The future Queen of France was accompanied by 57 carriages, 117 footmen and 376 horses on her journey from Austria to Versailles - but remarkably took only three hours to do her hair and makeup when she tied the knot with Louis-Auguste on 16th May, 1770.
Only 15 at the time, Louis was perceived - even by his closest friends and family - to be timid, unforthcoming and bookish. In a further bad omen, their wedding firework display was postponed due to a storm - and when it finally happened,...
When three young kids in Fatima, Portugal reported that the Virgin Mary had appeared to them on 13th May, 1917, the incident sparked hysteria across their rural, intensely Catholic community.
The ‘three secrets’ supposedly revealed that day - and the much-attended ‘Miracle of the Sun’ event prophesied that Autumn - gave a long-lasting boost to Fatima’s visitor numbers. It still plays host to six million pilgrims a year.
In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explain why, for decades, only...
Ridley Scott’s ‘Gladiator’ opened in the UK on 12th May, 2000 - and was widely credited with resurrecting the ‘swords-and-sandals’ genre, sparking an interest in Roman history, and achieving that rare combination of critical praise and humongous box office success.
But the epic production was problematic - not least because supporting star Ollie Reed died during filming, leading to SFX house The Mill filling in the remainder of his scenes with CGI, at a cost of $3 million.
In this episode,...
IBM's Deep Blue conquered Russian chess grandmaster Garry Kasparov on 11th May, 1997 - in a man v machine clash Newsweek brazenly baptised ‘The Brain’s Last Stand’.
Despite the incredible achievement of having created a program able to calculate 200 billion positions in three minutes, the IBM engineers were advised by their PR team not to look too happy at the press conference afterwards, so as to avoid Kasparov - who had initially hinted at foul play behind the scenes - from gaining...
Michelangelo was a sculptor, not a painter, when on 10th May, 1508, he embarked upon the biggest gig of his career: painting the roof of the Sistine chapel in the Vatican.
Outwardly reluctant, and doubtful he could complete the project, he nonetheless took the opportunity to suggest that rather than portraying the twelve apostles requested by the Pope, he should instead depict 300 different characters.
In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explain how he set about this Herculean task...
Fugitive Thomas Blood sneaked his way into the Tower of London’s jewel room on 9th May, 1671 - bludgeoning the 77 year-old Keeper of the Jewels, Talbot Edwards, in the process.
Disguised as a parson, the Irish adventurer had cat-fished Edwards in an audacious and complex heist that involved multiple pairs of white gloves, a fake nephew and stuffing an orb down his trousers.
In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explain how Blood failed to steal the jewels, but got away with a Royal pardon...
The lifts weren’t operational, so there weren’t any visitors, but the commemorative coins had already been minted - so it was 6th May, 1889 that went down in history as the official opening of the Eiffel Tower, at that time the world’s tallest man-made structure.
Erected for the World’s Fair to commemorate 100 years since the French Revolution, it was designed to be dismantled after a few years - not least because there was significant opposition to it from some of Paris’s best known artists...
Chanel No 5, the legendary perfume still said to shift one bottle every thirty seconds, was first released in Paris on 5th May, 1921.
Created by Ernest Beaux, its innovative mixture of jasmine, sandalwood, orange blossom and aldehydes gave it a freshness and fizz that turned heads - and its simple, masculine bottle bucked the trend for ornate designs crafted by renowned glass-houses.
In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explain how Coco Chanel savvily put herself at the centre of the...
As British literacy rates surged to a new high of 97%, the time was right to launch a simpler, shorter, more readable newspaper - and Alfred Harmsworth’s Daily Mail caught the zeitgeist when it hit the news-stands (at the eye-catching price of just half a penny) on 4th May, 1896.
The new paper attracted half a million daily readers by the end of the century, drawn in by its American-inspired mix of provocative political commentary, human interest and sentiment.
In this episode, Arion, Rebecca...
Martin Shkreli, ‘the most hated man in America’, purchased the one extant copy of the Wu-Tang Clan’s concept album ‘Once Upon A Time In Shaolin’ for $2 million on 3rd May, 2015.
In seeking to sell their record in an auction, the hip-hop collective had been inspired by the concept of wealthy patrons funding Renaissance artists - but hadn’t counted on the winning bidder being the ‘pharma bro’ notorious for raising the price of toxoplasmosis drug Daraprim by a factor of 56.
In this episode,...
Where are meatballs from, and why does it matter? Social media users frenziedly grappled with these very questions on 29th April, 2018, when Sweden’s official Twitter account proclaimed: “Swedish meatballs are actually based on a recipe King Charles XII brought home from Turkey in the early 18th century. Let's stick to the facts!”
Does this tale about the Royal family bringing meatballs back from the Ottoman Empire check out? And doesn’t every culture in the world have some form of meatballs?...
Dennis Tito, a 60 year-old investment manager from California, blasted into orbit onboard a Russian Soyuz rocket on 28th April, 2001 - becoming the first ever private citizen to visit the International Space Station.
He had self-funded the trip, to the tune of $20 million - much to the displeasure of his former employers, NASA, who initially refused to provide him with any training.
In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly consider the social dynamics of the ISS; explain why NASA has...
