Sampiero Corso ‘the Fiery’, ‘the Most Corsican of Corsicans’ – 1498-1567

I once had a French teacher whose family was Corsican.  Among the family possessions was a dagger, on one side of which blade was engraved Vendetta, on the other, Morte.

Hardboiled, the Corsicans.  No surprise that a Napoleon could come out of there.

And while Napoleon had to prove himself to the rest of the world, Sampiero Corso was concerned only with his own country and his own people.  Keeping it local, as it were, which is a sensible scope for any political leader.

He was born a commoner in 1498 near Bastelica.  Then as now, the army was a means to advancement, and a little less now than then, fighting as a mercenary under foreign flags was a respectable career path.  He started out on that path at age fourteen.

Hardboiled, the Corsicans. Continue reading

Catherine Ségurane, 1506(?) – ?: Before There Was Marianne

The occasion as the Siege of Nice, 1543.

In the tangled politics of the day, troops loyal to his Catholic Majesty Francis I, king of France,   joined forces with Muslim corsair Khairedihn Barbarossa,  king of Algiers and lead admiral for Ottoman sultan Suleiman the Magnificent.  Barbarossa had brought his armada all the way from Constantinople to Marseilles help out the French in their interminable fighting against Charles V,  the Holy Roman Emperor.  The original plan had been to take aim at Italy, but in the end, it was poor Nice got the short end of the stick, being both close to Marseilles and a holding of Charles’ ally, the Duke of Savoy.

The Franco-Ottoman armada sailed down the coast on August 7 to an unprepared Nice.  Local militia was about all there was on hand.  That, and women and children.

Which is where Ms Ségurane comes in. Continue reading

Harry Bensley, 1876-1956: Around the World in an Iron Mask

The first war ruined so many good things.  International travel, for one thing. The story goes that (Englishman) Rupert Brooke was able to cross America with nothing more than a personal calling card. My own (American) grandfather made a pre-war bicycle tour with nothing more than a Bicycle Club ID. His 1915 passport (US) is a single piece of heavy paper folded wallet size, with all the signs of haste in the planning and execution.

So the story of Harry Bensley (that’s him on the left)  is a fraction less preposterous than it seems.  Continue reading

The Reverend Robert Walker, 1755 – 1808: Icecapades

We’ve the good fortune of having a year round ice skating rink nearby, which makes for a nice break in a steamy July day.  This provides me a contrived intro for the Raeburn chestnut to our left.   You know the piece. The Reverend Something Something skating on Someplace Someplace.  That one.

The Reverend was the third child of William Walker and Susanna Sturment, he a Scotsman and she a Virginian, of all things.  The father also a man of the cloth was called to minister to the Church of Scotland ex-patriots at the Scottish Kirk in Rotterdam (destroyed in the last war, alas).

What is a boy to do in the Netherlands when the winter cold freezes the canals?  Continue reading