And so made significant . . .

around the world, and through the centuries

15 December

1597
André Hurault de Maisse,
diplomat

‘I thought that I should have appeared before the Queen. She was on point of giving me audience, having already sent her coaches to fetch me, but taking a look into her mirror said that she appeared too ill and that she was unwilling for anyone to see her in that state; and so countermanded me.

To-day she sent her coaches and one of her own gentlemen servants to conduct me. When I alighted from my coach Monsieur de Mildmay, formerly ambassador in France, came up to me and led me to the Presence Chamber, where the Lord Chamberlain came to seek me as before and conducted me to the Privy Chamber where the Queen was standing by a window. She looked in better health than before. She was clad in a dress of black taffeta, bound with gold lace, and like a robe in the Italian fashion with open sleeves and lined with crimson taffeta. She had a petticoat of white damask, girdled, and open in front, as was also her chemise, in such a manner that she often opened this dress and one could see all her belly, and even to her navel. Her head tire was the same as before. She had bracelets of pearl on her hands, six or seven rows of them. On her head tire she wore a coronet of pearls, of which five or six were marvellously fair. When she raises her head she has a trick of putting both hands on her gown and opening it insomuch that all her belly can be seen. She greeted me with very good cheer and embraced me, and then, having been some three feet from the window, she went and sat down on her chair of state and caused another to be brought to me, taking care to make me cover, which I did. The business that was accomplished is written in my despatch to the King of the 16th of this month. Speaking of Brittany, she said that the King would no longer go there, and that it was made a present to a lady whom she knew not how to name. Afterwards she corrected herself; she said several times: “Gabrielle, that is the name of an angel; but there has never been a female.”

She often called herself foolish and old, saying she was sorry to see me there, and that, after having seen so many wise men and great princes, I should at length come to see a poor woman and a foolish. I was not without an answer, telling her the blessings, virtues and perfections that I had heard of her from stranger Princes, but that was nothing compared with what I saw. With that she was well contented, as she is when anyone commends her for her judgment and prudence, and she is very glad to speak slightingly of her intelligence and sway of mind,so that she may give occasion to commend her. She said that it was but natural that she should have some knowledge of the affairs of the world, being called thereto so young, and having worn that crown these forty years; but she said, and repeated often, that it came from the goodness of God, to which she was more beholding than anyone in the world. Thereupon she related to me the attempts that had been made as much against her life as against her state, holding it marvellous strange that the King of Spain should treat her in a fashion that she would never have believed to proceed from the will of a Prince; yet he had caused fifteen persons to be sent to that end, who had all confessed. Thereupon she related that one of her treasurers of finance had told her that it was the force of love which made the King of Spain behave so, and that it was a dangerous kind of love; she would a thousand times rather be dead than win so much from him, and if she had one of her subjects and Councillors who had attempted or counselled any man to attempt such an act she would have put him to death forthwith; but she was in God’s keeping. When anyone speaks of her beauty she says that she was never beautiful, although she had that reputation thirty years ago. Nevertheless she speaks of her beauty as often as she can. As for her natural form and proportion, she is very beautiful; and by chance approaching a door and wishing to raise the tapestry that hung before it, she said to me laughing that she was as big as a door, meaning that she was tall.

It is certain that she was very greatly displeased that the King was unwilling to come and see her as he had promised, for she greatly desires these favours, and for it to be said that great princes have come to see her. During the siege of Rouen, thinking that the King was to come and see her, she went to Portsmouth with a great train, and she appeared to be vexed and to scoff that the King had not come thither.

The first time that the late Duke of Anjou came to England privately without letting himself be seen, and had only reached Greenwich, there came news of a very great illness that befell the late King, which lasted for a short while. It was then proposed in her Council to detain him on the ground that the passport which had been given to him was only as “Monsieur” and not as the King of France. They had expressly invented this subtilty, but she always resisted it and would none of it. The King, however, being in good health, there was no need of this counsel.

I departed from her audience at night, and she retired half dancing to her chamber, where is her spinet which she is content that everyone should see. The Lord Chamberlain conducted me to the door at the entrance of the Presence Chamber, and then Monsieur Mildmay conducted me to my coach.

Before I went to find her Majesty, Stafford came to entertain me in the Presence Chamber. He ought to be in the Council of State, and it should be noted that the King should entertain him as one well versed in the affairs of France and inclined to her; and one could use him.’

