Na Thing Left Unruinated
February 10, 2014 12:06 PM   Subscribe

447 years ago this morning, the Provost's house at Kirk o' Field, Edinburgh, was annihilated in an explosion. Lord Darnley, king consort to Mary, Queen of Scots, had been staying in the house to recuperate from a bout of pox; his body was found in a nearby orchard, unburnt but asphyxiated. Rafael Sabatini recounts the possible course of events in his Historical Nights' Entertainment, a two volume anthology of murders, court intrigues, and scandals.

Here are more of Sabatini's sordid stories from


I. THE NIGHT OF HOLYROOD—The Murder of David Rizzio
II. THE NIGHT OF KIRK O' FIELD—The Murder of Darnley
III. THE NIGHT OF BETRAYAL—Antonio Perez and Philip II of Spain
IV. THE NIGHT OF CHARITY—The Case Of The Lady Alice Lisle
V. THE NIGHT OF MASSACRE—The Story Of The Saint Bartholomew
VI. THE NIGHT OF WITCHCRAFT—Louis XIV and Madame De Montespan
VII. THE NIGHT OF GEMS—The "Affairs" Of The Queen's Necklace
VIII. THE NIGHT OF TERROR—The Drownings At Nantes Under Carrier
IX. THE NIGHT OF NUPTIALS—Charles The Bold And Sapphira Danvelt
X. THE NIGHT OF STRANGLERS—Giovanna Of Naples And Andreas Of Hungary
XI. THE NIGHT OF HATE—The Murder Of The Duke Of Gandia
XII. THE NIGHT OF ESCAPE—Casanova's Escape From The Piombi
XIII. THE NIGHT OF MASQUERADE—The Assassination Of Gustavus III Of Sweden


I. THE ABSOLUTION—Affonso Henriques, First King of Portugal
II. THE FALSE DEMETRIUS—Boris Godunov and the Pretended Son of Ivan the Terrible
III. THE HERMOSA FEMBRA—An Episode of the Inquisition in Seville
IV. THE PASTRY-COOK OF MADRIGAL—The Story of the False Sebastian of Portugal
V. THE END OF THE VERT GALANT—The Assassination of Henry IV
VI. THE BARREN WOOING—The Murder of Amy Robsart
VII. SIR JUDAS—The Betrayal of Sir Walter Ralegh
VIII. HIS INSOLENCE OF BUCKINGHAM—George Villiers' Courtship of Anne of Austria
IX. THE PATH OF EXILE—The Fall of Lord Clarendon
X. THE TRAGEDY OF HERRENHAUSEN—Count Philip Königsmark and the Princess Sophia Dorothea
XI. THE TYRANNICIDE—Charlotte Corday and Jean Paul Marat

(A disclaimer: as Sabatini admits in his prefaces, all of the above are stories, arranged for effect rather than accuracy.)
posted by Iridic (17 comments total) 82 users marked this as a favorite
Thumbs up, sure – but who knows where they'll be found when they come down?
posted by koeselitz at 12:30 PM on February 10, 2014 [2 favorites]

This was written by the Rafael Sabatini? The dude who wrote The Sea Hawk and Captain Blood? (Basically, one of the best adventure writers of all time.) Awesome!
posted by Kevin Street at 12:43 PM on February 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

Downloaded and ready to be moved to my tablet. Thank you so much for this.
posted by Ber at 12:43 PM on February 10, 2014

Thanks for the post! has more texts from Sabatini, but the versions of The Historical Nights' Entertainment series are both from Project Gutenberg, so you won't find any visuals.
posted by filthy light thief at 1:21 PM on February 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

Ooh. I've been meaning to dive into Sabatini. Just downloaded The Sea Hawk and Captain Blood... this will be a nice addition. Thanks!
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 1:25 PM on February 10, 2014

Mmmm... The local library used to have some Sabatini books, but it seems they've disappeared. I wonder if libraries are getting rid of public domain works that are easily available online.
posted by Kevin Street at 1:33 PM on February 10, 2014

I've been meaning to dive into Sabatini. Just downloaded The Sea Hawk and Captain Blood...

