What’s A King To A Caesar?

From 27 BCE to 1946 CE, someone, somewhere in Europe has had a title “Caesar.” The czar of Russia, the kaiser of Germany...many, many European titles were just local derivatives of “Caesar.”

The last Caesar was Tsar Simeon II of Bulgaria, who was removed from office in 1946 by the Soviets. He’s still alive, too!

In Mesoamerica children are warned about El Coco. A shapeless, hairy monster, it kidnaps and devours children. So they had better listen to their parents!

Waltzing With The Devil

Did you know the waltz was once considered a scandalous craze? Dances before it had been precisely choreographed things, which kept men and women at arm’s length and the most a couple might do was hold hands. Then suddenly the waltz appears in the late 1700s. Couples could get close, even putting their arms around each other! So shocking! And of course, it was insanely popular with young people.

Madame de Genlis, a royal French governess, said the waltz caused women to lose their virtue. “A young woman, lightly dressed, throws herself into the arms of a young man. He presses her to his chest and conquers her with such impetuosity that she soon feels her heart beat violently as her head giddily swims!” The waltz, M. de Genlis said, could corrupt any honest young woman who danced it.

It sounds silly today. But people were really worried that waltzing was corrupting the youth. Rather like some modern dance crazes...

an original piece by historical-nonfiction

The Building That Can Tell Time

the Jantar Mantar, in Jaipur, is a collection of nineteen architectural astronomical instruments, built by the Rajput King Sawai Jai Singh II. One of those instruments is the world's largest stone sundial! Named the Vrihat Samrat Yantra, the sundial measures time in two-second intervals. That's extremely precise for a giant building! Visitors can see, with their naked eyes, as Vrihat Samrat Yantra's shadow moves with the sun at a rate of about 1mm a second. Completed in 1734, Jantar Mantar certainly made sure King Sawai's name is in the history books.

The Most Interesting Frenchwoman You've Never Heard Of

Napoleon has just conquered Egypt from the British in early 1798, and dealt with the ensuing unrest. By November 30 Cairo had sufficiently returned to normality to allow Napoleon to open the Tivoli pleasure gardens, where he noticed an ‘exceedingly pretty and lively young woman’ called Pauline Fourès, the twenty-year-old wife of a lieutenant in the 22nd Chasseurs, Jean-Noël Fourès.

If the beautiful round face and long blonde hair described by her contemporaries are indeed accurate, Lieutenant Fourès was unwise to have brought his wife on campaign. It was six months since Napoleon had discovered Josephine’s infidelity and within days of his first spotting Pauline they were having an affair. Their dalliance was to take on the aspect of a comic opera when Napoleon sent Lieutenant Fourès off with allegedly important despatches for Paris, generally a three-month round trip, only for his ship to be intercepted by the frigate HMS Lion the very next day. Instead of being interned by the British, Fourès was sent back to Alexandria, as was sometimes the custom with military minnows. He therefore reappeared in Cairo ten weeks before he was expected, to find his wife installed in the grounds of Napoleon’s Elfey Bey palace and nicknamed ‘Cleopatra’.

According to one version of the story, Fourès threw a carafe of water on her dress in the subsequent row, but another has him horsewhipping her, drawing blood. Whichever it was, they divorced and she thereafter became Napoleon’s maîtresse-en-titre in Cairo, acting as hostess at his dinners and sharing his carriage as they drove around the city and its environs. (The deeply chagrined Eugène was excused from duty on those occasions.)

The affair deflected charges of cuckoldry from Napoleon, which for a French general then was a far more serious accusation than adultery. When Napoleon left Egypt he passed Pauline on to Junot, who, when injured in a duel and invalided back to France, passed her on to Kléber.

Pauline Fourès later made a fortune in the Brazilian timber business, before coming back to Paris with her pet parrots and monkeys, wearing men’s clothing and smoking a pipe. She lived to be ninety.

