1. Which hairstyle did Joan of Arc inspire?
|Photograph: Mila Zinkova|
|Photograph: Mila Zinkova|
They made a movie about her with Ingrid Bergman in the starring role.
Disney had a huge box office success with a full length animated feature.
She embodied the legend of the lost princess. We all so wanted to believe that she somehow survived.
What really happened?
Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna of Russia was born in 1901, the youngest daughter of Tsar Nicholas II, the last sovereign of Imperial Russia.
She was the youngest of four sisters, Olga, Tatiana and Maria; she had a younger brother, Alexei.
She was not raised as a Disney princess; she and her sisters slept on hard camp cots without pillows, had cold baths every morning, and were expected to tidy their own rooms.
She was short, and a little chubby, and more than a little mischievous. Anecdotes tell of her deliberately tripping up servants and climbing trees and then refusing to come down.
She once rolled a rock into a snowball and threw it at her older sister Tatiana, knocking her down. Her distant cousin, Nina Georgievna, called her: “nasty to the point of being evil”.
Well not entirely. During World War I she and her sister visited wounded soldiers at a private hospital in the grounds of the Alexander Palace at Tsarskoye Selo, near Saint Petersburg. Too young to become Red Cross nurses like their mother and elder sisters, played checkers and billiards with the soldiers.
In February 1917, she and her family were placed under house arrest in the Alexander Palace. Her father abdicated the throne soon afterwards. But after the Bolsheviks seized power, they were moved to Yekaterinburg.
She and her sisters sewed jewels into their dresses to hide them from their captors. Locked away in ‘The House of Special Purpose’ Anastasia and her sisters performed plays for her parents.
One of the guards said of her: “She was a very charming devil! She was mischievous and … lively, and was fond of performing comic mimes with the dogs, as though they were performing in a circus.”
But the conditions of their captivity, took its toll. On July 14, 1918, local priests conducted a private church service for the family. They said that the girls had become despondent and desperate.
“Something has happened to them in there.”
What did happen to them? That we shall never know. There were rumours that the girls and even their mother were assaulted.
By now Russia had descended into civil war. By the time anti-Bolshevik forces captured Yekaterinberg the Romanovs had disappeared.
It was assumed they had been murdered, but how and when was never really certain until the “Yurovsky Note” was found in 1989. The document was Yurovsky’s report to his Bolshevik masters of what had taken place.
On the night of 17 July the family were woken and told they were being moved, because of the fighting. They and their small circle of servants were herded into a basement and a few minutes later Yurovsky came in and told them they were to be shot.
They immediately started firing.
Thick smoke from the ancient revolvers filled the room. And the girls would not die – unknown to their executioners, the jewels hidden in their corsets acted as bullet proof vests. The executioners resorted to bayoneting and clubbing their terrified victims to death.
The bodies were then thrown on trucks. On the way to the proposed burial site the trucks got bogged. The bodies were hastily buried, then reburied again the following night.
The Bolsheviks tried to keep the executions secret but stories soon got out but these were complicated by other rumors of trains and houses being searched for an “Anastasia Romanov”, and eight witnesses even reported seeing an injured girl who answered Anastasia’ description at Cheka headquarters in Perm.
Anastasia’s supposed survival became one of the most celebrated mysteries of the last century. At least ten women claimed to be her. Her best known Anastasia impostor, Anna Anderson, appeared in 1922.
She said that she had feigned death among the bodies of her family and servants, and was able to make her escape with the help of a compassionate guard who noticed she was still breathing.
Her legal battle for recognition which was begun in 1938 became the longest running case ever heard by the German courts, where it was officially filed. Her claim was rejected in 1970.
She died in 1984 but it was not until ten years later DNA testing proved that she was an impostor.
The Romanovs’ burial site remained secret until the communists fell from power. It was finally excavated in the woods outside Yekaterinburg in 1991. Incredibly it held just nine of the expected eleven remains.
Finally, on August 23, 2007, a Russian archaeologist announced the discovery of two burned, partial skeletons at another site nearby. Further DNA testing confirmed they belonged to the Tsarevich Alexei and one of his sisters.
Like the solving of all mysteries, it was of itself bittersweet.
The lost princess had finally been found, but not in the way that we had all hoped. Yet Anastasia is yet to be united with her family.
Last October she and her brother were supposed to be buried in the Romanov tomb in Peter and Paul Cathedral in Saint Petersburg but the ceremony was blocked by the Russian Orthodox church.
And so our lost princess will have to wait a while longer before she finally comes home.
But enough about Mel Gibson – let’s talk about Sophie’s Marceau’s character in Braveheart, the beautiful French princess who is also Edward Longshank’s daughter-in-law. In the film she has an affair with Mel and then gets pregnant to him, breaking the royal English line.
It is a tale of adventure, romance and terrible butchery – with English and Scottish history being mutilated beyond recognition.
But who was the REAL Isabella of France?
She was born in 1295, so she was ten years old and still living in France when Mel Gibson – William Wallace – was executed, so she certainly never met him, or have an adulterous affair with him.
The facts of her life are far more spectacular.
Isabella in fact succeeded where Wallace didn’t; she raised an army, invaded England and deposed Longshank’s son, Edward II, and ruled as regent for four years.
Isabella’s father was Philip IV of France – Phillip the Fair.
Yes, she was beautiful, but she was royal, and raised to be more than Mel Gibson’s love interest.
She was highly intelligent and had great diplomatic skill.
