1. Which hairstyle did Joan of Arc inspire?
|Photograph: Mila Zinkova|
|Photograph: Mila Zinkova|
She had broken her ankle and it was taking a long time to heal. All she could do was read.
Her husband was fed up with bringing home stacks of book from the library every day.
Why don’t you write your own book? he said and bought her a Remington Portable No. 3 typewriter.
So she did.
She was born Marie Josèphe Rose Tascher de La Pagerie, the daughter of a wealthy Creole sugar baron in Martinique.
But after hurricanes destroyed the family plantation, she was married off to the Vicomte de Beauharnais in Paris in October, 1779, in order to preserve the family fortune.
It was an unhappy marriage, but it produced two children, Eugène and Hortense.
During the Reign of Terror, in 1794, her husband was arrested as an aristocratic ‘suspect’ by the Jacobins; Joséphine herself was imprisoned a month later. Continue reading
He was a man of ruthless genius, a Christian crusader possessed of unparalleled greed, even for those times – but his achievements were breath-taking.
He conquered what is now Mexico with an army of less than 500 Spaniards, not all of them soldiers and not all of them loyal, while ostensibly on a simple scouting mission from Cuba.
He did not defeat the Aztecs with Spanish force of arms – they were a nation of a million people – but with an astonishing bluff.
The story of the invasion is one of the great epics of history, a triumph of human endurance and determination.
It was also an unmitigated disaster for the indigenous population and resulted in unimaginable misery for hundreds of thousands of people.
Her exact origins are unclear –she was thought to have been a Mayan princess by some – but her place in Mexican history is unparalleled.
Without her, Cortes would have got no further than a Yucatan beach.
Her name was corrupted by history to Malinche; and five hundred years later her name is still reviled. Even today the word malinchista is shouted across the floor of the Mexican parliament as a deadly insult – it means a traitor to the Mexican people.
She was also his translator, the only one who ever knew what was being said by both sides, the only one who spoke both Spanish and nahuatl, the language of the Aztecs.
Her motives, what she said, how she said it; these things will always be a matter of debate – it is what makes hers such a gripping and intriguing story.
What is certain is that in almost every contemporary drawing and painting of Cortes’ entrada, she is at his side, whispering in his ear.
And every night she shared the conquistadore’s bed.
Did she love him? No one can say.
Did he use her for his own purposes and then cast her aside? Of course he did.
These days his ancient bones molder in a walled-up in a casket by the altar in the Church of Jesus Navareno close to the place where he first met the Aztec emperor Motecuhzoma.
No one knows what became of her. It is believed she died an old woman in Spain. Cortes showed his gratitude by marrying her off to someone else.
Foreign authors who dare write her story still get assaulted with man bags (see previous post.)
The story of Malinali – it was worth getting attacked by a man bag …
Agrippina the Younger isn’t.
She was born at a Roman outpost on the Rhine, near present day Cologne.
She came from a line of Roman bluebloods; her father was a popular general and politician, while on her mother’s side she was great grand-daughter of the Emperor Augustus (the one who defeated Cleopatra) and the adopted grand-daughter of the Emperor Tiberius.
When she was 13 she married her second cousin Domitius who, although wealthy, was – according to Suetonius – “a man who was in every aspect of his life, detestable”
When she was 21 the emperor Tiberius died and her only surviving brother, Caligula, became the new emperor. A man who was, in every aspect of his life, degenerate. Continue reading