History of the World According to the Movies: Part 34 – Life in Cavalier Europe

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I don’t think my movie history series of the Cavalier years could be complete without a picture from Stanley Kubrick’s 1975 Barry Lyndon. Sure it was a commercial flop with mixed reviews upon its release but I think its price tag was worth the effort to bring the 18th century to life like never before. In many ways, this is an underrated masterpiece of scenery and costume porn which should live throughout the ages. If you haven’t watched this, you certainly should go on Netflix and rent this one. I guarantee watching this movie is well worth your time.

The Cavalier years in Europe were an eventful time in other European countries. You had the rise of the Netherlands which was a haven for religious freedom, tulips, trade, and painting by Rembrandt, Rubens, and Vermeer. You have Vasa Sweden, a dominant European power at the time with one of the biggest screwed up royal families at the time, wars with Russia, and Queen Christina. In Denmark, you have King Christian VII a crazy asshole king who married King George III’s sister who like to dress in guys clothes and sleep with the Danish king’s chief minister. Of course, you also have Germany with its divided little city states which was home to Johann Sebastian Bach and other great German composers of that time. Then you have Italy which invented opera and other musical concepts we use today like writing music on paper, constructed many ornate buildings that defined architecture of the period, and also produced many great artists all the same. Nevertheless, you had the extraordinary Casanova who trotted the continent as well as changed jobs at the same frequency he changed women. Still, there are plenty of things the films in set in this era get wrong, which I shall list accordingly.

Denmark:

The Danish royal court spoke Danish during the 18th century. (The court language at the Danish court was German. Danish was referred to as, “the people’s language.”)

Princess Caroline Matilda (sister of King George III) met King Christian VII while he was relieving himself against a tree. (According to one historian, their first meeting was seen as “exceedingly romantic” to the point where Christian “committed a number of awful breaches of etiquette by embracing and kissing her repeatedly in the presence of the whole Court.” Of course, she was 15 while he was 17 and they were engaged already. Also, Christian VII would later get tired of her.)

King Christian VII’s main vice was excessive masturbation. (Christian VII’s excesses also included drink, sado-masochism, handsome young men and prostitutes, most famously Støvlet-Cathrine, or Catherine-of-the-Boots. Also, he had a brutally abusive upbringing at the hands of his guardian complete with regular beatings that had him writing on the floor in agony. Still, he was plagued by severe mental illness throughout his life, which would make his brother-in-law King George III sane by comparison {but at least George was a nicer guy crazy or not}.)

Johann Struensee and Queen Caroline Matilda bonded over their shared passion of Enlightenment ideas. (There’s scant evidence of intellectualism in Caroline Matilda’s biographies. Yet, Struensee was a free-thinker.)

Queen Caroline Matilda and Johann Struensee’s relationship was a pure and charming romance. (Contrary to the Danish film A Royal Affair, there was gossip Struensee was also having an affair with one of Caroline Matilda’s ladies-in-waiting at the same time named Elisabeth von Eyden.)

Copenhagen was shocked by Queen Caroline Matilda’s extramarital affair with her husband’s chief minister. (The Danish court was more outraged by Caroline Matilda’s habit for transvestitism than her extramarital affair {because she lived in the 18th century and the Danish court thought the concept of spouses loving each other was appallingly bourgeois}. Also, she was actually more sturdily built than she appeared in A Royal Affair.)

Johann Struensee encouraged King Christian VII’s carousing and whoring. (He actually advised the king to improve his marriage with his wife.)

Vasa Sweden:

Queen Christina of Sweden gave up the throne for love. (She gave it up because she wanted to convert to Catholicism {illegal in Sweden at the time} and there was a growing discontent in her arbitrary and wasteful ways. She was also known to have granted tons of ennoblements and suffered many nervous breakdowns. Still, as far as her appearance goes, she was butch and ugly and had traditionally male-like mannerisms, interests, and way of dressing as well as might have been biologically intersex. But she’s played by Greta Garbo.)

Queen Christina’s abdication was a spur of the moment decision. (She had prepared for it long in advance in order to ensure a smooth transition and as little fuss as possible. She then left the country out of conviction, not romantic infatuation. Still, Christina was a relatively sane, competent, and eccentric female ruler in a dynasty filled with nutjobs. Also, she actually technically king of Sweden.)

The Netherlands:

Jan Vermeer never painted his wife. (He did paint her and while she was pregnant {well, it’s sometimes said but opinions from art historians differ whether she was or if 17th century Dutch fashions made women look that way}.)

Jan Vermeer used a camera obscura to produce arrestingly lifelike scenes. (There’s no physical documentary evidence he did and art historians argued over this.)

Jan Vermeer used his lover as a model in Girl with a Pearl Earring. (He may have used his 12-year-old daughter for this painting and the emotional affair between him and Griet probably never happened.)

Girl with a Pearl Earring was considered obscene in its day. (At most it would’ve been subtly sensual in an era when people like Rembrandt and Rubens were painting full on nudes.)

William of Orange was King of Holland. (He was Stadhouder of the Seven Netherlands, never King of Holland. Yet, he would later become King of England though.)

The Young Woman with a Water Pitcher was painted in 1665. (It was painted in 1662-1663.)

Spain:

The Spanish Inquisition examined Francisco Goya’s “Los Caprichos” etchings in 1792. (Goya created these etchings in 1797.)

Divided Germany:

“Music for the Royal Fireworks” was played in 1671. (Handel composed the piece in 1749.)

William Friedermann Bach competed against Louis Marchand and died a young man. (Actually his dad Johann Sebastian Bach competed against Marchand. Also, William Friedermann Bach lived around 1710-1784 which means he was in his seventies when he died.)

Ludwig van Beethoven had his first public recital when he was 12 and his dad said he was 9. (He was 8 and his dad said he was 6.)

Ludwig van Beethoven was humiliated for a poor performance as well as beaten by his dad. (His dad never humiliated him in public. Also, if he had beaten Beethoven for anything, it was probably because he was a drunk. Still, as the oldest surviving child, Beethoven had to take care of his younger siblings at a young age because of his dad’s alcoholism and his mothers death when he was 16. He started out as a musician by giving piano lessons.)

The Scientific Revolution:

Most European scientists weren’t superstitious and believed in rational thought. (Isaac Newton experimented with alchemy and so did his peers. Also, he wrote a great deal about religion, too.)

Casanova:

Casanova was one of the biggest skirt chaser extraordinaire of his day. (Casanova was also a deacon, lawyer, military officer, writer, violinist, con man, pimp, gourmand, dancer, businessman, diplomat, spy, politician, medic, social philosopher, cabalist, librarian, and playwright. He was a man of far reaching intellect and curiosity as well as a devout Catholic who believed in the power of prayer, ironically. Not to mention, he also gambled as well as had sex with numerous women but he also respected them as people and believed in sexual consent. However, his sexual behavior wasn’t much out of norm, especially in the world he lived in. As for his looks, he more likely resembled Adrien Brody {a more appropriate casting choice historically and personally speaking} than Heath Ledger {who actually portrayed him, cute but not someone you’d want to play the kind of guy Casanova was}. Then again, between Casanova and Adrien Brody, Brody is more likely the hotter one of the two.)

Casanova had sex with 3,800 women. (His memoirs recorded sex between 122-136 women along with several men. From losing his virginity at 16 to his death at 73, this would mean 3 lovers a year. Quite chaste for the 18th century.)

Casanova fell afoul of the Inquisition for having a passionate affair with a nun. (It was more over him spreading heretical ideas about astrology and the Cabbalah. Still, he probably wished the Inquisition could’ve tried to nail him on banging a nun. However, when it came to sexual indiscretions, the Inquisition didn’t give a shit.)

Casanova believed in women’s education. (From The Guardian: “Casanova’s interest in women’s liberation seems to have extended mostly to liberating their bosoms from their bodices.” In other words, he believed women were entitled to as much sexual fulfillment as men {and said that most of his sexual pleasure comes from her enjoyment, which was unheard of at the time}. Though he did value a woman’s intelligence {also praising their wit and brains as well as beauty} and never judged her sexual behavior. As to women’s education, I believe his editor Jean Laforgue might’ve added it in a version of the guy’s memoirs.)

Casanova lost interest in women who yielded to him. (He was a man who rekindled affairs with past flames and kept lively and affectionate correspondences with past loves well into his old age. He was even happy to meet his love children.)

Casanova was an irresistible seducer who never fell in love with any of his conquests. (He did have many meaningless hookups but he fell deeply in love with many of the women he met, though not always succeeding in winning their hearts.)

Cavalier Life:

Sword fighting could happen at any place and at any time for any reason and would go on for a long time until one of the combatants was killed or injured. (To quote Stewart Granger from Scaramouche, “Mr. President, the deputy from Soissons will be absent from this assembly… permanently” or “3 to 6 months or so says the doctor.”)

Protestant countries became more prosperous because of their work ethic. (Actually, it had more to do with the fact that Protestant nations were more or less compelled to become more secular and religiously tolerant than the Catholic ones, especially in the Netherlands. Also, they were near a coastline and had widespread trading economies, colonies, urbanization, constitutional monarchies, and the incident with the Spanish Armada which deprived Spain of its superpower status. Still, there were plenty of scientists and engineers living in Catholic countries at that time as well and weren’t being persecuted by the Inquisition either. France was also a world power as well and Spain still had a large empire.)

Belgium existed in the 18th century. (The Kingdom of Belgium didn’t exist until 1830.)

Straight men in the 18th century never wore makeup. (Aristocratic men did and wore wigs and elaborate clothing, too. As TTI said, “they’re hyper-heterosexuals whose feminine mannerisms are supposedly a way of attracting women.” Yet, the only guys who were makeup in history movies on this era are suspected to be gay with the exception to Barry Lyndon.)

People ate grapes in the 1600s northern Europe. (They wouldn’t even be eating them in Paris.)

The causes of the Seven Years War aren’t well known to historians. (Prussia had invaded a rich region in Austria 16 years before in the War of the Austrian Succession, which Austria wanted back. Meanwhile Great Britain and France were feuding over some disputed territory in North America as well as India. Nevertheless, though American schoolchildren may not know much about Prussia and Austria’s situation, they would definitely know the situation between Britain and France, especially if they lived in Southwestern Pennsylvania, where the whole thing started with the involvement of a twenty-two year old Virginia militia Colonel named George Washington.)

Champagne was consumed in wide champagne saucers during the 18th century. (It would’ve been consumed from tall conical glasses. This glass design wasn’t invented until 1850.)

People ate with four point forks during the 17th century. (They were invented in the 18th century.)

Musketeers never used muskets. (They did, but only in battle.)

Wigs were never vermin infested. (They were vermin magnets and attracted lice. Some of those women’s wigs were styled with lard, starch, and powder applied over cage frames and horsehair pads.)

18th century noblewomen had outrageous wigs. (They were even more outrageous since some of them could have birdcages in them, complete with actual birds. Still, I can understand why films made in the 18th century usually kind of down play these looks for good reason since these wigs were ridiculous.)

“Amazing Grace” was an 18th century hymn. (The tune we know today was composed in the 19th century, though the lyrics existed in the 1790s. Thus, in Amazing Grace, the eponymous song wouldn’t be sung back then like we would. But this inaccuracy is justified. )

Dresses had very modest cleavage or none at all. (17th and 18th century fashions were obsessed with cleavage and pushed up boobs. For a brief period in the 18th century, it wasn’t uncommon for some women in the French court to expose one breast completely to look fashionable.)

Churchmen and Jesuits were corrupt and evil. (Sure the Catholic Church and other established churches were corrupt, but clergymen at the time had human failings like anyone else.)

Chandeliers always existed for the swashbuckling hero to swing on during a fight scene or to drop down on his enemy.
Thrown swords always hit their targets. (Odds of this working 100% of the time are impossible.)

Good sword fighting consisted with two combatants to hit each other’s weapons with an impressive clang. (Sorry, Errol Flynn and other sword fighters, but real cavaliers didn’t fight that way in duels. Real sword fights were much more gory and violent usually resulting in nasty bloody wounds or body parts being chopped off. If anyone from Hollywood would face a real swordsman from that era, he’d be dead. Still, using moves in a sword fight from an Errol Flynn movie would basically render a sword useless as well as cause extreme stress to the blade. Basil Rathbone, Cornel Wilde, and Tyrone Power’s fights onscreen were notable exceptions of real life sword fighting minus the blood since they were skilled swordsmen in real life.)

A sword fight indoors usually destroyed an entire room.

Great historical actions such as wars were decisively influenced by the love affairs of certain characters. (I doubt that many great historical actions were decisively influenced by love affairs of historical personalities. Kings and royals, may be but nobles, not so much.)

Little boys never wore dresses. (Uh, there’s some picture of a 18th century French prince wearing one just like his mother and sister. Besides, these were the days that boys didn’t wear pants until they were potty trained. Yet, little boys in movies set during this period are usually wearing pants.)

Highwaymen were dashing and debonair gentlemen thieves of armed robbery. (Yes, highwaymen were the rock stars of their day alongside pirates, but they tended to be romanticized since they road on horses, and therefore were considered a cut above common bandits. Their executions tended to attract large crowds. Still, most of these guys weren’t nice people at all.)

Master swordsmen also took gymnastics and choreography lessons.

All swashbuckling heroes fell for high-born women of quality able to generate a lot of chemistry and belligerent sexual tension.

Weapons laden dirigibles existed during the 17th century. (Seriously? Why do you have these in a Three Musketeers movie, Hollywood? The Mongolfier brothers wouldn’t be born for another century.)

Elderly men could survive with a gaping hole in their chests and let doctors stick their mucky fingers in it during the 17th century. (This is probably not possible and very disgusting. Still, in these days surgery was dangerous, violent, and performed by barbers.Physicians would usually reserve their skills for more genteel treatments.)

Europeans ate pineapples during the 17th century. (Pineapples were used as decoration at this time because refrigeration would basically rot them out since transportation by boat usually took a month or more.)

Tobacco was only seen as a recreational drug. (It was also seen as a health cure in Europe at this time, kind of like medicinal marijuana.)

The waltz was a popular European dance in the 18th century. (Only a century later. Back then, it was a highly scandalous European dance in the same way twerking would be considered today.)

Soldiers tossed away ramrods once they were done with them. (No soldier would do such a thing because they would need this after firing to reload. In the days of single shot firearms, only an idiot would do this deliberately.)

History of the World According to the Movies: Part 33 – Cavalier European Empires

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The Scarlet Empress from 1934. Sure it does detail the story of young Catherine the Great quite accurately to the point she had many lovers as well as a husband who wouldn’t have sex with her. However, Catherine the Great didn’t just sleep her way to the top nor did she get by just on her looks as depicted in this film. Nor was she a naive princess trapped in a frightening castle in Moscow but a palace in Saint Petersburg that she’d feel more at home. Also, she didn’t look anything like Marlene Dietrich (since she had lost her looks, youth, and even her health by that point) though she was German. Nevertheless, this film less of a historical biopic and more of an excuse for Josef von Sternberg to make a film with scary S&M scenes because the Hays Code wouldn’t allow that.

While most movies of the Cavalier Era in Europe are set in Great Britain and France, they weren’t the only countries in which things were happening. It was also an age of European Empires in which three European entities were scrambling to take over places on their own continent (like splitting Poland three ways). These countries are Russia, Austria, and Prussia who at one time were homes of a few of the most famous enlightened absolute monarchs of all time. You have Russia, which was involved in a power struggle after the death of Ivan the Terrible (with a short rule of Boris Godunov), the rise of the Romanov Czars, an undertaking of modernization under Peter the Great (who was willing to cut guys’ beards off), as well as the rule of Catherine the Great. You have Austria, home of the Hapsburg royal family that had produced Empress Maria Theresa and Emperor Joseph II as well as Mozart and one of the most infamous female serial killers of all time. Then you have Prussia a new country in Europe home to one of the most formidable militaries in Europe as with its best monarch being a Pan-European and anti-statist King Frederick the Great (but you wouldn’t know it from the films made by his embarrassing fans, the Nazis who make him out as some kind of proto-Hitler). Nevertheless, movies about this era in these countries tend to get a lot of stuff wrong, which I shall show you.

Czarist Russia:

During the troubled year of 1612, Polish troops were thrown back from Moscow. (They held the city for two years only to be expelled by Kuzma Minin and Dmitrty Pozharsky.)

Eighteenth century Russia’s capital was Moscow which was a primitive place as shown by the monstrosity décor of the palace. (Actually, the capital in eighteenth century Russia was St. Petersburg and would remain so until the Russian Revolution. Also, the Winter Palace was built in the classical style of architecture.)

Catherine the Great was a gorgeous vixen who relied on her beauty and wiles to win influence and become Empress of Russia. (Catherine the Great looked nothing like Marlene Dietrich and didn’t sleep her way to the top either even though she did have lovers but this could be explained by the fact she was married to a total idiot who wouldn’t sleep with her and was under tremendous pressure to produce an heir, at least in her early years. In other words, her initial reason for taking lovers was to save her own ass. But many of these guys filled other roles in her life besides boy toys and lasted for quite some time {or power but many of her lovers did help Russia and remained loyal to her at least as her subjects}. Three of them fathered her children; one helped her develop rapport with key military regiments which would help stage a coup that made her empress. Another served as a political confidante. However, Catherine the Great wasn’t an attractive woman and she made her way to the top not by her looks and sexuality, but by her brains, courage, character and magnificence {since she lost her looks, youth, and health by the time she became Empress. Still, it was her brains that impressed the likes of men such as King Frederick the Great of Prussia and she was pen pals with Voltaire.)

Catherine the Great was a girly girl who aspired to be a toe-dancer. (She was a tomboy with an avid personality and love of deep thoughts who at fourteen said, “I am a philosopher,” and wrote a long treatise to prove it. Also, she was large, boisterous, and slightly walleyed. Not to mention, she really liked to read as a way to escape her misery from court life during her marriage developing her political skills to counteract with the vicious intrigues threatening to ensnare her.)

Empress Elizabeth was a tyrannical bitch as well as frumpy and old. (She wasn’t a nice lady but she was able to seize her throne in a military coup in 1641. Yet, she was considered very attractive and tall despite her malice, spite, vengefulness, vanity, and a deep and pervasive fearfulness. However, this woman was one of Catherine the Great’s role models as well as principal mentor who taught her everything that she needed to know about being the Empress of Russia. Like Catherine, she also had many lovers.)

Empress Elizabeth’s reign was filled with mass fetish torture. (Her reign was quite merciful despite being kind of tyrannical bitch. Seems Sternberg has a thing for S&M torture and probably used young Catherine the Great as an excuse.)

Count Alexei Razumovsky was a moody pretty boy with wild hair and eye makeup who fell in love with the future Catherine the Great at first sight. (He was actually Empress Elizabeth’s lover {or secret husband} and looked more like you’d imagine a typical Republican Congressman {interestingly the guy who played this man in The Scarlet Empress was future Republican Congressman John Lodge}, especially after a long lunch. Well, maybe Empress Elizabeth liked him for his personality.)

Grigori Orlov killed Czar Peter III. (His brother Alexei is the most likely suspect {you could also said he was the original “Scarface” since it was his nickname}. Also, she plotted her takeover with lots of supporters and the coup to overthrow Peter III was planned months in advance.)

Nikolai Ilyich was Catherine the Great’s chancellor in 1763. (It was actually Nikita Ivanovich Panin.)

Alexei Chernoff was a fiance to one of Catherine the Great’s ladies in waiting as well as her lover in 1763 who slept his way to be commander of the palace guard. (Her lover at the time was Grigori Orlov. Chernoff is fictional.)

Catherine the Great exiled people to the Crimea in the 1760s. (She didn’t have Crimea annexed until 1783. However, she did exile people to Siberia.)

Catherine the Great ordered her husband’s murder. (There’s no evidence she ordered her husband Peter III’s assassination, though she may have been complicit. Yet, she did order Ivan VI’s yet he was trying to stage a coup against her and was mentally unstable anyway due to his solitary confinement since he was a baby {but he would’ve been a bad Czar anyway, even as a figurehead}.)

It was through discovering her own sexuality in which Catherine the Great became a political sophisticate. (No, she was already a very intelligent political sophisticate before she lost her virginity and it wasn’t to some random guardsman.)

Catherine the Great had one son by 1763. (She had given birth to three by this time while only her two sons by then {her daughter died at two}. She may have had a daughter by Orlov who may have married a guy named Klinger but historians aren’t so sure. Then again, her son by Orlov was never publicly acknowledged until after her death {though everyone knew already}.)

Grigory Orlov had a mustache. (His portrait depicts him clean shaven.)

Catherine the Great didn’t care for the peasants and serfs. (She tried to institute some reforms for the serfs and peasants but whatever she did wasn’t going to make them happy or win favor with the nobles who supported her. Also, she owed her throne to the support of the nobility so doing anything to benefit the serfs wasn’t going to help her.)

Elizaveta Alexeievna (a. k. a. Princess Tarakanoff or Princess Cockroach) was a real princess as well as a threat to Catherine the Great. (She claimed to be an illegitimate daughter of Empress Elizabeth but we’re not sure where she really came from or that she was anything other than a pretender. Yet, at one time she did travel Western Europe and was a mistress to an Austrian count. She was also known by other names.)