At 12 she was married to Longshank’s son, Edward II, as part of a political alliance.
But Edward soon became notable for his lack of aptitude for kingship – as well as his lack of interest in women.
That doesn’t make him the bad guy in the story either – but for a bright and politically astute woman, it was a terrible match.
Isabella is starved of affection and has been sidelined in the political arena by her husband’s “favourites”. Were men like Piers Gaveston and Hugh Despenser the Younger just his advisers – or were they more than that?
Whatever the truth, by the time she was thirty, she faced a stark choice; retire to the country and spend the rest of her life with her needlework – or rebel.
She chose: Freedom!
When I went to school in England, I was told the last person to invade England was William the Conqueror in 1066. This was actually not true.
In 1326 Isabella and her lover, Roger Mortimer, raised a mercenary army in the Low Countries – by marrying her oldest son off to a the daughter of the Count of Hainaut.
The fleet got lost and landed miles from where she and Mortimer had planned.
Not that it mattered; by then, her husband Edward was so deeply unpopular that the barons of England welcomed her and Mortimer with open arms and the invasion became more of a bloodless coup.
She named herself Queen Regent and she and Mortimer assumed the rule of England – and not once did she have to wear a kilt and paint herself blue.
Four years later Mortimer was himself deposed by Isabella’s own son and she was retired to Castle Rising in Norfolk and lived on for many years in considerable style, until her death in 1358.
Braveheart was really the final insult.
And Edward II? Although he was an accomplished warrior – if not a very able tactician – he has similarly been portrayed as weak and effeminate.
Was that really how it was? It seems trite, doesn’t it?
I always imagined the truth to be less simple, and far more intriguing …
But that wasn’t her secret.
Her secret wasn’t even that her name was Hedwig Kiesler and that her husband was one of the Nazi’s major arms suppliers.
So then – what was her secret?
Was it that five years before becoming a Hollywood star she had achieved a different kind of fame for her role in a low budget Czechoslovakian film where she appeared swimming in a lake, naked. Another scene featured a close-up of her face in the throes of orgasm.
The film – ‘Ecstasy’ – was banned everywhere, of course, which made copies of it extremely valuable.
Even the Italian dictator, Mussolini, used all his clout and his contacts to get a copy.
It wasn’t her intelligence but her beauty that caught the eye of the third richest man in Austria, Friedrich Mandl, an arms dealer. He soon became her first husband.
But once he married her, he was less than enthusiastic about his new wife’s past, and tried to buy up as many copies of ‘Ecstasy’ as he could.
Apparently she tried to placate him by insisting that her on-screen orgasm was simulated, achieved with the aid of the director stroking her butt with a drawing pin.
Or perhaps not, because Mandl was a man with many things on his mind. At the time he was developing a new technology for radio-controlled torpedoes for the Nazis.
His wife, cute bottom now drawing pin-free, sat at his dinner parties looking stupid and beautiful while her husband entertained leading Nazis, including Hitler himself, and explained his new invention.
So in 1937 she decided it was time to stop being a trophy wife. She sold her jewelry, drugged her maid, put on her servant’s uniform as disguise, and escaped from Austria.
It was a good decision.
The following year the Nazis seized Mandl’s factory. Mandl, who was himself half Jewish, was forced to flee to Brazil.
Hedwig was now living in Paris and it was there that she met Louis B. Mayer, the Steven Spielberg of the age. Mayer was struck by her beauty and promised to make her a star.
The Most Beautiful Woman in the World signed a long-term contract with Hollywood’s Biggest Producer. She went to America and appeared in more than 20 films with stars like Clark Gable, James Stewart, Judy Garland, and even Bob Hope.
Her secret was that she was smart. Very, very smart.
In 1942, at the height of her fame on the silver screen, she decided to do her bit to help the war effort; she developed a unique direction-finding device that could be used to help torpedoes find their targets.
At the time both the Nazis and the Allies were using single-frequency radio-controlled technology. The drawback was that the enemy could find this frequency and “jam” the signal.
Hedwig, remembering all the things she had learned at Mandl’s dinner parties, collaborated with her Hollywood neighbor, musician George Anthiel, on a system to solve the problem. Anthiel had just found a way to synchronize his melodies across twelve player pianos, producing stereophonic sounds no one had ever heard before.
Applying this same technology they found a way of encoding a radio message across a broad area of the wireless spectrum. If one part of the spectrum was jammed, the message would still get through on one of the other frequencies – in effect making it unjammable.
On August 11, 1942, U.S. Patent No. 2,292,387 was granted to Antheil and “Hedy Kiesler Markey,” Kiesler’s married name at the time.
But the U.S. Navy would not listen. The technology was not adopted until 1962, after the patent had expired, when it was finally used by U.S. military ships during the blockade of Cuba.
Today, Hedy’s invention is the foundation of ‘spread spectrum technology,’ YOU USE IT EVERY DAY when you log on to wi-fi or make calls with your Bluetooth-enabled phone. The next generation of cell phones would not be possible without it!
You couldn’t take selfies in Time Square, sext your boyfriend or post Facebook pictures of your cat without the woman still only remembered for being beautiful.
Not bad for a girl who only had to ‘stand there and look stupid.’
Hedy was married six times – the last time to her divorce lawyer – and claimed to have made and lost thirty million dollars during her life.
In 2014 she was finally inducted into the National Inventor’s Hall of Fame.
I wonder if you have even heard of her.