Archive for the ‘ Obscure Historical Information ’ Category


We often forget that Hawaii, prior to its abduction by the McKinley Administration, was a Royal Kingdom.

Seriously, it was.

There had been kings in the island paradise prior to 1873, but Lunalilo, who was born on January 31, 1835, was the first elected king of Hawaii, and was called “The People’s King.” His real name was William Charles Lunalilo, and he was named for King William IV of the United Kingdom.  Apparently the British monarch was a “great friend” of the Hawaiian Royal Family.

There’s a lot to his story, but since February begins tomorrow, and Thursday is a six sentence story day, and I’m not sure it’s going to turn into a love story, I thought I’d talk about Lunalilo’s sad tale of love.

As the heir to the throne, marriage plans for Lunalilo were less love and more affair of state.  Gotta keep the blood royal, gotta make the right alliance, you know, all that stuff.

He was bethroded to Victoria Kamamalu, is cousin, and a popular choice with the masses.

All Hawaii was happy, well, all but her brothers.  Seems her marriage to the king would cause her family’s standing to drop as her children would outrank her brothers’ children, and well, we just couldn’t have that now could we?

Lunalilo didn’t cave at first, and two attempts were made to get the nuptials done.

But, alas, it wasn’t to be.

The young prince moved on – to another relative, Lili’uokaliani, who would eventually become the last queen of Hawaii, but she broke off the engagement on the advice of her uncle, King Kamehameha IV, and married and American, John Owen Dominis.

Still on the hunt for a royal bride, Lunalilo, now king, proposed to cousin, Miriam, who said, “No,” and married a German.

Yet, he persisted.

He proposed to the widow of the late king, Queen Emma, but she declined due to her “devotion” to her late husband.

Finally, the boy gave UP and took a mistress; one Eliza Meek, a “hapa-haole” daughter of Captain Meek, the harbor pilot of Honolulu.

Victoria Kamamalu died unmarried and childless at the age of 27.

The King wrote Aleaoki, a song of unrequited love, in his grief.

Take a listen, it may explain why the boy remained single.

Lunalilo, king for 1 year and 25 days, made other bad choices in his life.

An alcoholic, he caught a cold which turned into into-pulmonary tuberculosis and killed him at the age of 39.

He too, was alone and childless.

That Noise? What Was That?

On January 23rd in 1570 James Stewart, 1st Earl of Moray and the regent for infant King James V of Scotland was assassinated by a firearm.

He was the first in recorded history to meet such a fate.

Seems as though one James Hamilton, a supporter of the King’s mother, Mary Queen of Scots, lay in wait for the Earl, and as he passed by, Hamilton shot him from a window of the home of Archbishop Hamilton.

The archbishop was Hamilton’s uncle.

Family – just sayin’!

It was a shot heard, if not around the world, all over Scotland.  An ensuing civil war changed the country for generations.

Instagram not being created yet, parishioners of the St. Giles Kirk installed a stained glassed window commemorating the incident.

Technology, always in the future!

It’s A Trapp

Recently in  my 16 Going On 17 post I claimed The Sound of Music was probably one of the most historically incorrect bio-pics ever made.

That line didn’t generate any comment, but it did fill UP my email.

Several of the faithful asked, “Why?” “Who?” “What?” and such.

So here goes.

Don’t hate me.

The eldest of the real von Trapp youngins was not a 16 going on 17 beauty, but a boy.

Rupert was born in 1911, and by the time the clan took off, he was a doctor with a practice in Austria.

As a matter of fact, there was no Liesl von Trapp.

Maria von Trapp was never hired as a governess.  She was a tutor for one lone von Trapp, also named Maria who had contacted scarlet fever, the same malady that took the life of her mother, the 1st Baroness von Trapp some four years earlier.

The Captain trotted over to the Nonnberg Abbey to find a tutor, and Maria Augusta Kutschera, who had been trained at the Vienna State Teachers College for Progressive Education, who was also ailing as well as questioning her spiritual dedication, fit the bill.

She was 21 and was supposed to stay at the von Trapp mansion for 10 months and then take her vows and nun UP.