Alexei Orlov betrayed Catherine the Great for Princess Tarakanoff. (He never betrayed Catherine and it’s actually said that he actually seduced and lured the pretender, arrested her, and brought her to Russia where she was imprisoned until her death from tuberculosis. Still, it’s said Empress Catherine the Great had to deal with about 26 pretenders to the throne.)

Catherine the Great had blond hair. (She had dark hair but in movies, she’s depicted as blond.)

Catherine the Great and Peter III had an initially happy marriage. (If this was the case, Catherine would never have to take lovers. Her marriage to then Grand Duke Peter was actually doomed from the start more or less because she was still a virgin by her tenth wedding anniversary. Also, they loathed each other and their 17 year marriage was never consummated.)

Catherine the Great first met her husband shortly before she married him. (She first met him when she was ten years old and instantly detested him though she married him six years later after arriving in Russia the year before.)

Catherine the Great was reluctant to overthrow her husband. (She was all for it for she had nothing but contempt for him since had been humiliated and exploited by him for years and he became increasingly hostile to her. Also, he threatened to expel her to a convent after Empress Elizabeth died, which made Catherine all the more fearful of him. Still, her life as Peter III’s wife was perhaps one of the darkest episodes of her life.)

Catherine the Great overthrew her husband by having him killed. (She actually had him arrested and forced him to abdicate. It’s highly unlikely she had ordered him killed, but she was certainly the mastermind in overthrowing him along with the nobility, Orthodox Church, and the military who’ve all been alienated by his policies. Besides, she staged bloodless coup when he was out of town at the time.)

Peter III was highly abusive or downright insane. (He actually was more of an Germanophile willing to end a war against his idol Frederick the Great without consulting anyone as well as highly immature and had crazy manchild tendencies {as far as Catherine’s memoirs were concerned}. Nevertheless, he had no common sense a whole different kind of idiocy. Still, he was a complete asshole nevertheless and had no affinity for Russian culture.)

Catherine the Great was faithful to her husband until the very end. (She had been faithful to him during the first ten years but she had taken three lovers in the last seven years mostly out of necessity. Yet, it’s present in The Rise of Catherine the Great.)

Hapsburg Austria-Hungary:

Antonio Salieri was Mozart’s sworn enemy who was jealous of his talent and had him poisoned. (Actually though Salieri wasn’t the kind of composer Mozart was, he was considered a fantastic composer sort of like Evegeni Malkin to Sidney Crosby in the classical music world. Also, Mozart probably died from a long term illness, not poison and was probably not buried in a mass grave at least at first. As with Mozart and Salieri’s relationship, well, they were friends and collaborators as well as respected each other for their talents and attended each other’s performances {Salieri even attended Mozart’s funeral and gave his son free music lessons}. The perception of the two as rivals was created to show the competing musical giants of Germany and Italy who were the most dominant classical music nations of the nineteenth century {and maybe Russian writer Alexander Pushkin}. Actually Amadeus gets a lot of things wrong on Mozart’s life such as his relationship with his mother-in-law, who commissioned the Requiem Mass and who finished it, and how he was buried.)

Antonio Salieri tried to sabotage Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s career. (Salieri did not such thing and actually respected Mozart as a musician and a composer. They may have been competing for jobs but they also encouraged each other. Their rival was mostly professional. Mozart even wrote that Salieri even enjoyed of The Magic Flute and this opera was his choice to be performed in Vienna when could’ve easily selected his own music.)

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was a arrogant and eccentric filthy-minded manchild. (Yes, he was known for crass scatological humor and pranks as well as would’ve given the fluffiest wig to write the score of South Park: the Musical in the 18th century. However, he was probably as much of a manchild as you’d expect any guy in his twenties {who only told his toilet jokes around close friends and family}. Still, he was a serious composer who knew how to behave himself in public since he had been performing from a very young age. He was also a loving and faithful husband to Constanze as well as there for her when she suffered from a near-fatal illness. Also, he wasn’t an alcoholic by 18th century standards. Still, Amadeus does get right how annoying he was since Joseph Haydn once saw him making 100 enemies at a single party.)

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was in court service throughout the 1780s. (He wasn’t offered an official position in Vienna until 1787.)

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart collapsed at the premiere of The Magic Flute. (He had been sick for some time but no, he didn’t collapse because he conducted several performances afterward until he was unable to get out of bed.)

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was buried in a pauper’s grave. (Yes, he died in debt but by the time of his death, he was making 10,000 florins a year putting him in the top 5% of the population in Vienna. Also, his operas were huge successes. Of course, this myth results from a mistranslation since the German words for “communal” and “common” were similar. Still, he was buried in a common grave, which is more to say “not a fancy one” as middle class people of his day. Nevertheless, it was quite common for many people in the 18th century to be buried in plots they didn’t own {especially middle class people in Vienna like Mozart}, from which they were eventually dug up to make space for others. This explains why Mozart’s remains were never found. So he wasn’t buried in a ditch, more like he was put in a regular grave, dug up ten years later, and moved but the guys doing the moving forgot where they put them. Uh, maybe it would’ve been better off if he was buried in a ditch.)

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was buried in torrential rain. (He was buried in fair weather.)

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and his wife Constanze had a troubled marriage. (Sure Mozart wasn’t the best husband and had an annoying personality. However, he and Constanze had a happy marriage with two sons who survived into adulthood {though their folks weren’t initially thrilled of the match}. Yet, their courtship didn’t go smoothly nor was it love at first sight when they met at least on his part {he was 21 and she was 15}. Interestingly, Mozart was initially in love with her sister Aloysia who rejected him and married another man. Still, Constanze was actually a trained musician from a musical family who played a role in her husband’s career and financially savvy enough to make herself financially secure or even well-off after Mozart’s death.)

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Constanze had only one son. (They actually had six kids but only two sons survived infancy.)

As an adult, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart begged his dad for money and was unable to impress him. (Actually Leopold Mozart bragged about his son in letters on how much money his son was making so he wasn’t an under appreciated artist who suffered all his life. Cracked.com says he was more like a Michael Bolton of the 1700s who was a popular artist with some huge hits but not seen as a huge deal.)

Antonio Salieri commissioned the Requiem Mass as well as dressed up as Mozart’s dead father to freak him out and helped Mozart finish it. (Actually it was Count Walsegg-Stuppach who commissioned the Requiem Mass because he wanted to commemorate his dead wife and secretly wanted to claim the music as his own {though we’re not sure Mozart knew his identity}. And it was Franz Xaver Süssmayr who helped Mozart finished it.)

Don Giovanni and The Marriage of Figaro were flops. (Contrary to what Amadeus says, they were both sensational hits audiences just couldn’t get enough of. In fact, Emperor Joseph II had to restrict encores for The Marriage of Figaro just after its first three performances.)

Antonio Salieri was a celibate bachelor all his life. (He had a wife and eight kids as well as at least one mistress. So he probably didn’t make a pact with God to give his chastity.)

Constanze Mozart left for a spa with her son once her husband became seriously ill. (Despite suffering from poor health herself and having two young children, Constanze would never have left her sick husband for a spa. She and her sister were actually with Mozart on his deathbed the whole time. However, she didn’t go to his funeral since she was said to be too grief-stricken to attend.)

Constanze Mozart didn’t have a love of music. (She was a trained musician from a musical family like Mozart himself. Also, one of Mozart’s letters say that she actually loved his music and wanted him to write some of it down. Still, she fell in love with him through his music, not his fart jokes.)

Vienna high society was familiar with Johann Sebastian Bach’s music during the 1780s. (Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart did know about Bach since he was friends with the composer’s son. However, no one else in Vienna or anywhere would’ve known about Bach’s music until Felix Mendelssohn rediscovered him which was 40 years after Mozart’s death. Heck, Bach wasn’t known as a composer during his lifetime, just simple church organist who was very good at his job. Not to mention, composing came with his job as it was.)

Catarina Cavalieri slept with Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart in order to get the lead singing role in the premiere of the The Abduction from the Seraglio. (Mozart did give her the part of the lead in The Abduction from the Seraglio in July of 1782 but she didn’t have to seduce him to get the role since he had written the previous year to his dad that he “never had relations of that sort with any woman.” Also, he had a girlfriend at the time who he’d later marry {and remain faithful to for the rest of his life, especially in a period when promiscuity was open and more widely accepted}. Still, it’s more likely Cavalieri actually slept with Salieri to get the role if she had to at all {though it’s more likely she got the part because she was just a good opera singer though she was Salieri’s student}. This is because she was generally known to be Salieri’s mistress who was with him as his date during the premiere of The Magic Flute {and Mozart wrote of picking them up on the way to the performance}.)

Antonio Salieri used his influence to prevent Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart from getting a job to teach the Princess of Württemberg. (Mozart did apply for the position but Salieri got the gig instead mostly because of his reputation as a singing teacher. However, there were other Italian composers in Emperor Joseph II’s court scheming to prevent Mozart from advancing his career because he was their competition. Still, Salieri’s music was more in a tradition of German composers at that time.)

Mozart wrote most of his compositions in the first draft. (He revised his music like most composers did. This was a 19th century theory.)

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was right handed. (He was left handed.)

Countess Elizabeth Bathory was innocent of any murders she allegedly committed and was really a kind and loving mother and ruler who was in the wrong place at the wrong time as well as a victim of the malicious slanders of greedy noblemen. (This woman was nicknamed “The Blood Countess” and was the most prolific female serial killer in history. She’s believed to be responsible for torturing hundreds of young women to death {about 650 to be exact}, though there was only enough evidence to convict 80 of them {still putting many of her male counterparts to shame}. Over 300 witnesses testified that young women would regularly enter her castle and only their corpses would come out, which was backed up by physical evidence and the presence of horribly, mutilated dead, dying, and imprisoned girls found at her arrest. As for being a ruler, she didn’t have any land, power, or direct power after her husband died since her son had inherited the family’s estate while their oldest daughter acted as regent while he was a minor. Thus, Bathory was technically powerless and this was the reason why the Hapsburg Empire waited about a decade between the crimes being first reported and launching an investigation. Still, her family’s influence kept her from being put on trial and they put her on house arrest for the rest of her life {her accomplices were}.)

Countess Elizabeth Bathory was spied on by monks. (She was a member of the Lutheran church and her crimes were reported there. Saying that she was a victim by some Catholic Church conspiracy is completely bogus. Still, the Bathorys weren’t on good terms with the Hapsburgs, though they were a powerful family.)

Countess Elizabeth Bathory killed several young women in order to stay young and beautiful while she was in power. (For God’s sake, she wasn’t in power at the time. Also, killing people in order to remain young and beautiful is a lame motive. Nevertheless, she’s said to have suffered from some mental illness as well as been exposed to incredible violence which her family condoned. Her husband might’ve taught her new torture methods or may not have known anything about her crimes since they were done in his absence {though he wasn’t a nice guy either}.)

Countess Elizabeth Bathory had an affair with Caravaggio. (She didn’t.)

Countess Elizabeth Bathory Bathory bathed in blood. (Bathing in blood isn’t easily achievable since it clots within 5 to 8 minutes. No witness accounts of Bathory bloodbaths exist.)

Baron von Munchausen had a mustache and/or beard. (He was a real person though he sometimes stretched the truth but his portrait doesn’t reveal any facial hair on him though. Nevertheless, 18th century gentlemen were usually clean shaven, Baron von Munchausen included.)

Prussia:

Prussian officers wore mustaches in the 18th century. (Only Hussar light cavalry officers did at the time. Facial hair had fallen out of fashion for gentlemen from the late 17th century to the early 19th century.)

Frederick the Great wasn’t above using conscription to supply his armies once he ran out of men. (Most rulers used conscription at this time. It wasn’t unusual among most European nations at the time.)

Frederick the Great said, “L’audace, l’audace. Toujours l’audace!” (Historians mostly attribute this quote to French Revolutionary Danton.)

Frederick the Great was a proto-Hitler. (Really? Uh, someone must’ve seen too many Nazi propaganda films {where Frederick the Great would most likely appear in film wise}. However, when it comes to famous figures, he’s probably has one of the most embarrassing fandoms ever {Nazis and German imperialists that love to invoke his name in order to justify their ruthless realpolitik}. Sure he was ruthless absolutist monarch of a militarist kingdom, but to consider him a proto-Hitler is absolutely absurd. In fact, he would’ve personally loathed Nazis. He was devout Francophile {and disdained German culture, nationalism, and tradition} who imposed religious toleration and social welfare policies for veterans. He helped weed out many of the archaic and unjust practices that oppressed his people. He was very interested in the arts, sciences and philosophy. And even when he invaded certain entities, it was mostly for resources and he knew when to quit. Also, he might’ve been gay since he didn’t show any interest in women despite being married {there were gay rumors about him during his own lifetime}.)

Frederick the Great spoke German. (He most often spoke French because he was a Francophile and abhorred German culture.)

History of the World According to the Movies: Part 32 – 18th Century Georgian Great Britain

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This is from The Madness of King George from 1994 when King George III suffered from his first bout of madness (or porphyria) from 1787 to 1788. I’ve heard this is a shining example of a film from that time period with Nigel Hawthorne and Helen Mirren. However, before she became known to Americans for playing the current Queen Elizabeth II, Helen Mirren played George III’s distressed Queen Charlotte (who has a city named after her in North Carolina). Still, this movie shows that even Kings in 18th century Georgian Great Britain didn’t always get the best medical care so you could can figure out how everyone else got treated.

On the death of Queen Anne in 1714, the House of Stuart would eventually come to an end and since 56 of the Stuart heirs were Catholic, they were ultimately disqualified and the throne went to an obscure Stuart Protestant relation named Elector George of Hanover, kicking off the Hanover Dynasty, which would end with Queen Victoria (well, as far as the name goes since practically every British Monarch from King George I is technically from this House). From 1714 to 1837, this would be known as the Georgian Era since the first four Hanover monarchs were all named George. A lot happens under this time such as the Hanover-Stuart Wars with Bonnie Prince Charlie, the French and Indian War, the American Revolution, the Napoleonic Wars, and the War of 1812. Of course other than the ones Americans participated in, the British were very much victors since the 18th century was a good time to be a Brit (well, sort of). Nevertheless, it’s around this time when Britain drastically expands its empire as well as becomes a constitutional monarchy (mainly because George I didn’t show much interest running Britain so he appointed a prime minster). In Hollywood, this is an era of men wearing tights, powdered wigs, and women donning big dresses like you like you see in movies about the American Revolution. Also, you have the gentry and aristocrats with their lovely English countryside estates. Not to mention, you even have some adaptations from Georgian literature as well. Still, there are a number of things Hollywood gets wrong of this era which I should list.

Hanover-Stuart Wars:

Rob Roy MacGregor was a heroic man of impeccable honor. (He was a murderer and a cattle thief. Also, he had an anti-Whig attitude, attacked a kirk at Arngask during a service, stealing the congregation’s bibles, and forcing its members to strip naked. Still, while Braveheart may have its historical inaccuracies, at least it manages to get good reviews, accolades, and classic status. Rob Roy gets none.)

Rob Roy MacGregor was a cuddly pacifist. (In his own words he’s quoted as saying, “never desired a more pleasant and satisfying breakfast any morning than to see a Whig’s house in flames.” Sorry, but he wasn’t like Liam Neeson portrayed him.)

Mary MacGregor was raped and impregnated by Archibald Cunningham to provoke Rob Roy. (Archibald Cunningham was a fictional character. However, there was a legend about Mary getting raped but it was by John Grahame but historians doubt that such sexual violence ever took place. Yet, if it did, she certainly didn’t get pregnant by it since she wasn’t at the time {though she would have Robin Og four years later in 1716}. So perhaps such pregnancy was possible assuming Mary MacGregor was a whale or an elephant, biologically speaking. Not to mention, Rob Roy once took Grahame prisoner but treated him well. If Grahame raped Mary, Rob Roy may not have been so friendly.)

John Grahame and Archibald Cunningham stole the £1,000 given to Rob Roy MacGregor by the Marquis de Montrose in 1712. (Montrose provided Rob Roy £1,000 annually from 1702 to 1712. As for the theft, one Rob Roy’s men may have been responsible, perhaps even Rob Roy himself despite his honest reputation.)

Bonnie Prince Charlie:

Bonnie Prince Charlie had a Scottish accent. (He grew up in France so thus, would’ve had a French accent.)

Bonnie Prince Charlie was a heroic man for Scotland. (He’s more or less seen as a hero because he was a convenient symbol for a lost cause than his actual behavior and some of his followers deserved more of a reputation than he did. He lived his life in the French court and behaved like a typical French noble. He was adulterous and drank in despair as well as was a guy who really should’ve been pitied more than anything.)

Bonnie Prince Charlie’s relationship with Clementina Walkinshaw was romantic. (Their relationship was said to be rather abusive but it’s unconfirmed, though they’d have a daughter together.)

Georgian Britain:

Dick Turpin:

Dick Turpin had a horse named Black Bess and died by a gunshot in the English countryside. (Actually he never had a horse named Black Bess and he was hung {for stealing horses} after his mailman turned him in to the authorities while he was imprisoned for stealing chickens from a farmer. Also, he was no saint by any means since he was a poacher, burglar, horse thief and murderer.)

Belle and Davinier (a mixed race couple of the 18th century between biracial daughter of an Admiral {who was the Strom Thurmond of his day} and his slave and a French servant of her uncle, made into a movie in 2013):

Dido Elizabeth Belle married John Davinier when her uncle Lord Mansfield was still alive. (She married Davinier after Lord Mansfield died and there’s no evidence that Davinier and Mansfield ever met.)

Dido Elizabeth Belle received a generous sum of money after her father Admiral Lindsay died. (Contrary to Belle, she got nothing. Her uncle left her with a substantial sum but not with the kind of money that would attract gold-diggers. Belle just makes her much richer than she would’ve been just to have gold diggers around.)

Dido Elizabeth Belle was brought up as an aristocratic lady who wasn’t allowed to dine formally with guests. (Yes, she was treated as a member of the family but unlike what Belle shows, she was also responsible for looking after the dairy and poultry.)

John Davinier was a lawyer and apprentice to Lord Mansfield. (He was described as a servant perhaps to the second Lord Mansfield around the time he married Dido. He’d later become a gentleman with Dido’s inherited income.)

Georgiana Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire:

Duchess Georgiana of Devonshire was a small and skinny woman. (She was tall, big boned, and red hair. Also, she had rapid weight fluctuations throughout her life because of her wild living and poor eating habits. In The Duchess she’s played by Keira Knightley who’s small by comparison.)

Duchess Georgiana of Devonshire was a proper lady. (She was more of a party girl notorious for her reckless living, but she was also an enthusiast on politics as well as campaigner, fashion icon, chemist, talented author, and mineral scientist. She was a fierce intelligent woman, a genuine effective power broker, and her role in politics was no small achievement considering that women wouldn’t get the vote until over a century later. Still, she did have an out of wedlock daughter to a future British Prime Minister who’s associated with Earl Grey tea. Nevertheless, her worst vice was her gambling addiction which resulted in incredible debts that plagued her throughout her life and make even Wall Street investors blush. She would conceal or lie about them constantly as well as borrowed money from exasperated friends and rarely paid them back. )

Duchess Georgiana was outraged when she found out about her husband’s affair with her best friend. (She may have wanted a fairy tale marriage and might’ve been upset about the Duke sleeping with her best friend Bess Foster. Yet, she wasn’t naive about the existence or popularity of mistresses or extramarital affairs. To her, these things were normal since she grew up in nobility since they didn’t marry for love or companionship in those days {though Georgiana’s parents were an exception, however}. Besides, she was willing to let Lady Bess live with her because she was emotionally dependent on her. They would be in this one true threesome for twenty-five years {though no party was exactly faithful}. Yet, Keira Knightley’s Georgiana seems to have grown up under a rock somewhere. )

Duchess Georgiana took up with Charles Grey after she had been severely provoked by her husband and he was the only lover she had. (This wasn’t the case. Also, though Charles Grey was the love of Georgiana’s life, she also had other boyfriends before and after him. The Duke of Dorset, a notoriously handsome playboy was one of them.)

Charles Grey, 2nd Earl Grey:

Charles Grey was young man about to attend Cambridge in 1774 and participated in the wager among the young ladies and other young men at a foot race around that time. And this was where he met seventeen-year old Georgiana, the future Duchess of Devonshire. (Charles wouldn’t have been about to attend Cambridge in 1774 because he was ten years old. He may have been about to attend Eton instead because he was a child. So why a seventeen year old girl would be interested in a guy who’s supposed to be ten? Also, Charles and Georgiana first met each other when he was 23 and she was 30, which was after her marriage to the Duke of Devonshire and his election into Parliament.)

William Cavendish, Duke of Devonshire:

William Cavendish, Duke of Devonshire raped his wife Georgiana in which they conceived a son. (Despite how The Duchess would imply, this never happened since the Duke was never an abusive man. It’s very likely that Georgiana and the Duke conceived their son through consensual sex since she had been suffering from several miscarriages and two daughters prior. Not only that, but the Duke of Devonshire was 26 when he married 17-year-old Georgiana {giving them a nine year age difference like my parents} yet he’s played by Ralph Fiennes.)

