Saturday, December 13, 2014

Koons Designed the Cover of Grazer’s Book – Clever PR for All Involved

Jeff Koons designed the jacket for producer Brian Grazer’s upcoming book “A Curious Mind: The Secret to a Bigger Life.”

Superproducer Brian Grazer has written a book about…curiosity. Pegged as “non-fiction”, publisher Simon & Schuster signed six-figure deal to publish it. The book will examine how curiosity and the endless search for knowledge drive creativity.

Grazer knows a thing or two about creativity. He has for decades conducted weekly “curiosity conversations” with accomplished strangers. Those conversations inspired Grazer to produce movies and TV shows such as “Splash” and “Arrested Development”.

The book, co-written with business journalist Charles Fishman, will be launched on April 7, 2015. For the book cover, Grazer came up with a brilliant (PR) idea – enlisting the services of artist Jeff Koons for the design. A win-win situation – great PR for Grazer and Koons, as well as free pre-publishing hype which will boost (pre)sales.

Why did Grazer turn to Koons? “When we began discussing a design for the jacket of my book, Jeff Koons was the first person I thought of. His pieces have always spoken to me — they are suffused with positivity. My curiosity conversation with him was one of the earliest and most memorable I’ve had, and I remember being especially struck by how generous and genuinely interested he was, in everything. Curiosity is a very natural thing for him – it is the foundation of his work, and his energy as a human being.”

As for the book cover design itself, Grazer stated: “When you look at the simple sketch he came up with, it has so much life and personality, and there is a celebratory quality to it.”

Whether you like the design or not, you have to agree: it’s a great way to get free publicity.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Agloe – A Mapmaker’s Protection Against Copycats

Making maps is painstaking work. Mapmakers throughout the ages have been victims of copycats passing their painstaking work off as their own. So how can you prove that someone ripped off the map that you made?

Simple: by adding a fake hamlet! In the 1930s, Otto G. Lindberg was the director of the General Drafting Co. Together with his assistant Ernest Alpers, he created a road map of New York State. To prevent copycats from ripping off their map, they added a totally fictitious place that they named "Agloe" on a remote dirt road. The name is in itself quite brilliant: it’s a mix of their initials OGL (Otto G. Lindberg) and EA (Ernest Alpers).

Lo and behold – the “trap” worked. The map company Rand McNally issued its own New York state map featuring "Agloe." Lindberg promptly sued.

But Rand McNally’s legal defense team came up with an interesting defense. The legal eagles pointed out in court that there was a shop called “Agloe General Store” nearby. Ergo, it must have gotten its name from a nearby village.

The owners of the shop looked at a map distributed by Esso, which owned a plethora of local gas stations. Esso had originally purchased its map featuring Agloe completely legally from Lindberg and Alpers. The store owners assumed that since Esso’s map features Agloe, they might as well name their shop after it. Oh, the irony!

Fast-forward to the 21st century. The all-knowing Google Maps shows Agloe as a destination (including directions!) until recently. Only in 2014 was the Agloe myth exposed and expunged from Google maps.

After 80 years, Agloe has disappeared from the maps. I am pretty sure that AGL and OE up there are laughing their heads off! As for Rand McNally, the company was finally exposed as the map pirate it was.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

The Lawsuit Against Kim Kardashian That Has a Bite To It

Kim Kardashian, despite having a healthy chuck of disposableincome from whatever source, does not always pays her bills. Seems to run in the family – little Sis also skipped on paying her dinner bill of $ 33 atMercerKitchen.

In 2001, KK went to Dr. Craig Gordon to have her silver fillings replaced with porcelain ones. After nasal-voice Kardashian refused to pay her bill, the dentist tried everything to get paid.

In 2002, Dr. Gordon got a default judgment for $1,605.73. Still, Calabasas Kim refused to pay. One decade later, the debt has increased to $3,320.48 due to accumulated interest.

