Archive for the ‘Historic People’ Category


James I of England and VI of Scotland was born in 1566, the son of Mary, Queen of Scots, and Henry, Lord Darnley. James had to face difficulties from his earliest years—his mother was an incompetent ruler who quarrelled with politicians and churchmen such as John Knox, and she may have been involved in the murder of her husband Darnley, himself a worthless character. The murder was carried out partly to avenge the slaying of Mary’s secretary and possible lover, David Rizzio or Riccio, in which Darnley played a part (before James’s birth), and it also enabled Mary to marry her current lover, the Earl of Bothwell. Mary was deposed by the Scottish lords in 1567, and fled to England, where she sought the protective custody of Elizabeth I, who clapped her in prison and had her beheaded twenty years later.

James grew up under various regencies and a couple of notable tutors, the poet, dramatist and humanist George Buchanan, and Peter Young, whose good nature and enthusiasm for lighter reading somewhat offset the formidable learning and sometimes overbearingly serious teaching methods of Buchanan. James chafed against Buchanan and disliked him, but in later years would boast that he had been the great man’s pupil. Buchanan instilled in James political theories which included the idea that the king is beholden to the people for his power, a belief which James later came to reject in favour of Divine Right kingship. From Young he learned to appreciate poetry (Buchanan wrote Latin poetry of a largely didactic nature, and encouraged James to read mostly Latin and Greek books) and delved deeply into his mother’s library of French verse and romances. James developed a genuine love of learning (he was not, as many authors have claimed, a mere pedant), some skill in writing poetry, and a lively prose style. He also showed an interest in plays, including those of Shakespeare and Jonson, and was particularly fond of the masque, which would become the leading form of court entertainment when James became King of England in 1603. His marriage to Anne of Denmark, herself a great patron of masques and a connoisseur of literature, may have piqued his interest in this particularly royal form of entertainment, with its music, dancing, singing and elaborate sets designed by Inigo Jones. Of the children of King James and Queen Anne, only three survived to adulthood: Henry, Prince of Wales, who died untimely in 1612, possibly of typhoid fever, Charles, who succeeded his father as king, and Princess Elizabeth, who married Frederick V, Elector Palatine.

James published his first book in 1584, entitled The Essays of a Prentice in the Divine Art of Poesy, which he followed up in 1591 with His Majesties Poetical Exercises at Vacant Hours. In the first book James included some translations he had made from du Bartas, whose Uranie takes the muse Urania and transforms her into a Christian figure representing the Holy Spirit, an idea which appealed to James at the time, because he thought he could employ poetry for the dissemination of his religious and political beliefs. As a King, James had a special relationship with God and could therefore write religious poetry from a special viewpoint. James’s poetry is competent, and sometimes he manages a striking line or two; one of his best poems is the sonnet he wrote prefacing his book Basilikon Doron (1599).

The majority of James’s written works are concerned with theology and the justification of the theory of Divine Right, and for those reasons he must be considered as a major writer of political philosophy. In lively style and with considerable learning he defended the Oath of Allegiance which Catholics were required to take, disputed it with the great Cardinal Bellarmine, wrote two books on Divine Right, one, Basilikon Doron, for the edification of his son Prince Henry (1594-1612) and the other, The True Law of Free Monarchies, was a simple explanation of his theories for the general literate public. D.H. Willson, one of James’s biographers, calls the first book “entertaining and quotable” (133) and also cites Francis Bacon as finding that it “filled the whole realm as with a good perfume or incense, being excellently written and having nothing of affectation” (166). James’s comment on Bacon’s Advancement of Learning was “it was like the peace of God, which passeth all understanding” (Ashton 142). James also wrote some rather moving “Meditations on the Lord’s Prayer” and a justly famous essay, “A Counterblast to Tobacco” (1604), one of the first, and surely one of the best attacks on smoking ever written. Smoking, James tells us, is “a custom loathsome to the eye, hateful to the nose, harmful to the brain, dangerous to the lungs, and in the black, stinking fume thereof, nearest resembling the horrible Stygian smoke of the pit that is bottomless.”

James’s interest in literature was tied in with a shrewd sense of propaganda. He realised that books, masques, sermons, and plays could all be employed in the service of the king, that they were the media which could best disseminate his views of kingship and impress upon a large number of people its power and majesty. The court masque, expensive and elaborate, baroque and ritualistic, symbolised that power and majesty, and the king’s physical place as the focal point of the entertainment reinforced it further. Thus James and Queen Anne patronised Ben Jonson and Inigo Jones, the great architect and designer of the sets for Jonson’s masques. The publication of sermons, also, was of particular interest to the theologically-minded king, and his personal encouragement of the church career of John Donne, whom James appointed Dean of St. Paul’s Cathedral, was no accident, for Donne was a staunch supporter of kingly power and majesty, and often preached before the King himself, as did his eminent colleague Lancelot Andrewes, another of James’s favourite divines.

James’s political accomplishments (or lack thereof) as King do not concern us here, but suffice it to say that he has had a mixed reception from historians. Most agree that he was a success in Scotland but a partial failure in England, although recently his English kingship has undergone massive studies by Conrad Russell and others which have tended to show James in a much more favourable light. For example, he consistently strove for peace both at home and abroad, with varying success, but was determined never to go to war if it could be helped.

