What if you had a second-class ticket but you craved something more luxurious?

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Image of Titanic’s smoke room from the game ‘Titanic: Honor & Glory’, taken from: https://www.deviantart.com/titanichonorandglory/art/Titanic-s-First-Class-Smoke-Room-3-419792752

The Titanic is the gift that keeps on giving, at least for those enthusiasts who find themselves fascinated with this magnificent ship many decades after the sinking, and who were never there that fateful night in April of 1912. Considering third-class was already more luxurious than many of those who held tickets to it were used to in their usual living conditions, you may wonder why a man who held a second-class ticket thought he could trick the ship’s crew into getting him a free upgrade to the White Star Line’s finest example of high society entertainment.

Brian Lavery, a British naval historian, wrote that “[i]f all the fictional characters onboard the ship could be counted, they would far outnumber the real passengers and crew’ than were ever on the actual Titanic.” From Downton Abbey to movies like James Cameron’s Titanic, the White Star Line’s Ship of Dreams has been featured in both name and appearance in more forms of media than you could comfortably count in a single evening. …


Or how Baldassare Cossa wrecked the pontifical name ‘John’ for 600 years before someone dared to take his ‘John XXIII’ again

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A contemporary image by Ulrich Richental from the ‘Konstanzer Konzilschronik’ — the Chronicle of the Council of Constance

Baldassare Cossa graduated with more optimism than most when he said he was going ‘to be Pope’. This is all made even more extreme by the knowledge that Baldassare Cossa, born c. 1370, grew up in a time following the Avignon Papacy. There was, after all, a reason why this period was also referred to as the ‘Babylonian Captivity’. When in 1378 this succession of popes in France ended, worse followed instantaneously.

Prelude: Schisms abound

If you’ve ever heard of schisms in Christianity, it is likely you’ve heard of this one. Before the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century, this was the period that posed the most substantial threat to the authority of the Catholic Church. It would be the biggest schism within the church following the East-West or ‘Great’ Schism of 1078, when the Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox churches broke with one another, never to successfully be reunited for a substantial period of time ever again. …


The Palazzo della Cancelleria was built for a cardinal from 1489–1513, and is now still a property of the Holy See

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An 18th century engraving of the Palazzo della Cancelleria, by Giuseppe Vasi.

Cardinal Raffaele Riario was clearly a forward-thinking man when he had one of the earliest examples of a Renaissance palace built in Rome. In a rather unfortunate twist (for him) within five years after its completion, it was seized by an equally enthusiastic proponent of the Italian Renaissance, namely Medici pope Leo X. He justified this move by considering the cardinal’s post under his uncle Pope Sixtus IV’s papacy.

Sixtus IV, of Sistine Chapel-fame, was a subject of the famous Pazzi conspiracy, whereof famous Florentine artists (such as Leonardo da Vinci himself) had been making art at the Medici’s behest to remind the people what would happen to those who sought to overthrow the Medici in Florence. Leo X had clearly not forgotten Cardinal Raffaele Riario and his uncle’s slights against his family (Leo X’s own uncle had been murdered in this conspiracy), and thus he took this ultra-modern palace under his own wings as a sort of reward. …


A physician, medical chemist, and an alchemist — Paul Luther found success much exceeding that of his mine-worker grandfather.

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A contemporary engraving of Paul Luther.

The fortune of the Luthers was turned by Martin Luther’s amazing success as a Reformer. Though initially it seemed to spell the Augustinian monk’s death sentence, time proved that his ardent rhetoric was attractive to people across the common social boundaries between the aristocracy, the clergy, the burghers, and the peasantry classes. Although the protection Luther enjoyed from some of the greatest German princes would not carry on for his family after his death, his only son (to survive infancy) would continue his father’s legacy in a way some may not have expected.

The Reformer’s death and its aftermath

Martin Luther died in 1546. Paul, at the time, was still a teenager, and his mother Katharina von Bora, herself a former nun, struggled to make ends meet without her late husband’s salary. Martin Luther’s friend and one of his closest supporters throughout his public life was Philip Melanchton, taken with the plight of the Luthers while still being in the public’s good graces himself prompted him to advise young Paul Luther to study medicine. It was this fateful prodding that led to the return of Fortune to the family. …


He shunned comforts, wealth, and later came to knight a king.

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The Battle of Garigliano (1503), painted by Philippoteaux in the 19th century,

Seigneur de Bayard embodied the Arthurian ideal of chivalry more than most other men of his era. He won his fame due to standing alone defending a bridge during a battle, and until his dying breath, other men respected him regardless of his modest way of life.

Born around 1476, Pierre Terrail was a descendant of a noble family whose heads had always fallen in combat. Of his contemporaries, he preferred his given nickname of ‘the good knight’ (le bon chevalier), but history would call him ‘the knight without fear and beyond reproach’ (le chevalier sans peur et sans reproche).

