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Strange


Strange quirks of history

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….

THE MURDEROUS PAINTER

Fifteen years ago, I visited the National Gallery of Ireland in Dublin. I happened upon the section devoted to 19th century painting where there was a rather small painting, remarkably well painted, of a man who looked young and yet whose diabolical energy – horridness, cruelty, meanness – struck me so, that it overwhelmed me….

THE JOKESTER GHOST OF TAOS

  About twenty years ago, we visited the very beautiful city of Taos in New Mexico. We stayed at Luan House, which had been turned into a hotel. It was a magnificent villa built in the regional style popular during the 1920s and 1930s by an American art patron millionaire, Mabel Dodge. Everyone of any…

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THE DRUNK MINISTER

He was a Secretary of State for the Foreign Affairs in the United Kingdoms. He was one of the most brilliant ministers, one of the most skilled, one of the most efficient, one of the most reliable, but also, out of all the government, the one most prone to drinking. It was because of this…

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THE SOUND AND LIGHT OF CARDINAL WOLSEY

Hampton Court is by far one of the most beautiful English royal palaces. The greater part of it was built during the 17th century by the royal couple William and Mary. The English baroque style offers a majestic splendour, truly royal facades, balance, and an extraordinary harmony, but the origins of this sumptuous castle are…

RASPUTIN

Rasputin was this Russian monk who, having been introduced to the last emperor Nicholas II and his wife Alexandra Feodorovna, proved to be the only one capable of calming the terrible haemophiliac episodes of the heir Grand-Duke, the young Alexis. This allowed him to gain absolute control over the parents of the unfortunate child, to…

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Louis XVIII and Jena Bridge

Louis XVIII had a feel for France whatever regime it was ruled by. In the Paris occupied by the forces of the coalition, the place names, the avenues, and the bridges served as a constant reminder to the occupying forces of their defeats. L’Avenue d’Austerlitz, l’Avenue de Wagram, and above all the Jena Bridge, reminded…

THE FALSE REMAINS OF LOUIS XVI

One of the mysteries I recently uncovered has to do with how the Revolution would dispose of its victims, all these princes and dukes, these women, these young people. Until now, I believed that they would be thrown into mass graves and that their bodies would be doused in quicklime to render them unrecognizable. Apparently…

SULTAN SEEKS SOLDIERS

In the year 1794, the sultan Selim III reigned over the Ottoman Empire. He was young, intelligent and determined to reform, to modernize, to reinforce his empire. Most of all, he wished to thoroughly reorganize his army, the famous ottoman army which had conquered one of the biggest empires of the planet but which was…