On this day in 1982, Princess Grace of Monaco sadly died after suffering a stroke the previous day while driving her car. It was a tragic end to what had been an extraordinary life, which took Oscar winning actress Grace Kelly from the US city of Philadelphia to Hollywood and then on to Monaco and her talent, luminous beauty, elegance and exquisite poise continue to inspire and mesmerise us today.
Élisabeth Charlotte d’Orléans, the only daughter of Louis XIV’s brother, Philippe and his second wife, Elizabeth Charlotte was born on this day in 1676. Élisabeth Charlotte would go on to marry Leopold, Duc de Lorraine in October 1698 and their son, Étienne François would become father of Marie Antoinette.
Beatrice Cenci, whose sad story and legendary beauty has inspired a myriad of paintings, poems, books and films, was executed on the Piazza St Angelo in Rome on this day in 1599 for being part of the conspiracy to murder her abusive father.
On this day in 1898, the Empress Elisabeth of Austria was assassinated by Italian anarchist Luigi Lucheni while walking along the promenade at Lake Geneva. The charismatic, beautiful and rather eccentric Empress, who was also Queen of Hungary and familiarly known as ‘Sisi’, still continues to exert a fascination to this day.
Maria Theresa of Spain, queen of Louis XIV (who was her first cousin twice over), was born on this day in 1638. Poor Maria Theresa completely adored her charismatic husband but was rather dull (we are told that her few interests included chocolate, gambling, dwarfs and taking long baths) and so ended up eclipsed by his succession of mistresses.
The Empress Matilda, warrior Queen, legendary she wolf and all round badass, died on this day in 1167. Although her attempt to wrest her throne back from the hands of her cousin Stephen were ultimately doomed to failure (her escape from Oxford Castle in a white cloak which hid her as she ran through heavy snow was a particular highlight), she had the last laugh as her eldest son would eventually succeed Stephen as Henry II and despite all the chaos and upheaval and beheadings and overthrows of the last few hundred years, her descendants still sit on the throne today.
On this day in 1888, Annie Chapman, the second canonical victim of Jack the Ripper was found dead in the back yard of a house on Hanbury Street in the east end of London.
Unlike the other Ripper victims, there exists a photograph of Annie Chapman as she was in life, sitting formally and rather sullen at the side of her husband. This awkward image, so Victorian in every way, serves as a reminder that the Ripper’s victims were real women, with real lives and real families.
Amy Dudley (née Robsart), estranged wife of Elizabeth I’s favourite Robert Dudley, was found with a broken neck at the foot of the stairs at Cumnor Place on this day in 1560. The official verdict at the time was that Amy’s death was accidental, but due to the gossip about the precise nature of her husband’s relationship with the Queen, it didn’t take long before people started whispering that he’d murdered her, which caused a tremendous scandal. I’ve also come across a theory that Cecil had her killed in order to put Elizabeth off Dudley. It seems much more likely though that Amy’s death was either suicide or an accident exacerbated by an existing illness, although what actually happened that day at Cumnor Place will probably always remain a mystery.
Page boy outfit worn by Prince William and bridesmaid dress worn by Zara Phillips at the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of York in 1986. Currently on display at Buckingham Palace - the photo was taken during the press event for the exhibition.