In his lifetime, he would serve three successive kings of France, enjoying the respect of his monarch and comrades at arms all the while. As a result, he spent many of his days in Italy, where he showcased his dislike for comforts by sleeping on the hard floor and living without the trappings of wealth that would be expected of someone of his noble rank. …


Giulia Gonzaga had been marked out as a prize for the harem of Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent, and Hayreddin Barbarossa would stop at nothing to claim her for his master.

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On the night of 7–8 August 1534, the young widow Giulia Gonzaga escaped in the company of a single knight while the Ottoman corsair Barbarossa besieged her city in search of her. He had been ordered to do so after the Grand Visier of the empire had heard of her beauty and sought to capture her to be taken to the sultan in Istanbul, though Giulia herself was much more than a simple object to satisfy a man’s desire. …


Carel Fabritius, of ‘The Goldfinch’-fame, died when with the ‘Delft Thunderclap’ on October 12th, 1654, a gunpowder store exploded and destroyed much of the city, killing over a hundred and injuring thousands.

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Carel Fabritius’s self-portrait of 1654, aged 32 in the year in which he died.

The city of Delft had been an important site for the rebellion for over half a century. From the 1580s onward, it housed not only leaders of the Dutch Revolt but also stores of gunpowder within its walls for use against the Spanish army. Carel Fabritius, like his master Rembrandt van Rijn, grew up in a country torn by this conflict, and both found unlikely opportunities for men with modest means among the citizens of the young Dutch Republic.

War left the world ripe with trade in places where it otherwise wouldn’t have found the same success, such as with the disruption of trade routes through the Ottoman Empire a century before opening the way for Western Europe to expand further west. Interestingly enough, it was this loss of Venetian and Genoese prominence that saw trade flourish in Flanders, Zeeland (Zealand), and Holland. Though Flanders was reconquered by Spain, Holland and Zeeland were free to leave their merchant classes to explore the wonders of art that had so long captivated the Republic of Florence during the Renaissance. …


As daughter of Emperor Maximilian II and Maria of Spain, she was a born royal. As wife of Charles IX of France, her life was steeped with tragedy and turmoil.

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The Death of Charles IX by Raymond Quinsac Monvoisin

As perhaps the most attractive member of the Habsburg dynasties of Spain and Austria that ever lived, Elisabeth of Austria was born in 1554, the second daughter to Maria and Maximilian, the Imperial couple of the Holy Roman Empire. In true fashion of the Habsburg family tree looking more like an imperial wreath, Elisabeth’s parents were first cousins. Her mother was the daughter of Emperor Charles V, and her father Maximilian II the son of that Emperor’s brother Emperor Ferdinand I.

Yet Elisabeth, as well as her elder sister Anna, looked rather more like pretty women with the faintest resemblance to the characteristic Habsburg traits of a strong jaw and enlarged lips — particularly the bottom lip. This is most likely due to the fact that both princesses took after their father, who in turn took after his own mother, Anna of Bohemia and Hungary. This grandmother Anna wasn’t a member of the Habsburg dynasty, and therefore she injected some much-needed ‘clean blood’ into the family line. …


Diane de Poitiers was King Henri II of France’s famous mistress with whom he shared a bed on the regular.

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Diane de Poitiers, painted by François Clouet in 1555, aged 54/55.

King Henri II had been taken hostage as a child in exchange for his father’s, King François I, return to France. Emperor Charles V’s troops had captured his French rival at the Battle of Pavia in Italy, in 1525. At that point, Henri had scarcely been five years of age.

For over a year, François I was at the emperor’s mercy, though Charles acted gallantly in the treatment of his royal captive. That much could not be said after he’d received the French king’s two eldest sons into his fold, of which Henri was the youngest. …


The Renaissance had been about reliving an age of chivalry and honour which never quite existed, and that dreamy recreation of romantic ideals left with King Henri II’s final breath.

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King Henri II’s fatal jousting match against the earl of Montgomery in 1559. To add insult to this injury, Montgomery later converted to the Protestantism Henri II hated so much, and even became a Huguenot leader.

After a reign torn by conflicts with the Habsburg monarchy of Spain and internal fighting within France’s borders as a result of a growing Protestantism which Henri II detested, he died rather unceremoniously after a splinter of a broken lance went through his eye and into his brain. His deathbed lasted several days, during which he absolved the man that had dealt the blow of any blame, and his longtime mistress was kept from his side by his wife. Henri left the country in a difficult state for his sons to govern, and unbeknownst to him, the four sons alive at the time of his death would all fail to father male heirs. …

About

Laura / L.E. van Altfeldt

🇳🇱 | Stuck in the sixteenth century, I write of history and occasionally sprinkle life with a little fantasy.

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