The tale of Pocahontas and Captain John Smith is well known all over the world. The story of the native American woman, who saves the life of an English settler in Jamestown, Viriginia, still intrigues people after over 400 years.
Pocahontas was born in around 1595 as a daughter of Wahunseneca, the Chief of the Powhatans. The Powhatan had a population of about 25,000 and included over thirty tribes at that time. Women and men had seperate tasks in the Powhatan society, but both were equally important. Women were responsible for building houses, collecting water, farming, cooking and manufacturing everyting needed in and round the house. Also, they collected edible plants. Men were mainly responsible for hunting.
The English landed in Virginia in May, 1607 and called their settlement Jamestown. The new settlers and the native Powhatan didn't encounter before the winter of that year. But when Captain John Smith went on an exploration, he was captured by a hunting party of Powhatans. We don't know for sure what happened there - in Smith's first account of the event, written in 1608, he does not meet Pocahontas there, but in a letter he writes to Queen Anne in 1616, he writes that Pocathontas dramatically and selflessly saved him from being executed in a large feast. Historians suggest that the Powhatan never really wanted to execute Smith, and that he may have misunderstood what was happening to him. It is possible Smith later exaggerated the story towards Queen Anne to impress her.
This may just seem to be an ordinary 15th century Dutch house. It is - except for the fact that it were witches that were weighed here.
Established in 1482, this weigh house in Oudewater (near Utrecht) was originally meant for weighing (trading) goods. As witch trials became common in the 16th century, weigh house scales were also used for witch processes. Witches were believed to be light enough to float on water, so if a person was a witch or not could be easily proven by putting them on the scale. Unfortunately, most weigh house scales were manipulated, and many a person was condemned based on a rigged test.
In 1545, Emperor Charles V proclaimed Oudewater’s weigh house as the only fair weighing site in Europe – consequently, not a single witch was ever convicted here.
Catherine de' Medici was one of the most influential woman at French court and declared the most powerful woman in sixteenth century Europe next to Elizabeth I of England. Many legends have risen after her death, and she is often being displayed as a black widow, a royal poisoner and a tyrant - the latter because people blame her for having initiated the St. Bartholomew Day Massacre. In Alexandre Dumas' novel 'La Reine Margot', Catherine plays the role of an intrigeous mother that skillfully gets rid of everyone that comes in her way.
As the wife of king Henry II, she was Queen of France for twelve years and Queen Mother and advisor to her three sons Francis II, Charles IX (who was only ten years old when he heired the crown, so Catherine ruled France as its regent during his minority) and Henry III. She was born a daughter of the rich and influential Medici clan from Florence. Her father, Lorenzo, was the prince to whom Machiavelli had written in his political treatise The Prince, and pope Clement VII was her uncle. At the age of 14, she was betrothed to marry Henry of Bourbon by an arrangement of Clement and Henry's father. During her husband's reign as king, Catherine lived a quiet life together with her maids that had moved to France with her. As queen mother and regent she gathered several Italian advisers around her. She obviously found an interest in her Italian roots, and rumors had it that she was interested in poisons, as the French believed that Italians were ruthless practicers of the black arts. It was believed until long after her death that she had kept poisons in the more than two hundred beautiful woodcut cabinets that stood in her room in Chateau de Blois.
Paris, 18th of August 1572. Numerous noblemen gathered in the Louvre to celebrate the marriage of the King Charles IX's sister Marguerite and the Protestant Henry III of Navarre. Many of the wedding guests had mixed feelings about this arrangement. True, a peace treaty had been signed two years before, which had put an end to the third war of religion between Catholics and Protestants. That paper peace, however, hadn't changed the deeply established malicious feelings of conservative Catholics against the Huguenots. The Queen Mother, Catherine de' Medici, had planned the marriage in order to consolidate the Huguenot friendly politics that found its origins with the peace in 1570. At the same time, with introducing Henry into her family, she would be able to exert her influence on him and on the higher officials of the Huguenot movement, and created a union that supported the crown. Many Protestants followed Calvin, who had declared that royalty misused the so-called Divine power, and therefore many Protestants were a direct opponent to the king. One of the wedding guests was Gaspard de Coligny was also invited to the wedding. The Admiral of France had become the military and political leader and had grown to be a danger for the crown. The Duke of Guise, one of the strongest opponents of the Huguenots, had a personal aversion against Coligny since he believed him to have ordered the assassination of his father Francis.
In spite of the tense atmosphere among the different religious fractions, the wedding festivities were celebrated grandly and lasted three days. But only a day after the ending of the celebrations, on August 22, De Coligny was shot at with an arquebus by a citizen named Maurevert. The attempted assassination failed, however, as the Huguenot leader was only wounded at the elbow and lost a finger, and those injuries were way too marginal to actually kill him. Maurevert escaped and it ever remained unclear whether he was hired by someone - and if so, by whom - or if he acted at his own initiative. Catherine de' Medici could have ordered his death because of his growing power over Protestant Parisians, but most likely Maurevert was hired by the Guise family, as the shot was fired from a house that was owned by the Guises.