Tuesday, May 14, 2024

Happy Birthday to…Royals and Geniuses

First…The Royals! 

Happy 708th Birthday to Charles IV, Holy Roman Emperor 

King of Bohemia (1346 to 1378)


Born: May 14, 1316

Birthplace: Prague, Czechia

Died: November 29, 1378 (62 years old)


Charles IV, crowned king of Bohemia in 1346, king of Italy in 1355, and king of Burgundy in 1365, holds the distinction of ruling over the Holy Roman Empire and all its kingdoms. He became Holy Roman Emperor in 1355. During his reign, Prague became the empire’s capital city.


The multi-lingual ruler was fluent in Czech, Latin, Italian, French, and German. He built the first university in Central Europe plus several castles and churches. He married four times and may have had as many as fourteen children—counting one reputedly born to an anonymous woman who was not one of his wives.


Happy 471st Birthday to Margaret of Valois 

Queen Consort of Navarre (1572 - 1599) and France (1589 - 1599) 


Born: May 14, 1553

Birthplace: Saint-Germain-en-Laye, France

Died: March 27, 1615 (61 years old)


Margaret’s marriage to Henry of Navarre, later King Henry IV of France, had more to do with politics than romance. The alliance was intended to ease tensions between Protestants and Catholics. However, the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre occurred only a few days after the wedding.


The infamous Catherine de’ Medici, Margaret’s mother, might have been involved in the horrific violence. Catherine is also suspected of poisoning Queen Jeanne III, Henry’s mother, who opposed his marriage to Margaret and died before the wedding took place.


In later years, Margaret’s brother, King Henry III, threw her into prison. So did her husband. Their childless marriage was officially nullified in 1599 even though they’d divorced several years before and Henry had remarried.


During Margaret’s imprisonment, she wrote her memoirs, published after her death in 1628. This work is “reckoned as one of 16th century’s best literary works” (Memoirs).


Happy 170th Birthday to Duchess Marie of Mecklenburg-Schwerin

“Grandest of the Grand Duchesses” and “Her Imperial Highness” (as daughter-in-law to the Emperor Alexander II of Russia).


Born: May 14, 1854

Birthplace: Ludwigslust Palace, Ludwigslust, Grand Duchy of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, German Confederation

Died: September 6, 1920 (66 years old)


Fun Facts:

  • Marie was the first “Foreign Princess married to a Grand Duke to retain her own religion” since she refused to denounce Lutheranism and convert to the Roman Catholic Church (Gelardi).
  • Though a German-born princess she supported Russia during World War I and strongly denounced German Emperor Wilhelm II.
  • An addicted gambler, she was temporarily banned from Nicholas II’s court for defying “a prohibition on the playing of roulette and baccarat in private homes” (Morgan).
  • Catherine the Great was her great-great-great-grandmother.
  • “Marie was the last of the Romanovs to escape Revolutionary Russia and the first to die in exile” (Wikipedia).

And Now…The Geniuses

Happy 188th Birthday to Wilhelm Steinitz

First World Chess Champion


Born: May 14, 1836

Birthplace: Prague, Czechia

Died: August 12, 1900 (64 years old)


The thirteenth son of a tailor, Wilhelm was twelve when he learned to play chess. As a young adult, he entered tournaments and within a few years had established himself as one of the world’s top players. He later developed a different style of play and eventually became a chess journalist.


He returned to competitive tournament play for a time and moved to New York in 1883. He founded the International Chess Magazine in 1885.

Sadly, his accomplishments as an influential chess theoretician, tournament player, and writer didn’t bring him financial security. He died a pauper, leaving his second wife and two young children.


Happy 106th Birthday to William T. Tutte

British-Canadian Mathematician; World War II Codebreaker


Born: May 14, 1917

Birthplace: Newmarket, Suffolk, England

Died: May 2, 2002 (almost 85 years old)


William T. Tutte, a gifted mathematician, is credited with the bulk-decryption of top-secret messages originating with the Lorenz rotor cipher machine. This system was used by the German Wehrmacht High Command during World War II. 