King Henri III of France had a favourite group of young courtiers - his ‘mignons’ (or ‘cuties’, ‘sweeties’, or ‘‘darlings’) - known for dressing in an effeminate and eye-catching style. On 27th April, 1578, they engaged in a bloody duel with a rival gang in a battle that came to be known as ‘The Duel of the Mignons’.
Was it a ‘beautiful’ battle, a classical allusion to Roman combat, as some scribes argued? Or, as the King himself concluded, a pointless - and rather farcical - loss of...
John Wilkes Booth was on the run for twelve days before being tracked down to a tobacco barn at Garrett’s Farm in Port Royal, Virginia, and shot in the neck. He died of his injuries on 26th April, 1865 - after several agonising hours bleeding out.
Despite numerous witnesses to his death, it continued to be disputed by conspiracists for decades afterwards - one of whom took a mummified corpse he believed was the ‘real’ Booth on a tour of sideshows and carnivals.
In this episode, Arion,...
Freda Payne’s banger ‘Band Of Gold’ sounds like a Motown record, but actually isn’t. Although written by Berry Gordy’s hit-making trio Holland-Dozier-Holland, it was released on their breakaway label, Invictus, on 25th April, 1970.
Ever since, fans have speculated as to the meaning of its lyrics and the nature of the crumbled relationship within. “That night on our honeymoon / We stayed in separate rooms,” Payne sings. Was her betrothed a closeted homosexual? Impotent? Frigid?
Riding a Penny Farthing bicycle from the Sierra Nevada mountains to Yokohama, Japan, Thomas Stevens began his epic two-and-a-half year journey around the world on 22nd April, 1884.
Along the way, he encountered mountain lions, Persian aristocracy, and thousands of supporters from bicycle clubs, who turned up to hear him speak. His journey was endlessly delayed by having to demonstrate the virtues of his bike to anyone who asked.
In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explain why the...
The ‘Surgeon’s Photograph’, as it came to be known - a supposed glimpse of Nessie papped from the lochside - was debated by Loch Ness Monster aficionados for decades after being published in a sensational front-page splash by the Daily Mail on 21st April, 1934.
Taken by London gynaecologist Dr Robert Kenneth Wilson, the photo was given particular credence because it had been submitted by a member of the medical establishment - but, many decades later, it was revealed as a revenge hoax, which...
No European had returned alive from Timbuktu until French adventurer René Caillie, who arrived in the ‘City of Gold’ on 20th April, 1828 after an arduous year-long journey. He was fêted by the Société de Géographie in Paris, who awarded him 10,000 francs in recognition of his daring voyage - and his place in the history books was assured.
But Caillie was disappointed by what he had found. “The city presented, at first view, nothing but a mass of ill-looking houses, built of earth,” he wrote....
Child star Shirley Temple made her feature film debut aged six in ‘Stand Up And Cheer’, released at the height of the Depression, on 19th April, 1934 - and never looked back. In one year alone she would star in a further six films, and become a firm favourite of President Roosevelt.
Fox Studios were soon employing a 19-strong team of writers just to crank out projects for the pint-sized star, and pretty soon Temple was responsible for her entire family’s income. But as she got older, it...
Britain had no driving test, no enforced rules on drink-driving, and a network of roads reliant on hand signals on 14th April, 1931 - the publication day of surprise national bestseller The Highway Code.
Codifying driving etiquette - rather than reducing fatalities - was as much a preoccupation of the book as safe driving per se. “Good manners, and consideration for others, are as desirable and are as much appreciated on the road as elsewhere”, the Introduction said.
In this episode, Arion,...
Joanna of Castile, was, as a young lady, remarked upon for her intellect and good companionship, and married off to prize catch Philip the Handsome - but by the time she died on 13th April, 1555 she was known colloquially by the name that’s stuck ever since: ‘Joanna The Mad’.
She had, by then, spent 45 years in prison at the hands of her own family, who had a political advantage in exaggerating her moments of instability to keep control of her territories.
In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and...
A chaotic, shambolic and critically panned parody, the first on-screen incarnation of Ian Fleming’s novel ‘Casino Royale’ received its London premiere on 12th April, 1967 - with final edits still being made in the projection room. Nonetheless, it went on to take an extraordinary $40 million at the box office.
Hardnut hero James Bond’s adventures had become a swinging Sixties sex comedy starring Peter Sellers, thanks to Fleming’s disasterous decision to sell the movie rights to actor Gregory...
The first holiday camp in Britain, Butlin’s Skegness, opened to the public on 11th April, 1936 - although one member of the public, a certain Freda Monk from Nottingham, was so keen to attend that she arrived a day early. It cost 35 shillings per week to attend.
South Africa-born Billy Butlin had created the camp after holidaying in Barry Island and feeling “sorry for the families with young children as they trudged along wet and bedgraggled, and forlornly filled time in amusement arcades...
The most famous armless statue of all time, ‘Venus de Milo’ was discovered by a farmer on the Aegean island of Milos on 8th April, 1829, sparking an international bidding war that saw her eventually donated to the Louvre by Louis XVIII.
The French had a particular interest in snapping up a new ancient treasure, having been forced to return many priceless artefacts to their original nations following Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo.
In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly reveal the statue’s...