29 May 1453: The Bloody Fall Of Constantinople


It was a Tuesday like none other. All you could see was destruction, the two armies shooting at each other, huge cannons were being used to blow up enemy soldiers and walls. The water in the gutters had turned insidiously red. Dead bodies upon dead bodies of Ottomans and Byzantines were floating in the sea.

This was day 53 of a bloody siege laid on this beautiful, one of the riches cities in Europe, by 80,000-200,000 Ottoman men. On 29th May 1453 the siege laid over Constantinople by the 21 year old Sultan, Mehmed II came to an end giving power over Constantinople to the Ottoman Empire.

Roman emperor, Constantine the Great had made Constantinople the imperial capital in 330. The history of Constantinople is very interesting spanning over 11 centuries before being handed over to the Ottomans on this fateful day of 29th May.

During those 1100 odd years, it was captured only once during what they call as Fourth Crusade in 1204, only to be recaptured from the Latins in 1261. The 29th Day of May of 1453 came as the final blow which took away Constantinople for good.

Constantinople(modern day Istanbul), post the siege was made the new capital of the Ottoman Empire signifying the importance that the siege had. Capturing this city was in no way a small feat. Only once had it been previously captured in the 1100 year history to be taken back just 57 years later.

Constantinople even had withstood the black plague that lasted from 1346 to 1349 although it had sadly lost more than half of it’s population to this plague. Even though the empire was left to just a few kilometres around Constantinople by 1450, the city itself enjoyed a great name and fame being the largest and the wealthiest pf cities of Europe.

This siege might have lasted for 53 days, but Mehmed II had been planning this hostile takeover all along since 1451, when he had succeeded his father at the age of 19. He had strategically cut of the supplies and made an elaborate plan to take over the city as a crown jewel for himself.

Once the initial assault was successful, the Ottoman army spread throughout the city with only a few citizens managing to escape their bloody fate.

Lost Letters From 1679 – Travels To Spain

I have learnt, since this little Adventure, that ’tis the Custom in Spain, when any thing is presented to one, if he likes it, and kisses your Hand, he may take it with him.

Madame d’Aulnoy

A guy took her expensive mechanical watch to have a look(Tompion’s) and then took her hand in his and kissed it. As soon as he did it, he put the watch in his pocket, which she describes would have been bigger than someone’s travel sack, and walked away.

One such Tompion’s mechanical hand watch from 1708, sold for GBP 25,000 at an auction. One of Tompion’s table clocks sold for GBP 2M in 1999.

We arriv’d in good time at St. John de Luz: nothing can be pleasanter than this Borough, which is the greatest in France, and the best built; there are several smaller Cities : its Port lies between two Mountains, which Nature seems to have expressly placed to defend it from Storms ; the River Nivelle disgorges it self therein ; the Sea comes up very high in it, and the greatest Barks come up commodiously to the Key. The Seamen here are very skillful at catching Whales, and other large Fish.

Madame d’Aulnoy

I felt this was very interesting. The fact that in 1600s, there were fishermen skillful and crafty enough to catch whales.

Makes me wonder what did they exactly do with a whale they caught. Not all parts are going to be edible.

What did they use the whale teeth for?

Born to Nicolas – Claude Le Jumel, who was said to have served in the armies of Louis XIV for a long time. Her father Nicolas, was related to a few of the best families in Normandy, and her mother worked to provide special services to the Spanish Court.

Marie-Catherine Le Jumel de Barneville, Baroness of Aulnoy, was a french fairy tale writer who became famous to the family for her works done in the late 17th century among other female fairy tale writers.

Her notable works included La Chatte Blanche, La Grenouttle Bien-complaisante, Le Prince Lutin, L’Oiseau Bleue

Baroness of Aulnoy
Baroness of Aulnoy

She got married at the age of 16 to Francois de La Motte who was 52 at the time. This fact really tells something about marriages and society of those times.

If the Contes des Fees of Madame Aulnoy have had a remarkable vogue, not so fortunate has been the lot of some of the historical endeavors of this lady. Her Memoires de la Cour d’Espagne (1679-1681) and Memoires de la Cour d’Angleterre (1695) have been quietly laid aside, together with the Histoire d’Hippolyte, Comte de Douglas (1690), and the Histoire de Jean de Bourbon (1692), for, though always interesting, the qualities of imagination which combine to the writing of a fairy tale are not quite those needed for the making of history, and unfortunately for the clever lady, it is in the field of “delicate frivolity that she has been placed.”

Most Faithful Servant

She traveled with little mules, her banker, and servants. She tells various stories in her letters out of which a couple I have highlighted.

Gateway Of Fuenterrabia
Gateway Of Fuenterrabia

Some who came to feed me, brought little little Sucking Pigs under their Arms, as we do little Dogs: it’s true they were very spruce, and several of ’em had Collars of Ribbons, of various Colours: However, this Custom looks very odd, and 1 cannot but think that several among themselves are disgusted at it: When they danced, they must set them down, and let these grunting Animals run about the Chamber, where they make a very pleasant Harmony.

Madame d’Aulnoy

She wrote this in her first letter, written to her cousin. She had to travel through France into Spain, her journey included riding with the litter through multiple mountains, then to cross the sea to finally come to a junction where you had to pay toll to enter Spain.

Both Spain and France had decided that at this toll, the two countries would split the collection irrespective of the political situation. To come to a conclusion like that feels a big deal to me, as it would be but natural for one country to want all the money collected during 1600s.

Medina Del Campo
Medina Del Campo

She explains in great detail the events that took place throughout her journey through Spain in 1679 through these long letters she wrote.

Her words resonate very well, seems like she is writing a fairy tale to take you through the towns, castles, and people she encountered on her long journey.

Definitely a great but lesser known storyteller.

She traveled a lot, wrote a great deal about her experience and died in her house in the Rue Saint-Benoit in January, 1705.