Lady Bess Foster:

Lady Bess Foster hooked up with the Duke of Devonshire to get her kids back. (Her sons remained in Ireland during the majority of their childhood and adolescence but they did visit her and were on good terms with Georgiana’s children as well as their various legitimate and illegitimate half-siblings. Thus, there’s no evidence her sons lived at Devonshire as little children or that she took up with the Duke to gain custody.)

Lady Bess Foster was a loving and faithful mistress to the Duke of Devonshire. (True, she probably did love him but he wasn’t the only guy she slept with. She was banging all kinds of guys while she was supposed to be tutoring the Duke’s illegitimate daughter Charlotte, which led to their break up and her affair with the Duke of Richmond, hoping he’d marry her. However, it’s not until after Richmond dumped her and Georgiana’s death do she and the Duke of Devonshire get back together. Still, their short marriage did scandalize the town back in the early 1800s.)

Lady Bess Foster was a romantic, self-sacrificing woman wronged by fate who lived devoting herself to Georgiana and ultimately her true love the Duke of Devonshire. (From what Amanda Foreman says in her biography of Georgiana, Lady Bess was a calculating, affective, insincere woman who only cared about herself. She may have cared about the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire but her affections would only last as far as her financial security did {meaning she was a gold digger, folks}. Oh, and she was more or less wronged by the consequences of her own actions.)

John Thomas Foster:

John Thomas Foster beat his wife with a stick. (He was an asshole but he was never a wife beater. What John Foster did to his wife Lady Bess was take away their kids, desert her, and leave her without a penny.)

King George III:

King George III managed to mysteriously recover from his madness in 1789. (Yes, but he would later suffer madness episodes in 1804 and is said to become permanently insane by 1811 which did lead to his son becoming regent and him spending the rest of his life at Windsor Castle. It also destroyed his family. Unlike the end of The Madness of King George, the story of his madness doesn’t really have a happy ending.)

King George III suffered from mental illness. (He went nuts later in life. He might have suffered from the genetic blood disorder porphyria or just plain dementia. Still, whatever it was, his doctors weren’t much help.)

King George III was a tyrant king. (Contrary to what American Revolutionary films say, he wasn’t nor was he responsible for all those bad policies which led to the American Revolution {except maybe the military response to the Boston Tea Party}. Rather they were the work of the British Parliament who basically ran the government because George III was a constitutional monarch. But the colonists usually blamed him because he was head of state at the time and they probably didn’t know who the prime minister was anyway {making him a convenient scapegoat}. Nevertheless, the British see him as one of the country’s better monarchs since he didn’t do anything embarrassing {unlike his son George IV} and was a fundamentally decent man. Not to mention, Britain was probably better off keeping him on the throne even after he went nuts within the last decade of his life. Still, American school children seemed to be lied to about George III’s so-called tyranny to this day despite for saying this to John Adams: “I was the last person to consent to the separation [of America and Britain], but I will be the first to accept the friendship of the United States as an independent power.” He was also a great admirer of George Washington and was reputed to say after the war that if Washington retired, “he will be the greatest man in the world.”)

Queen Charlotte:

Queen Charlotte was determined to do what it took to make George III well. (She was a submissive and obedient wife who became despondent and depressed at the first signs of her husband’s illness. Still, Charlotte, North Carolina is named after her.)

King George IV:

Robert Burt married George IV and Maria Fitzherbert in secret was only paid £10 for it. (He received £500 and a never-fulfilled promise of appointment as royal chaplain. George IV’s marriage was invalid because he married without his dad’s consent and Maria was Catholic {and British royals still can’t marry Catholics to this day}.)

George IV was a dirt bag prince who was reveled in his dad’s deteriorating mental state that he did what he could to connive politicians into becoming regent and rule in his dad’s place. (Yes, he wanted to be regent as well as didn’t get along with his dad. Yet, he also had genuine concern for his father despite his ardent desire to finally exercise some real power.)

King George IV was a universally beloved if not particularly intellectual figure. (He’s actually a highly controversial figure seen as a principal liar, cad, and scoundrel by many Englishmen. Also, he wasn’t Prince Regent during the French Revolution, but between 1811-1820 contrary to what’s seen in The Scarlet Pimpernel films. Still, he wasn’t stupid. Yet, this is what a friend said about him, “A more contemptible, cowardly, selfish, unfeeling dog does not exist….There have been good and wise kings but not many of them…and this I believe to be one of the worst.” )

King William IV:

Prince William, Duke of Clarence was a member of the House of Commons. (He wouldn’t have been allowed to serve but he was a member of the House of Lords starting 1789 where he did speak against the abolition of the slave trade. Also, he was King George III’s son and would become King William IV after his father and brother had passed. However, he did threaten his dad that he’d run for the House of Commons though in order to become a duke like his brothers.)

Prince William, Duke of Clarence wagered his black coachman against William Wilberforce at a card game in 1782. (It’s unlikely he owned any domestic servants at the time since slavery was virtually eliminated in England with Somerset’s Case of 1772. Also, he was serving in the Royal Navy at the time {interestingly, George Washington had endorsed a plot to capture him in New York}.)

James Maclaine and William Plunket (highwaymen):

James Maclaine was rescued in a Knightsbridge jail by William Plunket during a robbery but they ended up in Newgate Prison in which they bought their way out with a ruby Plunkett swallowed. (Actually the two got started after Maclaine lost his fortune at a gaming table during a masquerade in which he and Plunket donned Venetian masks and held up a farmer. Before that, Irishman Maclaine only managed patchy career as a grocer while Plunket was an apothecary.)

James Maclaine was captured while trying to save a noblewoman. (He was caught while selling stolen clothes in which he accidentally gave his real name and address to the shopkeeper.)

William Plunket rode up at the last minute to save his pale James Maclaine before he was hung. (This didn’t happen since Maclaine was hanged in 1750. Also, Plunket probably knew such effort would’ve been for naught since the authorities would’ve apprehended him on the spot. Plunket was never apprehended. Of course, you can’t have Plunket leave his pal alone to hang, would you?)

Other:

William Pitt the Younger was an atheist. (He was a member of the Church of England and his affiliation wasn’t just in name only.)

Barbara Spooner was William Wilberforce’s passionate intellectual equal. (Maybe, but she was timid and a poor hostess yet Wilberforce was kind of an introvert so they were a love match despite their eighteen year age difference.)

The Earl of Rochester was a young, flamboyant, and mischievous man in the 1740s. (The Earl of Rochester at the time was Henry Hyde who was a former Tory MP in his 70s with an interest in opera. Still, he wouldn’t look like a young Alan Cumming at the time.)

Miscellaneous:

British officers toasted the King while sitting at the beginning of a meal. (They always stood to toast the king until William IV’s ascension in 1830.)

Most non-whites in 18th century London were slaves. (There was a long-established non-white presence in London during the 18th century which consisted of 3% of the city’s population with many well-integrated and free.)

18th century English aristocratic men were openly homosexual. (Some maybe, but not all of them. Also, all of the Georgian kings were exclusively straight as far as the historical record goes. Still, even if a male 18th century aristocrat was gay, he wouldn’t be open about it.)

18th century England was an idyllic place with immaculately clean homes. (It was a smelly, grubby, and uncomfortable place where even the grandest homes were not too far from squalor. Also, the people inside of them weren’t too clean themselves.)

George Fox lived in the late 18th century. (His dates are 1624-1691.)

Criminals could escape the London sewers in the 18th century. (London didn’t have a sewer system at this time.)

Early 18th century British troops used socket bayonets. (They used plug types.)

18th century Highland cattle were brown. (They would’ve been black at the time.)

British soldiers were referred to as “redcoats” during the 18th century. (They wouldn’t be referred to this until 1870.)

It wasn’t uncommon for British troops to run free-for-all across the battlefield. (The British had a highly disciplined and well trained army at this time when cohesion of troops was important. Also, a bayonet charge would consist of slowly marching toward the enemy in a double time quick step {like a jog} until a few yards away. Then they would go full speed ahead.)

Higher ranked British officers would stand in the front lines with the full battalion during battle. (Any British officer above a captain would’ve been on horseback and were definitely on the front lines during an attack.)

People in 18th century Great Britain had representation in Parliament. (Little did the colonists know that many of the British in their own country had taxation without representation {or at least adequate compared to what was laid out in the US constitution}. This is the case because there were plenty of people in the country that couldn’t vote or hold office {property owning white Protestant males} or had parliamentary districts which didn’t reflect to population changes {which is where “rotten borough” comes in}.)

Banastre Tarleton was in the House of Commons in 1782. (He was on parole after a disastrous performance in Virginia so he couldn’t have debated negotiations with Americans. Also, he entered the House of Commons in 1784. Also, Tarleton was never a lord but a baronet.)

The Duke of Cumberland was on the House of Commons. (He was a duke and a king’s son, so no.)

William Pitt the Younger and Charles Fox sided with each other after the French Revolution. (They were both Whigs but Fox supported it while Pitt was against it. Also unlike in Amazing Grace, Fox was ten years older than Pitt and was in his mid-thirties when the latter became prime minister.)

John Newton was aged blind man who confessed about his involvement to William Wilberforce shortly after the latter got married in 1797. (He had already written about it in a book published 9 years earlier.)

Maria Fitzherbert was a divorcee. (She was a widow when she met George IV. The biggest strike against her was that she was Catholic.)

William Pitt the Younger arranged the marriage between George IV and Caroline of Brunswick. (He probably helped but it was more or less the idea of George’s family.)

History of the World According to the Movies: Part 31 – Stuart Great Britain

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Perhaps no other movie defines the nastiness of Stuart Great Britain like 1970’s Cromwell, which pertains to the English Civil War. Plus, it’s kind of interesting to see the two leads played by guys who went on to play Albus Dumbledore and Obi Wan Kenobi. Still, for a British filmmaker to make a movie covering a war in which both sides are hardly noble will ensue in some unfortunate implications, especially one showing Cromwell in a positive light and played by an Irishman. Also, Cromwell should be wearing bright red.

While 17th century France was a playground for gallant swashbuckling cavaliers, fair noble ladies, and intellectuals, Great Britain is a very different story, especially since it was under a dynasty that started out as the royal family of Scotland after the death of Queen Elizabeth I. Sure like France, Britain was on its way up in the world with colonization, science, and what not, but the 17th century weren’t happy times for the country since it, almost had its government blown up by a group of Catholic terrorists, got embroiled in a nasty civil war between king and Parliament, beheaded its own king, went eleven years under a theocratic military dictatorship which banned Christmas, had an outbreak of plague and a great fire in London, deposed another king after he reigned for 3 years in favor of his daughter and son-in-law in the Netherlands, and that pretty much sums it up for you. Still, there’s a reason why movies set in the 17th century usually take place in France and not in Great Britain. While you can always root for the French musketeers, you couldn’t say the same about the cavaliers under King Charles I who were fighting for a king who was just after power. Nor could you root for the Puritan Roundheads under Oliver Cromwell who banned Christmas and was responsible for the deaths of thousands of Irish Catholics (explaining why he’s so reviled in Ireland to this day). Still, what movies we have on the Stuart Era do contain their share of inaccuracies which I shall list.

King James I:

King James I spoke in an English accent. (He was Scottish and his mother was Mary, Queen of Scots.)

Gunpowder Plot:

Guy Fawkes was a doomed moral victor and tragic hero who died striking a blow for freedom. (Despite what V for Vendetta told you, he was a terrorist in the Gunpowder Plot who tried to blow up Parliament because they wanted to replace the Protestant monarchy with a Catholic one and were unsuccessful. Yet, he was never a member of the core conspiracy and mainly recruited for his Catholic fervor as a mercenary in Spain as well as his explosives expertise. But he was one of the first to join despite not being the mastermind. Also, the Gunpowder Plot did more harm to English Catholics than good. Interestingly, the guy who turned him in was Catholic as well for he was told not to come to Parliament by one of his conspirators who was his brother-in-law.)

English Civil Wars:

Matthew Hopkins:

Matthew Hopkins was a Witchfinder General who was relentlessly pursued to death by Richard Marshall. (Richard Marshall was a fictional character. However, it was the gentry, the clergy, the magistrates who are said to undermine his work in the law and were in pursuit of Hopkins throughout his murderous career. Also, contrary to his Vincent Price portrayal {which is very appropriate} he was in his twenties at the time, not 56 as Price was at the time {still, I can’t blame the casting director on that choice}. Not only that but he was never even sanctioned to perform his witch hunting duties.)

Matthew Hopkins got one woman to confess to a black cat and a stoat. (He got woman to confess to having a polecat called Newes, a fat spaniel with no legs named Jarmara, a greyhound with an ox head that could turn itself into a headless 4-year-old child named Vinegar Tom, and various others including Elemanzer, Pyewacket, Grizzell and Greedigut names Hopkins claimed, “which no mortal could invent.” Obviously has never met Sarah Palin’s kids.)

Matthew Hopkins was axed to death by Richard Marshall. (He died of tuberculosis in 1647 at his Essex home but you wouldn’t want that in Witchfinder General. And he was no older than 25.)

Oliver Cromwell:

Oliver Cromwell and Henry Ireton were among the five members of Parliament who King Charles I tried to arrest when he entered the House of Commons. Cromwell stayed in his seat and defied the king. (The members who King Charles I tried to arrest were John Pym, John Hampden, Denzil Holles {great name}, William Strode, and Sir Arthur Hesilrige. Not only that, but Cromwell wasn’t present at Parliament at the time and didn’t meet Henry Ireton until two years later at the Battle of Edgehill. Also, Ireton wasn’t an MP.)

Oliver Cromwell planned to move to America in 1640. (He planned a trip to America but it was axed six years earlier.)

Oliver Cromwell suggested to Charles I that he believed England should have a democracy. (He made no such suggesting to King Charles I. Also, they only met once when King Charles I was under house arrest on the Isle of Wight in 1648 at a time when king, Parliament and army were trying in vain to hammer out a constitutional settlement. Not to mention, Cromwell disagreed with army radicals demanding universal manhood suffrage back in the 1640s and ruled Great Britain as a military dictator. Nevertheless, interestingly in the 1970 film Cromwell, they’re portrayed by Richard Harris and Sir Alec Guinness, which is kind of awesome in itself. Also kind of ironic that Richard Harris was a strong Irish Catholic, a casting decision that would make the real Oliver Cromwell roll in his grave.)

Oliver Cromwell was a colonel at the Battle of Edgehill in 1642. (He was only a captain.)

Oliver Cromwell said this soldier’s prayer, “O Lord, Thou knowest how busy I must be this day. If I forget Thee, do not forget me.” (It was said by Royalist Sir Jacob Astley. But since Richard Harris played Cromwell and has a nice voice, you can easily see why he says this in his 1970 biopic.)

Oliver Cromwell was commander-in-chief of the Parliamentary forces while Sir Thomas Fairfax was his subordinate. (Fairfax was “Lord General” {commander-in-chief} of the New Model Army during the English Civil War. Cromwell was one of the few politicians to retain a military command while the New Model Army was set up and was “Lieutenant-General” as well as commanded the cavalry. So this was the other way around.)

Oliver Cromwell personally arrested King Charles I at Oxford. (King Charles I surrendered to the Scottish army and was only handed to Parliament some time later on ransom of £400,000. He was seized by New Model Army troops led by Cornet Joyce and taken to Hampton Court Palace. There, he escaped again and ended up surrendering to the Parliamentary Governor on the Isle of Wight. It was there he struck a second deal with the Scottish and started the Second Civil War. Also, he and Cromwell only met once.)

Oliver Cromwell brought troops into the House of Commons and declared a majority. (This is reminiscent of Pride’s Purge of 1648 in which troops under Colonel Thomas Pride refused entry to those MPs he deemed unsuitable. Cromwell was away at the time and it’s unclear how much he knew about this in advance. The MPs left after the Purge were known as the Rump Parliament.)

Oliver Cromwell dismissed the idea of becoming king instantly since he thought it was absurd for what he fought for. (He was immediately reluctant to accept an offer of kingship but took the idea seriously as Parliament thought it vital. He turned it down after several weeks of negotiations since the army was opposed to it.)

After Charles I is executed and he was offered the crown, Oliver Cromwell told the Rump Parliament they had six years to form a new government. (They had four years by this time; since Cromwell was offered the crown eight years after Charles I was executed.)

Oliver Cromwell became “Lord Protector” in 1651. (He didn’t become this until 1653.)

Oliver Cromwell didn’t have warts on his face. (He did since he coined the term, “warts and all.” Yet, even he’s seen much more attractive with his Richard Harris portrayal.)

Oliver Cromwell was for the common man who believed in universal public education. (He suppressed groups who spoke out for the rights of the common man {like the Levellers and the Diggers} during the English Civil War {and some of the Levellers allied with the Royalists}. He also despised the Irish and Catholics like a lot good Puritans. Also, he was a military dictator, though he broke absolute monarchy in Great Britain, turned it into a major world power, and helped lay the foundations for modern Parliamentary Democracy though his vindication is relatively recent in Great Britain.)

Oliver Cromwell was pro-king in 1640 before he saw gold on the altar of his church. (He didn’t like King Charles I for various reasons but he was reluctant to rebel.)

Oliver Cromwell spent six years on his farm between the Second and Third English Civil War. (He was slaughtering Irish Catholics at the time.)

Oliver Cromwell and Thomas Fairfax were best friends until Fairfax worried that King Charles I wasn’t getting a fair trial. (Fairfax did step out at King Charles I’s trial but there was no falling out between him and Cromwell until the latter had Farifax’s son-in-law arrested a few weeks before Cromwell’s death. In fact he remained Lord General of the Commonwealth forces until 1650 when he didn’t want to pre-emptively attack Scotland in fear he’d get mooned. Also, Fairfax and Cromwell didn’t reconcile at the latter’s deathbed.)

Oliver Cromwell lived in Cambridge around 1640. (He lived in Ely from 1636-1647, not Cambridge.)

Oliver Cromwell presented motion in Parliament demanding the Earl of Strafford’s death for misleading the king. (The Earl of Strafford was already impeached on charges of treason with his trial lasting for seven weeks. Strafford was able to successfully defend himself against any charge presented to him in court. Also, it was John Pym who proposed a bill of attainer for Strafford’s death, not Cromwell.)

After the Battle of Edgehill, Oliver Cromwell returned to Cambridge to create his New Model Army. (He actually returned to Cambridge to develop his disciplined Ironsides cavalry. And while the New Model Army was based on many of his ideas, Sir Thomas Fairfax was actually in charge with Cromwell as his lieutenant-general.)

Oliver Cromwell was a driven and ruthless man filled with religious zeal whose conscience forced him into a course he didn’t wish when circumstances intervene. (Sure he was a ruthless man filled with religious zeal, but his character and religious views also lead him to his darker actions during the Second English Civil War and in Ireland, which is the reason as an Irish Catholic, I don’t really have much love for this man.)

Oliver Cromwell ended up creating his own military dictatorship called the Protectorate because it was forced by the incompetence and greed of the Rump Parliament which was a benevolent dictatorship providing schools and universities as well as a proud, prosperous, God-fearing nation. (Uh, his dismissal of the Rump Parliament had more to do with his growing unhappiness with the lack of progress made and dismissed it by force. However, he didn’t set up the Protectorate until after setting up a religious assembly to run the country {which failed to work together and ultimately dismissed itself}. Still, he never promised to provide schools and universities but the country was at peace and did prosper, yet it was not much of a benevolent dictatorship as Richard Harris put it in the 1970 film {just ask the Irish or anyone who knows he banned theater, sport, and Christmas}.)

Roundheads:

The Roundhead New Model Army wore black and gold hopped coats. (They wore red coats since they were the original “red coats.” British soldiers would be known as “red coats” ever since.)

The Roundheads were significantly outnumbered by the Royalists at the Battle of Naseby in June 1645. (This was the other way around with the Roundheads outnumbering Royalists 2-t0-1.)

Oliver Cromwell Jr. was killed during the Battle of Naseby in 1645. (He died of smallpox while in garrison at Newport Pagnell.)

The Rump Parliament was dissolved after Oliver Cromwell was offered the crown. (He dissolved the Rump Parliament before becoming leader of the British Protectorate, which was before he was offered the crown.)

John Pym was pronounced dead in 1646. (He died in 1643.)

Roundheads wore red sashes. (Royalists had red sashes. Roundheads had tawny or blue ones.)

Denzil Holles was Speaker of the House of Commons. (He never was.)

Sir Thomas Fairfax:

Thomas Fairfax voted in Parliament in 1647. (He became a Member of Parliament in 1654.)

Thomas Fairfax was present at King Charles I’s trial. (He wasn’t but his wife Anne was before being forcibly removed after telling the court what she thought of them.)

Thomas Fairfax was addressed as Lord Fairfax throughout the English Civil Wars. (He didn’t become a Baron until 1648. Before then, he was addressed as “Sir.”)

Henry Ireton:

Henry Ireton was among the delegation of MPs who offered Oliver Cromwell the crown. (Cromwell wasn’t offered the crown until near the end of his life in 1657. By that time, his son-in-law Ireton had been dead for six years. Not only that, but Ireton was never an MP.)

