Stories from the
Footnotes of History
This page will host a regular series of lesser known stories from history that have intrigued and fascinated me
During my many years researching and writing history I have come upon numerous fascinating and often untold stories that have aroused my curiosity. There have been many times when I have decided to chase down such an anecdote, news story, or indeed footnote in a book, in hopes that there might be a bigger story that could be uncovered.
Nine times out of ten the stories prove not to be substantial enough for more than a short article, but finding a suitable outlet for them has often proved difficult.
On this page, therefore, I shall be posting some of the forgotten or little known stories that I have uncovered during my research.
At the time of the future Queen Victoria’s birth, ‘the excellent Mademoiselle Siebold’ emerged from the delivery room to announce the birth of a girl to the gathered dignitaries with considerable delight, adding in her thick German accent: ‘Verr nice beebee. No big but full. You know, leetle bone, mush fat.’
‘It was Mister Heath who frequently reminded his imperial pupils of the English saying that aristocrats are born but gentlemen are made.’
During her 63 year reign Queen Victoria acquired a wealth of these. Many were complimentary and affectionate, some were ironic or satirical, and others were downright rude…
In the 1900s, a Swedish-born pacifist and women’s and animal rights campaigner, Louise Lind-af-Hageby appeared regularly in the British press for her frequent run-ins with the medical establishment. But who remembers this remarkable woman now?
In Crimea during 1854–5 Mary Seacole demonstrated that her home-grown Jamaican practice of hygiene, healthy food, natural remedies and kindness – had a lot more to offer than traditional medicine, making her nursing practice a far more modern, holistic one that people might have imagined.
The 1848 Women’s Rights Convention was the first of its kind to openly advocate women’s dress reform. All of the assembled women agreed that the time had come for the simplification of the cumbrous fashions they were obliged to wear.
Most people know the now legendary tale of how Lenin returned to Russia after many years in exile on a sealed train across wartime Germany, arriving at Petrograd’s Finland Station on 16 April 1917. But few are aware of the life he led in Europe between 1900 and his dramatic return. During those years he came to London on five separate occasions…
In its Christmas Special for December 2017 the ITV series Victoria featured the story of Sarah Forbes Bonetta, a captive African princess who was brought to the court of Queen Victoria. She has frequently been described as the Queen’s goddaughter’ but this is not in fact true…
In the late nineteenth century an extraordinary breed of new journalists appeared on the scene in America. The world had seen nothing like them before. They were young, feisty, courageous and iconoclastic – and they were women.
“Since our men are hesitating to fight, the women must show them how to die for their country and for liberty…” In May, in Petrograd, Mariya Bochkareva held a mass recruitment rally for the Women’s Death Battalion.
Lenin had no qualms whatsoever in ruthlessly exploiting the loyalty of the women who formed his essential back up team. He wore them all ragged in the cause of his own political ends.
The story of the extraordinary journey I went on, in search of Mary Seacole – a journey that brought me to her lost portrait that now hangs in London’s National Portrait Gallery.