James I’s impact on English literature is considerable, not least because of his encouragement of and participation in the translation of the Bible into English (1611), the translation that many people still consider the best, and which bears his name, the King James Bible. That, above everything he wrote, is James’s monument, but his literary works deserve some credit, and he is always a pleasure to read.


The sleek sailing ship emerged suddenly like an apparition from the shroud of dense fog hanging over the grey waters of St. George’s Bay, on the west coast of Newfoundland. If the effect was eerie, so too was the appearance of the single-masted sloop. Painted jet black from stem to stern, its name obliterated, it sliced through the fog like a sword.
The ship unfurled its flag — a black pennant bearing a skull above a cutlass — and suddenly, the single broad deck of the sloop bristled with activity as the crew of a hundred men prepared for another day’s dishonest work. They rolled out twelve large guns under the watchful eye of their leader, an imposing figure dressed in a stolen British Royal Navy officer’s uniform and armed with two pistols and a short-bladed cutlass.
The captain exuded an air of menace — clearly; Maria Lindsey Cobham, Canada’s only “pirate queen,” was not someone to tangle with.

Fact or fiction?

During the “golden age” of piracy that extended from about 1650 to 1720, there were few women at sea. They were considered an omen of bad luck, or at least a potential source of discord among the sex-starved all-male crews.
The pirate community was mostly a men’s club. Most had sailed on warships for the English, French, and Spanish navies, only to find themselves out of work when a rare peace broke out. Laws against piracy were lax and difficult to enforce. Indeed, the line between legitimate privateer and lawless pirate was often blurred.
“In wartime, governments licensed privateers to attack their foreign fishing rivals, and in peacetime they turned a blind eye to those who continued, as pirates, to weaken their rivals,” writes maritime historian Dan Conlin in Pirates of the Atlantic: Robbery, Murder and Mayhem off the Canadian East Coast (2009).
By the time the husband-and-wife team of Eric and Maria Lindsey Cobham came along, the golden age was over. Anti-piracy laws were more vigorously enforced. The Cobhams settled on a hideout on the isolated west coast of Newfoundland in 1740. From there, they conducted raids into the Gulf of St. Lawrence, preying mostly on French ships.
The couple ruled the sea lanes of the region for the best part of twenty years. And they were utterly ruthless. Whereas pirates of the golden age usually killed and tortured a select few sailors of captured ships, letting the rest go, the Cobhams killed everyone to ensure there were no witnesses. Before disembarking with their booty, they sent the ships straight to the bottom of the ocean. Since there was no one left alive to explain what happened, the ships were simply listed as “presumed lost at sea with no survivors.”
If one can believe all the tales of Maria Lindsey’s behaviour that are enshrined in maritime folklore, she demonstrated all the sensitivity of a homicidal maniac. Maria reportedly poisoned the entire crew of one captured ship so she could watch them writhe in agony as the ship went down. On another occasion she was said to have had defenceless seamen sewn into gunny sacks, then tossed into the sea, where they thrashed desperately before they drowned. Another tale has her using captured sailors for target practice.
While some doubt the stories and are even skeptical that the Cobhams actually existed, Conlin, the historian and curator of marine history at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic in Halifax, believes the stories are probably true, but exaggerated.
“If they really attacked as many ships as claimed, the French authorities would have noticed and spent time hunting for them, and there is no evidence that was the case,” Conlin says.
“They were most likely ‘wreckers,’ a vaguely defined but vile subspecies of pirates who prey on vessels in distress, murdering shipwreck survivors and looting the wreckage. There was a fair bit of this, to varying degrees, in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. The Cobhams do tilt the pattern of piracy after the golden age of piracy ended in the 1720s -which tended to be small-scale but more ruthless than the big-time pirates of the 1720s.”
The legends of Maria’s cold-blooded exploits are difficult to verify. The Cobhams were evidently never tried in a court of law, thus official records have never been found.
“There are a number of very unreliable secondary popular accounts in different Newfoundland works,” explains Conlin. “The sole source for all this seems to be a boastful, confessional autobiography that Eric Cobham wrote in France on his deathbed in 1780. It is unclear where this document exists.”
Philip Gosse wrote about the pair in his 1924 book The Pirate’s Who’s Who. By his account, the two met in the seaport of Plymouth, on the southwestern coast of England. Both were in their early twenties and it was a magnetic attraction at first sight — he was drawn to her sexuality, she to his newly minted status as a dashing pirate.
Maria Lindsey was a local girl, but Eric Cobham was born further east along the south coast in Poole, Dorset. He was one of thousands of boys sent out with the fishing fleets to Newfoundland. Not surprisingly, Newfoundland became known as a “nursery school” for pirates-in-training.
Pirates captured their prizes, as a rule, by intimidation and sheer weight of numbers — a merchant crew facing a boarding party that outnumbered them by ten to one had little choice but to surrender without a fight. In this lawless, cutthroat society, it didn’t take Eric Cobham long to forsake the harsh life of the fishing boats for a life of crime. Not yet twenty, he joined a gang of smugglers and then embarked on a new career in piracy. Now all he needed was a partner-in-crime, and he found her in a tavern in Plymouth, serving both drinks and favours to the seafarers.
“Cobham, calling in at Plymouth, met a damsel called Maria, whom he took on board with him, which at first caused some murmuring amongst his crew, who were jealous because they themselves were not able to take lady companions with them on their voyages,” wrote Gosse.
Piracy offered everything to Maria that was denied to her on land in Plymouth, not least an escape from the bleak careers of prostitute and scullery maid.
As a pirate, she had freedom and independence, kept her own hours, and spent much of her time gambling at cards, drinking rum or porter (dark ale), and eating choice food. Killing and plundering provided additional excitement.
While she may have followed her lover into this life of crime, by all accounts she did not play second fiddle to him — Maria was the one really wearing the pantaloons in this pirate family.
They never walked down a church aisle, but Maria Lindsey and Eric Cobham formed a partnership that lasted the rest of their lives, rooted in a bloodthirsty pursuit of excitement and untold riches.
Their first venture took them towards Bristol, the west coast port that eclipsed even London in the volume of its commerce. While there, the Cobhams were said to have hijacked a merchant ship and made off with 40,000 pounds sterling in notes and coin.
Crossing the Atlantic to Nantucket, Massachusetts, they captured a fast sloop and sailed their new ship northward until they found their way past the tip of Cape Breton Island.
Here they hit the jackpot, a rich and vulnerable supply route that came through the Gulf of St. Lawrence -part of a trading triangle that saw ships coming to Newfoundland loaded with salt and provisions, taking salt fish back to the Mediterranean countries, then heading home to England with wine, olive oil, and dried fruits. The later addition of furs to the ships” cargoes made this an even richer hunting ground that was virtually untouched by other pirates based in the Caribbean.
“The English Channel becoming too dangerous for Cobham, he sailed across the Atlantic and lay in wait for vessels between Cape Breton and Prince Edward Isle, and took several prizes,” Gosse wrote.
All the Cobhams needed now was a safe haven — a harbour to hide their ship and a good place for careenage. (Because no dry dock was available to them, pirates careened or beached their sailing vessel on a sandy beach at high tide to expose one side of the ship’s hull for maintenance below the waterline once the tide had gone out. Tarring the hull reduced the ever-present leakage problem; removing barnacles increased the ship’s speed.)
The pirate queen and her consort chose their craft well. Although smaller than a man-of-war, their sixty-five-foot-long sloop drew a shallow draft of only eight feet, meaning it could go into waters where larger navy ships could not follow. The sloop was extremely seaworthy and could outrun almost any ship afloat.
The harbour the Cobhams chose for their careenage was far enough north of the shipping lanes to be safe from discovery, but within two days’ sailing of both the Cabot Straits and the Strait of Belle Isle. No navy warship could follow them into Sandy Point, at that time a two-kilometre-long sandspit on the west coast of southern Newfoundland that reached into Bay St. George. (Today it is a deserted island, marooned by erosion from the sea.) Big ships could not get past the shoals that guarded Sandy Point.
The goods they stole were “laundered” in Perce, on the Gaspé Peninsula, where legitimate trading ships picked up the contraband cargo and transported it past the gauntlet of Royal Navy warships to France. The booty was sold in French “free ports,” where local aristocrats ran a massive black market.