Henry Ireton was Oliver Cromwell’s cousin who was a sanctimonious Puritan bigot and a terrible general. (He was Cromwell’s son-in-law and no bigot to say the least {at least by 17th century standards}. He was also a moderate and a talented general.)

Robert Devereux, 3rd Earl of Essex (not to confuse with Elizabeth I’s boy toy who was his dad):

The Earl of Essex led the Parliamentarian forces at the Battle of Edgehill who agreed on a parley with the Royalists to start the battle at 9 am. Yet, an anxious Oliver Cromwell orders the first shot. (Essex did command the battle but it started at 3pm and it was him who gave the  order to fire. Also, Cromwell was late for the battle and only had command of 60 horsemen out of 13,000 men.)

Royalists:

The Battle of Edgehill was a Royalist victory. (The outcome was inconclusive with about 1500 combined losses, which ended on the second day.)

“Behold the head of a traitor!” was said after Charles I was beheaded. (They weren’t, especially by the executioner who wished to remain anonymous.)

Queen Henrietta Maria was a scheming Lady Macbeth type woman who was in a half-hearted struggle against her husband. (She was a French Catholic Queen of England and sister of Louis XIII who wasn’t popular with many of her Protestant subjects thinking that Charles I was trying to re-Catholicize the English church {he mostly wanted power though and refused to compromise}. Still, he really loved and accepted his wife and though Protestant, was not nearly the religious bigot Cromwell and his Puritans ended up as {at least Charles I never made bloodthirsty raids on Ireland and Scotland who hate Cromwell to this day}. Oh, he did? Crap.)

Thomas Wentworth, Earl of Strafford:

The Earl of Strafford advised King Charles I against recalling Parliament to fund a military campaign in Northern Scotland. (Strafford actually advised King Charles I to do this.)

The Earl of Strafford and Queen Henrietta Maria plead with King Charles I to arrest those in Parliament who gave Charles I  a list of grievances for the king to address in order to finance the conflict. (It’s unlikely this happened  since King Charles I didn’t arrest anyone. He just shut Parliament down. Yet, he had to recall Parliament a short time later to ask for more money after his army was defeated by the Scots.)

King Charles I:

King Charles I was brought to trial for planning another English Civil War. (The Second English Civil War was fought and he was only put on trial after his second defeat. Also, the Parliamentarians kind of expected this to happen and acted accordingly.)

King Charles I had light hair. (Portraits depict him having darker hair. Yet, like Sir Alec Guinness, he wasn’t a physically impressive man)

King Charles I was tried by the House of Commons. (He was tried by the Rump Parliament that remained after “Pride’s Purge.” )

Parliament questioned the witnesses in front of King Charles I during his trial. (King Charles I was only present during the first few days of his trial which consisted of questioning the king of the charges. He was dismissed from Court before the trial actually took place.)

King Charles I was a weak-willed and indecisive man strongly influenced by his counselors and his strong-willed wife. Furthermore, he saw himself as a man chosen by God to and driven to do anything to preserve the dignity of the position because he couldn’t compromise. (Sure this makes a sympathetic Sir Alec Guinness portrayal but it’s not the King Charles I known to history. Sure he believed God chose him to be king and that he was a polite family man of good moral character. However, this guy believed in the divine right of kings to rule and was absolutely pissed off when Parliament tried to exact more power to him in exchange for finances. He tried to work around it by levying fines himself in a very unpopular move between 1629-1640. Also, he tried to impose religious uniformity on the Scottish church causing them to rebel as well as married a French Catholic princess he faithfully loved. Not to mention, other monarchs have compromised with Parliament including his old man James I who also believed in the divine right of kings. Charles I didn’t believe he had any need to compromise and thought he was only answerable to God. Also, he’s one of those reasons why the monarch isn’t allowed to enter the House of Commons in Great Britain today. King Charles I may not have been as bad as some history books say but he was anything but weak-willed and indecisive as well as greedy for power {though unlike his dad, didn’t understand how power actually worked}.)

Sir Edward Hyde:

Sir Edward Hyde was knighted by 1641. (He wasn’t a peer until 1661.)

Sir Edward Hyde testified against King Charles I. (He turned against the king, but never gave testimony at his trial. In fact, he was out of the country at the time.)

Sir Edward Hyde notified the five members of Parliament of King Charles I’s intention to arrest them with 500 men. All but Oliver Cromwell (It was Lady Carlisle who was John Pym’s lover and Queen Henrietta Maria’s friend who notified the the members. Also, Cromwell wasn’t even one of the five MPs with an arrest warrant so he couldn’t make his stand as seen in the 1970 film. Still, King Charles I sent 400 soldiers after the five MPs not 100 and by that time they had already fled. Charles I then pursued them into the city of London but fled the capital with his family after he failed to find them.)

Restoration:

King Charles II:

Charles II was impotent. (He was anything but since he was a known womanizer who fathered at least 14 kids with seven mistresses.)

King Charles II was a fun loving and sophisticated king who brought back the good things in life after the Puritan excesses of Cromwell’s republic and the bloody civil wars. (Maybe, but he was also a diehard absolutist {though this kind of runs in his family}, amazingly unprincipled, and more willing to forsake freedom of religion than Cromwell {as per agreement with the Scots in the later civil wars}. While in actual power, he was inept in actual government and brought England to the nadir of its strength in two disastrous wars against a nation that had sheltered him in exile {France}. Also, was miserable in war and his all his attempts to get the crown back by force failed so he didn’t become king until Parliament asked him to come back. Still, he was nice to his wife and mistresses. As for Cromwell’s republic, it was more of a theocratic military dictatorship than anything.)

King Charles II loved his King Charles spaniels. (Yes, but they weren’t referred to as King Charles spaniels at the time.)

John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester:

John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester and Elizabeth Barry were lovers in an exclusive relationship. (Yes, they were lovers for five years and had a daughter together but the Earl of Rochester was also happily married with three legitimate children {though he had plenty on the side}. Barry also had affairs with other men and had another daughter with Rochester’s friend George Etheridge.)

John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester’s nose fell off as a result of syphilis. (Syphilis or not, his nose didn’t fall off. It’s generally thought he died from alcoholism and STDs though one person theorizes he suffered from Bright’s disease. However, he may not have converted to Christianity on his deathbed, since this tidbit is disputed by scholars on accuracy.)

Nell Gwynn:

Nell Gwynn became a British actress after taking up with King Charles II. (She was already a noted theater personality before she met the Merry Monarch.)

Nell Gwynn seduced Charles II into banning women roles being played by men in 1660. (She was ten years old at the time and wouldn’t meet Charles II until eight years later. Thus, there was no way this would’ve happened.)

Edward Kynaston:

Edward  Kynaston was reduced to playing bawdy songs in drag at music halls after a short career in the limelight on the stage as a female impersonator. This was because a law was passed in 1660 that forbade men from playing women’s roles. (Yes, this guy was a real female impersonator in the limelight when the days of men playing women came to an end. And yes, men couldn’t play women’s roles for a time after 1660. However, though he lost his career of playing women’s roles, he ended up becoming just as successful playing men {including Othello} as well as married and had children. So he actually didn’t become unemployable contrary to Stage Beauty {unlike some of his peers so his fall may be forgiven}. Also, I don’t think music halls came around until the 1830s.)

Edward Kynaston was a lover of the George Villiers, the Duke of Buckingham. (There were rumors and lampoons, but we’re not sure if any of that was true. Yet, he’s said to be sexually ambiguous.)

Edward Kynaston’s dresser Maria Hughes ended up becoming one of the first actresses in Great Britain under “Margaret Hughes” who he later fell in love with. (Contrary to Stage Beauty,  the only person Kynaston and Margaret Hughes may have known in real life was Margaret’s patron Sir Charles Sedley, whom she was said to be his lover {as well as rumored to be sleeping with Charles II}. However, Margaret Hughes was probably her real name and she wasn’t Kynaston’s dresser nor lover. Her great love was King Charles II’s cousin, Prince Rupert on the Rhine {known for taking his poodle into battle} and she would have a daughter by him as well as remain with him for the rest of his life.)

Elizabeth Barry:

Elizabeth Barry was a struggling an untalented actress until she met John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester who coached her. (This is a myth written by Edward Curll famous for his inaccurate biographies. She was already established actress in both comedy and tragedy and she wasn’t considered an attractive woman. Still, she did receive acting lessons from the Earl of Rochester for two years before becoming his mistress.)

King James II:

James II was a cruel tyrant. (He’s more or less seen now as a stupid, stubborn man with an exaggerated sense of his own rights. Of course, being openly Catholic and having a healthy son by his second wife didn’t help his case with the British. Also, he was in favor of religious toleration among all Christians, which was a rather progressive policy in Europe at the time but this was one of reasons why the mainstream Anglicans hated him and wanted him deposed {because they thought such policy would make England and Scotland officially Catholic}. Nevertheless, New York {city and state} was named after this guy.)

James II was king in 1690. (He had been deposed by then by his daughter and son-in-law during the Glorious Revolution.)

Other:

Saint Paul’s Cathedral was designed during the Great Plague in the 17th century. (It wasn’t built until after the Great Fire of London in 1666.)

The Earl of Essex and the Earl of Manchester sat in the House of Commons. (They sat in the House of Lords, which would prohibit them from sitting in the House of Commons.)

History of the World According to the Movies: Part 30 – The French Revolution

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A still of the imposing guillotine in the 1935 version of Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities which starred Ronald Colman (known for his great sexy English voice). Still, this execution device would be seen as a symbol of the French Revolution in its later years, especially during the Reign of Terror when everyone turned on each other and everything turned to shit.

Unfortunately, at the close of the 18th century, French society during Bourbon France wasn’t doing quite as well as literature would make you think it would be. For one, a series of wars and extravagances of the wealthy nobility and royalty would put France deeply and debt. Not to mention, by 1763, France would lose a major colonial war with Great Britain and gave up its claims in North America and India. France also had a series of monarchs who ascended the throne at very young ages with Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette being very much unprepared to run a country, let alone an absolute monarchy. Furthermore, you had a rigid social system more or less akin to castes, a famine making bread too expensive for the average person to buy, bitter, crude, ranting over “the Austrian Bitch” at Versailles, and a arbitrary non-income based tax system greater with tax demand greater than some people’s incomes. No wonder why Madame De Farge was such a bitter and angry bitch in A Tale of Two Cities. Still, another factor I should mention in regarding the French Revolution was The Affair of the Diamond Necklace which was a great big con by a couple of fake nobles who hired a prostitute to pose as Marie Antoinette to buy a certain expensive necklace which duped the court and further damaged the French royalty’s reputation (which has also been made into a movie). Nevertheless, it began with the storming of the Bastille on the progressive ideas inspired by the American Revolution France helped fund. It ended up with the Reign of Terror, the guillotine, and political extremism and chaos. Nevertheless, movies set in this time period tend to get a lot of stuff wrong, which I shall list.

Note: I see a lot of articles relating to the French Revolution to Les Miserables. However Les Mis doesn’t take place during the French Revolution (though the historic events depicted were inspired by it) since it takes place in the 19th century after Napoleon. Also, if it took place during the French Revolution of 1789, all the guys would be wearing 18th century outfits and the women would have dresses without corsets, which they aren’t.

The Affair of the Diamond Necklace:

Jeanne de Saint-Remy de Valois and her family had a family estate. (They were poor and living in the Paris slums {though she was a descendent of Henri II through an illegitimate son but her ancestors had squandered all their money}.)

Jeanne de Saint-Remy de Valois confessed to stealing the famous diamond necklace after her trial. (She would’ve never admitted to this. If so, then she probably said she was dead broke and deserved the best of everything.)

Jeanne de Saint-Remy de Valois’ parents were murdered after speaking out against the corruption of the monarchy and their house was burned. (Her alcoholic dad died of natural causes and her household servant mother abandoned her and her siblings for another man. She and her siblings were eventually taken in by a noblewoman after being forced to beg. Also, her dad went around moaning about how he should have loads of free cash for being an illegitimate descendant of a king as did his daughter. Yet his Valois descent was legally recognized. Talk about an entitlement complex.)

Jeanne de Saint-Remy de Valois presented the diamond necklace to Marie Antoinette in 1786 but she declined. (She presented it in 1778 and 1781. Marie Antoinette declined both times.)

Jeanne de Saint-Remy de Valois used the diamonds from the necklace to buy her family estate. (She was a con-artist who tried to use the necklace to gain wealth, power, and royal patronage. Her husband Comte Nicholas la Motte was a con-artist, too, as well as after the same things {he may have had a fake noble title}. Instead, she and her husband helped bring on the scandalous royal Affair of the Diamond Necklace.)

Nicholas de la Motte sold some of the diamonds in Paris. (He sold them in London. Strangely, this guy was actually played by Adrien Brody who’d later play a more different kind of conman than what La Motte was {a bastard who let everyone else involved with the Affair of the Diamond Necklace take the fall by catching the first boat to London}.)

Cardinal Rohan harbored significant doubts about Jeanne de Saint-Remy de Valois. (He was too trusting of her for his own good and he fell for Jeanne’s scheme because he wanted to be in Queen Marie Antoinette’s favor again. She and her husband even hired a prostitute to play the French Queen buying the diamond necklace from him during a secret nighttime rendezvous at a Versailles garden. The Cardinal and the court fell for it.)

Nicole d’Oliva was a witness at the Diamond Necklace trial. (She was a prostitute as well as one of the accused who tried fleeing to Brussels but was captured and imprisoned in the Bastille {where she gave birth}. She was acquitted for impersonating the queen because she was a simple, uneducated woman with a baby in tow.)

The French Revolution:

Danton was a moderate liberal revolutionary killed by the revolutionary excesses by the Reign of Terror. (Danton may not have been as hot on the Reign of Terror as some of his fellow Jacobins would, but he commended huge loyalty and respect from the militant Parisian crowd who was at times more extreme than the Jacobins.)

Louis Philippe II Duke of Orleans was the primary orchestrator of the French Revolution that he cooked up to seize the throne, used forgery and impersonation to frame Marie Antoinette for fraud in the Affair of the Diamond Necklace, and cast the deciding vote for the execution of Louis XVI. (Actually, he didn’t orchestrate the French Revolution, but he did support it at first only to turn against its excesses, saved several people from being executed, and was eventually guillotined himself. Still, unlike most aristocrats, Philippe did believe in the principles of Rousseau and Montesquieu as well as used his position to support liberalism and democratic reform. And yes, he did vote for the execution of Louis XVI though he was hardly a decider and some took it as an attempt by him to get rid of the king and seize the throne for himself.)

Maximilien de Robespierre sent some secret police thugs to destroy the print shop where Camille Desmoulins had printed Le Vieux Cordelier, which popularized the Dantonists attempts to turn back the Reign of Terror. (Robespierre did no such thing but he did have Desmoulins and his wife executed {not his child}.)

Fabre d’Egalantine was present at the Tennis Court Oath. (He didn’t because he wasn’t a member of the Estates General in 1789. Thus, contrary to Danton, Robespierre would have no reason to tell Jacques-Louis David to exclude him in his painting depicting it.)

Maximilien Robespierre was an icy, neurotic, ugly and inhuman man. (Yet, he was the model of the modern French intellectual who was the touchstone of orthodoxy in the French Revolution. He was a theorist turned man of action who laid out party lines and devised strategy in the interest of the masses. Nevertheless, as fanatical as he was, there were still people more bloodthirsty than him. Not to mention, he co-authored The Declaration of the Rights of Man with Thomas Paine, advocated against capital punishment, and was involved in such causes as abolishing slavery, eliminating property qualification to be represented in government, and granting rights to Protestants and Jews. Still, he was actually quite attractive as far as his portraits go. Basically his artistic depictions vary according to what people thought of him.)

Louis de Saint-Just was a young hippie of the 18th century. (Yes, he was one of the younger French Revolutionaries but he was no hippie. He’s described by his contemporaries as a fanatical egomaniac who was more daring and outspoken than Robespierre. Still, he was respected for his strong convictions despite his flaws, which were fairly moderate. Oh, and he wasn’t a warm and fuzzy kind of guy.)

Louis-Antoine St. Just had a cousin who was an actress and married an English noblemen traveling incognito to save French aristocrats. (I’m not sure about this. Probably something made up by Baroness Orczy in her Scarlet Pimpernel novels.)

Guillotines on wheels were available around 1789. (The earliest record of a guillotine was in 1792, just in time to slice King Louis XVI’s head. And there was never one on wheels or even one small enough to fit into someone’s front door. Actually a real guillotine was about 12-15 feet high and had to be disassembled for transport.)

Most of the nobles fleeing during the French Revolution were innocent people persecuted by the barbarous French republicans. (In the earliest years they were fleeing the French Revolution because they hated every single thing about it from the beginning especially being deprived of their unearned class privileges. Nevertheless, neither was better than the other. Still, with every Charles Darnay, there’s a Marquis de St. Evremonde who made Madame De Farge look like a girl scout. At least Madame De Farge’s anger is understandable, but it’s how she takes out her rage which makes her a bad person.)

Hundreds of innocent people were guillotined every day during the Reign of Terror. (The Reign of Terror lasted for 14 months in which the average people executed a day was two, and the number was much smaller in total. Among those guillotined were sleazy profiteers, troublemakers, military deserters, and petty crooks whom any court in its normal course of business would’ve hanged in a heartbeat. They also executed people who resisted them as well. Charles Dickens may exaggerate the body count of the French Revolution as well, but he’s right when he said that the British government was no less oppressive to criminals nor the poor either. Of course, his A Tale of Two Cities is much less biased about the French Revolution than other 19th century accounts in his language.)

The French Revolution’s main purpose was to kill aristocrats. (Actually it was to set a liberal and progressive system of government like that in the United States after the American Revolution. They wanted to establish a constitution, give all rights to the people and just rights. Yet, they couldn’t just abolish the monarchy and aristocracy just like that who didn’t want to lose their power. They tried a constitutional monarchy approach but it didn’t take due to aristocrat resistance, the spineless tendency of the monarchy to switch sides, loss of control, and lack of organization which led to the Reign of Terror.)

The Dauphin Louis-Charles was smuggled out of France during the French Revolution and found safe haven in Austria. (The boy died in prison at the age of ten in 1794 or 1795. Sorry, Baroness Orczy, but even the Scarlet Pimpernel couldn’t have saved him. Still, the French revolutionary government did keep his death a secret to bargain with the Austrians.)

Maximilien Robespierre was waspish, posturing, and campy. (He was always considered prim and priggish.)

Paul Chauvelin was a member and agent of the Committee of Public Safety and died at Thermidor. (He’s based on a real person named Bernard-Francois, Marquis of Chauvelin who was a notable military officer who served with Rochambeau during the American Revolution as well as assistant ambassador to England during the French Revolution. However, he was never involved with the Committee of Public Safety and survived Thermidor. He died in 1832.)

Miscellaneous:

Everyone in the Third Estate was a peasant under the Acien Regime. (Actually the Third Estate consisted of people who worked for a living and that also included France’s middle and professional class as well. In fact, most of the leaders of the French Revolution were from the middle class as well were college educated.)

Conditions at the Bastille prison were terrible at the time of Louis XVI. (The most horrid thing about the Bastille at the time was that you could end up there without any trial which gave its reputation as a symbol of despotism, oppression of liberty, censorship, royal tyranny, and torture. However, the dungeon cells of the Bastille were no longer in use during Louis XVI’s reign and most prisoners were housed in the middle layers of the building into cells 16 feet across with rudimentary furniture and often, a window. Most prisoners could bring their own possessions {the Marquis de Sade brought a vast quantity of fixtures and fittings as well as his entire library}. Dogs and cats were permitted to control the rat population while drinking, smoking, and card playing were allowed. Oh, and the Bastille governor was given a daily fixed amount for each rank of prisoner with 3 livres for the poor {more than what some Frenchmen lived on} and over five times that for higher ranking ones. So poor Dr. Manette probably didn’t have it so bad.)

French in the Acien regime was backward and stagnant as well as in need of a revolution. (Yes, there was a lot of poverty in France during the 18th century. Interest in enlightened science had never been stronger with guys like the Mongolfier brothers and the Lavosiers with their work in chemistry {both in and outside the scientific realm since they were a happily married couple [Hollywood, please make a movie with them]}. Louis XVI took on invention and innovation and the government was reforming food production, public health, and more. Philanthropy was plentiful and there were schools for the disabled. Arts also continued to evolve and develop. Not to mention, censorship had ended by the 1770s which led to an explosion of the press. Also, you had enlightenment thinkers like Montesquieu and Voltaire. The Industrial Revolution had also taken hold of France yet not to the same extent as Great Britain and 25% of the pre-Revolutionary French nobility had originated by someone buying their way to a noble title. Still, France did have money problems and every king after Henri IV had ascended the throne as minor.)

Most of the French nobility were a homogeneous group of overfed and debauched abusers. (It was a mix bunch of up and coming ennobled entrepreneurs as well as impoverished nobles from old families.)

French prisoners appeared in the courtroom during their trials. (Those facing criminal charges in France at the time didn’t have habeas corpus or Miranda rights. Most of the time they didn’t know what they were accused of or their sentence until it was carried out.)