Queen Elizabeth I’s navel

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1784
William Windham,
politician

‘The two days passed . . . afford a strong example how much more is sometimes done on supposed occasions of idleness than in times professedly devoted to study. Stopping at shop and looking into some things in Simson’s Algebra, I felt at that moment what an amazing difference would take place in my mind had I employed the years of leisure which had lapsed through my life in making myself master of the subjects then before me. To these reflections my practice so far conformed, that, after going home about eleven o’clock, I sat up till past two employed very diligently in reducing the formula which I had given in the morning. The work since that time has never been resumed; neither that nor any other kind of work has been done. I cannot, indeed, say that all the time has been misspent; much of it has been employed in performing the last duties of respect and affection to the great man [Johnson] that is gone. But two entire mornings have been taken up, I fear, with little utility of any sort, certainly with none to myself, in attendance on Indian business, and much the greater part of the time dissipated in such avocations as I fear will be for ever incident to a life in London.’

Windham’s love of Johnson

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1797
Andrew Ellicott,
surveyor

‘Much ice in the river. Stopped at an Indian camp, and procured some meat. Dined at the great cave. This cave may be considered as one of the greatest natural curiosities on the river, and I have constantly lamented that I could not spare time to make a drawing of it, and take its dimensions. It is situated on the west side of the river. The entrance is large and spacious, and remarkably uniform, the dome is elliptical, and the uniformity continues to its termination in the hill.

Stopped about sunset to take in some wood. Set off in half an hour and floated all night. Cloudy part of the day. Thermometer rose from 21° to 41°.’

Fat alligators in Florida

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1859
George Eliot,
writer

‘Blackwood proposes to give me for The Mill on the Floss £2000 for 4000 copies of an edition at 31s. 6d. and after the same rate for any more that may be printed at the same price: £150 for 1000 at 12s.; and £60 for 1000 at 6s. I have accepted.’

St Ogg’s on the Floss

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1937
Minnie Vautrin,
missionary

‘It is so difficult to keep track of the days - there is no rhythm in the weeks any more.

From 8:50 this morning until 6 this evening, excepting for the noon meal, I have stood at the front gate while the refugees poured in. There is terror in the face of many of the women - last night was a terrible night in the city and many young women were taken from their houses by the Japanese soldiers. Mr Sane came over this morning and told us about the condition in the Hansimen section, and from that time on we have allowed women and children to come in freely; but always imploring the older women to stay home, if possible, in order to leave a place for younger ones. Many begged for just a place to sit out on the lawn. I think there must be more than 3,000 in tonight. Several groups of soldiers have come but they have not caused trouble, nor insisted on coming in. [. . .]

The Japanese have looted widely yesterday and today, have destroyed schools, killed citizens, and raped women. One thousand disarmed Chinese soldiers, whom the International Committee hoped to save, were taken from them and by this time are probably shot or bayoneted.’

In darkness and fear

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1937
John Rabe,
businessman

‘No sooner am I back in my office at Committee Headquarters, than my boy arrives with bad news - the Japanese have returned and now have 1,300 refugees tied up. Along with Smythe and Mills I try to get these people released, but to no avail. They are surrounded by about 100 Japanese soldiers and, still tied up, are led off to be shot. [. . .] It’s hard to see people driven off like animals. But they say that Chinese shot 2,000 Japanese prisoners in Tsinanfu, too. We hear by way of the Japanese Navy that the gunboat U.S.S. Pany, on which the officials of the American embassy had sought safety, has been accidentally bombed and sunk by the Japanese.’

The Schindler of China

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1941
Thomas Dooley,
soldier

‘My intentions are to keep some sort of running account of what goes on in this fracas. Not a diary nor a memorandum, but a cross between the two. I am one week late in getting this poop on the go - that is, it will be one week old in about four hours. My turn came up as Duty Officer from 12:00 midnight to 8:00 a.m. and the routine being very quiet tonight I can get this under way. Corporal Molina, Battery A, 24th Field Artillery (Philippine Scouts) is the Non-Commissioned Officer on duty and he has just shown me a copy of the radiogram signed by General MacArthur saying “a state of war exists between the US and the government of Germany, Japan and Italy”.’

To Bataan and Back

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In general, these diary extracts are quoted as given in the published (book or online) source referred to in the reference articles. Each extract may be all, a large part of, or a small part of the complete entry for that day. I have tried to indicate where text has been removed from within a quote by the use of trailing dots in square bracket.

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