Fact of the day: 27th October

On this day in 1401 Catherine of Valois (d. 1437) was born.

Catherine of Valois was the youngest daughter of King Charles VI of France and his wife Isabeau of Bavaria. She was born at the Hôtel Saint-Pol (a royal palace in Paris) on 27 October 1401.

Early on, there had been a discussion of marrying her to the Prince of Wales, son of Henry IV of England, but the king died before negotiations could begin.

In 1414, his successor, Henry V, re-opened discussion of the match, along with a large dowry and acknowledgement of his right to the throne of France.

Henry V went to war with France, and even after the great English victory at Agincourt, plans for the marriage continued. Catherine was said to be very attractive and when Henry finally met her at Meulan, he became enamoured. In May 1420, a peace treaty was made between England and France, and Charles acknowledged Henry of England as his heir.

Catherine and Henry were married at the Parish Church of St John or at Troyes Cathedral on 2 June 1420. Catherine went to England with her new husband and was crowned queen in Westminster Abbey on 23 February 1421. In June 1421, Henry returned to France to continue his military campaigns.

By this time, Catherine was several months pregnant and gave birth to a son named Henry on 6 December 1421 at Windsor. Her husband never saw their child. During the siege of Meaux, he became sick with dysentery and died on 31 August 1422, just before his 36th birthday.

Catherine was not quite 21 and was left a queen dowager. Charles VI died a couple of months after Henry V, making the young Henry VI king of England and English-occupied northern France. Catherine doted on her son during his early childhood.

Catherine lived in the king’s household, presumably so she could care for her young son, but the arrangement also enabled the councillors to watch over the queen dowager herself. Nevertheless, Catherine entered into a sexual relationship with Welshman Owen Tudor, who, in 1421, in France, had been in the service of Henry V’s steward Sir Walter Hungerford.

Tudor was most likely appointed keeper of Catherine’s household or wardrobe. The relationship began when Catherine lived at Windsor Castle, and she became pregnant with their first child there.

From the relationship of Owen Tudor and Queen Catherine descended Henry VII of England and the Tudor Dynasty. Tudor historians asserted that Owen and Catherine had been married, for their lawful marriage was a vital link in the argument for the legitimacy of the Tudor dynasty.

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Fact of the day: 27th July

On this day in 1890, Vincent van Gogh shot himself and died two days later.

I genuinely thought Von Gogh was hundreds of years ago so this was a bit of a surprise for me!

On 22 February 1890, Van Gogh suffered a new crisis that was “the starting point for one of the saddest episodes in a life already rife with sad events.”

From February until the end of April he was unable to bring himself to write, though he did continue to draw and paint, which follows a pattern begun the previous May, in 1889.

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For a year he “had fits of despair and hallucination during which he could not work, and in between them, long clear months in which he could and did, punctuated by extreme visionary ecstasy.”

On 27 July 1890, aged 37, Van Gogh is believed to have shot himself in the chest with a revolver. There were no witnesses and the location where he shot himself is unclear.

Ingo Walther writes that “Some think Van Gogh shot himself in the wheat field that had engaged his attention as an artist of late; others think he did it at a barn near the inn.”

Biographer David Sweetman writes that the bullet was deflected by a rib bone and passed through his chest without doing apparent damage to internal organs—probably stopped by his spine.

He was able to walk back to the Auberge Ravoux, and there was attended by two physicians; however, without a surgeon present the bullet could not be removed.

After tending to him as best they could, the two physicians left Van Gogh alone in his room, smoking his pipe. The following morning (Monday), Theo rushed to be with Van Gogh as soon as he was notified, and found him in surprisingly good shape, but within hours Van Gogh began to fail due to an untreated infection caused by the wound.

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Van Gogh died in the evening, 29 hours after he supposedly shot himself. According to Theo, his brother’s last words were: “The sadness will last forever.”

Fact of the day: 20th July

On this day in 1189 Richard I of England was officially invested as Duke of Normandy.

Duke of Normandy was the title given to the rulers of the Duchy of Normandy in northern France, a fief created in AD 911 by King Charles III “the Simple” of France for Rollo, a Scandinavian nobleman and leader of Northmen.

In 1066 the reigning duke, William the Bastard, conquered England, whereupon he became known as King William I “the Conqueror” of England.

From then on, the duke of Normandy and the king of England were usually the same man, until the king of France seized Normandy from King John in 1204.

John’s son Henry III renounced the ducal claim in the Treaty of Paris (1259).

Thereafter, the duchy formed an integral part of the French royal demesne.

The Valois Kings of France started a tradition of granting the title to their heirs apparent, until this was supplanted by the title Dauphin.

The title was granted four times between the French conquest of Normandy by Philip Augustus and the dissolution of the French monarchy in 1792.