French had tight moral standards regarding sex. (In France, it was pretty much anything goes during the Ancien Regime at least at the upper crust. Besides, at the time most people married who their parents wanted them to and as long as they did their duties, they could have as many lovers as they wanted. Also, many married couples in France at the time didn’t have anything to do with each other.)

France was racially equal in the 1780s. (Sorry, but this is just plain wrong. Also, The Declaration of the Rights of Man only applied to white men though slavery would be abolished in France during 1794 though Napoleon would reintroduce it in 1802.)

History of the World According to the Movies: Part 29 – Bourbon France

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Whenever a movie takes place in Bourbon France, it will usually be an adaptation of Alexandre Dumas’ The Three Musketeers for some reason. Still, it’s kind of ironic that Charlie Sheen’s character later ends up a priest, but not a very good one. Of course, this is the 1993 Disney adaptation of the Dumas novel.

We come to an area of European history we like to know as the Cavalier years since a lot of swashbuckler movies usually take place at this time. However, this was also a period great artistic and scientific development. The 17th and 18th centuries were the times of the Scientific Revolution and Enlightenment, a time of great literature and music, as well as other cultural feats like baroque and classical architecture. It was also a time that men wore wigs, tights, cosmetics, and flashy clothes but were still considered specimens of masculinity nevertheless. Yet, it was a time of civil war in England and Russia, colonial empire (which we covered already), and wars over political matters or just for the hell of it. Still, at least by the time France entered the 30 Years War on the Protestant side, Europe was no longer fighting over religion. Nevertheless, this is a highly romanticized period since many swashbuckling novels written in the 1800s also take place in this period, especially in France.

The Bourbon Dynasty would start late in the 16th century with Henri of Navarre and continue until the French Revolution for the most part. Still, this is the era of the Three Musketeers, Cyrano de Bergerac, and a lot of other elements we’d associate with Cavalier France. In cultural media, it seems that Cardinal Richelieu tends to be present in more Three Musketeers adaptations than he ever was at Mass as well as appeared in many, many films. Still, it’s no wonder why many swashbuckling movies take place in this period since this was a time when France enjoyed a cultural heyday with literature, music, colonies, science, philosophy, and architecture. However, despite all the beauty associated Cavalier France, money problems and absolute monarchy started by the Sun King Louis XIV would later come to bite the country in the ass and so would a French Revolution ensue but that’s for another post. Yet, as expected, there are plenty of things movies still get wrong about Bourbon France, which I shall list accordingly.

Bourbon France:

Cardinal Richelieu:

Cardinal Richelieu was a slimy and evil politician who tried to undermine King Louis XIII and taking France for himself. (In France, he’s actually a national hero who helped turn the nation into a seventeenth century world power and saved it from being encircled and destroyed by the Hapsburgs. Also, Louis XIII relied on him a great deal for good reason.)

Cyrano de Bergerac:

Cyrano de Bergerac was shy among women because of he was insecure of his long nose and managed to woo his cousin Roxane through a good-looking man named Christian. (For one, Christian and Roxane are fictional characters. Besides, the real Cyrano didn’t concern himself about being attractive toward women because he was gay and had a boyfriend.)

Cyrano de Bergerac had a huge nose. (It wasn’t as big as they make it out to be in adaptations nor did he obsess about it.)

Louis XIII:

Louis XIII was gay. (We’re not sure what he was. Most historians say he’s bisexual and leave it at that, which is fair.)

Louis XIII was a bumbling and incompetent king. (Louis XIII was dependent on Cardinal Richelieu to govern France {as well as smart enough to let him run the country}, but he wasn’t any way incompetent since they did put down a nobility revolt, established the Academie Francaise, and oversaw overseas expansion. Still, he ascended the throne as a child.)

D’Artagnan:

D’Artagnan was a victim of assassination in 1662. (Though he’s more remembered as being a character in The Three Musketeers, he actually did exist. However, he died in battle during a siege at Maastricht more than a decade later caused by a musket ball at his throat. Nevertheless, he does have a statue in France. Also, he didn’t have an affair with Anne of Austria. However, he really was captain of the Musketeers though. Still, he didn’t become a Musketeer until 1633, which was five years after Dumas’ famous novel ended.)

Monsieur Treville:

Monsieur Treville was captain of the Musketeers in 1625. (He didn’t become captain until after Dumas novel ends, and at this time, he’s actually starting out his career as one. Dumas sort of got some of the dates wrong.)

Louis XIV:

King Louis XIV was remembered as a generous king who reigned in peace and prosperity. (He’s considered by the French public as an authoritarian and heartless king, if not a political genius. Also, he wasn’t replaced by his brother Philippe of Orleans. Not to mention, he spent a lot of his reign at war, especially in the later years. )

King Louis XIV was unmarried in 1662. (He was already hitched to the Infanta Maria Teresa of Spain. Not only that, he already had fathered at least two children to two different women by them.)

Louis XIV and Philippe of Orleans were twins. (Louis XIV was two years older and they weren’t born out of wedlock either. Also, neither of them looked like Leonard DiCaprio.)

Philippe of Orleans:

Philippe of Orleans was the Man in the Iron Mask. (Philippe and the Man in the Iron Mask were two totally different individuals. Heck, the Man in the Iron Mask was most likely a man named Eustache Dauger de Cavoye {as far the prison registry is concerned} who was held in various jails for 34 years. His imprisonment probably had nothing to do with some secret conspiracy. Oh, and the iron mask wasn’t really made out of iron but black velvet as well as worn voluntarily. Also, Philippe was very much in the open at the same time as a notorious homosexual who was able to marry twice and have several children.)

Louis XV:

Louis XV heard the music of Mozart’s Don Giovanni during a lavish ball. (Louis XV died in 1774 while Don Giovanni was composed in 1787. Thus, Louis XV could never have heard it.)

Louis XV was an ugly old fart. (He was known for being a very handsome man.)

Louis XVI:

Louis XVI was a tyrant. (He was more or less weak and indecisive as a ruler of France. His predecessors were though.)

Louis XVI was afraid of sex. (He wasn’t able to have sex with Marie Antoinette because he had a problem with his wee-wee, to put it in a family friendly context. However, he did have it fixed and they did have kids.)

Louis XVI was a weak man afraid of his shadow. (He was smart and socially awkward. Yet, he was too young and unprepared to be king as well as especially unprepared to contend with the responsibility of fixing France’s failing finances caused by his predecessors.)

Louis XVI grew fat during his marriage to Marie Antoinette. (He had been overweight even before he even met his wife, though he probably did pack on the pounds as he grew older, but not to the degree of his brother.)

Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette shared a bedchamber. (They had separate rooms except when Louis was making one of his infrequent rounds to get Marie interested.)

Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI managed have sex a few months after their marriage. (It took them seven years to consummate it.)

Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette had 3 children. (They had four children but three only survived infancy.)

The marriage between Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette was a disaster. (Actually this would only apply to their sex life in their first seven years. However, both partners were faithful and they certainly had a relationship of mutual love and respect {better than how many royal couples had it}. Their marriage wasn’t perfect but it wasn’t a complete failure either.)

Marie Antoinette:

Marie Antoinette’s extravagant habits of shopping, gambling, partying, and building her country house bankrupted the French treasury. She was unpopular because she screwed other men and was manipulated her husband. (Actually France’s money problems had been the fault of her husband and his family, not hers since Versailles was home to an entire culture of great extravagance among the royalty and nobility {and the royal treasury was broke long before she arrived}. Not mention, more of France’s money was spent on the American Revolution than the Queen of France. Even if Marie Antoinette had a spending problem, she wasn’t the only one nor was she the first and she probably spent a lot to have friends as well distract herself from her unsatisfactory sex life with Louis XVI. Also, she never screwed anyone but her husband and they didn’t have sex in the first years of their marriage which was his problem not hers. As for what did her in, it was the fact she was the target of rumor and criticism as well as the fact she came from Austria which made her unpopular with the court. Oh, and she didn’t say, “Let them eat cake” either {Rousseau said this when she was a child}. Thus, Marie Antoinette was a scapegoat not an instigator.)

Marie Antoinette spoke in a French accent. (She was Austrian.)

Marie Antoinette was a typical teenage girl. (Who the daughter of a powerful Austrian Empress and married to the French heir to the throne at the time during the 18th century. Sorry, Sofia Coppola, but by 18th century standards, she wasn’t a typical teenage girl.)

Marie Antoinette was unpopular in France from the get-go. (She was actually extremely popular in France when she arrived. People liked how pretty and kind she was as well as the kind of charities she pursued. In some ways, they viewed her and Louis XVI as a chance to refresh the French monarchy and give it the life that had started to seep under Louis XV. Of course, this wasn’t to be since royal spending and common libels at the time as well as the changing political situation in France {while excluding the poor voices from government} would take a toll on her popularity.)

Marie Antoinette was Louis XVI’s puppet master. (Her mother Empress Maria Theresa wished she was this but she had no influence whatsoever on her husband’s policies nor did he even consult or inform her on matters of state.)

Marie Antoinette had a strong lesbian relationship with her courtier Gabrielle de Polastron, duchesse de Polignac. (They did have a strong relationship but whether it was anything more than platonic is unclear since close female friendships weren’t uncommon in this period.)

Marie Antoinette was blond. (She was a strawberry blonde since Madame du Barry referred to as, “the little redhead.”)

Marie Antoinette’s rift between her and Cardinal Rohan was over an inappropriate joke about her mother. (Actually it had more to do with Rohan being the ambassador to Austria at a time when Poland was being torn up. He sent word to Marie Antoinette about how her mother was crying over Poland’s woes with a handkerchief in one hand and a sword in another. Unfortunately, she wasn’t on good terms with Madame du Barry who read Rohan’s letter aloud at a dinner party. Marie Antoinette’s relationship with the Cardinal went downhill ever since. )

Marie Antoinette was nasty, demanding, and confident queen. (She was just a naïve party girl who didn’t have the opportunity to develop into a ruler during her short reign but did try to live up to her role.)

Marie Antoinette was born during the spring time. (Yes, she was assuming if her birthplace was Argentina because she was born in November and was from Austria.)

Marie Antoinette was a frivolous woman. (She was a teetotaler who ate frugally as well as was notorious for modesty {but this was pre-revolutionary France}. She had high moral standards and prohibited uncouth or off-color remarks in her presence as well as exercised a special vigilance over anyone in her care. She was also a charitable woman as well as a devoted mother to her children, despite being a party girl in her youth.)

Marie wasn’t a virgin when she married Louis XVI. (She was and would remain so for seven years until she and Louis XVI managed to consummate it.)

Marquis de Sade:

Marquis de Sade was a shadowy and villainous rapist. (He was a little more than an S&M enthusiast and pervy fiction author. He was also a writer, philosopher, revolutionary, and politician. He was a proponent of extreme freedom unrestrained by morality, religion, or law. I’m not sure what he’d think of Fifty Shades of Grey though.)

The Marquis de Sade was a martyr to the oppression and censorship of church and state. (He wasn’t. Also, his initial incarceration had nothing to do with his writing but with sexual scandals involving servants, prostitutes, and his sister-in-law. The reason why he was at Charenton was because he abused the hell out of the insanity defense in order to get a cushy sentence. He was deeply unpopular with the inmates there because of his special treatment and kept under constant police surveillance for good reason.)

Marquis de Sade’s chambermaid served as his liaison to a publisher. (She was actually a woman de Sade had a sexual relationship with since her early teens until close to his death in which she was paid 3 francs for every sexual encounter she had with him. She was 17 at the time and wasn’t murdered by anyone.)

Marquis de Sade was at the height of his literary powers at Charenton as well as tall and trim. (He was past his prime as well as of middling height and perhaps morbidly obese near the end of his life with his writings rather tame but not particularly good.)

Marquis de Sade died a hideous death at middle age. (He died peacefully in his bed at 74.)

The Reign of Terror was caused by de Sade’s best writing of 120 Days of Sodom. (It was written before the French Revolution even took off at the Bastille as well as his other scandalous works that got him in prison. Oh, and Justine wasn’t one of his smuggled works at Charenton but conventional novels as well as a number of plays he worked on throughout his life in hopes they’d be performed. Yet, most of them were soundly rejected by publishers. However, he was involved in theatrical productions there but they were conventional Parisian dramas.)

The Abbe de Coulmier was a young and handsome priest when he met de Sade. (Sure he’s played by a young Joaquin Phoenix, but he was four-foot tall 60-year-old man with severe scoliosis at the time he met de Sade. In many ways, he more or less resembled Yoda than Joaquin Phoenix. Still, he was a pretty corrupt guy at Charenton who gave special privileges to de Sade while the rest of the inmates lived in squalid conditions and were treated very poorly {they were only given minor parts in plays while the major roles went to professional actors}. Coulmier actually ran the place like his own personal palace and was a committed Bonarpartist. He didn’t care about curing the patients since the terror baths and other cruel outdated techniques {like bloodletting and purges} were his ideas and he was deeply unpopular with the inmates. He received complaints from the French medical establishment, largely because he was grossly unqualified. Yet, he never cut out de Sade’s tongue {nor did anyone}.)

Dr. Royar-Collard was a Bonapartist who introduced terror baths and tried to stop plays at Charenton. (The man did neither since it was Coulmier who introduced the terror baths and it was the French authorities who closed the Charenton theater a year after de Sade died, which was before he had any influence on the place. Also, he was a monarchist as well as a reasonable authority figure whose only mistreatment of de Sade was trying to get him thrown out of Charenton because he wasn’t mentally ill and got institutionalized in order to avoid jail. Oh, and he didn’t rape and marry a teenage girl unlike in Quills.)

Life and Times at Versailles:

The Palace at Versailles was a glamorous, elegant and classy place. (It was also a place Louis XIV had built in order to create his cult of personality in order to keep French high ranking nobles in line. Royal residents had no privacy whatsoever. Also, people didn’t bathe and wigs were prone to pest infestation.)

Princess Louise of France was 13 in the year 1765. (She was 28 at the time. She would later become a famous nun. Of course, with an embarrassing dad like Louis XV who could blame her.)

The Palace of Versailles was constructed at the time of Cardinal Richelieu. (He was dead before the palace was even in the planning stages.)

Princess Victoire had a pet Pekingese in 1768. (Europeans didn’t keep these dogs until after the Second Opium War. At this time, the only person who owned a Pekingese was the Chinese Emperor.)

The Comte de Provence (future King Louis XVIII) was the father of the duc d’Angoulême. (This boy was the son of the Comte d’ Artois {future King Charles X} while the Comte de Provence never had any kids with his wife. Interestingly, the duc d’Angoulême would later be Princess Marie-Therese’s husband and pretender Louis XIX.)

Poor servants dressed the residents at the Versailles Palace. (They may have dressed lower nobility but certainly nobody at Versailles. Nobles dressed the royalty there.)

No one at the Court of Versailles was fat. (There were a number of people who were overweight there or even obese. For instance, Louis XVI was kind rotund as a socially awkward young man even when he and Marie Antoinette were married. His brother Comte de Provence {future Louis XVIII} was even fatter {to the extent he was clinically obese} and his weight might have been the reason he had difficulty consummating his marriage with his wife {explaining why they didn’t have kids}. He later ended up becoming too fat to walk and later developed gout. The Polignac set were known for being rowdy, witty, and overindulgent in too much as well as might’ve had members who were overweight.)

Madame Gabrielle de Polignac was a loud, vulgar slut. (She was raised by nuns and was a very refined lady who was an attentive mother to her kids and governess to Marie Antoinette’s children. She wasn’t a saint but she was a woman of charm and discretion who loved simplicity and country life. But Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette kind of slanders her.)

Swedish Count Axel von Fersen and Marie Antoinette met at a masked ball and had a brief affair. (They met at the opera and he was a steady presence in her life, living near Versailles while in France. He even assisted the royal family in their escape to the country. Whether they had sex was unsure {though Fersen was a Casanova in his day} but he certainly didn’t father any of her children nor would they have conducted it without using any kind of discretion. Nevertheless, Marie Antoinette remained completely dutiful to her husband and stuck with him even under the threat of death when people advised her to leave.)

Madame du Barry was banished from the French Court at Versailles in 1786. (She had been banished from Versailles since 1774, the year Louis XV died from smallpox.)

Anne of Austria was Austrian. (She was a Spanish princess. Thus, her name is a misnomer since her name should really be Anne of Spain. Still, why the hell is she called Anne of Austria if she’s from Spain?)

History of the World According to the Movies: Part 28 – The Age of Sail and Other Things

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I know that Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World takes place during the Napoleonic Wars, but if there’s any film that embodies the Age of Sail, it’s this one. Of course, this movie was based on the Aubrey-Maturin bromance series by Patrick O’ Brian with the characters played by Russell Crowe and Paul Bettany. Nevertheless, this is a fairly more accurate film than a lot of Age of Sail films Hollywood has made. Nevertheless, by the standards of his day, Jack Aubrey is a fairly good captain though the contentedness of his crew may not have been typical on a British war ship. I mean there has to be at least many British seamen on the HMS Surprise who didn’t want to be there since many were kidnapped by press gangs at the time, especially since the British Navy’s habit of abducting American sailors led to the War of 1812.

In a way, the age of Colonial Empire in movies could never complete without discussing the Age of Sail which spanned from the 1400s up to the mid-19th century. It was an era of great big wooden ships with high masts, billowing sails, and a crew of jolly old sailors. Of course, these ships were among the primary methods of long distance transportation for nearly 400 years and it’s usually with these ships that European nations were able to become rich, build navies, and create a colonial empire ushering an age of globalization. Nevertheless, naval strength in the Age of Sail also made countries powerful, explaining why Great Britain managed to become a world superpower with an empire that lasted so long. Since Hollywood has made pirate movies and adventure films in the era of colonization or Napoleonic Wars, you will certainly see ships like these time and time again. The Age of Sail is also a highly romanticized era because of how much it has been depicted in movies, books, and television despite that life aboard these sailing vessels wasn’t all that it’s cracked up to be since these were the days that people didn’t have refrigeration, modern medicine, proper sanitation, adequate pest control, or even swimming lessons. Oh, and there were so many things that could kill you.Not to mention, many of the ships in movies tend to look too much alike and are sometimes much bigger than what many of these seafarers would’ve actually used. Yet, this is mainly because smaller ships wouldn’t be good filming locations. Nevertheless, movies continue to romanticize this era and this is where inaccuracies come to play.

The Age of Sail:

Navigation:

Maps were always accurate and precise. (Many times they weren’t. Also, remember that until the mid-18th century, there was no such thing as longitude.)

Ships:

Steel haul tall ships existed in the late 1700s. (They came into fashion 100 years later.)

Late 16th century Dutch ships had arched type sterns. (They had high castle-like sterns. Arched type sterns came a century or two later.)

Wooden sailing ships sailed in every direction in all kinds of weather with the main and topsails square to the masts at all times. (They only did this when navigating by the wind in their favorable direction, and only in good weather.)

Fully rigged wooden sailing ships could be turned simply by spinning the wheel. (There’s a whole array of multi-man complex procedures to turn a ship, even for a close change. They didn’t operate like cars do today. Steam engines and electric motors didn’t exist before the 19th century.)

Disabling the rudder chain cables on a large wooden ship only took a single man a few minutes. (Disabling a rudder chain took a single man days and only with the proper implement.)

A large wooden ship could be successfully operated by a small crew. (I’m not sure if one could be operated by less than ten guys. Then again, one of Magellan’s ships was successfully crewed by eighteen guys by the end {though he had died in the Philippines}. Still, no pre-19th century naval officer would worry about two men trying to steal a ship because it couldn’t be crewed by two guys.)

All British Men of War ships were painted in the “Nelson Checker” pattern around 1720. (This pattern wasn’t common until the Napoleonic Wars when used by Admiral Horatio Nelson.)

18th century wooden ships had a Plimsoll line. (This wasn’t used until the 19th century.)

Wooden ships were always impeccably clean. (These were notoriously filthy and infested with vermin.)

Wooden ships always consisted in wood that was in the best condition whether submerged or not. (Wooden ships weren’t in nearly as ship shape upon returning. They had barnacles on the hull and perhaps rotting wood. Plus, if it’s a warship, there would need to be some repairs and cannon blasts through it. Also, a ship’s carpenter was perhaps the second most valuable person on the ship next to the doctor.)

Damage caused by naval warfare could be fixed in a jiffy. (Somehow in movies, the ship’s carpenters never seem to get killed or they’re able to patch up a ship very quickly. I don’t think fast repair work is possible without power tools.)

Sailors:

Most wooden-ship era sailors volunteered to go out to sea and were lawful, clean-cut, and loyal members of the crew. (Being a sailor was one of the shittiest jobs in the era of wooden ships. Most sailors in the Royal Navy were kidnapped by thugs as a four-limbed drunk at a local tavern and were forced to serve on merchant ships. “Pressed men” were paid less than volunteers {if paid at all}, shackled onto ships while on port so they wouldn’t escape, and were whipped for any minor offense in the navy rulebook they didn’t get to read. They also had little or no chance of advancement and lived in appalling conditions. And of course, they had to deal with storms, crowded quarters, being away from their families, and tropical diseases. 75% of pressed sailors were dead within two years. Also, many Golden Age pirates started out as British sailors.)