Tutte’s parents, an estate gardener and a housekeeper, worked at Fitzroy House in Newmarket, Suffolk, when he was born in 1917. He graduated with first-class honors from Trinity College, Cambridge, where he studied natural sciences and chemistry. During his graduate studies, he transferred from physical chemistry to mathematics. 


Tutte and three friends were among “the first to solve the problem of squaring the square, and the first to solve the problem without a squared sub-rectangle. Together the four created the pseudonym Blanche Descartes, under which Tutte published occasionally for years” (Smith).


In addition to his important decryption work during the war, Tutte is also known for his numerous mathematical accomplishments, including his foundational work in graph theory and matroid theory.


Your Turn


Whose birthday party do you most want to attend? You can…

  • Talk about languages and architecture with Charles;
  • Discuss French history with Margaret;
  • Play baccarat with Marie;
  • Play chess with Wilhelm; or
  • Break codes or “square the square” with William.

Johnnie Alexander imagines stories you won’t forget in multiple genres. A fan of classic movies, stacks of books, and road trips, she shares a life of quiet adventure with Griff, her happy-go-lucky collie, and Rugby, her racoon-treeing papillon. Visit her at johnnie-alexander.com.

Photos ~ all images designed with Canva.


Charles IV ~ John Ocko votive picture-fragment.jpg. Created 1371. Uploaded to Wikipedia: 2 August 2018. Public domain.


Background of Charles IV image ~ Lands of the Bohemian Crown ruled by Charles IV. Maximilian Dörrbecker (Chumwa). CC BY-SA 2.0. File:Karte Böhmen unter Karl IV.png. Created: see file history. Uploaded to Wikipedia: 16 December 2013.


Portrait of Princess Margaret of Valois by François Clouet, 16th century. Marguerite de France reine de Navarre (1553-1615). File:Clouet Margerite of Valois.jpg. Created: Mid-16th century. Uploaded to Wikipedia: 6 April 2010. Public domain.


Portrait of Queen Margaret of Valois. 16th century. François Clouet. File: MargueritedeValois.jpg. Created: 1571. Uploaded to Wikipedia: 7 February 2007. Public domain.


Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna (the Elder) of Russia, nee Duchess Marie of Mecklenburg-Schwerin. Unknown author. File: Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna of Russia.jpg. Created: late 1880s. Uploaded to Wikipedia: 24 March 2020. Public domain.


Wilhelm Steinitz (1836-1900). Unknown author. File: Wilhelm Steinitz2.jpg. Created: 1900. Uploaded to Wikipedia: 6 March 2010. Public domain.


William T. Tutte. Original publication: Newmarket Journal. Immediate source: http://www.newmarketjournal.co.uk/news/new-sculpture-honours-forgotten-war-hero-1-6290664. File: W. T. Tutte.jpg. Uploaded to Wikipedia: 7 May 2017. Fair use. Also found on Duck Duck Go Images ~ “Free to Share and Use.” 


Background of W.T. Tutte image ~ the Lorenz SZ42 machine with its covers removed. Bletchley Park museum. File: Lorenz-SZ42-2.jpg. Uploaded to Wikipedia: 4 November 2016. Public domain.




Gelardi, Julia P. The Romanov Women: From Spendour to Revolution from 1847-1918 (Reprint ed.). St. Martin's Griffin, pp. 47. ISBN 978-1250001610. The quote from Ms. Gelardi’s book is a partial quote from British diplomat Lord Augustus Loftus.


Memoir ~ quote regarding Margaret of France. https://www.thefamouspeople.com/profiles/margaret-of-france-6774.php (accessed 4 May 2024).


Morgan, Diane (2007). From Satan’s Crown to the Holy Grail: Emeralds in Myth, Magic and History. Westport, Ct: Praeger, pp. 134. ISBN 978-0275991234.


Smith, Cedric A. B.; Abbott, Steve (March 2003), "The Story of Blanche Descartes", The Mathematical Gazette, 87 (508): pp. 23–33, doi:10.1017/S0025557200172067, ISSN 0025-5572, JSTOR 3620560, S2CID 192758206. 


Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Duchess_Marie_of_Mecklenburg-Schwerin, (accessed 4 May 2024).


1 comment:

  1. Thank you for posting today. I think the only person I'd have a chance of understanding would be Marie, but I'm not that great with games, either.