The black sloop ambushed one ship after another. Murder and mayhem continued apace.
“Maria … took her part in these affairs, and once stabbed to the heart, with her own little dirk, the captain of a Liverpool brig, the Lion, and on another occasion, to indulge her whim, a captain and his two mates were tied up to the windlass while Maria shot them with her pistol …. In fact, she entered thoroughly into the spirit of the enterprise,” wrote Gosse in The Pirate’s Who’s Who.
Maria was known for always wearing a British naval officer’s coat, according to David E. Jones’ 1997 book Warrior Women. Jones writes that she took it from a young officer who was captured during a raid on a Royal Navy ship.
“She had him stripped on deck. After running the hapless young man through with her sword, she donned his uniform, a costume that became her trademark. When the original became tattered she ordered new ones made from its pattern.”
Maria’s crew was made up mostly of defectors from the fishing fleets or the Royal Navy. The navy crews were not difficult to recruit. Many had been press-ganged into service and were not allowed to leave their ship for up to two years, in case they deserted. The naval ships were often damp, dark and filthy, and the food crawled with maggots. Little wonder that Dr. Samuel Johnson described this life at sea as little better than “being in a jail, but with the chance of being drowned.”
Forsaking the king to serve with the pirate queen simply meant unlimited booze rations, fewer floggings, and better food.
Maria and Eric defied the odds, evading capture for two decades. In the end it was Maria’s husband who called a halt to their life of crime. Tired of living life on the run and now fabulously wealthly, the Cobhams packed away their pirate gear and set sail for France. There, they sold off their fleet of ships and cargo and bought a fine estate near Le Havre from the Duc de Chartres.
They now had a private harbour, servants, and a secure place among the landed gentry of French society. Somewhere along the way, they also raised three children. Eric Cobham reinvented himself as a wealthy landowner and a pillar of respectability, completing a marvellous transformation by actually becoming a magistrate and then a judge in the French county courts. He held this lofty position, passing sentence on some former contemporaries, for twelve years.
In middle age, the ex-pirate couple gradually drifted apart. Eric took to almost public wenching, while Maria took to alcohol, often laced with laudanum, an opium-based painkiller. As Eric developed a reputation as a Casanova, Maria became reclusive, and quite possibly insane.
One day, Maria simply disappeared. A large-scale search was launched, and after two days of combing the coastline, her body was found in the sea directly below a sheer clifftop near the Cobham’s chateau.
An autopsy revealed traces of poisoning. “Maria, it was thought, possibly owing to remorse, poisoned herself with laudanum and died,” Gosse recounts.
It wasn’t long before Eric Cobham took to his own deathbed and called for a priest so that he could make a lengthy confession about the Cobhams’ life of piracy. The old man’s rambling discourse was duly recorded, and after his death the priest kept his promise by getting the slim volume published.
It was a literary event not welcomed by the Cobham’s three children. They were horrified by the disclosures and stunned by the discovery that their apparently respectable parents had been a pair of ruthless buccaneers. In an attempt to suppress the book, the children are said to have bought up every copy and had them burned.
But one fragmentary first draft copy is said to have found its way into the Archives Nationales in Paris, where it has remained hidden from view for the past century.
Was Maria Lindsey Cobham’s devilish life fact or fiction? Since she evaded capture — and with it, the scrutiny of a court trial and transcript — she remains an enigma.
Historians do concede that if her tale is true,. then Maria Cobham would likely have been the only female pirate to have terrorized Atlantic Canada.