Most sailors were content with serving on board a ship. (A lot ship crews weren’t really content because many sailors didn’t want to go to sea in the first place. The British Royal Navy recruited press gangs to kidnap four-limbed men on a regular basis. Also, the British Navy’s impressment of American sailors was one of the reasons for the War of 1812.)

Sailors mostly swabbed the deck on ships. (They did a lot of other stuff than just that.)

Most sailors knew how to swim. (Most of them didn’t and very few captains offered swimming lessons to their crews they didn’t really think it was worth it since swimming would just delay the inevitable or that it would encourage them to jump ship and desert when close to shore {remember this is a time when sailors were treated poorly and many were forced at sea against their will}. Many sailors usually expected a quick death if they were thrown overboard anyway. 16th century chroniclers of sea-life described that swimming and diving skills were valued because they were so rare.)

Drunken sailors were looked down upon. (Actually all sailors were looked down upon whether they were drunk or not. Also, officers thought a drunken sailor was less of security risk because drunk sailors were less likely to mutiny under horrific conditions. Yet, this doesn’t mean they were less likely to get flogged though.)

Most sailors were heterosexual and were willing to delay sexual gratification. (Maybe some sailors but it didn’t seem to prevent them screwing whores at ports, contracting STDs, and having a reputation of being sodomites. And sometimes in situations with a crew full of men, let’s just say there’s so many naval related gay stereotypes for a reason. Not to mention, there may be some gay homoerotic undertones in Moby Dick and Billy Budd. Make that what you will.)

Sailors were usually clean shaven by the time they returned home. (During the Age of Sail, most of them would’ve returned with a full beard since shaving requires fresh water and supplies were limited on a ship. Most pirate captains would certainly have had one.)

Most seamen were very healthy, well fed, and well cared for on a wooden ship. (Medicine before the 19th century wasn’t very reliable and naval seamen didn’t really have a long lifespan since there were so many ways to die on the ship like drowning, disease, starvation, or cannonball. Also, sailors on lawful vessels were usually treated rather shitty.)

Sailors almost never got seasick. (Many did including Lord Admiral Horatio Nelson {yet he was still a very capable officer who rose through the ranks and earned his noble title}.)

Seamen were punished by flogging most of the time. (They could also be tarred and feathered, keel-hauled, or other things and the whole crew was made to watch. Flogging was the most common punishment though and even that could be deadly. However, good captains would try not to punish their men this way unless it was necessary.)

Sailors on wooden ships always had quality food. (Maybe at first, but the quality would deteriorate as the voyage went on and could be infested with vermin. Yet, for some, the ship cuisine would’ve been better than what they ate ashore.)

All seamen were white. (There was a sizeable number of black sailors during the 18th century since officers were willing to take all the healthy four-limbed men they could get even if they were runaway slaves. Practically every harpooner in Moby Dick is non-white.)

There were no children on board. (There were powder monkeys who assisted gun crews, ship’s boys who carried ammunition, and boy cadets as young as twelve or nine.  Also, seamen generally started their careers as boys before reaching the seaman rank at 16 and leaving the sea at 26. )

Officers:

Captains on ships usually dished out orders on deck. (They also relied on their helmsmen to do such tasks.)

Captains on wooden ships would halt a thousand man ship of the line battle to rescue a single enlisted man who had fallen overboard. (Captains would’ve done no such thing since a naval battle was impossible to stop. Also, seamen were viewed as expendable in those days. A ship’s carpenter or doctor was more likely.)

Sadistic captains got away with everything. (Captain Bligh would’ve been court-martialed for tying a guy to the masthead during a storm, which he most certainly didn’t do.)

There were no child naval officers. (Most Royal Navy officers up until after the Napoleonic Wars {as far as I know} started as midshipmen  as early as their teens or younger. Midshipmen could be as young as twelve or even nine while lieutenants could be as young as eighteen. Of course, many of these kids were from prominent naval families, aristocrats, or the professional class. Master and Commander is perhaps one of the few movies that shows this. So yes, many seamen had to follow orders from teenagers believe it or not.)

Weaponry:

Triple cannons could fire multiple shots around the 17th century. (Cannons were muzzle loading at this time and couldn’t be reloaded.)

No wooden warship ran out of cannon balls.

Sea battles were fairly clean affairs starting with cannons firing at close range eventually with crews engaging in close combat. (Most of the time there would be debris everywhere due to cannon balls at close range.)

Loading cannons on ships took seconds. (It took longer than that.)

Naval:

The 18th century British Navy used Semaphore code with holding two flags in different positions. (They set up different flags on the masts on ships.)

British fleets in 1720 could have some 10 3-decked ships in a single line. (The Royal Navy had only six of these ships on commission worldwide in 1720.)

Royal Navy officers could be promoted to Commodore during the 18th century. (This wasn’t a rank in the Royal Navy until 1796.)

Royal Navy officers could be promoted to Lieutenant Commander during the 18th century. (This wasn’t a rank in the Royal Navy until 1877.)

Royal Navy press gangs only kidnapped adults into naval service. (They also abducted boys as young as eleven to serve as powder monkeys or teenage seamen. Powder monkeys assisted gun crews and learned most of the ship basics but were paid little {if anything}, treated poorly, and were expendable. Most boy pirates probably started out as powder monkeys.)

Royal Navy midshipmen went to school to learn how to become officers during the Age of Sail. (They didn’t attend school but learned on the ship as children.)

Other:

Ship surgeons performed slow and careful surgery. (Most ship surgeons usually cut limbs as fast as they could in order to spare the patient extra pain because they didn’t have any anesthesia in those days {except maybe alcoholic beverages}. Nevertheless, I don’t think that kid in Master and Commander would’ve been so laid back while Maturin was taking his freaking arm off since the pain would’ve been excruciating. I’m surprised this boy wasn’t screaming like a little kid getting a vaccination.)

Natives:

‘Wild Indians” were vicious, or at least more vicious than Europeans.

Tropical island locals and Africans practiced cannibalism and were headhunters. (Not really. Also, accounts of cannibalism among Indians in the Caribbean were greatly exaggerated and stemmed from the notion of a tribal practice keeping the bones of one’s ancestors in their homes so their spirits could watch over them. There has never been any evidence of indigenous cannibalism ever found in the Caribbean.)

Native warriors were usually bare chested and were threats to civilized society.

Natives had loose sexual customs.

Natives were primitive and savage. (Many indigenous cultures were rather complex as well as sophisticated and not all consisted of hunter-gatherer societies.)

Only converting to Christianity made Indians less violent and savage. (I don’t think this is the case since Indians all had their reasons of whether to convert to Christianity. Indian women in French territories even had French husbands like Sacajawea.)

Indian princesses (or a chief’s daughter) usually ended up with a white protagonist. (Many cultures didn’t have hereditary royalty. However, there were plenty of normal native women who ended up with whites as well.)

Native women were scantily clad. (I’m sure some women from indigenous tribes wore more than a bikini made out of coconuts.)

Natives believed white people were gods. (White people would like think native tribesmen did. However, many natives weren’t that naïve.)

Native Polynesian women wore grass skirts and coconut bras, especially in Hawaii.

Miscellaneous:

Martini Henry rifles had repeating ammunition. (They were single shot breech loading weapons.)

Singapore was a metropolis during the 18th century inhabited by Chinese. (It was a minor fishing village called “Temasek.” Also, it would’ve been inhabited by Malays and nobody would’ve heard anything about it. Singapore as we know it was founded Sir Thomas Stamford Bingley Raffles {love the guy’s name} in 1819 on behalf of the East India Company.)

Archaeologists were adventurers who discovered legendary artifacts, lost cities, and fought bad guys. (Even in the time of Imperialism a lot of archaeologists weren’t like Indiana Jones. T. E. Lawrence may have been an exception of this, however. Still, there were plenty of archaeologists with not so glorious discoveries as well.)

Old timey big game hunters were real manly men. (Yet, they somehow put a lot of animals on the endangered species list. Nowadays, many are known as “poachers.” However, Lieutenant Colonel Patterson at least didn’t kill those maneating lions for sport.)

All adventurers, archaeologists, and hunters wore safari outfits in Africa. (Some were in conventional dress.)

In 18th century Tortuga, women could safely walk around without any fear of being raped. (Considering that this was one of those hangouts for pirates who had no qualms about murder and spend long periods of time without women around, would I consider Tortuga safe in the 1700s? Hell, no.)

History of the World According to the Movies: Part 27 – The British Scramble for Africa

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The 1964 movie Zulu which pertains to the Battle of Rorke’s Drift in which the exhausted British forces manage to defeat a large Zulu force. Also, this was a big movie for Sir Michael Caine pictured here as Lt. Bromhead. Nevertheless, this features British soldiers fighting in their dress uniforms and severely lacking the Chester A. Arthur whiskers characteristic of 1879. Not to mention, it even slanders a Victoria’s Cross recipient. Oh, and the battle was fought from late afternoon until dawn.

When it comes to movies based in the British Empire, Africa is always one of the more popular locations for some reason. Be it maybe that it’s continent of hostile tribes and creatures, a place of many famous wars, or what have you. Yet, for some reason whenever you see movies on the Scramble for Africa, they will usually feature the British Empire as the entity the white male protagonist is working for (unless he’s an archaeologist). Nevertheless, you have the explorations with men like Sir Richard Burton, Dr. David Livingstone, and others braving hostile natives, Arabs, and jungle to find the source of the Nile. You have the Anglo-Zulu Wars in Southern Africa with British forces going against hostile African tribes wielding spears. Then you have The River War in which the British faced a Islamic fundamentalist leader named the Mahdi who may have saw himself as an Islamic Messiah or Tecumseh. General “Chinese” Charles Gordon is featured in this war as well since he tried to protect Khartoum from falling into Mahdist hands only to die and be immortalized for the British public for generations. Then you have the Boer Wars where the British were fighting against the Dutch settlers in South Africa. Still, when you watch movies relating to the British Scramble for Africa, you may find yourself cheering for the British Imperialists even though they weren’t necessarily the good guys. Also, expect the white man’s burden and other unfortunate implications to turn up as well. Nevertheless, I shall list the historical inaccuracies many of these British Empire movies in Africa tend to make.

Exploration:

Sir Richard Burton published a translation of The Perfumed Garden in the mid-1850s. (It wasn’t published until 1886.)

By the 1850s, Sir Richard Burton spoke 23 languages, including Arabic, Hebrew, and Chinese. (He spoke fewer languages in the 1850s but he definitely spoke Arabic at that point since he was really into Islamic culture. However, he never mastered Chinese and learned Hebrew much later in life.)

Larry Oliphant was gay. (He was straight. The filmmakers in The Mountains of the Moon were trying to make Speke’s betrayal of Burton more dramatic after all they’ve been through. Still, Oliphant was on Burton’s side the whole time and while he did manipulate Speke to gain publishing rights on his claim, he eventually realized his errors. And Speke didn’t really betray him inasmuch as “bruised his ego.” Burton didn’t like being upstaged and tried to make Speke’s discovery of Lake Victoria much less notable than it really was as well as attacked his character. Also, Burton had a habit of making enemies in high places since he was a Victorian non-conformist.)

Henry Stanley was English since he was born at St. Asaph. (St. Asaph is in Wales. Also, he was born John Rowlands.)

Dr. David Livingstone was an honorable man to the very end. (His private diaries tell a very different story. Also, he probably wasn’t altogether there when he met Henry Stanley. Also, Stanley wasn’t what you’d call a Boy Scout.)

John Speke was gay and in love with Sir Richard Burton. (There’s no evidence he was one way or the other or even in love with Burton. Speke is said to harbor a deep resentment toward Burton and was willing to hide it until they returned to London. There, he beat Burton to the report of the Royal Geographic Society and claim success as his own.)

John Speke had light hair and was clean shaven. (Photographs depict him with dark hair and a beard.)

John Hanning Speke committed suicide. (An inquest into his death concluded he died in a hunting accident and he had a fatal wound just below the armpit. Nevertheless, even a Victorian gentleman like Speke who had so many years of meticulous gun handling could die of a an accidental gunshot wound. Gun owners know that accidental discharges happen all the time.)

Sir Richard Francis Burton was a believer in racial equality.  (Burton was no less racist than his contemporaries and enjoyed living and studying with other cultures as well as wrote numerous travel books. He also knew 29 languages, some of which he mastered so well to pass as native. Speke, on the other hand, thought living among Africans was repugnant and referred to them as creatures and savages.)

John Speke met Sir Richard Burton in Zanzibar. (They met at Aden in Yemen.)

Sir Richard Burton went into Harrar with John Speke. (Speke wasn’t with him in Harrar.)

Anglo-Zulu War:

Color Sergeant Bourne was a towering middle-aged man. (He was a slight build and 24 years old as well as the youngest Color Sergeant in the British Empire. His nickname was “The Kid.” At least he had some decent Victorian whiskers in Zulu.)

The Battle at Rorke’s Drift was fought in broad daylight. (It began in the afternoon and went throughout the night.)

Most of the 24th Regiment of Foot B Company were clean shaven. (From the Guardian: “photographs of the real veterans of Rorke’s Drift look like candidates for Britain’s Best Walrus Impersonator 1879. (Winner: Lieutenant Chard; Mr Congeniality: Lieutenant Bromhead.)” Yeah, but I don’t think Michael Caine would look good in a pair of mutton chops. Besides, the walrus mustaches may have made it very less likely to take Zulu seriously.)

Private Henry Hook was a shambling boozehound, dirty coward, and a trouble until his moment in battle when he had a sudden burst of courage that he was bayoneting and shooting Zulu warriors all over the place. (He was a churchgoing teetotaler with an exemplary record who earned a Victoria’s Cross for saving a at least a dozen patients in a hospital. Hook’s daughter was so offended by her father’s portrayal in the film that she walked out of Zulu’s premiere. Also, he received a distinctive scar due to his encounter with a Zulu assegai knocking off his pith helmet while he was defending a hospital. And he doesn’t wear a pith helmet in the movie.)

The last shot at the battle at Rorke’s Drift was fired at first light with another wave of Zulu turning up. (The last shot of the battle was fired at 4 a.m.)

The 24th Regiment of Foot consisted of Welshmen in 1879 and their song was “Men of Harlech.” (It would become affiliated with Wales in 1881. The 1879 24th Regiment was affiliated with Warwickshire and most of the men at Rorke’s Drift were English, Welsh, and Irish. Oh, and their song was “The Warwickshire Lads.”)

Gonville Bromhead and John Chard received their commissions in 1872. (They had already received them by that year. Chard had held his commission three years and three months longer than Bromhead.)

Bromhead was a fresh young lieutenant. (Both him and Chard were old for their rank who’ve been repeatedly passed over for a promotion as unlikely to amount to much. He’s also said to either be partially deaf or suffering from PTSD. However, Bromhead would later end his career as a major while Chard’s would end up a colonel.)

Zulu chief Cetshwayo sent his impi to attack Rorke’s Drift. (He actually ordered his impi to leave the installation alone for good reason. However, it was his half-brother Dabulamanzi who ordered the attack thinking he would get a quick victory that would impress the king. He also commanded the uThulwana and led the Zulu forces in the attack. Of course, you can figure out where that was headed.)

Gonville Bromhead was a sharp steely soldier. (One of his fellow officers described him as, “a capital fellow at everything except soldiering.” He’s said not to be very bright and may have been assigned to Rorke’s Drift because of his supposed partial deafness {which might’ve been a misinterpretation of PTSD} was thought to limit his ability to command {with his superiors thinking he wouldn’t see any action}. He probably wasn’t a pansy aristocrat turned hardened soldier after his first battle like the Michael Caine portrayal but he was very well-liked.)

John Chard was the epitome of British manhood. (He was widely considered lazy and useless.)

Reverend Otto Witt instigated the Natal soldiers to desert their post by warning them of the Zulu approach. (The native Natal soldiers did desert their post {leaving at their own accord} but not at the Witts’ instigation. He didn’t warn them of the Zulu approach either but he was one of the lookouts who initially saw them arrive. However, the Natal Native Contingent deserters were fired at as they left and one of their NCOs was killed. Their captain would later be convicted at a court-martial for desertion and dismissed from the British Army.)

Soldiers of the Natal Native Contingent were issued European style uniforms. (They weren’t.)

Reverent Otto Witt was a pacifist old missionary with a daughter. (He was a much younger and married man with two kids. Also, he wasn’t a pacifist since he helped the British at Rorke’s Drift in any way he could as well as defended the interests of white colonists. However, he did leave before the battle but only because he wanted to protect his family.)

Zulu warriors saluted the British officers at the hill after the battle. (They did appear on the hill the following morning but just observed in silence for some time before leaving again since they were just as exhausted as the Brits, hungry, and low on ammunition. Oh, and there were British reinforcements coming so they didn’t have time to salute any British soldiers. Still, any remaining Zulu who were wounded and left behind were rounded up and executed. )

Private Hitch was shot through the thigh by a Zulu sniper. (He was shot through the shoulder in which the bullet shattered his shoulder blade. There’s even a photo of him with his arm in a sling and there are paintings of the 1879 battle depicted in Zulu in which he has his arm held still by a belt. He would later become a London cab driver.)

C Company was stationed at Rorke’s Drift. (It was B Company of the 24th Regiment of Foot.)

Corporal Schiess was a member of the Mounted Police. (He was a member of the Natal Native Contingent. Also, he was 22 years old.)

The 17th Lancers were stationed in South Africa during the Battle of Isandlwana. (They were only sent after the battle with the 1st Dragoons.)

Surgeon John Henry Reynolds was a “Surgeon-Major, Army Hospital Corps” during the battle of Rorke’s Drift. (He was promoted to this rank after the battle.)

The detachment of cavalry from “Durnford’s Horse” consisted of white settler farmers who rode up to the mission station to their deaths in the Battle of Isandlwana.(They actually survived the battle and consisted of black riders sent to Rorke’s Drift to warn the garrison there. They were present in the opening action with the Zulus but rode off due to lack of ammunition. Also, they weren’t lead by Captain Stephenson who was head of the infantry Natal Native Contingent.)

Corporal William Allen was a model soldier. (He had been recently demoted from sergeant following the battle of Rorke’s Drift. Oh, and he was 35 years old at the time.)

Gonville Bromhead was blond. (His 1872 picture makes him a dark haired Chester A. Arthur look-alike. However, he’s played by Michael Caine who has a significantly lighter hair color.)

The Mahdist War:

General Charles George Gordon was a fallen hero to British presence and a great military leader against the Mahdi in Khartoum. (Yes, he was a great general, but he was also an Evangelical Christian who had some whacked out views about cosmology but set up a boys camp as well as visited the sick and the old, was a robust 5’ 5” feet all, and never married. Other than that, most of what is said about his character is speculative. Also, though he and the Mahdi corresponded, they never met {though the Mahdi’s grandson really thought they should’ve so it was left in Khartoum}.)

General George Gordon and the Mahdi were killed around the same time. (Yes, Gordon was killed in battle. However the Mahdi died several months later probably attributed to typhus.)

The battle at Abu Klea was a British defeat. (It was a British victory.)

The Mahdi’s spectacular jihad was just out of plain religious fanaticism. (Not really. Actually it was related to the Egyptian penetration into the Sudan in the 1820s, the Suez Canal, modernization, and other factors associated with imperialism. It’s a long complicated history, but imperialism was more or less was what the Mahdi was rebelling against.)

The Mahdi presented Colonel Stewart’s hand to General Gordon. (This didn’t happen because they never personally met in real life. Also, though the Mahdi’s men did murder Colonel Stewart and Frank Power, but the Mahdi only received the former’s head as a trophy. Also, he only told Gordon to get out of Sudan so further bloodshed would be avoided by writing a polite letter to him. Of course, you couldn’t have a polite letter exchange in Khartoum.)

General Charles Gordon came out facing the Mahdists storming Khartoum calmly and with dignity before getting killed with a spear. After that, his head is brought back on a stick for the Mahdi who was displeased. (He actually came out shooting and ran out of ammo on the staircase {like in a Tarantino movie if you get my drift}. Also, he was killed by a gunshot to the chest, not a spear. And he was killed for being mistaken as a Turk out of all things. Oh, and the Mahdi specifically ordered that General Gordon shouldn’t be killed.)

The famous charge of the 21st Lancers during the Battle of Omdurman happened the day after the main battle. (Both main battle and charge occurred around the same day.)

British soldiers in the Omdurman campaign of 1898 wore scarlet jackets. (They wore khaki uniforms while the cavalry wore blue jackets.)

The Royal Suffolk Regiment served and Egypt and was a relief force to rescue General Gordon. (There was never a Royal Suffolk Regiment. Yet, there was a Suffolk Regiment but they took part in neither. Actually during this period, the First Battalion was posted in India and the Second Battalion was in various locations.)

The two-day relief force for General Gordon managed to recapture Khartoum in 1885. (They discovered that the city was already taken and the Mahdist forces were strong so they were forced to retreat, leaving Sudan to the Mahdi. The British would recapture Khartoum 13 years later in 1898.)