Being quite resourceful, the dentist filed a lien on anything Kim would recover from her divorce from husband #2 or #3 aka Kris Humphries to settle her debt. But that didn’t work either.

The dentist is now sinking his teeth in a new way to recoup payment: he is selling the court judgment he got against the reality showchick for $13,000. That makes absolute sense considering her fame/notoriety level. It’s a brilliant move – anyone who loves/hates KK, will be too happy to fork out the money to be able to cash a check directly from the debtbeat K-clan member.

Saturday, August 09, 2014

The War of the Books - Amazon vs Hachette

Amazon is on the warpath. It sent its Kindle authors the following message:

"It’s the e-book’s turn to be opposed by the literary establishment. Amazon and Hachette – a big US publisher and part of a $10 billion media conglomerate – are in the middle of a business dispute about e-books. Amazon wants lower e-book prices. Hachette does not. Many e-books are being released at $14.99 and even $19.99. That is unjustifiably high for an e-book. With an e-book, there’s no printing, no over-printing, no need to forecast, no returns, no lost sales due to out of stock, no warehousing costs, no transportation costs, and there is no secondary market – e-books cannot be resold as used books. E-books can and should be less expensive.

Perhaps channeling Orwell’s decades old suggestion, Hachette has already been caught illegally colluding with its competitors to raise e-book prices. So far those parties have paid $166 million in penalties and restitution. Colluding with its competitors to raise prices wasn’t only illegal, it was also highly disrespectful to Hachette’s readers.

The fact is many established incumbents in the industry have taken the position that lower e-book prices will “devalue books” and hurt “Arts and Letters.” They’re wrong. Just as paperbacks did not destroy book culture despite being ten times cheaper, neither will e-books. On the contrary, paperbacks ended up rejuvenating the book industry and making it stronger. The same will happen with e-books.

Many inside the echo-chamber of the industry often draw the box too small. They think books only compete against books. But in reality, books compete against mobile games, television, movies, Facebook, blogs, free news sites and more. If we want a healthy reading culture, we have to work hard to be sure books actually are competitive against these other media types, and a big part of that is working hard to make books less expensive.

Moreover, e-books are highly price elastic. This means that when the price goes down, customers buy much more. We've quantified the price elasticity of e-books from repeated measurements across many titles. For every copy an e-book would sell at $14.99, it would sell 1.74 copies if priced at $9.99. So, for example, if customers would buy 100,000 copies of a particular e-book at $14.99, then customers would buy 174,000 copies of that same e-book at $9.99. Total revenue at $14.99 would be $1,499,000. Total revenue at $9.99 is $1,738,000. The important thing to note here is that the lower price is good for all parties involved: the customer is paying 33% less and the author is getting a royalty check 16% larger and being read by an audience that’s 74% larger. The pie is simply bigger.

But when a thing has been done a certain way for a long time, resisting change can be a reflexive instinct, and the powerful interests of the status quo are hard to move. It was never in George Orwell’s interest to suppress paperback books – he was wrong about that.

And despite what some would have you believe, authors are not united on this issue. When the Authors Guild recently wrote on this, they titled their post: “Amazon-Hachette Debate Yields Diverse Opinions Among Authors” (the comments to this post are worth a read).

A petition started by another group of authors and aimed at Hachette, titled “Stop Fighting Low Prices and Fair Wages,” garnered over 7,600 signatures. And there are myriad articles and posts, by authors and readers alike, supporting us in our effort to keep prices low and build a healthy reading culture. Author David Gaughran’s recent interview is another piece worth reading.

Amazon recognizes that writers reasonably want to be left out of a dispute between large companies. Some have suggested that we “just talk.” We (at Amazon) tried that. Hachette spent three months stonewalling and only grudgingly began to even acknowledge our concerns when we took action to reduce sales of their titles in our store. Since then Amazon has made three separate offers to Hachette to take authors out of the middle.

