Page 156. " the small group of men with yellow shakos "

 Shakos are a particular kind of peaked hat worn as part of military uniform. Tall, cylindrical, and oftened adorned with a feather, the high fronts offered a space for a badge or other embellishments. The hats originated with the Hungarian hussars in the 1700s, and spread to other countries as the hussars also spread.

See here for some wonderful Russian army hats, including a shako with an extraordinarily big feather on top.

Page 159. " he attacked Mortier's division "
Marshall Mortier by Edouard-Louis Dubufe
Public DomainMarshall Mortier by Edouard-Louis Dubufe

 Édouard Mortier (1768-1835) was a general in Napoleon's army who became a Marshall of France in 1804. He was instrumental in the defeat of the Austrians at Ulm, and at the Battle of Austerlitz. However, in this instance, Mortier exposed the northern flank of his division whilst advancing on the northern side of the Danube. Kutuzov took advantage of his mistake, engaging the French in the Battle of Dürrenstein, a long engagement that resulted in heavy losses on both sides, and both sides declaring victory.

Mortier fought in Napoleon's army up until Waterloo, where he was unable to serve as he was suffering from sciatica. After Napoleon's defeat Mortier was briefly disgraced, but he eventually returned to public service, becoming King Louis-Philippe's ambassador to St Peterburg. He was killed in a bizarre attack aimed at Louis-Phillipe, when a multiple-firing musket machine, a precursor of the machine gun, was fired at the royal party during a military parade. Louis-Philippe survived the assassination attempt and wept at Mortier's funeral.

Page 165. " it's hurrah for the Tsar, for Russia, for the Orthodox Greek faith! "
Onion domes of Cathedral of the Annunciation, Moscow Kremlin, Russia
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeOnion domes of the Cathedral of the Annunciation, Moscow Kremlin, Russia - Credit: Petar Milošević

 For over a thousand years, Russia's official faith has been Orthodox Christianity. In the year 987, Prince Vladimir of Kievan Rus (modern Ukraine; Russia's ancestor) decided that his country needed a religion. According to the chronicles of Nestor, he sent people to investigate the four faiths that were flourishing around his land and report back as to which they thought looked most enticing. His envoys visited the Bulgarian Muslims, but decided that any religion that forbade drinking alcohol was not for the Russians. They questioned Jewish religious leaders, but rejected Judaism as well. Of the two branches of Christianity available, they were most impressed with the Orthodox Church of Byzantium, where the beauty and mystery of the Orthodox Mass converted them to the faith; Roman Catholicism was thought too boring by comparison.

Page 168. " this Don Juan, wicked fellow "

 Don Juan is a legendary Spanish rake whose story has been told many times by many different artists, from Lord Byron to Molière and Mozart.

The earliest known version of the tale comes from a play by the Spanish writer Tirso de Molina, which dates from around 1630. After seducing many different women, Don Juan comes across the ghost of the father of one of his conquests. He invites the father's ghost to dinner with him, and when the ghost returns the invitation, Don Juan visits him at his grave and is dragged into hell.

Mozart italianised the name for his opera Don Giovanni. Ignoring any attempt at a Spanish pronunciation, Byron asks his English readers to pronounce Don Juan 'joo-an' in his 1821 poem, where he portrays Don Juan not as a seducer but as someone who is easily seduced by women.

Read Byron's poem online, or listen to Mozart's Don Giovanni on Spotify.


Page 169. " Démosthène, je te reconnais au caillou que ta bouche d'or! "
 'Demosthenes, I know thee by the pebble thou secretest in thy golden mouth!'

Demosthenes (384-322 BC) was a famous orator in Ancient Athens, a contemporary of Plato and Aristotle. Plutarch reports that Demosthenes had a speech impediment, and sought to improve his public speaking by talking whilst running, or with pebbles in his mouth. Like modern politicians, he employed professional speechwriters. During the war between Athens and Macedon Demosthenes made a great many speeches in support of Athens, which unsurprisingly led to trouble when the state was defeated by Philip of Macedon. Demosthenes was accused of embezzlement and exiled under Alexander the Great, Philip's son. After Alexander's death Demosthenes returned to Athens, but the state was invaded by Macedon again in 322, and, fearing arrest, Demosthenes committed suicide.

Page 171. " the Maria Theresa Order of the third grade "

The Maria Theresa Order
GNU Free Documentation LicenseThe Maria Theresa Order - Credit: Robert Prummel
 The Military Maria Theresa Order was founded in 1757 by the Empress Maria Theresa, the only female empress of the Holy Roman Empire. The three grades of the order were grand cross, the commanders' cross and the knights' cross, and they were presented to commissioned officers for outstanding acts of valour.