Other:

The Tsavo maneating lions killed for sport. (No predator does this except humans. Also, Lieutenant Colonel Patterson doesn’t mention this and he killed the two lions over a nonhuman bait. He even says their killing pattern was consistent with normal lion hunting patterns.Still, Patterson states that he had a leopard kill 30 of his sheep and goats in one night. Still, for the Tsavo lions to kill and eat people, they must have been in a desperate situation {one was said to have a severe dental disease which would’ve made him a poor hunter} since most big cats usually kill to survive.)

The lions at Tsavo, Kenya killed 135 people. (They more likely ate 35, but we’re not sure how many were killed and not eaten. Still, there were 135 African and Indian workers employed at the construction of the Ugandan railway.)

Both maneating lions at Tsavo had large manes. (The maneating lions at Tsavo were male but they didn’t have manes {they’re actually taxidermied and put on display and at the Field Museum of Natural History at Chicago}. Also, male Tsavo lions either have minimal manes or none at all and Tsavo lions generally are far more aggressive and unpredictable than lions you normally see. Not to mention, animal handlers hate the idea of shaving a lion’s mane. Still, I don’t understand why the makers of The Ghost and the Darkness didn’t consider using lionesses as Tsavo lion stand-ins. I mean they had a male dog play Lassie for God’s sake.)

Lieutenant Colonel John Henry Patterson killed the lions with the aid of an American ex-Confederate soldier Charles Remington. (Charles Remington never existed and there was no professional hunter ever present at Tsavo or anyone like the Michael Douglas character {who was in there because they didn’t want it to look like a pure ego project on Val Kilmer’s part. Also, Douglas helped produce the film}. Nevertheless, Patterson had to kill the maneating lions all on his own but he was a lot more badass than his Val Kilmer portrayal.)

One of the Tsavo lions escaped a trap surrounded by three Indian railroad guards firing that failed to kill him. (This happened except it involved ten guys firing it {which included Mombasa police} and the one bullet that came close to the target broke the cage’s lock, letting the lion escape.)

The Tsavo Bridge was a truss. (It was a plate girder type.)

Karen Blixen caught syphilis from her philandering husband Bror. (Yes, Bror cheated on her but there’s some doubt he might’ve been the cause. Oh, and she hadn’t miraculously recovered when she took up with Denys Finch-Hatton as seen in Out of Africa.)

Sir Henry “Jock” Delves Broughton shot himself dead in the Happy Valley region of Kenya via shotgun shortly after he acquitted for killing his wife’s lover in 1941 while Alice de Janze died of an overdose. (He died a year later in England of a morphine overdose which he had been taking for a back injury, it was ruled a suicide. Still, he was no longer accepted among the Happy Valley society and it’s very likely he killed his wife’s lover {though the case remains unsolved}. Alice de Janze shot herself that September {who’s also suspected}. Interestingly, Kenya’s Happy Valley consisted of a group of colonial ex-patriate British and Anglo-Irish aristocrats during inter-war period in the Wanjohi Valley, notorious for their decadent, hedonistic, eccentric, and scandalous lifestyles which seem straight out of an Agatha Christie novel. )

Karen Blixen thought it was baseless prejudice when she was asked whether she sided with the Germans during World War I. (Well, she may have thought this but she was an old friend of legendary German General Paul Von Lettow-Vorbeck {who’s not in Out of Africa unfortunately} as well as offered to send horses for his cavalry and carried his signed photo with her. So I don’t think Karen’s friend was being biased here when she asked her whether she was rooting for the Kaiser.)

Karen Blixen once fought attacking lions with a bull whip while on the Savannah. (Most of her biographers believe she just made this up.)

When Karen Blixen lost her land, she plead with the British governor on her knees at a garden party for the rights of the Kikuyu people to live on her farm. (British governor Sir Joseph Byrne probably did grant territory to the Kikuyu people as a favor to Karen but there’s no record that she begged him on her knees at a garden party.)

History of the World According to the Movies: Part 26 – The Golden Age of Piracy

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Of course, it would be very appropriate for me to show a picture from Pirates of the Caribbean series which has brought this era to a new generation. Still, these movies aren’t meant to be historically accurate but even they aren’t very good, you still can look forward to Captain Jack Sparrow. Nevertheless, Orlando Bloom perhaps may have looked more like a real Golden Age pirate than Johnny Depp would since the latter was in his forties at the time.

Ahoy, mateys! We come to the post of perhaps one of the most popular cinematic eras of all time, the Golden Age of Piracy. You may be wondering why in the hell does the Golden Age of Piracy have anything to do with Colonialism or Imperialism. Well, quite a lot actually since these pirates were the organized crime syndicates and highwaymen of the high seas with a Golden Age lasting roughly between 1650-1720. Whenever there is trading going on in history through water transportation, you’re going to have pirates. And with European colonial expansion, you have an influx of trading goods coming and going through the trade routes of the Atlantic Ocean. At first many of these European pirates were hired as privateers to cause trouble for Spain or act as a stand-in for a navy, but once England and France had a professional navy as well as the War of the Spanish Succession, the privateer tradition had died. Yet, rather than give up their privateering life to go straight, many of them opted for piracy and led the risky life of an outlaw. Nevertheless, the Golden Age of Piracy has been a subject of frequent romanticization, especially in Hollywood adventure movies and many have become legends in their own right. Nevertheless, there are plenty of things that movies get wrong about pirates in this Golden Era of lawlessness and adventure.

Anne Bonny:

Anne Bonny disguised herself as a man during her career. (She disguised herself as a boy when she was a kid, but not when she was a pirate. Her gender was public knowledge. However, Mary Read certainly did {and so did other female pirates since cross-dressing as a guy was much easier for women to do in those days}.)

Anne Bonny’s mentor was Blackbeard. (They didn’t know each other.)

Anne Bonny commanded her own ship. (She never did. She was always on Calico Jack’s ship with Mary Read. Still, she probably should’ve.)

Anne Bonny’s pirate boyfriend was French. (Her pirate boyfriend was Captain “Calico Jack” Rackam. She may have even had a couple of kids with him. Mary Read may also count as an intimate partner.)

Anne Bonny died on an islet at a sandy beach. (She more likely died in South Carolina at the age of 84 since her dad managed to ransom her while she was pregnant in jail {or so she said}. It’s said she married a respectable man and had eight children in addition to her two by Rackam. Still, we’re not sure what really happened to her.)

William Kidd:

Captain William Kidd was a pirate as well as savvy manipulative sociopath ultimately undone by the son of a man he had killed. (There’s only evidence that he was a privateer and that his fame springs from the sensational circumstances of his questioning before the English Parliament and the ensuing trial perhaps in a desperate attempt to clear his name. Also, compared to other pirates and privateers, his actual depredations on the high seas were less destructive and less lucrative than those of his contemporaries. Still, he may have been a notorious pirate or just an unjustly vilified and prosecuted privateer in an age typified by the rationalization and empire.)

William Kidd was ugly. (His portrait on Wikipedia suggests he was quite handsome. Still, he probably didn’t look anything like how Charles Laughton portrayed him.)

Blackbeard:

Henry Morgan and Blackbeard were contemporaries. (Morgan had died in 1688 when Blackbeard would’ve been at least a child if he was ever born at the time.)

Blackbeard was the pirate whom all pirates feared as well as an evil dick. (Yes, he was feared but he wasn’t evil or as violent as most pirates at the time. He tried to avoid violence whenever he could and went out of his way to take care of his men even though he did shoot and wound his first mate, it was said he did it to save the guy from dying in an upcoming battle. He commanded his ships with the permission of their crews and was seen as a more shrewd and calculating leader who relied on this fearsome image and PR more than violent force. Oh, and there are no accounts of him ever killing anyone who didn’t try to kill him first {not even those he held captive}.)

Blackbeard was short. (He was a tall and imposing man and looked almost nothing like Ian McShane. Actually, Sacha Baron Cohen would better fit his description.)

Blackbeard lived to be 70. (He was caught and killed at 40. Also, we’re pretty sure he didn’t fake his own death because he was shot no fewer than five times and cut about twenty. Oh, and there are reports that his body was thrown in an inlet while his head was suspended by a bowsprit of his Lieutenant Maynard’s sloop so he could collect the reward {but he was screwed over in the process after all he’d been through to get him}.)

Blackbeard was a pirate when the British were using privateers. (The British had outlawed privateering before Blackbeard came along.)

Blackbeard’s flag depicted a flaming skull. (It featured a devil horned skeleton spearing a heart holding an hourglass.)

Golden Age Pirate Life:

Some pirates had dads who were in the same profession. (I suppose some did, yet pirates didn’t have long careers so I’m not sure if they knew people from different generations. And even if they did, they wouldn’t know it {and neither would anyone else}. Still, it’s very unlikely that a blacksmith would go into the pirating trade since these master tradesmen had their own shops as well as a steady source of income. Having Will Turner as a Royal Navy sailor would’ve made more sense.)

There was no distinction of appearance between a pirate and a common sailor. (For God’s sake, Robert Louis Stevenson, there’s no way that anyone in the 17th century would hire a pirate crew and not even know it. I mean pirates like Long John Silver would never work for a regular captain even for buried treasure.)

Pirates wore clean clothes. (The only time their clothes were washed was in a rainstorm. They also didn’t bathe.)

Pirates were nice to African slaves who were members of their crew. (Sometimes, especially in Blackbeard’s case who had a black Quartermaster named Caesar but it depended on the ship. However, pirates sometimes resold Africans into slavery or turned them in for the reward. There are even occasions when they could be used as slaves doing menial work on board a ship. And if they were members of the crew, they may or may not be given the same shares as the rest. Yet, there were white pirates who saw them as either a commodity or less useful than “white” sailors {except marooners who’ve already proven themselves against the Spanish}.)

“Scallywag” referred to a fellow pirate. (This word wasn’t in use until after the American Civil War in which people in the Confederacy would refer to their pro-Unionist neighbors who collaborated during Reconstruction.)

Life aboard a pirate ship was unpredictably violent, chaotic, and teetering on the brink of mutiny. (Many naval ships with poorly paid sailors and autocratic captains under the thumbs of nobles or private investors were like this at the time. However, many pirate crews functioned more like organized crime families than anything. After all, they were known to be “gangsters of the sea,” than anything.)

Pirates sailed in big heavily armed wooden warships such as three masted Galleons. (Most of the time they sailed in whatever they could steal or hold on to. The average pirate ship was a small, fast, maneuverable craft that could zip around shoals larger ships wouldn’t navigate. Most of the time, they’d use single masted sloops. The heaviest pirate ships were converted merchantmen like Blackbeard’s Queen Anne’s Revenge.)

Good pirates never raided merchant ships or settlements. (This is the very definition of pirating. All pirates did this because that’s what they do.)

Pirates mostly raided ships through violent means. (Most pirates would try to cultivate an image of ruthlessness so they could just get merchant ships to surrender without a fight. But when they fought, God help you!)

Most female pirates were easy to detect and their gender was public knowledge. (Most of the time you wouldn’t be able to tell which pirates were women {except maybe those without facial hair but they could easily be teenage boys}. Still, it’s said many just dressed up as guys just to protect themselves than any other reason. Anne Bonny and Mary Read were probably the exceptions to this {but they were shagging their captain, bringing booty, and putting up a hell of a fight}. Some like Grace O’Malley even became captains. Yet, most pirates didn’t allow women on their ships since their presence was bad luck unless she was talented in bringing boatloads of booty.)

Pirates had democratic rule on their ship and treated everyone equally. (Some pirate ships were democratic havens sometimes they weren’t. And not every pirate crew treated everyone equally. Also, there’s little historical evidence of pirate democracy on the islands. Still, pirate governments probably functioned more like crime families.)

Pirate captains commanded with an iron fist. (Many times the captain was the ultimate power aboard a ship. If he didn’t like you, you were gone. Yet, the captain and his officers were more likely to listen to redress from their crew because he couldn’t rely on the support or threat of punishment from a higher authority. They usually commanded because of skill, daring, and the ability to win prize and booty. Some were elected by their crew members by a vote and only didn’t have the last say except in battle. Sometimes power was shared between the captain and quartermaster and some pirate crews were just a loose confederation of thieves. Still, it depended on the ship but a typical pirate captain usually commanded like a head of an organized crime syndicate than anything.)

Pirates kept parrots as pets. (They also kept dogs and cats aboard, too, since they were used to keep vermin down. Yet, they may have kept parrots as exotic pets or “booty” as well as taken other animals on board a ship while in town. They also took livestock on board, too. Of course, there are accounts of one pirate trying to steal a herd of cattle on his ship, but he learned to regret it that he was willing to surrender to the British authorities since the cows were all puking and spewing all over the place. The British authorities just left him alone.)

Pirates only killed foreign soldiers and officers and never sank any ship unless it wasn’t from their country. (I don’t think pirates cared about who they killed or whose ships they sank. Of course, they didn’t attack English ships when England was using privateers but that soon went out of favor once they had made peace with Spain. I’m not sure if they would have any sense of patriotism from governments wanting to hang them. Unless they were privateers of course.)

The cutlass was a pirate weapon of choice. (It was the last weapon they wanted to reach for. Their preferred weapons were firearms {which weren’t effective by our standards}.)

Pirates usually raided and robbed warships. (They usually tried to avoid warships since they were designed for combat except Spanish Galleons. Besides, merchant ships were their primary targets.)

Pirates attacked other ships by sinking them and slaughtering their crew. (Actually, they’d go great lengths to avoid either if they could scare the ship into submission. They’d actually ask the enemy crew what they thought of their captain. If he was bad, he’d be beaten and maybe executed. If he was just, then the pirates would send the group to a lesser ship and send them on their way.)

Good pirates were a rough, roguish, and jovial bunch. (They were also ruthless cutthroats, murderers, raiders, and thieves. And they weren’t people you’d want to take home to your mother and not because they hardly bathed.)

Pirates wore gold earrings during the Golden Age of Piracy. (There’s no evidence because earrings on men weren’t fashionable at about the turn of the 18th century. Though pirates may have been an exception of that.)

Pirates’ treasure consisted of mostly precious items like gold. (Pirates treasure didn’t just consist of gold and precious items but also clothes, jewelry, sugar, spices, citrus fruit, fresh water, and maps as well as almost any trade goods stolen from merchant ships {they’d take practically anything}. And I’m not sure if they’d go bury it on some remote island in the Caribbean either. Not to mention, pirates rarely ran into merchant ships carrying precious metals or jewelry in large quantities.)

Pirates forced people to join their crew against their will. (Most of the time they only did this to carpenters, doctors, and other skilled workers for obvious reasons.)

Pirates left a lot of buried treasure on islands and drew maps to find it. (Pirates lived fast and hard lives who usually spend their money on women and booze as soon as it was in their hands as well as never had enough gold worth hiding. Besides, they usually faced an uncertain future so there was little incentive to stash their savings. Also, they split their treasure amongst themselves since they won it together. Thus, they didn’t leave a lot of buried treasure around since there was always a possibility that they could be hung from a dock not far in the future. And if they did, they certainly wouldn’t have drawn a map to find it since they’d rather use maps to trace known trade routes. They would only bury it where it was the easiest for them to get and the hardest for others to find. Captain William Kidd was the only pirate to actually do this perhaps successfully.)

Most Golden Age pirates were adult men of all ages. (Actually the Golden Age pirates were a very young crowd with some being children and adolescents {and yes, the Royal Navy press gangs did kidnap children since no kid wants to be a powder monkey}. Still, most of them were in their twenties and their careers were short-lived due to things like battles, infighting, disease, or the punishment on piracy at the time. Not many pirates lived past 30 and very few lived into middle age. Yet, most movie pirates are played by actors in their 30s or older.)

Golden Age pirates mostly did their raiding in the Caribbean. (A lot of Golden Age piracy is attributed to the Caribbean, but many raided ships in other waterways as well.)

Pirates were only in existence during the seventeenth and eighteenth century and were only European. (Piracy has been as old as the invention of the boat and there are still pirates today. Also, pirates came from all over the world.)

A popular pirate punishment was walking the plank. (Almost never happened since it’s easier to throw someone overboard. They did do marooning, flogging, casting overboard, torture, keel-hauling, and more.)

Most pirates were outlaws working for themselves. (Actually, there were also pirate mercenaries called privateers who worked for someone else like a government.)

Pirate curses are real and do come true. (Most of the time pirate curses are based on superstition and usually didn’t come true. Of course, many pirate superstitions could be something Robert Louis Stevenson just made up.)

The most famous pirates were the best ones. (The most famous pirates were usually captured, brought to trial, and/or killed immediately because someone had to be there for their exploits to be written down. As with the best pirates who avoided capture, we probably don’t know their names. Then again, you had guys like Henry Morgan who ended up governor of Jamaica and knighted and Henry Every who successfully retired with all his loot and suffered almost no repercussions from his crimes.)

Pirates were marooned onto lush deserted tropical islands. (No, they were marooned on islands with very little vegetation which could get swept up with the tide. They didn’t want a Robinson Crusoe situation on their hands.)

Pirates were hanged without trial after capture. (They were usually hanged after they were put on trial since piracy certainly was a capital crime though pirates were robbers and thieves at heart as well as desperate men with nothing to lose.)

Pirates spoke in pirate accents using phrases like “shiver my timbers,” “arr,” or “Fifteen Men on a Dead Man’s Chest.” (No, they didn’t talk like the stereotypical pirates we see in the media. I’m sure Robert Louis Stevenson made that up. Also, there was no universal pirate accent since it makes no damn sense.)

All pirates had black flags with a skull and cross bones on them or a skull with crossed swords. (They also had red ones which were used in raids but meant that there was no quarter, no prisoners, kill or be killed. Black flags meant that the pirates were giving quarter like accepting terms of surrender and leave some of you alive. Also, black flag designs varied from ship to ship. Blackbeard’s had a devil horned skeleton holding an hourglass and stabbing a heart with a spear, lovely.)

Pirates had a hook hand as a prosthetic limb. (Yes, at least a couple pirates did have peg legs {though most pirates without a leg usually used crutches}, but it’s not very likely that pirates had hook hands because they wouldn’t be very practical. A pirate with a missing hand would more likely have a wooden arm if that.)

Pirates became captain by fighting the old one in a duel. (Sometimes they were elected by their crews. Duels among leaders could split a crew’s loyalties. Sometimes a default leader would emerge, be he the oldest, smartest, or most charismatic.)

Sailors became pirates to live a life of crime. (They actually ditched their jobs as sailors because being a sailor was one of the shittiest jobs ever and conditions on lawful ships were terrible. And if you were in the Royal Navy, you were likely pressed into naval service {a.k.a kidnapped by gangs of hired thugs looking for drunks with all four limbs} after getting wasted at a coastal tavern than actually sign up for it. Impressed sailors comprised half of the British navy at one point and were paid less than volunteers {if paid at all]} as well as had little or no chance of advancement. Impressed sailors were also shackled to the ships on port so they wouldn’t try to escape and were flailed for even the most minor offense in the navy handbook they probably didn’t get to read. Furthermore, 75% of impressed sailors in the Royal Navy were dead within two years. Oh, and sailors had to deal with storms, crowded quarters, and tropical diseases. Only a minority became pirates just for the enjoyment of being an outlaw. Most sailors became pirates to escape a life of certain death and constant humiliation as well as low pay and very little room for advancement.)

Golden Age pirates treated their lawful sailor prisoners like dirt. (Pirates sometimes recruited captured sailors for their crews and treated them better than their own officers or superiors. Also, Black Bart was a sailor captured by pirates and became their captain six weeks later. And his crew knew exactly where he came from and didn’t give a shit. Blackbeard’s crew is said to be 60% black so sometimes racial divisions didn’t matter.)

Pirates were the rock stars of the 18th century. (Well, it was a time when many outlaws were considered this so this could be true.)

“Good business” for pirates consisted of plotting global maritime domination and pursuing personal grudges. (They’d more likely be arranging profitable trade deals and raids merchant companies may depend on.)

Pirates towns were filled with loose women, shooting, and endless drinking. (There were pirate settlements but they were mostly havens to escape from the civil authorities. They may have joined together to form loose confederations, dispensed vigilante justice, similar to a frontier town but they didn’t have any organized government. It’s probably wiser to say that pirates were the gangsters of the high seas.)

Pirates saw themselves as cutthroats willing to kill a merchant seaman in the blink of an eye. (They saw themselves as independent businessmen. Also, they didn’t kill hapless merchant seaman since that would give them an incentive to resist {of course, those who resisted would either be handled roughly or killed}. Besides, they’d more likely give them a job offer. Still, it’s easier to understand Golden Age pirates if you see them as seafaring gangsters.)

Pirates never swore. (Uh, they were notorious for profanity.)

Pirates had a penchant for high class women. (While most love interests in pirate movies are seen as such, real pirates would usually not go for ladies like Elizabeth Swan, because such conquests would be like telling her Port Royal governor dad to arrest and hang them. They more likely slept with lower class women and whores.)

History of the World According to the Movies: Part 25 – Colonial Empires

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Pardon my American bias, but perhaps the Last of Mohicans is perhaps one of the best known movies set in the French and Indian War. Of course, this war has other names but as far as the British and the French were concerned, it was a war over disputed colonial territory in both India and North America. And it was fought on a global scale lasting for nine years which Great Britain won big time. Yet, this was perhaps one of the most important conflicts in history, especially at a colonial stand point. Also, who could forget Daniel Day-Lewis as Natty Bumppo?