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Fact of the day: 19th July

On this day in 1545 The Tudor warship Mary Rose sunk off Portsmouth; in 1982 the wreck is salvaged in one of the most complex and expensive projects in the history of maritime archaeology.

The Mary Rose was a carrack-type warship of the English Tudor navy of King Henry VIII. After serving for 33 years in several wars against France, Scotland, and Brittany and after being substantially rebuilt in 1536, she saw her last action on 19 July 1545.

While leading the attack on the galleys of a French invasion fleet, she sank in the Solent, the straits north of the Isle of Wight.

The wreck of the Mary Rose was rediscovered in 1971 and salvaged in 1982 by the Mary Rose Trust in one of the most complex and expensive projects in the history of maritime archaeology.

The surviving section of the ship and thousands of recovered artefacts are of immeasurable value as a Tudor-era time capsule.

The excavation and salvage of the Mary Rose was a milestone in the field of maritime archaeology, comparable in complexity and cost only to the raising of the Swedish 17th-century warship Vasa in 1961.

The finds include weapons, sailing equipment, naval supplies and a wide array of objects used by the crew.

Many of the artefacts are unique to the Mary Rose and have provided insights into topics ranging from naval warfare to the history of musical instruments.

Since the mid-1980s, while undergoing conservation, the remains of the hull have been on display at the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard.

An extensive collection of well-preserved artefacts is on display at the nearby Mary Rose Museum.

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Fact of the day: 14th July

On this day in 1789 citizens of Paris stormed the Bastille.

The Storming of the Bastille occurred in Paris, France on the morning of 14 July 1789.

The medieval fortress and prison in Paris known as the Bastille represented royal authority in the center of Paris.

The prison only contained seven inmates at the time of its storming but was a symbol of the abuses of the monarchy: its fall was the flashpoint of the French Revolution.

The king was only informed of the storming the next morning by the Duke of La Rochefoucauld. “Is it a revolt?” asked Louis XVI. The duke replied: “No sire, it is a revolution.”

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The citizenry of Paris, expecting a counterattack, entrenched the streets, built barricades of paving stones, and armed themselves as well as they could, especially with improvised pikes.

Meanwhile, at Versailles, the Assembly remained ignorant of most of the Paris events, but eminently aware that Marshal de Broglie stood on the brink of unleashing a pro-Royalist coup to force the Assembly to adopt the order of 23 June and then to dissolve.

Fact of the day: 4th July

On this day in 1886 the people of France offered the Statue of Liberty to the people of the United States.

The Statue of Liberty is a colossal neoclassical sculpture on Liberty Island in the middle of New York Harbor, in Manhattan, New York City.

The statue designed by Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi and dedicated on October 28, 1886, was a gift to the United States from the people of France.

The statue is of a robed female figure representing Libertas, the Roman goddess of freedom, who bears a torch and a tabula ansata (a tablet evoking the law) upon which is inscribed the date of the American Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776.

A broken chain lies at her feet. The statue is an icon of freedom and of the United States: a welcoming signal to immigrants arriving from abroad.

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Fact of the day: 2nd July

On this day in 1492 Elizabeth Tudor, English daughter of Henry VII of England (d. 1495) was born.

Princess Elizabeth was born on Saturday 2 July 1492 at Sheen Palace in Surrey (later rebuilt by her father as Richmond Palace, the remains of which are now part of Richmond-Upon-Thames, London).

Elizabeth spent much of her short life at the royal nursery of Eltham Palace, Kent, with her brother Prince Henry (the future King Henry VIII) and her sister Princess Margaret (later Queen of Scotland) under the guidance of a Lady Mistress, presided over by her mother.

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Elizabeth’s oldest brother, Prince Arthur, as heir to the throne, was brought up separately in his own household.

Just before her death, Henry VII proposed a marriage alliance between Elizabeth and the French Prince, Francis, who later became King Francis I of France.

Princess Elizabeth died on Monday 14 September 1495 after suffering from Atrophy at the age of three years and two months. Elizabeth was brought from Eltham in state and buried on the north side of St. Edward the Confessor’s Shrine in Westminster Abbey on Friday the 27th.

Princess Elizabeth was the first of four of King Henry and Queen Elizabeth’s children to die prematurely and they were greatly affected.

The large sum of £318 was spent on her funeral and Henry erected a small tomb to his daughter in the abbey made from Purbeck and black marble.

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On top of the monument is a finely polished slab of black Lydian, upon which were placed inscriptions to Elizabeth and her effigy of copper gilt, both of which are now lost.

Later, Princess Elizabeth’s younger brother Prince Edmund (who died in 1500 at the age of 15 months) and her younger sister Princess Katherine (who died in 1503 shortly after birth) were also laid by her side.