By: Dalby Paul Canada’s History

Mary Jemison was born on the ship that brought her Irish parents, brothers and sisters to America in 1743. A few years later her family moved from Philadelphia to a homestead on the Pennsylvania frontier. The family toiled on the edge of civilization transforming the wilderness to cultivated soil. Each new day brought with it the fear of attack by wild beast or hostile Indian.

These fears became reality on the morning of a spring day in 1758. The British colonies were engulfed in a war against the French. The Iroquois Confederacy (consisting of the Cayuga, Oneida, Seneca, Mohawk, Onondaga, and Tuscorora Indians) allied with the French against the British. On that spring morning in 1758 a small raiding party made up of French and Indians swooped down on the frontier settlement capturing a number of British colonialists including Mary and most of her family (two of her brothers escaped.) At age thirteen, Mary’s life changed forever. From that day until her death 78 years later she never left the Indian culture. Mary’s story of her capture and life among the Seneca was first published in 1824.

Abduction at Dawn

On a morning in March 1758, Mary, her mother and a friend were preparing breakfast when they were startled by the sound of gunfire. They rushed to the door to find a man and his horse lying dead a short distance away. The man was a neighbor chased and shot by a raiding party that now stormed into the cabin taking all inside prisoner. Mary begins her story as she and her family are herded through the wilderness towards Fort Duquesne located on the present-day site of Pittsburgh:

“The party that took us consisted of six Indians and four Frenchmen, who immediately commenced plundering, as I just observed, and took what they considered most valuable; consisting principally of bread, meal, and meat. Having taken as much provision as they could carry, they set out with their prisoners in great haste, for fear of detection, and soon entered the woods.

On our march that day, an Indian went behind us with a whip, with which he frequently lashed the children, to make them keep up. In this manner we traveled till dark, without a mouthful of food or a drop of water, although we had not eaten since the night before. Whenever the little children cried for water, the Indians would make them drink urine, or go thirsty. At night they encamped in the woods, without fire and without shelter, where we were watched with the greatest vigilance. Extremely fatigued, and very hungry, we were compelled to lie upon the ground, without supper or a drop of water to satisfy the cravings of our appetites. As in the daytime, so the little ones were made to drink urine in the night, if they cried for water. Fatigue alone brought us a little sleep for the refreshment of our weary limbs; and at the dawn of day we were again started on our march, in the same order that we had proceeded the day before.

About sunrise we were halted, and the Indians gave us a full breakfast of provision that they had brought from my father’s house. Each of us, being very hungry, partook of this bounty of the Indians, except father, who was so much overcome with his situation, so much exhausted by anxiety and grief, that silent despair seemed fastened upon his countenance, and he could not be prevailed upon to refresh his sinking nature by the use of a morsel of food. Our repast being finished, we again resumed our march; and before noon passed a small fort, that I heard my father say was called Fort Canagojigge.

That was the only time that I heard him speak from the time we were taken till we were finally separated the following night.

Toward evening, we arrived at the border of a dark and dismal swamp, which was covered with small hemlocks or some other evergreen, and various kinds of bushes, into which we were conducted; and having gone a short distance, we stopped to encamp for the night.

Here we had some bread and meat for supper; but the dreariness of our situation, together with the uncertainty under which we all labored, as to our future destiny, almost deprived us of the sense of hunger, and destroyed our relish for food.

As soon as I had finished my supper, an Indian took off my shoes and stockings, and put a pair of moccasins on my feet, which my mother observed; and believing that they would spare my life, even if they should destroy the other captives, addressed me, as near as I can remember, in the following words:

‘My dear little Mary, I fear that the time has arrived when we must be parted for ever. Your life, my child, I think will be spared; but we shall probably be tomahawked here in this lonesome place by the Indians. Oh! how can I part with you, my darling? What will become of my sweet little Mary? Oh! how can I think of your being continued in captivity, without a hope of your being rescued? Oh! that death had snatched you from my embraces in your infancy: the pain of parting then would have been pleasing to what It now is; and I should have seen the end of your troubles! Alas, my dear! my heart bleeds at the thought of what awaits you; but, if you leave us, remember, my child, your own name, and the names of your father and mother. Be careful and not forget your English tongue. If you shall have an opportunity to get away from the Indians don’t try to escape; for if you do they will find and destroy you. Don’t forget, my little daughter, the prayers that I have learned you – say them often: be a good child, and God will bless you! May God bless you, my child, and make you comfortable and happy.’