We first suggested that we (Amazon and Hachette) jointly make author royalties whole during the term of the dispute. Then we suggested that authors receive 100% of all sales of their titles until this dispute is resolved. Then we suggested that we would return to normal business operations if Amazon and Hachette’s normal share of revenue went to a literacy charity.

But Hachette, and their parent company Lagardere, have quickly and repeatedly dismissed these offers even though e-books represent 1% of their revenues and they could easily agree to do so. They believe they get leverage from keeping their authors in the middle.

We will never give up our fight for reasonable e-book prices. We know making books more affordable is good for book culture. We’d like your help. Please email Hachette and copy us.

Hachette CEO, Michael Pietsch:

Copy us at:

The Amazon Books Team

P.S. You can also find this letter at"

Do you as a reader or writer agree?

(Image courtesy of Bidness Inc)

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Amazing Poem by 18-year-old Nienke Woltmeijer for National Remembrance Day

She is only 18 years old, but she penned an amazing poem. Every year, the Dutch government organizes a poetry contest. Youngsters between 14 till 19 are invited to write a poem for National Remembrance Day which takes place on May 4.

There were 260 entries in total. The winner of the 2014 competition is Nienke Woltmeijer with her powerful poem about a tree. Chairman of the jury Anne Vegter explained: “The jury was especially impressed with the amazing image that the poem evokes. A tree that has witnessed it all. Nienke also impressed with her presentation.”

Woltmeijer will read her poem in public on the Damrak in Amsterdam on the 4th of May.

Following is Nienke Woltmeijer’s original poem in Dutch with TipTopTranslator's English translation:

“De stille getuige.                                         “The silent witness.
De boom aan de rails.                                   The tree next to the railroad track.
Omringd door prikkeldraad.                          Surrounded by barbed wire.
Torende boven het wachtershuisje.               Towering over the guard station.

Geworteld in grond van ellende.                   Rooted in soil of misery.
De boom hoorde de doffe knallen.                The tree heard muted bangs.
Rook de mist van angst.                                Smelled the fog of anguish.
Zag een uitzichtloze weg.                              Saw the futile road.
Wanhoopte een eindeloze strijd.                    Despaired of an endless struggle.

Troostend het kind met verdriet.                    Consoling the sad child.
Omarmend de vrouw in wanhoop.                 Embracing the woman in despair.
Bemoedigend de man zonder uitzicht.           Encouraging the man without a future.
Beschermend hen zonder schuilplaats.          Protecting those without a shelter.

Bladeren fluisteren de herinnering.                Leaves whisper the memory.
Takken vertellen het verhaal.                          Branches are telling the story.
De bast verzacht de pijn.                                  Bark soothes the pain.
De wortels vangen de tranen                            Roots are catching the tears.
De boom vertelt het verhaal van toen.            The tree tells the story of the past.
Het staat gekerfd en wordt nooit vergeten.”    It is carved and will never be forgotten”

Woltmeijer: “The old trees at Westerbork or in the garden of the Anne Frank Museum are tangible reminders of the past. Each time I see those trees, I wonder what they have seen over time that we as the younger generation heard about, but never witnessed. That is what I want to communicate.”

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Pope Francis Oops – An Embarrassing “Lost In Translation” Mistake

As we all know, Pope Francis is a native Spanish speaker. The Argentinean-born Bishop of Rome is not that fluent in Italian. It showed when he was delivering a blessing in Italian and got a crucial word mixed up.

When blessing his public audience during the weekly Vatican blessing that takes place every Sunday, he wanted to say caso, which means "example" or "case."

Sadly enough, the pope pronounced it as cazzo. This four-letter word is the Italian equivalent of f*ck, c*ck or d*ck.

According to Italian newspaper The Local, the Pope said the following to his audience in St Peter’s Square:
 “If each one of us does not amass riches only for oneself, but half for the service of others, in this f*ck [pause], in this case, the providence of God will become visible through this gesture of solidarity.”

