1035 BCE — King David first sees Bathsheba

One of the great beauties of the Old Testament (and of antiquity in general), Bathsheba was a woman from the same tribe as King David, whose husband was Uriah the Hittite. Uriah was a mighty warrior, one of David’s 37 Mighty Men, an elite group within his armies. But when David first saw Bathsheba bathing, and lusted after her, the king quickly seduced the beauty. So far, so good – but then Bathsheba got pregnant.

Unable to compel Uriah to sleep with his wife (even a King’s power only goes so far) and thus obscure the date of the conception, David instead contrived to place Uriah in the thick of battle as many times as it took to kill him. The Hittite’s death accomplished, David married Bathsheba, and their child would become David’s heir, Solomon. But not before God sent the prophet Nathan to upbraid David for his deeds.

As mentioned in:
Hallelujah — Leonard Cohen

1063 BCE — David plays before King Saul

King Saul was the first ever King of Israel. He was, of course, appointed by the Lord, but after many decades of rule, he had lost the Lord’s favour. God thus decided to afflict him with an evil spirit, as you do; and further, tipped off the prophet Samuel to this. As you do.

Samuel went to Saul, and told him that the solution to his problem is to be found with the sons of Jesse. As it turns out, David, the youngest son of Jesse, is able to play the lyre – and his lyre-playing eases Saul’s affliction. Lacking any surviving sons, Saul appoints David his heir. As you do.

As mentioned in:
Hallelujah — Leonard Cohen

32 CE — Jesus walks upon the water

So, in the course of their travels, Jesus sent the disciples on ahead of him to Bethsaida, a journey they made by taking a boat across the Sea of Galilee. A storm blew up, and the disciples were in fear of their lives before Jesus walked across the surface of the lake, supported by nothing more than water (and the ineffable power of the God of Israel). Tthe disciples were understandably discombobulated by this apparent apparition, but then Jesus climbed into the boat himself, proving that he was real.

In what is something of a common theme for Simon Peter – although this time mentioned only in Matthew – the future first Pope started off with good intentions but lost faith quickly. He walked out onto the water towards Jesus, but then became afraid, and began to sink. Jesus pulled him from the water and they both walked back to the boat.

Referenced in:

Suzanne — Leonard Cohen
Jesus Walking On The Water — Violent Femmes

1431 – Jeanne d’Arc burned at the stake

After a trial lasting from January 9 until May 24, Jeanne d’Arc was convicted of heresy by her somewhat less than unbiased prosecutors. Jeanne (the French original of her name, equivalent to the English Joan) had led the French to several victories over the English, claiming divine inspiration.

Her accusers and judges were, unfortunately for her, strongly influenced by English interests in the matter, and she was found guilty and forced to abjure. Finally, she was executed by being burnt at the stake in Rouen, France. After her death, the coals were raked back in order to expose her charred body – so that no one could claim she had escaped alive – and then her body was burned twice more to reduce it to ashes. Her remains, such as they were, were cast into the Seine to prevent any collection of relics.

Referenced in:

Joan of Arc – Leonard Cohen
Bigmouth Strikes Again – The Smiths
Joan of Arc (Maid of Orleans) – Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark

1901 — Queen Victoria of the British Empire dies

One of the most famous monarchs of all time, yet often seen as little more than a figurehead used by the revolving cast of Prime Ministers and other government officials, Victoria gave her name to her era, an era characterised by colonialism and industrialisation.

She reigned as Queen longer than any other British Monarch, ruling for an astonishing 63 years and seven months. She was also the first known haemophiliac in the British Royal Family, and spent the last 40 years of her life grieving for her dead husband.

Referenced in:
Victoria — The Kinks
Queen Victoria — Leonard Cohen