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  • King’s Evil and a Two-Hundred-Year-Old Charm June 29, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    King's Evil and a Two-Hundred-Year-Old Charm

    The King’s Evil (aka scrofula) was a form of tuberculosis that created horrific injuries on the skin’s surface, particular in the neck area. It could only be cured, many early modern French and British sufferers believed, by contact with royalty: a sufferer would go to the king or queen, be touched, and cured. The practice […]

    First Vehicular Suicide? June 19, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    First Vehicular Suicide?

    Beach read this story, tried to forget it but couldn’t. There are two questions. First, did it really happen? 19C British newspapers are usually quite reliable, but 19C French newspapers are not. If this had been clipped from a French newspaper it could have been a complete invention, it would be interesting to see whether […]

    The Male Midwives Called Peter and the Empty Box Trick June 17, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Male Midwives Called Peter and the Empty Box Trick

    The Chamberlen brothers were first generation French Hugenots whose father had fled to Britain in 1569: one brother Peter was born in Paris (1560) and the other brother Peter was born in Southampton (1572). Yes, you read that right. Two sons and both were called Peter: a fair introduction to a very unusual family. (And […]

    Evans Wentz and Sex May 4, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Evans Wentz and Sex

    Beach has had talked about Walter and his thesis, Walter and the fairies, Walter and money, now is it is time for Walter with no clothes on: Walter Yeeling Evans Wentz’s sexual habits.  At this point we better recite the ritual ‘not that there is anything wrong with that’. Beach has absolutely no interest in […]

    Evans Wentz’s Quest for Fairies May 2, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Evans Wentz's Quest for Fairies

    Beach has recently become interested in Walter Yeeling Evans Wentz (or Evans-Wentz as he became)* the American mystic who in his late twenties and early thirties researched Breton, British and Irish fairies, before running off to India to become a guru. Many readers will know Evans Wentz for his Fairy Faith In Celtic Countries, the […]

    The Mason’s Worst Task April 2, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Mason's Worst Task

    This story has haunted Beach more than any other in the last month. Is it true, fiction or an inspired urban legend? In either case it would be a brilliant detective story. Beach was reminded of Sherlock Holmes and the Engineer’s Thumb (pub 1892). It appeared in 1894 in the Wicklow People (11 Aug). Enjoy […]

    Was Napoleon III an American?! February 7, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Was Napoleon III an American?!

    Beach has already proved (to no one least of all his own satisfaction) that Napoleon III survived death. But Beach now discovers, to his horror, that Napoleon III was not Napoleon III. This story appeared in the American press in 1858. This was a story given by one Louise Mercier on her sick bed in 1853. […]

    Breaking the Ampoule January 23, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    Breaking the Ampoule

    A WIBT moment from eighteenth-century France: the collision of the hoary old with the bright-eyed, metallic and ghastly new. It involves a cathedral, a hammer and the crystal fragments of a Roman perfume bottle, the Sainte Ampoule, one of the longest continuously used objects in world history. This tiny flacon had been made in the late Roman […]

    Review: Postwar November 22, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Review: Postwar

    Tony Judt is often touted as one of the great historians of the later twentieth century. Yet really his writings are, with one exception, not the stuff that world reputations are made on The Burden of Responsibility: Blum, Camus, Aron, and the French Twentieth Century or Socialism in Provence 1871–1914: A Study in the Origins […]

    Napoleon in Wales November 17, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Napoleon in Wales

    Beach recently offered up the gem of a story that Göring, of all people, had hidden out in a British bomb shelter in the second world war. At that moment he alluded to the fact that in a previous period the British had been convinced that Napoleon himself had visited Britain on the eve of his […]

    Napoleon III Survives Death November 14, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Napoleon III Survives Death

    Beach was so moved to discover that Marshal Ney  had not really been killed in 1815 that he went out looking for other unlikely survivors. This is one he dredged up from, of all places, Leeds Times (19 Apr 1873), 8. Napoleon III it will be remembered had come to Britain in 1871 after being […]

    Marshal Ney Survives Death November 6, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Marshal Ney Survives Death

    Marshal Ney was Napoleon’s greatest general and even those who, like Beachcombing, loathe old Boney, feel some regret when they read of how Ney was executed 7 Dec 1815. The great man stood in front of the firing squad and himself gave the order to fire after telling his soldiers: ‘I have fought a hundred battles […]

    Dumb Duels #2: Whip Duel October 17, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Dumb Duels #2: Whip Duel

    Beach has neglected for some time the honourable pursuit of dumb duelling: duels where either the weapon or the motive or preferably both were absurd. Here is one from 1853 from France. It is reported in a contemporary English newspaper so it may even, say it quietly, be true. Enter the whip duel A singular duel […]

    Death by Plane October 16, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Death by Plane

    Death by plane, the latest in the unusual execution series. Imagine, you are bundled, for a terrible crime, into a bomber bay and tied to a bomb. The bomb is, then, dropped, after a terrifying wait, from 10,000 feet on the enemy. Will you die by explosion or by falling? Some stories are so terrible that […]

    Napoleon and Hitler Coincidences October 14, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Napoleon and Hitler Coincidences

    Personally Beach has always found the ‘coincidences register’ the most irritating of all genres. Typically, an historically illiterate conspiracy freak, notices some interesting parallels between two different events or more usually individuals. He or she, then, sends out a communication pointing out the ‘striking’ parallels. Then, other readers note other parallels (occasionally making them up) […]

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