Ballet Comes to Britain

Bring on the tutus! On March 2, 1717, England finally got on the ballet bandwagon with a performance of The Loves of Mars and Venus. England was a little late to the party on this—ballets were being performed back in the Renaissance, when they formed a part of aristocratic weddings (though they didn’t usually have a narrative angle to them as they do today, women … Continue reading Ballet Comes to Britain

Farewell to All That

On January 7, 1558, England lost its last remaining possession on the continent when the French retook Calais. Calais was an important little spot to the English, since it served as a toehold on the mainland and a trading center for English wool that allowed English merchants to bypass the markets in the low countries (present day Netherlands). When the French tried to meddle in … Continue reading Farewell to All That

Christmas in Exile

Better exiled than beheaded, I guess. On December 23, 1688, James II of England finally got the hint that he was no longer welcome and fled to Paris. James, a Catholic, was never a particularly popular king, but the people were prepared to tolerate him so long as his Protestant daughters remained his sole heirs. When his wife, Mary of Modena, unexpectedly gave birth to … Continue reading Christmas in Exile

Cinematic Pioneers

Today marks the death, in 1948, of the aptly named Louis Lumière who, together with his brother Auguste, was one of the earliest filmmakers in history, and one of the first people to make moving pictures an entertainment medium for the masses. The Lumières’ father owned a photographic firm where both the brothers worked, and after he retired in 1892 they began to experiment with … Continue reading Cinematic Pioneers

“The Woman I Love”

On June 3, Edward Albert Christian George Andrew Patrick David, Duke of Windsor and former King of the United Kingdom, married Wallis Warfield Simpson, the woman he gave up the throne for. The lead-up to the marriage, with its sordid affair and constitutional crisis, is fairly well known. Suffice it to say, the twice-divorced Wallis was not popular in Britain after Edward vacated the throne … Continue reading “The Woman I Love”

A Brief But Happy Marriage

On April 24, 1558, Mary, Queen of Scots married Francois, Dauphin of France in a glittering ceremony that put her on the road to a brief reign as Queen of France. Like most noble marriages of the time, this one was arranged for political reasons. The death of Mary’s father within just a few days of her birth left Scotland vulnerable, a situation Henry VIII … Continue reading A Brief But Happy Marriage

Death of a King

On April 6, 1199, King Richard I of England, best known as “Richard the Lionhearted,” died of an arrow wound in France, leaving his brother, John, King of England. Richard received his fatal blow on March 25, when he was out checking the work of sappers undermining a castle he was besieging. He foolishly wasn’t wearing any chainmail, despite the fact that missiles were being … Continue reading Death of a King

Cyrano

Happy birthday, Hercule-Savinien de Cyrano de Bergerac! Bet you didn’t know he was a real person, did you? I sure didn’t. But he was, and he was born on March 6, 1619. The real Cyrano de Bergerac was a poet, soldier, and dramatist. His romance with Charles Coypeau d’Assoucy, a  fellow writer, went sour in 1653 and resulted in a war of words between the … Continue reading Cyrano