During this time, the Indians stripped the shoes and stockings from the little boy that belonged to the woman who was taken with us, and put moccasins on his feet, as they had done before on mine. I was crying. An Indian took the little boy and myself by the hand, to lead us off from the company, when my mother exclaimed, ‘Don’t cry, Mary! – don’t cry, my child! God will bless you! Farewell – farewell!’
Mary Jemison tells her story,
1824The Indian led us some distance into the bushes or woods, and there lay down with us to spend the night. The recollection of parting with my tender mother kept me awake, while the tears constantly flowed from my eyes. A number of times in the night, the little boy begged of me earnestly to run away with him, and get clear of the Indians; but remembering the advice I had so lately received, and knowing the dangers to which we should be exposed, in traveling without a path and without a guide, through a wilderness unknown to us, I told him that I would not go, and persuaded him to lie still till morning.

My suspicion as to the fate of my parents proved too true; for soon after I left them they were killed and scalped, together with Robert, Matthew, Betsey, and the woman and her two children, and mangled in the most shocking manner

After a hard day’s march we encamped in a thicket, where the Indians made a shelter of boughs, and then built a good fire to warm and dry our benumbed limbs and clothing; for it had rained some through the day. Here we were again fed as before. When the Indians had finished their supper, they took from their baggage a number of scalps, and went about preparing them for the market, or to keep without spoiling, by straining them over small hoops which they prepared for that purpose, and then drying and scraping them by the fire.

Having put the scalps, yet wet and bloody, upon the hoops, and stretched them to their full extent, they held them to the fire till they were partly dried, and then, with their knives, commenced scraping off the flesh; and in that way they continued to work, alternately drying and scraping them, till they were dry and clean. That being done, they combed the hair in the neatest manner, and then painted it and the edges of the scalps, yet on the hoops, red. Those scalps I knew at the time must have been taken from our family, by the color of the hair. My mother’s hair was red; and I could easily distinguish my father’s and the children’s from each other. That sight was most appalling; yet I was obliged to endure it without complaining. In the course of the night, they made me to understand that they should not have killed the family, if the whites had not pursued them.”


Britain’s naval hero, Admiral Lord Nelson, won his greatest victory over the French and Spanish at the moment of his death. On the morning of 21 October 1805, in a daring manoeuvre, he had sent his fleet sailing straight at the enemy lines, cutting them into three parts and allowing his own ships to destroy them.

At about 1.15pm that day, however, he was struck by a musket ball fired from high up in the French ship Redoubtable. It struck him on the left shoulder, passed through his lung and severed his spine. He died at 4.30pm knowing that he had won a great victory.

The following account was given by Dr William Beatty (1773-1842), the ship’s surgeon.

The death of Lord Nelson, 21 October 1805
It was from this Ship (the Redoutable) that Lord Nelson received his mortal wound. About fifteen minutes past one o’clock, which was in the heat of the engagement, he was walking the middle of the quarterdeck with Captain Hardy, and in the act of turning near the hatchway with his face towards the stern of the Victory, when the fatal ball was fired from the Enemy’s mizen-top; which, from the situation of the two ships (lying on board of each other), was brought just abaft, and rather below, the Victory’s main-yard, and of course not more than fifteen yards distant from that pan of the deck where his Lordship stood. The ball struck the epaulette on his left shoulder, and penetrated his chest. He fell with his face on the deck. Captain Hardy, who was on his right (the side furthest from the Enemy) and advanced some steps before his Lordship, on turning round, saw the Sergeant-Major (Secker) of Marines with two Seamen raising him from the deck; where he had fallen on the same spot on which, a little before, his Secretary had breathed his last, with whose blood his Lordship’s clothes were much soiled. Captain Hardy expressed a hope that he was not severely wounded; which the gallant Chief replied: “They have done for me at last,Hardy.” “I hope not,” answered Captain Hardy. “Yes,” replied his Lordship, “my backbone is shot through.”

Captain Hardy ordered the Seamen to carry the Admiral to the cockpit; and now two incidents occurred strikingly characteristic of this great man, and strongly mark ing that energy and reflection which in his heroic mind rose superior even to the immediate consideration of his present awful condition. While the men were carrying him down the ladder from the middle deck, his Lordship observed that the tiller ropes were not yet replaced; and desired one of the Midshipmen stationed there to go upon the quarterdeck and remind Captain Hardy of that circumstance, and request that new Ones should be immediately rove. Having delivered this order, he took his handkerchief from his pocket and covered his face with it, that he might be conveyed to the cockpit at this crisis unnoticed by the crew. . .

The Victory ‘s crew cheered whenever they observed an Enemy’s Ship surrender. On one of these occasions, Lord Nelson anxiously inquired what was the cause of it; when Lieutenant Pasco, who lay wounded at some distance from his Lordship, raised himself up, and told him that another Ship had struck: which appeared to give him much satisfaction. He now felt an ardent thirst; and frequently called for drink, and to be fanned with paper, making use of these words: “Fan, fan,” and “Drink, drink.” This he continued to repeat, when he wished for drink or the refreshment of cool air, till a very few minutes before he expired . . .

