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.
It isn't the smartest thing to marry a prince that is nicknamed "the Fair" when you have a tendency to jealousy, one would say. But princesses in the 15th century couldn't choose their husbands; their marriages were arranged for political reasons. Joan was one of the luckier girls, since she was betrothed to a man she absolutely adored: Philip of Austria. He lived up to his nickname, and on the night the two first met, it was love - or lust - at first sight. Philip insisted they would marry immediately so the young couple could love each other passionately.
Unfortunately, their attraction would turn out to be fairly unequal: Philip's feelings for Joan were mere desire, whereas Joan loved her husband obsessively. But he was young, handsome and on top of that he was a monarch (he ruled the Low Countries from the age of 18), so women lay to his feet and he loved it. He acted as if he was a young bachelor, drinking, feasting and having sex excessively. Joan was extremely jealous; she wanted her husband for her and herself only.
She often was moody and depressed, or could also break out in jealous rages. Philip couldn't care much, he would rather make things worse by avoiding her bedroom after they had been fighting over one of his excesses. She would cry of anger and despair and bump to the wall ceaselessly. Instead of starting to hate him, however, her mad love for him remained. He was all that she cared for: she lost all interest in politics and became isolated at court.
Elisabeth was born on Christmas Eve, 1837, in Munich, Kingdom of Bavaria. She was the second of two daughters of Duke Max Joseph and his wife Ludovika, a daughter of the Bavarian king Maximilian I.
In her youth, Elisabeth had no obligations at the Bavarian court and spent a happy time in their castle at Lake Starnberg, where she enjoyed playing and riding in the country. Elisabeth’s nephew was the young Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph. His mother, Archduchess Sophie of Austria, was his advisor in his political as well as in his personal life, and thus in fact the real ruler of the Empire. When Franz Joseph was 23, Sophie arranged a marriage with her nice Helene, Elisabeth’s older sister. The family was invited to come to Bad Ischl in Austria, so that Franz Joseph could propose to Helene, although the two had never met before. Helene and Franz Joseph didn’t feel comfortable in each other’s presence, but Franz was immediately attracted to the fifteen-year-old Elisabeth. And so this would be the first time that Franz Joseph would disobey his mother: he wanted to marry Elisabeth, otherwise he would not marry at all. His mother was infuriated, but accepted his wish – at least he would marry a niece, and that was what she wanted in the end. But Elisabeth had not been prepared to be an Empress as Helene; she had lived her free, informal life until that moment, and she would never be able to fully adapt the royal way of life with all its rules and etiquette.
Mata Hari - the name alone sounds like oriental mystery, seduction and espionage. The girl behind the name was born Margaretha Geertruida Zelle in the Frisian town of Leeuwarden, and has turned into a legend.
She was born in 1876 as the first child of a hatter and oil-invester. She grew up in wealth, and being the first daughter she was shamelessly spoiled by her father. She would go around in fancy dresses, and be an outsider because of her flamboyant appearance. However, her father's company went bankrupt when Margaretha was 13, and soon after her parents separated. In 1891, Margaretha's mother died, and the family fell apart. Her father went to Amsterdam to live with his second wife and the children were sent to live with other family members.
She started studying to be a kindergarten teacher in Leiden, and it was there that she learned she was sexually attractive to men: the school's headmaster helplessly fell for her. When a scandal broke out, Margaretha was dismissed from the school and went to live with her uncle in The Hague. At the age of 18, she saw an advertisement in the newspaper that was placed by friends of Rudolf MacLeod, a captain stationed in the Dutch East Indies who was - according to his friends - in desperate need of a wife. Margaretha answered the ad and enclosed a photograph, expecting that her beauty would convince him to choose her. He was twenty years her senior, but she understood that the captain would secure her the financial status she had known as a child, but had missed after her father's bankruptcy. The two got married soon after. She now was a member of the upper class, but because she had to live in the tropics, she hardly had any benefit of that. They got two children, Jeanne and Norman. The latter got poisoned at the age of 2,5, supposedly by medicines against syphilis. Because of Rudolf's rude character and Margaretha's troubles to get used to the Indies, the marriage did not work out. In 1902 they moved back to The Hague and got separated soon after; Rudolf took Jeanne with him. Margaretha was left alone without family, money or a proper education.
Since Julius Caesar's invasion of Brittania in 55 BC had failed, no Roman Emperor had set foot on the British island. But when Claudius became Emperor in 41 AD, he thought it would be worth the try, and invaded Britannia again. He had more success: the eastern part of the island was set under Roman control in 43 AD. Many Celtic tribes voluntarily allied with the Romans in trade of their safekeeping. So did the Iceni, of which Prasutagus was chieftain (or king, as the leaders of tribes used to call him themselves), and Boudica was queen. Claudius had fortresses built and troops installed in several places in eastern Brittania, and a Roman governor was appointed to keep an eye on the Celts.
The second Roman governor, Publius Ostorius Scapula, took all weapons from the tribes that he didn't trust completely, like the Iceni, even if they had surrendered. This was a smart move, since he initiated a couple of things that would highly upset the Celts. For example, in 49 AD, he set up a colonia around Camulodunum (now Colchester): a town that would serve as a homestead for Roman veterans. Because the colonia grew fast and the Britons were driven off their land to make way for the veteran homes. Several were enslaved by the retired legionaries, others were executed.
In 54 AD (Ostorius had died and had been succeeded by a less provoking administrator), Emperor Claudius was poisoned and Nero followed him on the throne. Nero ordered to build a temple to his predecessor at Camulodunum. Now the tribal people were obliged to pay for a place of worship for a man who had took their lands! And on top of that, Rome demanded a repayment of money that had been loaned to chieftains that weren't even alive anymore.
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.