a tale retold from history.
Juliet's Balcony in Verona, Italy. Those are hundreds of love letters under it.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Who are the Cajuns?

In honor of one of my FAVORITE television shows, History Channel's Swamp People, I have decided to do a post over the When most people think of Cajuns they think Gumbo and Gators, but did you know there is so much more? The Cajuns have a unique dialect of the French language and numerous other cultural traits that distinguish them as an ethnic group. Cajuns were officially recognized by the U.S. government as a national ethnic group in 1980 by a discrimination lawsuit filed in federal district court. After a dispute with British government in the 1700s the Acadians, as they were called then, relocated in a huge Cajun diaspora to mostly south Louisana ,but also Texas. There they formed a unique lifestyle we still recognize today with huge joie de vivre. Cajuns are mostly Roman Catholic. They also believe in faith healers called traiteurs. And of course Mardi Gras is a Cajun staple that has spread to different ethnic groups as well. So, in true Cajun fashion, Laissez les bons temps rouler, let the good times roll!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Reading Cleopatra Confesses

         I love books written by author, Carolyn Meyer. So naturally when I heard she was writing a Cleopatra book I flipped. Cleopatra is one of my favorite women in history. She was smart, beautiful, and two of the most powerful men in the world loved her. I am currently on page 181 out of 283 and so far I really like this book. There isn't really a whole lot of dialogue so you feel like you know Cleopatra on an intimate BFF level, and I like that. If you like ancient Egypt chances are you will like this book. Not a hard read and definitely a good book!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Wow! My first post!!!

     Welcome to the History Nerd where I will review books (feel free to recommend) and discuss history! I love all parts of history but I have a weakness for fallen monarchies. I love the Egyptians, Babylonians, Tudors, Bourbons, Romanov's, Medici, you name it I have Google'd at one point! So tomorrow I will put my first post on someone of historical influence. Where O, where will the Histor-O-Meter land...


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...