According to The Daily Mail, the mistake is a common one among non-native Italian speakers. Francis, whose blessing was aimed at the current crisis in the Ukraine, quickly realized his mistake and corrected himself.

However, the moment will be remembered forever. The error only added to his image as the "people's pope”.

To listen to Il Papa's historic slip of the tongue, watch the video below.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Decoding The Voynich Mystery – Are We Getting Close?

In September 2012 and April 2013, I wrote about the Voynich mystery.

The Voynich Manuscript was created during the 15th century and is still an intriguing unsolved mystery. It is written in an unknown language that not even military cryptographers were able to decipher. It also contains beautiful illustrations and descriptions of events and flora unknown to man.

It seems that finally at least a small part of the code has been cracked. Stephen Bax, Professor of Applied Linguistics at the University of Bedfordshire, claims to have deciphered part of the manuscript using linguistic analysis.

Professor Bax is an expert in mediaeval manuscripts and familiar with Semitic languages such as Arabic. This helped him to analyze text letter by letter. Up till now, he was able to decipher 14 letters and 10 words.

He identified one of those words as the term for Taurus, alongside a picture of seven stars which seem to be the Pleiades. He also found the word KANTAIRON alongside a picture of the plant Centaury as well as a number of other plants.

Professor Bax explained: “The manuscript has a lot of illustrations of stars and plants. I was able to identify some of these, with their names, by looking at mediaeval herbal manuscripts in Arabic and other languages, and I then made a start on a decoding, with some exciting results.”

To learn more, watch the following video.


Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The Controversial Use of the Coffin of Famous Dutch Author Harry Mulisch in a Notary Ad

Nationale Notaris (National Notary) is an organization of 60 notaries throughout the Netherlands.

The organization wanted an ad campaign for promoting last wills and testaments. It hired ad agency DKTD that came up with the slogan: “Ready to go? Try out the free last will scan of

The ad needed a strong visual. DKTD approached photographer Merlin Daleman and asked him for permission to use a photo of a funeral featuring six pallbearers with top hats carrying a coffin at the Zorgvliet cemetery. It was the funeral of Harry Mulish, a famous Dutch author whose works include The Assault. The film version of that novel won a Golden Globe and Academy Award.

Daleman said that he told the ad agency “you know that’s Harry Mulisch, correct?” He assumed that it was a national campaign sponsored by the Dutch government to advise people to take care of their affairs during their lifetime. Once he saw the photo featured in the ad, he wondered. “I didn’t expect that, but since they bought the photo from me, they are entitled to use it once as they please.”

The CEO, Albert van der Wijk, loved the ad and ordered 5,000 posters were printed. There are 1,500 posters distributed in 12 cities. The ad also features prominently on the homepage of the website.

Family members of the late author were shocked when they saw the poster in Amsterdam. They were not informed by the ad agency.

Danny Tournier, owner of DKTD, claims that he himself was not aware that the photo was of the famous Dutch author’s funeral. "It is quite likely mentioned somewhere in the paperwork, but it did not surface at the crucial moment."

Mr, Van der Wijk also stated that he was not aware that the photo was taken at the funeral of the author who passed away in 2010. “I just thought that it was a beautiful image. I was surprised that the family had not been informed.”

Nationale Notaris contacted the family and wants to see how the organization can adapt the ad campaign if family members so desire. Removing and destroying all the posters would be a major financial setback for the organization.

DKDT also reached out to the family and contacted Frieda Mulisch, the author’s daughter. According to Tournier: "Frieda and I understand each other. She understands that we chose this photo, but that there was somewhere along the line miscommunication.” It will be interesting to see what the Mulisch family will decide

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Will Book Clubs Be A New Marketing Venue For Authors?

Book clubs could become a great way for authors to promote their books. Jean Hanff Korelitz, a novelist herself, started “Book the Writer”. A book club can book a writer for an appearance for the sum of $750. From this amount, the author gets $400 while “Book the Writer” keeps $350.

