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

Niccolò Franco, 1515-1570: Ink Stained Wretch

We sometimes take for granted that whole first amendment thing and forget that the price of a loose pen has at times been more than a mere libel suit.  Take for example the case of Niccolo Franco, a bit of a wastrel, certainly too clever by half, and yet not quite clever enough to keep himself out of trouble.

He was born in Benevento in 1515 of a good family and given all the advantages that a modest but reasonably prosperous family of that time and place could give.  He was quick to take it all in, mastering Latin, as one does, chiefly to get at the racier bits of Martial, Petronius and Catullus, also as one does.  He combined his flair for language with a taste for the low life and contention.  A good time for him was a brothel with free flowing wine and loose women and petty (and even not so petty) criminals. Continue reading

Pier Gerlofs Donia, c.1480 – 1520: Dutch Courage

In 1514, George the Bearded, Duke of Saxony,  sent his crew of landsknechts, the so-called  Black Guard, to put down the lowland upstarts under Edzard I, Count of East Frisia.

There was a good amount of excess in the doing, which came to a head when the Guardsmen, unpaid for too long, started demanding their due directly from the local civilians. They came to the village of Kimsweerd where they did the usual number of robbery, and as a by the way, raped and killed the wife of our subject.

Bad idea.

The Dutch, understand, have a long line of tough.  Serious tough.  Don’t let the pot cafes and the tulips and the cheese fool you.    You don’t pull your own country from the oceans without tough.  You also don;t don’t make a global empire without tough.  And when you kick at the family of a guy like Big Piers, a man who could bend coins with his thumb and forefinger, you will get blowback. Continue reading