Maria was there less than a year before wedding the German Naval Hero.  They were married in 1926, not 1938 as the film implies. Georg was 47 at the time.

There were actually 10 kids.  Seven to start when Maria arrived; three would follow once she wed the Baron.

The Baron got a bum rap in the film too.  He was hardly the stern martinet portrayed by Christopher Plummer.  Even the real kids were unhappy with the portrayal.  Although he did use the whistle, and each child had their own sound as well as their own sailor suit, they didn’t march around the house like a Nazi Youth League, nor did they stand at attention.

Posture, was however, encouraged.

People who actually knew the man claimed he was a warm and loving but overwhelmed father.  I mean really, a widower with seven kids!  Who wouldn’t be?

And the same people who knew the family claimed that Maria was the hard-ass of the crowd.  Her upbringing – she was orphaned and reared by family members – left her “emotionally stunted and in need of thawing.”


The real Maria did petition the writers and directors of the film to soften his character a tad, but lost the battle.

Maria wasn’t the first Mrs. Von Trapp to bring music into the house.  Maria Fransizka von Trapp said of her mother in a 1999 interview that “…she played violin and piano and we all sang before we met Maria.  We had at least a hundred songs before she came.  What she did was teach us madrigals, and of course, this is very hard to do, but we found it was no problem for us.”

The kids were genetically inclined to music.

In her autobiography, Maria, the former novice said she fell in love with the kids at first sight, but not the Baron.

When he proposed, she was not so sure.  There was her religious calling and all.  But the nuns at the abbey advised her to “…do God’s will and marry the Baron…”

Maria went on to say, “…I really and truly was not in love.  I liked him but didn’t love him.  However, I loved the children, so in a way I really married the children.  But, by and by, I learned to love him more than I have ever loved before or after.”

Really, speechless here.  No words.

Although the family was anti Nazi, thought Hitler was a total dweeb, they didn’t leave Austria just because of the German threat.  Money was the motivation.

Like most of the wealthy in Europe, they went broke during the Great Depression – this just in, it wasn’t just in America – losing their fortune when their bank went bust.

They actually took in boarders to make ends meet.  One was Father Franz Wasner who recognized their talent, became their musical director, and turned them into professionals.

Maria said, “He slowly but surely molded us into a real musical entity.”

Father Wasner toured with them after fleeing Austria, and many claim he was the driving force behind their success, but the movie producers didn’t want him in the film because he’d detract from Maria’s role.

After all, Julie Andrews was a pretty hot commodity at the time!

And, the fictional character, Max Detweiler,  who replaced him, was funny!

Georg von Trapp did get some valid cred in the film.  It was mentioned that he was heroic, and he was.  He was a National Austrian hero during the Great War.  Never mind that he was on the wrong side!  He commanded submarines, received the title of Ritter or Knight, and Baron as rewards for his accomplishments.

His first wife and the mother of the seven von Trapps Maria fell in love with was Agathe Whitehead, the granddaughter of Robert Whitehead, the inventor of the torpedo!

Born in 1880 in the Austrian Empire’s Croatia, he was granted Italian citizenship in 1920 when his birthplace became Italian territory.

Which came in very, very handy.

But, the truth belies the most famous scene in the film; the family’s exit from Salzburg.

The family didn’t cross the Alps afoot, they walked out the back door of their villa, crossed the railroad tracks and boarded a train for Italy.

Had they scaled the Alps and not frozen to death on the way, they would have landed smack dab in Germany.

Switzerland was about 200 miles away.  Maria was said to have queried the director, Robert Wise, “Don’t they know geography in Hollywood?”

Wise replied, “In Hollywood you make your own geography”.

Their departure from their homeland was far less dramatic, and in reality, no one was chasing them, there were no wayward nuns stealing battery cables, and there was no Rolf ratting them out to the Gestapo.

But they did leave in just the nick of time; the following day, the Austrian borders were sealed.

After they left, the family home was co-opted by the Nazis and Henrich Himmler used it as his summer residence.  Presently, it’s a resort and looks pretty sweet!

Here’s the link!