The Tragedy of the Moriori

The Moriori were a small, isolated population of Polynesians settlers, living on the Chatham Islands. Sometime shortly after New Zealand was settled in 1000 CE, a group of them set out an settled the Chatham Islands, far to their south east. And then the Chathams were forgotten. Remote and subarctic, the Chathams did not support any of the domesticated crops the Polynesian settlers brought with them -- taro, yams, sweet potatoes, breadfruit, bananas, and coconuts. Those crops had been domesticated in a tropical climate and quickly died on the Chathams. Without agriculture, and without nearby islands to colonize and perhaps get more food from, the Chathams were capable of supporting only about 2,000 hunter-gatherers.

So the Moriori learned to get along with each other. They renounced war. Chiefs remained, technically, but they caught their own food and lived in huts which were identical to everyone else. To prevent overpopulation, some male infants were castrated. All of these measures worked quite well, and the Moriori had a sustainable population from about 1300 CE, when it was settled, until November 19th, 1835.

Earlier in 1835, an Australian seal-hunting ship visited the Chatham Islands en route to New Zealand, and brought news to New Zealand of islands where "there is an abundance of sea and shellfish; the lakes swarm with eels; and it is a land of the karaka berry...the inhabitants are very numerous, but they do not understand how to fight, and have no weapons." That was enough to induce 900 Maori to sail to the Chathams. They arrived on November 19th, 1835. Another 400 arrived on December 5th. Armed with clubs, axes, and guns the warrior Maori walked through Moriori settlements, announcing that the Moriori were now their slaves, and killing anyone who openly disagreed.

The Moriori had a tradition of resolving disputes peacefully. They decided in a council to not fight back, but to offer the Maori peace, friendship, and a division of resources. The offer was never made. The Maori attacked first. Over the course of the next few days the Maori systematically killed hundreds of Moriori, cooked and ate many of them, and enslaved the rest. A Maori conqueror explained: "We took possession...in accordance with our customs and we caught all the people. No one escaped." And so the Moriori ended.

Where Did Irish Hens Live?

Why, in a nest! Woven out of plaited straw, these two hen’s nests used to be a common sight on Irish farms. After being woven, they were typically placed in a dark space, often an outhouse, which increased the number of eggs a hen would lay. The photo shows Mr Laurence Mulligan from Enaghan in County Longford making a typical hen's nest in 1969.

The Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia, has six buildings containing around 3 million exhibits. It has been a museum for over 250 years, and has the large collection to prove it. Besides art, the Hermitage is also home to about 70 cats! They first moved in because of a decree in 1745 by Empress Elizabeth, daughter of Peter the Great. She wanted to protect the priceless art from rodents.

Peter Mackintosh was sixteen years old in 1773, working as an apprentice to a blacksmith in Boston. On the night of December 16th, a group of young men rushed into their smithy, grabbed ashes from the hearth, and rubbed the ashes over their faces before rushing out again. These young men Peter saw were on their way to Griffin's Wharf to throw tea in the harbor and protest British colonial policies. Once war had broken out (and he had gotten a little older) Mackintosh served in the Continental Artillery as an artificer, shoeing horses and repaired cannons, using his blacksmithing in the service of his country.

Then the war was over. Mackintosh survived, so he was politely thanked for his service, and sent on his way. In his last years, in the 1830s and 1840s, Mackintosh's family tried to get the United States government to give him the military pension he had earned, fighting for that government to exist. Sometime in there this daguerrotype was taken. He appears a dignified gentleman, older and stately. Mackintosh died in 1846 at the age of 89. After his death, the United States government finally awarded him the pension he had earned seventy years before.

an original piece by historical-nonfiction

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    By Lillian Audette

    This blog is a collection of the interesting, the weird, and sometimes the need-to-know about history, culled from around the internet. It has pictures, it has quotes, it occasionally has my own opinions on things. If you want to know more about anything posted, follow the link at the "source" on the bottom of each post. And if you really like my work, buy me a coffee or become a patron!

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