His Lordship now requested the Surgeon, who had been previously absent a short time attending Mr Rivers to return to the wounded, and give his assistance to such of them as he could be useful to; “for,” said he, “you can do nothing for me.” The Surgeon assured him that the Assistant Surgeons were doing everything that could be effected for those unfortunate men; but on his Lordship’s several times repeating his injunctions to that purpose, he left him, surrounded by Doctor Scott, Mr Burke, and two of his Lordship’s domestics. After the Surgeon had been absent a few minutes attending Lieutenants Peake and Reeves of the Marines, who were wounded, he was called by Doctor Scott to his Lordship, who said: “Ah, Mr Beatty! I have sent for you to say, what I forgot to tell you before, that all power of motion and feeling below my breast are gone; and you ”, continued he, “very well know I can live but a short time.” The emphatic manner in which he pronounced these last words left no doubt in the Surgeon’s mind, that he adverted to the case of a man who had some months before received a mortal injury of the spine on board the Victory , and had laboured under similar privations of sense and. muscular motion. The case had made a great impression on Lord Nelson: he was anxious to know the cause of such symptoms, which was accordingly explained to him; and he now appeared to apply the situation and fate of this man to himself. The Surgeon answered, “My Lord, you told me so before”: but he now examined the extremities, to ascertain the fact; when his Lordship said, “Ah, Beatty! I am too certain of it: Scott and Burke have tried it already. You know I am gone.” The Surgeon replied: “My Lord, unhappily for our Country, nothing can be done for you”, and having made this declaration he was so much affected, that he turned round and withdrew a few steps to conceal his emotions. His Lordship said: “I know it. I feel something rising in my breast,” putting his hand on his left side, “which tells me I am gone.” Drink was recommended liberally, and Doctor Scott and Mr Burke fanned him with paper. He often exclaimed, “God be praised, I have done my duty”; and upon the Surgeon’s inquiring whether his pain was still very great, he declared it continued so very severe, that he wished he was dead. “Yet,” said he in a lower voice, “one would like to live a little longer, too”: and after a pause of a few minutes, he added in the same tone, “What would become of poor Lady Hamilton if she knew my situation!”…

Captain Hardy now came to the cockput to see his Lordship a second time, which was after an interval of about fifty minutes from the conclusio of his first visit. Before he quitted the deck, he sent Lieutenant Hills to acquaint Admiral Collingwood with the lamentable circumstance of Lord Nelson’s being wounded. Lord Nelson and Captain Hardy shook hands again: and while the Captain reained his Lordship’s hand, he congratulated him, even in the arms of death, on his brilliant victory; “which”, he said, “was completge”; though he did not know how many of the Enemy were captured, as it was impossible to perceive every Ship distinctly. He was certain however of fourteen or fifteen having surrendered. His Lordship answered, “That is well, but I bargained for twenty”, and then emphatically exclaimed, “ Anchor , Hardy, anchor !” To this the Captain replied: “I suppose, my Lord, Admiral Collingwood will now take upon himself the direction of affairs.” “Not while I live, I hope, Hardy!” cried the dying Chief; and at that moment endeavoured ineffectually to raise himself from the bed. “No,” added he; “do you anchor, Hardy.” Captain Hardy then said: “Shall we make the signal, Sir?” “Yes,” answered his Lordship, “for if I live, I’ll anchor.” The energetic manner in which he uttered these his last orders to Captain Hardy, accompanied with his efforts to raise himself, evinced his determination never to resign the Command while he retained the exercise of his transcendent faculties, and that he expected Captain Hardy still to carry into effect the suggestions of his exalted mind; a sense of his duty overcoming the pains of death. He then told Captain Hardy, he felt that in a few minutes he should be no more; adding in a low tone, “Don’t throw me overboard, Hardy.” The Captain answered: “Oh! No, certainly not.” “Then,” replied his Lordship, “you know what to do: and”, continued he, “take care of my dear Lady Hamilton, Hardy: take care of poor Lady Hamilton. Kiss me, Hardy.” The Captain now knelt down, and kissed his cheek; when his Lordship said, “Now I am satisfied. Thank God I have done my duty.” Captain Hardy stood for a minute or two in silent contemplation: he knelt down again, and kissed his Lordship’s forehead. His Lordship said: “Who is that?” The Captain answered: “It is Hardy”; to which his Lordship replied, “God bless you, Hardy!” … His thirst now increased; and he called for “drink, drink,” “fan, fan,” and “rub, rub,” addressing himself in the last case to Doctor Scott, who had been rubbing his Lordship’s breast with his hand, from which he found some relief. These words he spoke in a very rapid manner, which rendered his articulation difficult; but he every now and then, with evident increase of pain, made a greater effort with his vocal powers, and pronounced distinctly these last words: “Thank God, I have done my duty”; and this great sentiment he continued to repeat as long as he was able to give it utterance.

Axel Erlandson 1884 – 1964

Erlandson started as an alfalfa farmer and started grafting and shaping tree trunks as a hobby. He would later over a period of decades train trees to grow into shapes of his own design. He experimented with birch, ash, elm and weeping willows, making loops, hearts, chairs, spiral staircases, zigzags, rings, birdcages, towers, picture frames and ladders. Erlandson found his trees to be a popular amusement and decided to create his “Tree Circus”. Erlandson would not tell anyone the secrets of his techniques and would carryout his graftings behind screens to protect against spies. Erlandson died in 1964 along with his amazing secret procedure used to propagate his trees.Interesting Fact: In 1985, after the Tree Circus went out of business the trees were bought by millionaire Michael Bonfante and were transplanted in his amusement park Gilroy Gardens in Gilroy, California.

