Tri-Cornered hats

As an American, tri-cornered hats always mean the heroes of the American Revolution.  AKA the good guys.

I had to re-examine my assumptions about these hats last week as I was watching “The Rise of Catherine the Great”

Russians wore tricornered hats too. In this series, they put fur around the corner. Ekaterina, known as Catherine the Great to English speakers, wore this fur-trimmed tricornered hat when she dressed as a soldier. Most of the time she wore gorgeous dresses and fabulous jewelry.

The series is in Russian, with marginally translated English subtitles. But the dresses and the winter palace made it very worthwhile.

Thing is, the tricornered hats were tough. Tricornered hats are as big a “good guy” flag as a super hero cape. I mean really!

But the world of Catherine had very few good guys. I wouldn’t even say that Catherine herself was a good guy.

There was a lot of intrigue and power struggles going on.

The tricornered hats clued me in that all this was happening during the same time period as the American Revolution.

What? There were other things happening in other parts of the world OTHER than the American Revolution. This is nothing we ever discussed in school!

In the world portrayed in this TV series Peter the Great’s daughter Elizabeth is ruling Russia. It turns out that another “great” was gathering strength. Frederick the Great (is this getting a little tedious, all the greats?) of Prussia was ripping through Europe.

Prussia was a proto-germany. Germany hadn’t yet congealed. It was a bunch of different little states, so when Frederick the Great took his little army of Prussians and tore through Europe it freaked everyone out. He wan’t supposed to be able to do that.

It was called the 7 years war. We don’t know about the 7 years war in America, even though it spanned 5 continents. Here it was called the French and Indian War. George Washington got to be a baby officer in that war—a sixteen year old lieutenant.

But in Europe, England and France were fighting, when Frederick jumped in and took advantage of their distraction. England allied with Frederick and kept fighting with France.

All this happened immediately before the American Revolution, and it was really the first world War.

One thing I’ve picked up about world wars is that they seem to repeat. Like, 20th century world war 2 was really an extension of World War 1.

So, as it happened, the American Revolution was really ANOTHER world war, and a continuation of the one just preceding it.

Remember how England was allied with Prussia? And France was fighting Britain?

I DO remember from grade school that Ben Franklin persuaded the French to fight for America. Now that I’ve learned the history from a tv series, I can see that it had less to do with Benjamin Franklin’s charms and more to do with sticking it to England.

I also remember that the Hessians fought AGAINST the Americans. Since the British had allied with Frederick just previously, it makes sense that they would get German troops to fight for them.

Catherine the Great was amazing. And with a combination of this Russian historical drama and Wikipedia I put the pieces together and really learned something about the world outside my front door.


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