Authors such as Kurt Andersen, A. M. Homes, Zoë Heller, Michael Cunningham and Amy Sohn are happy to be booked. They appear in person at those book club meetings to discuss their works with their fans. The attending club members can ask the writer in person about writing processes, characters, plot lines, etc.

It’s a new way of marketing for writers. They directly interact with their target audience. It’s a great way to build word-of-mouth for their books, especially since opportunities for book signings in bookstores and book tours are declining.

“Book the Writer” is currently mainly active in New York, the center of the publishing industry. According to the founder, she based the concept on the author hosting she did when she lived in Princeton, N.J. She provides the service to book clubs in Manhattan and Brooklyn.

Publishers also use book clubs to reach their customers. Little, Brown and Company let its authors attend book club meetings via Skype at no charge. The publisher also sends complimentary copies of upcoming novels to about 75 book clubs throughout the country.

It will be interesting to see if “Book the Writer” will be successful and spread to other cities.

Friday, February 07, 2014

Google Makes a Brave Statement with Its Olympic Doodle

On Friday 7, 2014 the XXII Olympic Winter Games started in Sochi, Russia. 

As always, search engine Google commemorated the event with a doodle. It depicts the popular winter sports such as skiing, ice hockey, curling, bobsleigh, and ice skating and snowboarding. 

Under the doodle, Google cited part of section 6 of the Olympic handbook:

"The practice of sport is a human right. Every individual must have the possibility of practicing sport, without discrimination of any kind and in the Olympic spirit, which requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play."

However, this time the doodle also made a political statement. The doodle incorporates the rainbow colors to promote the rights of lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders (LGBT).

Google is making a brave statement – Russia is known for its anti-gay stance. In June 2013, Vladimir Putin passed a law stigmatizing gay people and banning "propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations." It is part of Putin’s efforts to promote traditional Russian ideals and values. Russia believes that Western liberties will corrupt Russia’s youth.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon condemned discrimination against homosexuals during a speech to the International Olympic Committee. He said that “many professional athletes, gay and straight, are speaking out against prejudice.”

Official sponsors such as Coca-Cola, Visa, Samsung, McDonald’s, Procter & Gamble, Omega, General Electric and Dow Chemical preferred to remain silent on the issue.

Saturday, February 01, 2014

Paging Eustace Tilley

Did you ever wonder who the dandy on the cover of the New Yorker is? You know, that well-dressed gentleman looking at a butterfly through his monocle? His story is quite interesting!

For the first cover of the New Yorker, Rea Irvin drew the character. Over time, he even got his own name: Eustace Tilley. Corey Ford wrote a series of humorous articles for the New Yorker that spoofed corporate promotional writing. His stories were used to fill up empty pages that were not bought by advertisers to promote their products. Ford’s stories were illustrated with drawings that often featuring Eustace Tilley. In one such illustration, Tilley supervises the felling of “specially grown trees to make paper for The New Yorker.”

Irvin got inspiration for his Eustace Tilley magazine cover from an unlikely source: an 1834 drawing of Count Alfred Guillaume Gabriel D’Orsay. The drawing “man of Fashion in Early Victorian Period” was featured in the costume section of the Encyclopædia Britannica.

Count D’Orsay (1801-1852) was a famous dandy and wit, known for his stunning good looks. He was admired for his charming manner and brilliant wit. At 6ft, he towered over his fellow men and posed a striking figure. He created his own flamboyant style that was imitated everywhere. His admirers included Lord Byron, Benjamin Disraeli, William Thackeray, Charles Dickens and even Thomas Carlyle.

D’Orsay was known as a “butterfly dandy”, which explains why Rea Irvin drew him looking at the butterfly on the cover.

As for Eustace Tilley, the New Yorker tried to update his image over the years. At times, Tilley morphed into a female Tilley, an African-American Tilley, and a punk Tilley. No matter what they do to him, Tilley is here to stay. Not bad for an octogenarian dandy!

