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France

THE WHITE WITCH OF ROSE HALL

Rose Hall is the most famous manor (in Europe, you would call it a castle) in Jamaica. It was built in 1770, cost thirty thousand pounds – an incredible amount at the time! – and was considered the most beautiful residence on the island.  Rose Hall was damaged during the slave revolt in 1831, to…

Marie de baviere reine de saxe.

THE BLACK LADY AND THE KING OF SAXONY

In 1854, an epidemic erupted in Saxony that would quickly ravage the country as it had ravaged its neighbours’’. The royal family, led by Queen Maria, a princess of Bavaria, fled Dresden to seek refuge in the capital at the Castle of Pillnitz. The Queen only agreed to leave Dresden on the condition that her…

THE ABBOT’S GHOST

On that Easter Sunday, in the Cotentin Peninsula’s little village of Blanchelande, the church was crammed full. Aristocrats, farmers, and the bourgeoisie were all present on that sacred day. At the appointed hour, the clergy entered in procession, followed by the children of the choir carrying their candles and the cross, the priests of neighboring…


RUMI

Later, much later, I discovered Rumi. He became my hero because he represented an Islam vastly different from the Islam we are presented with these days. He was born in Afghanistan, in the city of Balkh, in the 13th century. His father was already a great mystic. One day, he took to the pulpit of…

THE TRAGIC WRITER

It has been a long time since I read “The Manuscript Found in Saragossa”, and yet I haven’t forgotten it. This novel, published at the turn of the 19th century, is a mixture of eccentricity, poeticism, and suspense. Written with a master’s hand, it is gripping; it cannot be put down, it is a truly…

PATMOS – THE CORPSE IN A BASKET

I did not stay long at that Patmonian cocktail party. I was bored, but mostly I didn’t like the house. It was beautiful; old and tastefully decorated, adorned with charming objects, and surrounded by an enchanting garden. And yet, I felt uneasy there. I returned home to find Maria still in the kitchen. I told…

THE DISFIGURED THIEF

It was 19th century Greece during King Otto of Bavaria’s reign. An elusive thief named Christos Davelis was ravaging the area of Mount Pentecliicus around north Athens. Word also had it that he was very handsome: so much so that he may well have seduced the Duchess of Plaisance. Sophie de Marbois was Lebrun’s widow,…

THE TALISMAN OF POPE BORGIA

  I have always had a weak spot for Pope Alexandre VI Borgia. History has smeared his name with horrid deeds; but I suspect that such a campaign was led in part by protestant propaganda. I had shared this theory with my youngest daughter Olga who was given zero for writing it in her homework….

ANNE AND SARAH

In the winter of 1711, France and Louis XIV felt absolutely crestfallen. Frost had annihilated the harvest; it was so cold that people were dying in the streets; the Spanish War of Succession had been dragging on for more than ten years; there was no more money, troops, resources, and no more hope. France’s enemies…

THE MUSIC-LOVING GHOST

On a Paris-Krakow flight, I ran into one of my favourite cousins, Crista. I asked her where she is going. Her husband, she told me, is a graduate of ESCI, the Business school in Fontainebleau. The students in his class had decided to go on a trip to Poland with their wives, the highlight of…