Or – a belated birthday gift for Jack.

My post yesterday debunked some Thanksgiving myths and brought about a question from Jack, a childhood friend.  Literally we’ve know one another since Primary Sunday School at First Baptist Germantown where Adda Belle Riley was the teacher.

Jack said in his comment, “Jack Frost How very different the original was from what we were taught in our youth. Makes me wonder what else might be suspect. Next thing ya know people will be saying old George didn’t actually chop down a cherry tree. Wait…. Happy Thanksgiving however you celebrate it! Woo hoo!

“Woo-hoo,” is Jack’s trademark tag line, FYI.

His comment of course, lead me to remember some previous research on our First and Greatest President – I’m a big fan – surrounding the anecdotal and apocryphal stories we hear.  You know stuff like, he threw a silver dollar across the Potomac River, he had wooden false teeth, he wore a wig, that he’s secretly buried in a crypt beneath the Capitol Building in DC, that he hated black horses, and of course everyone’s favorite, the cherry tree story.

The story was relayed to history by Mason Locke Weems, an American book agent and author who wrote the first biography of George Washington immediately after his death.


He was the source of many of the unverifiable stories about Washington.

The tale of the cherry tree story is included in the fifth edition of The Life of Washington (1809 print, originally published 1800); a bestseller that depicted Washington’s virtues and was intended to provide a morally instructive tale for the youth of the young nation, who were apparently already going to hell in the proverbial hand-basket.

The story told by Weems and attributed to “… an aged lady, who was a distant relative, and, when a girl, spent much of her time in the family …” who referred to young George as “cousin,” goes like this…

“The following anecdote is a case in point. It is too valuable to be lost, and too true to be doubted; for it was communicated to me by the same excellent lady to whom I am indebted for the last. (Weems)

“When George,” said she, “was about six years old, he was made the wealthy master of a hatchet! Of which, like most little boys, he was immoderately fond, and was constantly going about chopping everything that came in his way. One day, in the garden, where he often amused himself hacking his mother’s pea-sticks, he unluckily tried the edge of his hatchet on the body of a beautiful young English cherry-tree, which he barked so terribly, that I don’t believe the tree ever got the better of it. The next morning the old gentleman, finding out what had befallen his tree, which, by the by, was a great favorite, came into the house; and with much warmth asked for the mischievous author, declaring at the same time, that he would not have taken five guineas for his tree. Nobody could tell him anything about it. Presently George and his hatchet made their appearance. “George,” said his father, “do you know who killed that beautiful little cherry tree yonder in the garden? ” This was a tough question; and George staggered under it for a moment; but quickly recovered himself: and looking at his father, with the sweet face of youth brightened with the inexpressible charm of all-conquering truth, he bravely cried out, “I can’t tell a lie, Pa; you know I can’t tell a lie. I did cut it with my hatchet.” “Run to my arms, you dearest boy,” cried his father in transports, “run to my arms; glad am I, George, that you killed my tree; for you have paid me for it a thousand fold. Such an act of heroism in my son is more worth than a thousand trees, though blossomed with silver, and their fruits of purest gold.”

Quite a bit for a six year old, doncha think?

In 1896 Woodrow Wilson (about whom history has also misled us) wrote in his biography George Washington that the cherry tree story was a fabrication.

Following that auspicious moment, almost all historians of the period climbed aboard the no cherry tree train.

The story was never denied by Washington’s relatives.

And it was most notably not denied by Eleanor Parke Custis Lewis (1779-1852), whom Washington raised as his own daughter, and who spent her life preserving his memory and debunking false stories.

So, I really don’t know.  It is of course doubtful that our nation’s first president pulled off this feat as a first grader. It is highly unlikely, but it’s not impossible.

George Washington was not simply a man “just like any other,”  his valor, greatness, and will to shape a new nation are gifts which continue to provide for us today.

Although it matters somewhat whether the story is true or not, the fact that Parson Weems possibly made it UP does not make Washington any less of a hero.

In fact, it says more about Weems than Washington.

The story was told to cement his place in history as the Father of Our Country.

Which it did, and he was.

Happy Belated, Jack!