“Jerome” 1840 – 1912

On Sept. 8, 1863 a fair-skinned stranger believed to be in his 20s was found by two fishermen at Sandy Cove in Digby County Canada. Both of the man’s legs had been freshly amputated and a jug of water and some bread had been placed nearby. The man was unable or unwilling to speak and is said to have uttered no more than two or three words after being found. One of the words was thought to have been Jerome and he was soon given that name. Jerome was filled with rage when certain words were spoken which led many to believe Jerome was carrying some kind of secret that he was not allowed to say. Jerome conducted himself with dignity and when offered money he would appear humiliated. There are many theories to who Jerome really was but no story has ever been proven. Jerome died April 19, 1912.Interesting Fact: Jerome continues to be part of the collective psyche of the community where he was found. A residence for the handicapped has been named after him, songs have been written about him and he has also been depicted in paintings and a film.

The Female Stranger 1793 – 1816

During the fall of 1816 in Alexandria Virginia two people, a man and his wife walked into the Gadsby’s Tavern Hotel. The woman was ill and it was thought she was suffering from Typhoid fever. The woman’s condition continued to deteriorate despite being attended by one of Alexandria’s doctors. The husband then summoned the doctor and hotel staff and even the owner’s wife to the room to ask a very unusual request: He asked that everyone present swear an oath never to reveal their identities. All agreed and each took the secret to the grave. Several days after the oath was taken the Female Stranger died and to this day no one knows their identity. Before disappearing, her husband commissioned an extravagant headstone and buried her at St. Paul’s Cemetery in Alexandria Virginia.

Interesting Fact: The engraving on the headstone reads:

To the Memory of a
whose mortal sufferings terminated
on the 14th day of October 1816
Aged 23 years and 8 months.
This stone is placed here by her disconsolate
Husband in whose arms she sighed out her
latest breath and who under God
did his utmost even to soothe the cold
dead ear of death.
How loved how valued once avails thee not
To whom related or by whom begot
A heap of dust alone remains of thee
Tis all thou art and all the proud shall be
To him gave all the Prophets witness that
through his name whosoever believeth in
him shall receive remission of sins.
Acts.10th Chap.43rd verse

The Leather Man circa 1839 – 1889

The Leather Man was a wandering vagrant who traveled in an endless 365-mile circle between the Connecticut and Hudson rivers. He was Fluent in French but communicated mostly with grunts and gestures and dressed in crudely stitched leather from his hat to his shoes. He picked up cigar butts along his way and gratefully accepted offerings of fresh tobacco or cigars that townsfolk would give him as he walked silently through their villages. When asked of his background he would abruptly end the conversation. He was so reliable in his rounds that people would have extra food ready for him at a certain time every 34 days. It is unknown how he earned money, although one store kept a record of his order: “one loaf of bread, a can of sardines, one-pound of fancy crackers, a pie, two quarts of coffee, one gill of brandy and a bottle of beer.” After a blizzard in March 1889 the Leather Man’s body was found in his Saw Mill Woods cave in Sing Sing, NY. He died from cancer of the mouth most likely due to tobacco use. His bag was found next to him and contained leather working equipment such as scissors, awls, wedges, a small axe and a small prayer book which was in French.Interesting Fact: The Leatherman’s tombstone reads, “Final resting place of Jules Bourglay of Lyons, France, “The Leather Man”. However the story published in the newspaper that claimed to know his real name was later retracted. According to researchers his identity still remains unknown.

James Black 1800 – 1872

James Black was an Arkansas blacksmith and the creator of the original Bowie knife designed by Jim Bowie. Bowie was already famous for knife-fighting from his 1827 sandbar duel. But his killing of three assassins in Texas and his death at the Battle of the Alamo made him, and the blacksmith’s knife, legends. Black’s knives were known to be exceedingly tough yet flexible. Black kept his methods for creating the knife very secret and did all of his work behind a leather curtain. Many claim that Black rediscovered the secret to producing Damascus steel which is a type of steel used in Middle Eastern sword making from 1100 to 1700 that could cut through lesser quality European swords. The original techniques to make James Black’s knife cannot be duplicated even today. Black died on 22 June 1872 in Washington, Arkansas.

Interesting Fact: In 1839 shortly after Black’s wife’s death, he was nearly blinded when his father-in-law and former partner broke into his home and attacked him with a club, having objected to his daughter having married Black years earlier. After the attack Black was no longer able to continue in his trade.

Johann Bessler 1680 – 1745

Johann Bessler was born in Zittau, Germany and built a machine that he claimed was self-moving. By 1717, he had convinced thousands of people, from the ordinary to the most prominent that he had indeed discovered the secret of a self-sustaining mechanism. The machine underwent numerous tests and passed rigorous inspections. It was made to do heavy work for long periods, and in an official test it ran continuously for 54 days. The internal design of the machine was always closely guarded by its inventor. Plagued by paranoia and a nasty temper and with no patent laws to protect him Bessler destroyed the machines in a fit of anger and took his secret to the grave. The true motive power behind Bessler’s demonstrations, and the energy source which moved the wheel’s internal weights still remain unexplained. Obviously a machine like this violates the law of conservation of energy, which states that energy can never be created or destroyed but it should then be asked how did Bessler fool so many people for so many years?Interesting Fact: Recently, a series of coded features has been discovered among various papers published by Bessler. He constructed a variety of codes from very simple to very complex which would in time could be collected together to reveal his secret. Some of these codes have been solved but many others remain un-deciphered.

