Tales, Truths & Tirades – 17 November 2016


Today is the 322nd day of the year. There are 44 days remaining until the end of 2016. Today’s date, 17 November, is slightly more likely to fall on a Tuesday, Thursday or Saturday (58 in 400 years each) than on Sunday or Monday (57), and slightly less likely to occur on a Wednesday or Friday (56). How’s that for useful trivia. (Thanks, Wikipedia.)
I often tell my students never to underestimate the value of the calendar in journalism. On a “quiet” news day you can always find something interesting that happened on that date somewhere in history. And today is no exception.
Have you ever heard of Charles the Fat? On this day, in the year 887, Emperor Charles the Fat was deposed by the Frankish magnates in an assembly at Frankfurt.
I must admit that I’ve never heard of him before. But his name fascinates me. How fat was he? Was his weight ever measured? Did they have scales in those days? The paintings that pop up on Google Images when you type in Charles the Fat show a man of “considerable size”, to put it mildly.
Chubby Charlie had a number of cousins with similarly descriptive names. Charles the Simple, one of the sons of Louis the Stammerer, was another member of the Carolingian dynasty. He was also known as “Karolus Simplex”, “il Semplice”, and “den Enfaldige”. One doesn’t have to be a linguist to deduce that Simple Charlie wouldn’t have caused sleepless nights in Mensa-circles.
And then there was Charles the Bald, son of Louis the Pious. (They loved their epithets in those days.) Charles the Bald’s nickname was used ironically. He was apparently an extremely hairy fellow.
You might find it interesting that Fatty, Baldy and Dummy above were all descendants of Charles the Great, better known as King Charlemagne. The popularity of the name Charles in continental Europe was specifically due to the fame of Charlemagne in the eighth century.
And there you have it: A whole calendar-based column for a “quiet” news day.