Thanksgiving, Thanks-living, and the Jacobite Rising

A sermon was preached on 9 October 1746 by Pastor William Wood to the congregation of Protestant-dissenters in Darlington after the Jacobite Rising. Wood stated that his sermon was to “cultivate Loyalty and Social Affection, on the large and solid Basis of Christian Catholicism, Universal Charity and Benevolence, to which the popish Practice of Persecution for Conscience-Sake is diametrically opposite.”[1] Continue reading

Napoleon Bonaparte’s Youngest Brother Jerome Bonaparte

Jerome Bonaparte was Napoleon’s youngest sibling. He was born on the island of Corsica on 15 November 1784 and was barely three months old when his father died. Napoleon soon became responsible for his education, something that Jerome was unwilling to apply himself to as everything other than his studies was of more interest to him.

Early nineteenth century portrait of Jerome Bonaparte. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

In 1800, Jerome joined the navy at the age of fifteen, and as a relative to the First Consul, he was promoted rapidly. He was commanding a brig of his own and was a lieutenant de vaisseau by the end of 1802, and, by 1806, an admiral. However, it was not always smoothing sailing for the young man because some escapades on shore at Brest resulted in a rebuke from his older brother Napoleon: Continue reading

Jack the Ripper’s Canonical Victims

Mary Ann Nichols, Annie Chapman, Elizabeth Stride, Catherine Eddowes, and Mary Jane Kelly are considered Jack the Ripper’s canonical victims, so-called because their murders had the same pattern with the same modus operandi, and these five women are considered to be his officially accepted victims. The murders also happened in a relatively short period in 1888, between 31 August and 9 November.

Jack the Ripper, also known as the Whitechapel Murderer or Leather Apron, became known for operating in the slum areas in and around London’s Whitechapel district. Attacks attributed to him typically involved female prostitutes who lived and worked in the area and whose throats were cut prior to him committing some sort of abdominal mutilation. In fact, because of the mutilations and removal of internal organs, it was initially suspected the killer had some sort of anatomical or surgical knowledge.

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When Napoleon Courted Désirée Clary

When Napoleon courted Désirée Clary (born Eugénie Bernardine Désirée Clary), he was about twenty-five. He met her while stationed in Marseille after his strategy proved successful at the Siege of Toulon in 1793. Désirée was the daughter a wealthy Marseille silk manufacturer and merchant named François Clary, who had four children by his first wife, and Désirée and eight other children by his second wife, Françoise Rose Somis (addressed as Eugénie). Continue reading

One Visitor’s Tale of Madame Tussaud’s 1883 Exhibition

Madame Tussaud. Author’s collection.

Heavy rain showers induced one Londoner who had been reading William Black’s Macleod of Dare to ponder about a better way to spend his time. When he looked out his window and saw wet streets and large splashing raindrops, instead of staying inside or following Black’s advice to enjoy an art pilgrimage to the National Gallery or South Kensington Museum, he decided to do something entirely different. Something that he had never done before.

What he decided to do was visit Madame Tussaud’s well-known establishment located on Baker Street. He hailed a hackney cab and gave this report of his visit that was published in November of 1883 in the Aberdeen Press and Journal: Continue reading

Thirteen Tales of Murder and Death in the Victorian Era

The Victorian Era is often remembered for its morality with women’s buttoned-up collars and high boots that prevented even the slightest hint of skin beneath. However, there were also many tales of murder and death during that era that captured the public’s imagination. Here are thirteen stories for Halloween.

Murder and Death in the Victorian Era

One unusual death happened in May of 1875. A miser between 60 and 70 years of age named Samuel Whitehead was found dead and there seemed to be no real reason for it. He lived for many years in Birmingham in a tenement off Moor Street and had been a recluse ever since his mother died twelve years earlier when she burned to death under rather mysterious circumstances. When Whitehead was found, according to newspapers: Continue reading

The Imaginary Prisoner of the Bastille known as Comte de Lorges

Storming of the Bastille in July 1789. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

The imaginary prisoner of the Bastille, known as the Comte de Lorges, was thought to be a real person for many years. Yet, he was no more real than the implements of torture said to be inside the Bastille after it was stormed in 1789. In fact, when a search was conducted for the Bastille’s torturous devices, a printing press was the only thing found, having been mistaken for an implement of torture.

The beginnings of the man who would come to be known as Comte de Lorges began to circulate almost immediately after the Bastille fell. For instance, an English doctor named Dr. Rigby wrote in his journal that “two wretched victims of the detestable tyranny of the old Government had just been discovered and taken from some of the most obscure dungeons of this horrid castle.”[1] One of the two wretched victims he described as a little old feeble man: Continue reading

Laura Bell Courtesan and Preacher

Laura Bell Courtesan and Preacher
Laura Bell by Wallace Ernest-Joseph-Angelon Girard (1813 – 1898) c. 1850. Courtesy of The Wallace Collection.

Laura Eliza Jane Seymour Bell was born in 1829 in Glenavy in Northern Ireland to Captain R. H. Bell, who managed Hertford’s Antrim estates, and to the illegitimate daughter of Lord Hertford. Laura who supposedly had an unsupervised childhood, eventually moved to Belfast. There she worked as a shop assistant but was alleged to have earned extra money by occasionally working as a prostitute, although she denied it. She next moved to Dublin and was frequently spotted riding around in her own carriage in the tree-lined avenues of Phoenix Park. It was also while she lived in Dublin that she reportedly had a relationship with Dr. William Wilde, father of Oscar Wilde.

In 1849, she moved to London where she became a well-known courtesan referred to as The Queen of London Whoredom because of her wealthy clientele of noblemen and dukes. Part of her success as a courtesan was that she was strikingly beautiful, so much so that on “one occasion at the opera the entire house rose simultaneously to look at her as she was leaving.”[1] In addition, as she had done in Dublin, she was often seen riding in her carriage, but this time it was in Hyde Park in a gilt one drawn by two magnificent white horses. Continue reading

The Famous French Actor François Joseph Talma

Talma. Courtesy of Bibliothèque nationale de France.

In 1904, a marble statue was erected in Poix-du-Nord by the sculptor Fagel to one of the greatest actors of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century. The actor’s name was François Joseph Talma. Another statue had been sculpted by Pierre Jean David and erected to Talma in 1837 in the vestibule of the Theatre Français opposite the great Enlightenment writer Voltaire.

Talma was born on 15 January 1763 in Paris. His father was a dentist, and, for a time, Talma practiced dentistry, but the stage was too big of a draw for him. It might have begun when he was young, as he had his first theatrical performance when he was eight years old. He played a part in the story of Tamerlane and was to close the play by announcing to Tamerlane the death of his son. Continue reading

Napoleon’s 13-year-old Friend Betsy Balcombe on St. Helena

Napoleon looking out to sea on St. Helena. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Napoleon’s voyage into exile ended on 15 October 1815 at half past ten when the Northumberland anchored at St. Helena. That night he slept aboard the ship and on the morning of the 17th, he traveled to Longwood House, the residence of the lieutenant-governor that was designated as Napoleon’s future residence. He seemed satisfied with Longwood but because it needed to be repaired, refurbished, and enlarged, he needed to stay somewhere else temporarily.

It was decided he would stay at the Briar’s homestead with William Balcombe, an English merchant and superintendent of Public Sales for the East India Company. William was married to Jane Cranston and they had two daughters and two sons: Jane (1779), Lucia Elizabeth “Betsy”(1803), Thomas Tyrwhitte (1810), and Alexander Beatson (1811). Jane and Betsy had been educated in England and taught the French language. Continue reading