Antonio Stradivari 1644 – 1737

Stradivari was an Italian crafter of stringed instruments such as violins, cellos, guitars and harps. For centuries scientists and historians have tried to figure out Stradivari’s secret to his instrument making. Recently modern research tools and devices such as scanning lasers are aiding researchers in testing the theory that the careful shaping of belly and back plate, in order to “tune” their resonant frequencies could be an important factor. Glues and varnishes used by Stradivari have also been analyzed extensively and could also attribute for the sound and quality of his instruments. Experts concede there remains no consensus on the single most probable factor to explain the superior sound of the Stradivarius and most likely it is some combination of all, and something not yet recognized.

Interesting Fact: It is estimated that Stradivari made around 1100 instruments. Today only 650 instruments remain, including approximately 500 violins.


A sword’s crushing blow extinguished the life of Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, on a cold December evening as he struggled on the steps of his altar. The brutal event sent a tremor through Medieval Europe. Public opinion of the time and subsequent history has laid the blame for the murder at the feet of Becket’s former close personal friend, King Henry II.
Becket was born in 1118, in Normandy the son of an English merchant. His family was well off, his father a former Sheriff of London. Becket benefited from his family’s status first by being sent to Paris for his education and from there to England where he joined the household of Theobold, the then Archbishop of Canterbury. Becket’s administrative skills, his charm, intelligence and diplomacy propelled him forward. The archbishop sent him to Paris to study law and upon his return to England made him Archdeacon of Canterbury.
Becket’s big break came in 1154, when Theobold introduced him to the newly crowned King, Henry II. The two hit it off immediately, their similar personal chemistries forming a strong bond between them. Henry named Becket his Chancellor. Archbishop Theobold died in 1161, and Henry immediately saw the opportunity to increase his influence over the Church by naming his loyal advisor to the highest ecclesiastical post in the land. Henry petitioned the Pope who agreed. There was only one slight hindrance. Becket, busy at court, had never been ordained. No problem, Becket was first invested as a priest. The next day he was ordained a Bishop, and that afternoon, June 2, 1162, made Archbishop of Canterbury.
If King Henry believed that by having “his man” in the top post of the Church, he could easily impose his will upon this powerful religious institution, he was sadly mistaken. Becket’s allegiance shifted from the court to the Church inspiring him to take a stand against his king. In those days, the Church reserved the right to try felonious clerics in their own religious courts of justice and not those of the crown. Henry was determined to increase control of his realm by eliminating this custom. In 1163, a Canon accused of murder was acquitted by a church court. The public outcry demanded justice and the Canon was brought before a court of the king. Becket’s protest halted this attempt but the action spurred King Henry to change the laws to extend his courts’ jurisdiction over the clergy. Becket vacillated in his support of the king, finally refusing to agree to changes in the law. His stand prompted a royal summons to Henry’s court at Northampton and the king’s demand to know what Becket had done with the large sums of money that had passed through his hands as Chancellor.
“Who will rid me of this meddlesome priest?”
Seeing the writing on the wall, Becket fled to France where he remained in exile for six years. The two former friends appeared to resolve their dispute in 1170 when King Henry and Becket met in Normandy. On November 30, Becket crossed the Channel returning to his post at Canterbury. Earlier, while in France, Becket had excommunicated the Bishops of London and Salisbury for their support of the king. Now, Becket remained steadfast in his refusal to absolve the bishops. This news threw King Henry (still in France) into a rage in which he was purported to shout: “What sluggards, what cowards have I brought up in my court, who care nothing for their allegiance to their lord. Who will rid me of this meddlesome priest?”
The king’s exact words have been lost to history but his outrage inspired four knights to sail to England to rid the realm of this annoying prelate. They arrived at Canterbury during the afternoon of December 29 and immediately searched for the Archbishop. Becket fled to the Cathedral where a service was in progress. The knights found him at the altar, drew their swords and began hacking at their victim finally splitting his skull.
The death of Becket unnerved the king. The knights, who did the deed to curry the king’s favour, fell into disgrace. Several miracles were said to occur at the tomb of the martyr and he was soon canonized. Hordes of pilgrims transformed Canterbury Cathedral into a shrine. Four years later, in an act of penance, the king donned a sack-cloth walking barefoot through the streets of Canterbury while eighty monks flogged him with branches. Henry capped his atonement by spending the night in the martyr’s crypt. St. Thomas continued as a popular cultist figure for the remainder of the middle Ages.


An investigation has been made in St. Michan’s Churchyard, Dublin, for the purpose of determining whether the body of Robert Emmet, the Irish patriot who was executed for his share in the rebellion of ’98, was buried there. Doubt has always been thrown on the statement that the body lay in the disputed grave. After the railings around the grave and the stone slab which covered it had been removed, the work of excavation proceeded with extreme caution. At length, at the depth of about 6ft, the diggers came upon human remains. The earth was removed, and the skeleton of a fully-grown man of good size was laid bare. It was lying with the feet to the east and the head to the west. A curious circumstance, to which very great significance attaches, is that the head, instead of lying prone and attached to the trunk in the ordinary way, was in an upright position. When it is remembered that Emmet was beheaded, the fact of the skull being found in this position strengthens the theory that the grave in St. Michan’s is really the burial-place of the revolutionary leader, and that the bones disinterred are his. Some pieces of metal which were taken to be the mountings of a coffin were also found in the grave. After the skeleton had been photographed and examined by experts, it was replaced in the grave, which was filled in, the slab covering it being re- placed.
Weekly Mail, 8th August 1903