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Why Kanye Hates Coinye Currency and Promply Killed It

As you might now, the virtual currency Bitcoin is becoming more and more popular. Needless to say, its success triggered quite a few copycat cryptocurrencies trying to get a piece of the action. Virtual money talks!

A group of seven coders took a different direction – they decided to have some fun with the new hype. They created a virtual coin with the name “CoinYe West”, which they later shortened to “Coinye”. They even came up with a catchphrase: we ain’t minin’, we pickin’. The seven coders decided that the maximum number of Coinyes that could ever be mined in the currency would be 66,666,666,666. They also had fun with the design - it featured a cartoon fish wearing West's signature shutter shades.

Kanye West was not amused. The musician is not known for his sense of humor which might explain why his facial expression often resembles that of Grumpy Cat. He promptly instructed his lawyers to take action.

Since the entity of the powers behind Coinye was unknown, West’s legal team decided to also go after (a currency exchange) and as the provider of web hosting services to virtual currency exchanges. The legal eagles were hoping to flush out the John Does they wanted to sue.

Kanye’s law office Pryor Cashman LLP sent out a cease and desist letter of January 6, 2014 on behalf of Grumpy Kanye. In it, they state: “Mr. West is an internationally renowned musical artist, songwriter, producer, film director and fashion designer, to name just a few of Mr. West’s endeavors.” The Coinye currency would take advantage of/harm his brand. They go on to point out that the logo resembles their client and that the name of the currency was “substantially similar” to Kanye’s name. They demanded that all websites and social media accounts (Facebook and Twitter) associated with Coinyes would be shut down.

The developers quickly moved their website to India and issued the following statement:

We are just a few guys who are excited about the future of cryptocurrency and would like to see it become a more mainstream phenomenon. We would like to make it clear that we are entirely independent of the Kanye, and there should be no confusion as to the intent or origin of this project. The name "Coinye" is intended solely as parody, not an indication or implication of endorsement or involvement.”

After considering their options, the creators of Coinye decided to back down and pulled the Coinye currency. They posted on their website "Coinye is dead. You win Kanye".

RIP Coinye

(Image courtesy of Coinye)

Monday, January 20, 2014

Shia LaBeouf’s Weird Plagiarism Case

On December 17, 2014 Shia LaBeouf released his short film Howard It did not take long for sharp eyes to detect the uncanny resemblance to a comic strip by famous creator Daniel Clowes.

LaBeouf took to Twitter to apologize for the mishap. Funny enough, even his mea culpa tweet seems to be plagiarized!

LaBeouf obviously does not know how to apologize. His tweet “[getting] lost in the creative process” doesn’t justify ripping off Daniel Clowes, especially considering the amount of time and work Clowes put into it.

LeBeouf also answered numerous questions about the origins of the short movie without pointing out that he adapted it from the comic strip,

Funny enough, even his apology about his plagiarism seems to be plagiarized! Andrew Hake noticed on Twitter that LaBeouf has already been caught once before in plagiarizing an apology. It seems that LaBeouf prefers trolling the Internet to find "his" apology instead of writing it himself.

According to Andrew S. Allen “We were led to believe by Shia and the filmmaking team that the story and script for was completely original,. There is a global outcry about the uncredited use of Daniel Clowes’ work. That didn’t come until it hit online. If it wasn’t for the legions of online Clowes fans, this may never have come to light.

As curators of a powerful but under-appreciated medium like short film where filmmakers spend years of work to make little or no money, the recognition you get from your work, and therefore attribution, is often all you have, so we take it seriously. Until Clowes grants permission and is credited in the work, we’ve pulled the film offline.”

Meanwhile on Twitter, users came together with the tongue-in-cheek hashtag #shialaboeuffilms to offer some suggestions for future projects LaBoeuf could create that would also be “inspired by someone else’s idea”:

Shia LaBeouf tried to close the unpleasant incident by stating that his behavior, tweets, plagiarism and public apologies were all part of his "performance art" for a project called #stopcreating. Guess what? He got the idea from Joaquin Phoenix.