From the 1600s to just after World War II, the world had entered in an age of colonialism and Imperialism which had ushered an age of commerce, international trade, and globalization. The Age of Colonial Empires has two phases. The first consists of the colonization of the Americas and the second colonization of Africa, which is another post. While Spain’s influence in Europe was in decline due to the Spanish Armada Incident, losing a series of wars, aristocratic dominance, as well as generations of Hapsburg inbreeding that produced a series of feeble kings leading its ruling dynasty to die out and be succeeded by Louis XIV’s grandson (this really happened), it still enjoyed a flourishing cultural period in the arts during the 16th and 17th century as well as had a large Latin American Empire that was going to last them until the Napoleonic Wars (well, most of it anyway). And for quite some time between Napoleon and the French and Indian War, Spain’s American Empire possessed most of the land consisting of today’s United States as well as stretched as far north as Minnesota (mainly because the French gave up in North America and handed Spain the Louisiana Territory, but Napoleon would get it back once he took over Spain). Then you have France who had a major colonial empire in North America that reached from Eastern Canada to the Mississippi Delta. Of course, France would later be caught in an imperialistic war with Britain over disputed territory and then abandon its claims to North America in a conflict known as the French and Indian War. Yet, they would soon end up colonizing much of West Africa, Madagascar, and Southeast Asia. Then you have the British Empire which ended up to dominate much of the world at its peak  and is very much present in movies relating to colonialism or imperialism. Nevertheless, movies about the colonial empires seem to have unfortunate implications at times as well as historical inaccuracies I shall list accordingly.

Spanish Empire:

The Spanish Jesuits were involved in the struggle with the Guarani against the Spanish and Portuguese around the Guarani War following the treaty of Madrid during the 1750s. (Only the Guarani themselves fought against the oppression resulting in a three-year war against the Portuguese.)

Jesuit missionaries directly disobeyed Altamirano’s orders and stayed to fight with their converts. (No Jesuit missionary in Paraguay directly disobeyed Altimirano’s orders nor did they stay to fight with their converts. In reality, they actually surrendered control of their missions in 1754 but the Guarani refused to relocate. However, since Hollywood likes Indian-friendly white protagonists, the Jesuits in The Mission stayed. After all, you wouldn’t want Robert DeNiro and Jeremy Irons abandon those poor little Indians would you?)

Luis Altamirano was a cardinal sent by the Pope who was also a Jesuit. (He was actually a Jesuit priest sent by the Superior General of the Society of Jesus, Ignazio Visconti to preserve the Jesuit Order in Europe in the face of attacks in Spain and Portugal, especially in the face of the transfer of territory to Portugal which consisted of seven Guarani missions that were settled by the Jesuits and Guaranis in the 17th century. Sadly, they were only suppressed a few years later anyway.)

The Spanish Navy used captured Englishmen to man their galleys as slaves. (Galleys were used by the Spanish Empire but they didn’t man them with English Protestants {even if Spain did have an Inquisition}. Nor did they enslave their enemies either.)

The reduction missions were havens for Indians. (Yet, there’s an opinion out there that these missions were repressive theocratic city-states with a high degree of coercion and imposition on the local population. The Spanish mission system often used the Indian converts as enslaved labor as well as served as a mechanism of cultural genocide with thousands of Indians dying from overwork, horrid conditions, brutal treatment, and disease. Indian resistance and escapes were a frequent occurrence. However, at a historical standpoint, you can say that the Spanish Mission System was a haven for the Indians when compared to such institutions like plantation slavery or Nazi concentration camps.)

French Colonial Empire:

The French Foreign Legion consisted of entirely of foreigners, which was why they were such a good fighting force. (30% of the members were French who lied about their nationality. The real reason why they were so effective was their insane physical training, harsh discipline, and a strong sense of espirit de corp and brothers-in-arms.)

Anyone could join the French Foreign Legion. (In the early days since its creation yes, but not anymore, they do background checks, psychological tests, and physical examinations.)

The French Foreign Legion did most of the fighting in wars France was involved in since its creation. (France’s regular army and colonial troops did.)

The Perdicaris incident consisted of an American woman named Eden Pedicaris abducted by the Berber bandit named Mulai Ahmed el Raisuli. (Actually Perdicaris was named Ion and a man with a reputation as a Greek-American playboy as well. His stepson was kidnapped as well. He also renounced his American citizenship in order to be a citizen of Greece. Hollywood probably changed this for a romantic subplot, but still…)

Raisuli was a virtuous Muslim freedom fighter. (Many historical accounts list he was a mixture of feudal bandit and political power player. One account records an incident when Raisuli’s brother-in-law planned to take a second wife; Raisuli stormed the wedding party and hacked the bride and her mother to death. In The Wind and the Lion, he’s played by Sean Connery who carries a romance with Candice Bergan’s character.)

Henri “Papillon” Charriere was a prisoner on Devil’s Island. (He’s documented to have been incarcerated at Saint Laurent, not Devil’s Island. He never served any time at the infamous French Guiana penal colony.)

The tragedy of French Colonialism in Africa was that it ended. (To the Algerians, the fact that French Colonialism in Africa ended was the best thing about French Colonialism.)

The British Empire:

The British East India Company:

The East India Company did business in the Caribbean. (They didn’t, but they did business in China though.)

Veerapandiya Kattabomman was a king of Panchalankurichi during the war he raged on the British East India Company. His arsenal had a lot of guns. (He was a Polygar chieftan, not a king, but he did resist British rule during the 18th century. Also, his arsenal only had a few guns.)

The Raj:

The British were benevolent overlords to the Indians in India. (Actually, they were anything but even though they did let them go to their colleges and serve in their armed forces. Same with other imperial nations.)

Caribbean:

Port Royal was a bustling metropolis as well as a clean and proper little English town during the 18th century. (It was destroyed in an earthquake around 1692 and subsequently rebuilt but not like it’s seen in the Pirates of the Caribbean movies.)

Port Royal was built atop a hundred-foot basaltic cliffs. (It was built on a low spit of sand south of Kingston Harbor where the elevation is no more than 10 feet above sea level.)

The Royal Navy stationed 100 gun ships of the Line in the Caribbean in the early 1700s. (The English bases of that area couldn’t support ships that size at the time. Besides, the ships would’ve been much too big and deep drafted to be of much use in the Caribbean waters anyway. Not to mention, the Royal Navy only had six such ships at the time which were most likely situated at the British shores. Of course, Pirates of the Caribbean and other pirate movies have to depict large wooden war ships.)

Oceania:

The reason for the mutiny on the Bounty was Captain Bligh’s brutal treatment to his men as well as subject them to especially cruel and harsh punishments. (Actually Captain Bligh was one of the least violent than most captains in the whole Royal Navy at the time and only flogged 11% of his men {Captain James Cook flogged 26% of his men while Captain George Vancouver flogged 53%}. What his crew really had a problem with was the banality of his command {or maybe having a terrible personality, perhaps being too nice of a guy and let discipline go to hell} which doesn’t make for an entertaining movie. It’s said that he failed to speak his roles properly in the theater of his command as well as stuck and picked at the scabs he inflicted, which breached personal space as well as his intrusive rules and regulations. He also had an incompetent crew with most of the men being under 30, which brought upon his sharpness of tongue and short temper that kept the men on their toes, especially after the 5 month Tahitian vacation. In short, historians say he was nothing more than was a foul-tempered, highly-critical authoritarian with a superiority complex. Compassion and diplomacy were not his strong suits. Also, another reason was the fact that some of the Bounty crew had taken Tahitian wives including Fletcher Christian as well as their long vacation on the island which caused them to be overly sensitive to discipline but this is made apparent in the films. Bligh should not have given his crew a long vacation, which let discipline on the ship go to hell, especially since it’s said that he personally witnessed Captain James Cook being killed by Hawaiians before the Bounty voyage. The deterioration of Bligh and Christian’s relationship was also a factor.)

William Bligh was a captain during the Bounty voyage. (He was technically a Lieutenant but he had experienced mutinies before.)

Captain Bligh ordered a dead man flogged. (He never did this, ever. Also, out of his crew only 2 people died before the mutiny which consisted of a seaman and the ship’s surgeon. He never had men keelhauled either.)

The H.MS. Bounty consisted of impressed sailors. (Though impressed sailors were a very common thing at the time, the Bounty had no impressed sailors. In fact, Bligh actually chose most of the crew himself {mostly recommended by influential patrons} and many of those on board have previously been on other voyages including Fletcher Christian. But everyone on board was under 40. Still, most of the mutineers were lower ranking officers and seamen.)

Captain Bligh and Fletcher Christian had a homosexual relationship. (Bligh was married with six children and there has never been much doubt about Christian being straight {since he couldn’t keep it in his pants}. They had more of a master-pupil relationship since they’ve been on voyages together before.)

Fletcher Christian was Captain Bligh’s second-in-command. (Sailing master John Fryer was officially {who actually remained loyal despite his displacement}. But Bligh and Christian had such a warm relationship that Christian is seen as thus and Bligh soon designated him as Acting Lieutenant, which would’ve gotten him promoted to full Lieutenant, if he just kept it in his pants during the 5 month vacation in Tahiti.)

The first thing Fletcher Christian and the mutineers did after the mutiny was sail to Tahiti. (They actually went to an island called Tabuai, south of Tahiti where the encountered immediate hostility from the natives.)

Fletcher Christian and the mutineers returned to Tahiti welcomed by the natives on the Bounty and told them nothing. (Christian basically told them a lie about Captain Cook needing supplies and Bligh decided to stay with him {despite that Cook had been killed by native Hawaiians in the 1770s}. But the natives were delighted to help the mutineers, gathered some supplies and natives before setting sail to Tabuai where they built a fort. But a fight broke out which resulted in several natives getting killed, including 6 women. So they decided to return to Tahiti again with 16 of the remaining Bounty crew electing to stay {and 14 those who remained in Tahiti would soon get caught, by the way 18 months later by the Pandora. Two would be killed in the meantime} while Christian and 8 other mutineers left the island for good.)

Fletcher Christian decided to burn down the Bounty at Pitcarin Island. (The decision to destroy it was a consensus of the mutineers because there was no to conceal it and they didn’t want passing ships to identify their island. However, it was Christian’s idea and not done without his knowledge.)

Fletcher Christian died on Pitcarin Island’s beach as the Bounty burned. (There are no beaches on Pitcarin and Christian died much later at the hands of the six Tahitian men {he previously kidnapped and enslaved along with twelve Tahitian women} during subsequent conflicts on the island along with 4 other mutineers. This, according to a diary by mutineer Edward Young.)

Captain Bligh was a much older man during the Bounty voyage. (He was in his thirties and would endure a couple more mutinies in his lifetime. He died as vice-admiral and served as governor of New South Wales. He died in 1817. Still, his voyage back to East Timor after the mutiny kind of demonstrates he probably wasn’t such a bad guy since he was accompanied by 18 of his men. Also, Fletcher Christian was 23, which explains a lot and and his physical description was said to be close to Clark Gable.)

Midshipman Roger Byam was a royal officer on the Bounty. (He’s a fictional character in the 1930s film but he’s based on a real person who was Midshipman Peter Heywood. However, despite being condemned to die and getting off on king’s mercy {thanks to being from an influential family that could give him a good lawyer}, he protested his innocence during the court-martial, saying that he was detained against his will. Oh, and by the way, unlike the Franchot Tone character, Heywood was only 15 when he signed on to the Bounty and was a distant relative to Fletcher Christian’s. Still, we’re not sure if he was telling the truth because he’s listed among the officers being treated for venereal disease along with Christian and that ship master John Fryer recalled to his wife that Heywood was one of the men who grabbed Bligh from his bed during the mutiny. Then again, you can also argue that Heywood was a typical horny teenage boy and let’s just say abstinence-only sex education will certainly not work on a 16 year old boy spending 5 months on an island with gorgeous and uninhibited women, especially after spending a year on a ship with a bunch of men {well, for the most part}.)

After Captain Bligh’s departure, only the mutineers remained on the Bounty. (4 were detained against their will for their needed skills and lack of space on the long boat. For instance, under Christian’s watch, the carpenter and the armorer were not allowed to leave under any circumstances.)

The mutiny on the Bounty helped bring about a new discipline, based on mutual respect between others and men, by which Britain’s sea power is maintained as security for all who pass upon the sea. (There was no change in Royal Navy discipline before or after the mutiny.)

Most of the natives who went with the Bounty mutineers left Tahiti willingly. (We’re not sure about that. One native survivor recalled being kidnapped.)

The mutiny on the Bounty was a violent affair which happened during the early evening. (It happened in the early hours in the morning while Bligh and everyone else were asleep. Also, it was totally unexpected and bloodless.)

Almost all the tried Bounty mutineers but one were executed. (Only six out of the ten mutineers were sentenced to death and only three of them were hanged. Two received king’s mercy and a third got off on a legality. Four of the tried mutineers were acquitted. Four of the mutineers who were captured at Tahiti drowned on the way to England on the Pandora {a ship said to be worse than the Bounty}, which struck a feef and sank. Christian and eight of the mutineers kidnapped several Tahitians and went to Pitcarin. All but one would die before their fate would become known to the outside world.)

Captain Bligh returned to Tahiti specifically to find the men who mutinied against him. (Actually he returned to Tahiti on another breadfruit mission. The guy in charge to find the mutineers was a man named Captain Edward Edwards, who made Bligh look like a Boy Scout. Also, Bligh was there after the mutineers on Tahiti were found. Bligh wasn’t at the mutineers’ court-martial because of his Tahitian mission.)

Fletcher Christian was a decent man. (His credentials are rather questionable and his actions could be traced as the root cause of the problems on Pitcarin and all that entails. Still, as an officer, he was a skilled navigator.)

Admiral Hood presided at William Bligh’s court-martial. (He did preside over the court-martial of the alleged mutineers who returned to England.)

Australia was referred to its present name in the 1790s. (It would be referred as Australia only more than a decade later. At that time people called it “New Holland.” It didn’t become Australia officially until 1824.)

The Bounty mutiny was triggered by Bligh’s decision to make a second attempt around Cape Horn and hence circumnavigate the globe. (He was ordered to take his cargo of breadfruit to Jamaica via the Endeavor Strait, the Sunda Strait, and the Cape of Good Hope as well as embark additional plants en route. Another attempt to sail around Cape Horn would’ve endangered the tropical plant cargo due to the near Antarctic temperatures they would’ve encountered.)

The British Army confrontation of the 1854 gold miners’ rebellion at the Eureka Stockade in Victoria, Australia killed hundreds of people. (The official death count reads 27 names consisting of 22 miners and 5 soldiers. Yet, there have been wounded miners who escaped and died of their injuries later but their deaths are never attributed to the stockade involvement.)

Captain James Cook discovered Australia in 1770. (He led the first British expedition to Australia but other European explorers had been there. Also, you can say it was discovered by the Australian Aborigines themselves.)

Other:

The English brought “civilization” to the countries they occupied when they had an empire.

Foreigners from Africa, Asia, or the Oceania usually spoke in Pidgin English or Engrish. (Most of them spoke in their native tongues. If they knew English, they certainly didn’t speak like that.)

The Union Jack flag has been used by the British since the ascension of King James I. (It wasn’t used until 1801, yet you see it in almost every film featuring Great Britain before that.)

The British were the most benign imperial overlords. (Well, they were the most successful imperial overlords and weren’t as bad like King Leopold II’s Belgian Congo {well, any colonial empire can be seen benign in comparison}. However, this didn’t stop some areas of the world wanting independence from them.)

British soldiers wore white helmets with their regimental crest during active duty. (They wore plain cork helmets and basic uniforms. They didn’t wear the parade dress uniforms like you see on Zulu during the armed battle. That would be like wearing a tuxedo at a construction site.)

British grenadiers wore bearskin miter caps during the early 18th century. (These weren’t issued until 1768.)

The French and Indian War:

The 60th Regiment (the Royal Americans) were massacred during the French and Indian War because of their use of British military tactics. (They were raised in America and were trained to fight wars under conditions suited for such environment and used their training to their advantage.)

Major Robert Rogers’ Rangers portaged their whaleboats over a ridge during the Saint Francis raid. (They actually did this two years prior from Lake George to Wood Creek so they could avoid the French outposts along Fort Ticonderoga.)

Colonel Edward Munro was killed during the journey to Fort Edward and had his heart cut out and munched on by an Indian ally of the French. (Actually the guy was Lieutenant Colonel George Monro and he actually survived the massacre at Fort William Henry which left only 184 dead or captive {but he died three months later of a stroke}. Sorry, James Fenimore Cooper.)

Lieutenant Colonel George Monro was a widower with two grown daughters at the time of the Fort William Henry massacre. (There’s no record he ever married. However, Cora Munro was based on a real person named Jane McRae who actually did have a fiancée who fought for the British. Yet, this was in the American Revolution and she was killed. Oh, and in the book The Last of the Mohicans, she’s black {which means her and Alice didn’t have the same mom}.)

The Mohegans and Mahicans have been extinct Indian tribes since the French and Indian War. (Both are still around today and are federally recognized to boot.)

French-allied Indians attacked the British led garrison from Fort William Henry in revenge against Monro destroying a native village. (There’s no evidence of them attacking Fort William Henry for anything other than booty and prisoners, which they felt they had been denied by the French and were enraged that the British forces were allowed to depart after suffering a few casualties. Besides, the massacre only lasted only three hours with 184 dead or taken prisoner {though they did exaggerate back then with as many as 1500}.)

Mohawk Joseph Brandt was a chief during the French and Indian War. (He was 15 years old in 1757 and wouldn’t become one until towards the end. Also, he’d be a relatively unknown at the time working for Sir William Johnson.)

The Marquis de Montcalm condoned the Indian ambush massacre near Fort William Henry. (The Indians attacked the retreating British retinue against this guy’s orders and he was disgusted by their actions. Also, when he ensured that the British Forces at Fort William Henry be guaranteed safe passage, he meant it. Unfortunately, the Indians wanted some possessions and prisoners, which didn’t settle with him. Nevertheless, the Massacre at Fort William Henry was caused more by a conflict between European military etiquette and the customs of the French Indian allies. Montcalm was never going to make anyone happy no matter what he did.)

The Marquis de Montcalm was a terrible man. (Well, as far as The Last of the Mohicans is concerned because he was a French aristocrat, general, diplomat, and scholar as well as won a lot of battles against the British. Still, he wasn’t a bad guy since he did give generous terms of surrender to the British even if that pissed off his Indian allies.)

The British Forces were nicer to their Indian allies than the French. (They were just as notoriously bad to their Indian allies and were using them as pawns just like the French were {the British weren’t that nice to American militia units either as shown by Braddock’s defeat}. However, in The Last of the Mohicans it seems that Indians and settlers seem to coexist peacefully, but American history has shown us otherwise at times.)

The massacre at Fort William Henry began with an Indian ambush and slaughter at some distance from the fort. (It was more of a one-sided brawl beginning when the British left their entrenchments. The French-allied Indians {many who’ve been drinking} fell upon the provincial wounded {killing 17 of them}, seized British-allied Indians, black slaves, and female camp followers. They also killed and robbed paroled soldiers. Nevertheless, it was more of an attack on the militia at the rear column who weren’t protected by a small French guard. It lasted for a short time that most provincials panicked and ran.)

Around the time of the French and Indian War, the Huron Indians lived in a native village led by a great chief who could decide all. (They were Catholics who lived in mission towns adjacent to the French. They were also assimilated and pacifist and were nearly wiped out by the British as a result. Also, there’s no way in hell that they’d be allied with the French and not know anything about the fur trade which was probably the main reason any side had Indian allies in the first place.)

New York frontiersmen and Mohawk Indians were present during the siege of Fort William Henry. (The Mohawks had refused to scout for the British during 1756 and 1757. Yet, the British did have scouts consisting of Stockbridge Indians {including Mohicans} and New Hampshire frontiersmen who were certainly at the fort. Also, the fort was largely garrisoned by British regulars and American militia.)

The British and the Mohawks were enemies during the French and Indian War. (They were allies.)

The Saint Francis raid was a heroic act in which no Abenaki women and children were taken prisoner. (General Jeffrey Amherst may have ordered to spare women and children {though he’s known for giving Indians small pox blankets} but the history books are less clear whether Major Rogers’ men had followed it through {which is highly unlikely}. Also, the raid on Saint Francis was at 3 am and is not seen a heroic action {more like genocide} unlike what the film Northwest Passage depicts which is about Major Robert Rogers and his Rangers heroically wiping out an Indian village out of revenge {which is kind of true}. Northwest Passage‘s depiction of the British during the Saint Francis genocide would be an equivalent of casting American soldiers during the My Lai massacre in a positive light. Seriously, what the hell, Hollywood?)

Major Robert Rogers and his Rangers wore uniforms similar to what Peter Pan wore. (They just wore a simple green jacket. However, I don’t know if I’d want to see Spencer Tracy in a Peter Pan outfit.)