While you're on the swashbuckling kick, make sure you pick up Stanley Weyman's Under the Red Robe! Pretty much the platonic classic of the genre.
posted by Iridic at 1:40 PM on February 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

You can't talk about Sabatini without quoting his most famous line (the opening of ScaramoucheGoogle Books free e-book, Gutenberg, Librivox): "He was born with a gift of laughter and a sense that the world was mad."
posted by languagehat at 1:54 PM on February 10, 2014 [4 favorites]

The local library used to have some Sabatini books, but it seems they've disappeared.

More likely lack of interest. Which is a sad commentary on our age. Sabatini was, is, some kind of genius in page turners.

his most famous line (the opening of Scaramouche)

Quite so. George MacDonald Fraser did a nice write-up of him in the preface to The Fortunes of Casanova and Other Stories, in which he notes the author's talent for arresting opening lines.

He's worth a post in his own right. Born in 1875 of an Italian father and an English mother, both opera singers and often on the road, so that he passed his early years with his maternal grandparents outside Liverpool, until his parents sent for him to join their more settled existence in in Portugal, then Italy. Then it was to school in Switzerland. (He was picking up the local languages in each case, which was useful in reading up on the subject matter he was exploit.) Best sellers, movies, personal tragedy, a villa in Switzerland - oh, his was a life, all right. The interested can find out more here.
posted by BWA at 2:02 PM on February 10, 2014 [4 favorites]

Oh man, downloading this. Thank you.
posted by immlass at 2:11 PM on February 10, 2014

Thanks very much for this.
posted by history_denier at 2:14 PM on February 10, 2014

Wow! Thank you! This looks amazing. Downloading!
posted by OolooKitty at 2:34 PM on February 10, 2014

I don't think I've heard of Sabatini before - thanks! And if all his stories keep up the wicked energy of the opening lines to the first story, then I'm going to like this series a whole hell of a lot.

The tragedy of my Lord Danley’s life lay in the fact that he was a man born out of his proper station – a clown destined to kingship by the accident of birth and fortune. By the blood flowing in his veins, he could, failing others, have claimed succession to both the English and the Scottish thrones, whilst by his marriage with Mary Stuart he made a definite attempt to possess himself of that of Scotland.

The Queen of Scots, enamoured for a season of the clean-limbed grace and almost feminine beauty (“ladyfaced,” Melville had called him once) of this “long lad of nineteen” who came a-wooing her, had soon discovered, in matrimony, his vain, debauched, shiftless, and cowardly nature. She had married him in July of 1565, and by Michaelmas she had come to know him for just a lovely husk of a man, empty of heart or brain; and the knowledge transmuted affection into contempt.

posted by kanewai at 2:36 PM on February 10, 2014 [2 favorites]

This is one of my favorite incidents in history - sex, jealousy, ruthless women, scheming men, improbable escapes, ignominious ends, the first use of high explosive to blow something up by civilians in Europe - and in the end, they tried to frame Blackadder (no, really! Honest!)
posted by Slap*Happy at 3:09 PM on February 10, 2014 [3 favorites]

" awful little maaaaan"
posted by history_denier at 10:03 AM on February 11, 2014

Darnley, Rizzio...basically, just stay as far away from Mary as possible.
posted by Chrysostom at 10:07 AM on February 11, 2014

Bothwell was such an opportunist but then nearly every man in Scotland wanted a piece of Mary Stuart in one way or another; perhaps her worst enemy (aside from herself) was her own half-brother. Lord Bothwell, however, seemed to love 'em and leave 'em routinely, always on the lookout for his own benefit. I always wanted to read a fantasy predicated on one of Mary and Bothwell's twins having survived. Mary Stuart is my favorite tragic heroine.
posted by Anitanola at 8:13 PM on February 11, 2014

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