Curious minds want to know - was that LaBoeuf's final act of plagiarism?

Saturday, January 11, 2014

The Tale of the Two Wine Label Tulips

HEMA is a leading Dutch discount retailer selling household goods. As part of its range, it sells the South African Kleintuin wine. The label features a red tulip.

Slight problem - the label closely resembles those on the bottles of artisan winemaker and TV show host Ilja Gort.

His tulip brands his La Tulipe wine since 1997. It was painted by his then 6-year-old son. 

Mr. Gort was upset when he saw HEMA's wine abel and claimed that the discount retailer was trying to cash in on his success.

His lawyer sent a cease-and-desist letter; originally without success. When Mr. Gort threatened to take HEMA to court, the retailer finally responded. HEMA announced that it would pull all bottles with the disputed label.

The retailer also emphasized that it “never intended to copy the wines of Mr. Gort” and that it would redesign the labels “to avoid any confusion in the future.”

Mr. Gort would have won the court case. His La Tulipe wine has been winning international awards for years. Any confusion with the HEMA’s table wine would harm the exclusive La Tulipe brand.

Gort also uses another drawing of his then 8-year-old son. The kid's painted rose features on the label of the Tulipe de la Garde wines. In 2000, Dutch painter Jan Cremer sued Gort claiming that he was the original artist of that rose design and never got royalties. The case was dismissed by the District Court of Utrecht.

(Image courtesy of

Saturday, January 04, 2014

Why the Real Snow White Was Murdered in Brussels

Many fairytales are based on real persons and events. Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm made it their mission to preserve Germanic folktales.

One of the most popular tales is for sureSnow White. But few people now that the story is based on a cause célèbre that took place in royal circles. It involves star-crossed lovers, child labor and death by poison.

The tantalizing tale starts with the beautiful Margaret, daughter of Count Philipp IV of Waldeck-Wildungen and Margareta of Eastern Friesland. Margareta was Philipp’s sixth child. Her mother died when she was four. Her father remarried. His second wife Catherine of Hatzfeld was a strict stepmother. She died childless a few years before Margaret herself passed away.

Margaret grew up in Freidrichstein Castle near the German town of Waldeck. Life for many was far from a fairytale exisance.

For one, the area was known for its mining activities. The Waldeck family ownedgold, silver, copper, lead and iron mines. In the local copper mines, much of the work was done by small children. The brutal working conditions and malnutrition stunned their growth. They were referred to as “dwarfs”.

Furthermore, Margaret’s hometown was the hunting ground of a grisly murderer. A local man suspected some children of stealing from him, decided to take matters in his own hands by giving the little suspects poisoned apples.

By the time Margaret turned 16, her relationship with her stepmother had turned so bad, that her father decided to send her abroad. She went to live at the court of Brussels under the protection of Mary of Hungary. Needless to say, her father also sent her there to marry well.

The young beauty got the eye of two prominent suitors: the Spanish Crown Prince Philipp and the Dutch Count of Egmont. Both suitors showered her with gifts and attention. Margaret and Philipp became lovers and he contemplated marrying her. That created a major problem for Philipp’s father; Margaret was not eligible enough. Marriages at that time were alliances between families, not love matches. Margaret could not offer the future King of Spain Philipp II any interesting political ties or benefits.

Soon after, Margaret’s health started slowly to deteriorate as she mentioned in letters to her father. She also wrote her last will and testament in shaky handwriting resulting from tremors due to poisoning. When she passed away at the tender age of 21, rumor circulated that she had been poisoned by or someone who hated her or by the Spanish court to prevent Philipp from marrying her.

Her life might have been short, but her legend will live on for many more centuries to come!

(Image courtesy of the Royal Library in Bad Arolsen, Reference: Genealogica iconica seu picturata comitum in Waldeck, antehac in archivo asservata ca.1580)