How easily, in the heat of the moment and when there is no stenographer to hand, are words misheard or misinterpreted. John Terry was initially thought to have uttered a racist sentiment when he had a conversation with his friend and fellow member of the football family, Anton Ferdinand. But, as the player has since explained, at great length and at considerable expense, it was all a misunderstanding. He was merely repeating back to Ferdinand a casual remark made by his chum in the course of some routine mid-game banter.
The Chelsea captain clearly has an insight into the kind of misconstruings with which history is so plentifully littered. We asked him if he could clear up any of them. And, blow us down, he could.
The Queen of France, and wife of the ill-fated Louis XVI, has been much maligned for her allegedly cold-hearted response to the shortage of bread for the people: "Let them eat cake!" John explains: "This is a classic case of a correct statement being wrongly punctuated. Marie was actually hosting a tea party when a courtier told her that the populace were starving. She answered: 'Let them eat!' and then offered a plate of fancies to a duchess with the word: 'Cake?' She should have got off."
"It don't look good for her. The old man's gone a bit tasty with a knife, his mate's been stabbed, and there's blood everywhere. The story goes that she's got some on her hands and is trying to wash it off, saying: 'Out, out, damned spot.' In fact they had this dog called Spot, and she wasn't washing her mitts but trying to shoo the dog out for his walk. 'Out! Out!' she shouts. And when he doesn't move, she adds: 'Damned Spot!'"
John says: "For two centuries old George has had to carry the can for cutting down this tree. It's bo*%$%cks! His dad, who was dead shifty, accused him of it, and George merely repeated the accusation, asking incredulously: 'It was I who chopped down the tree?'" Know how you feel, George.
"This really gets my wild up," says John. "History has condemned Henry for getting in a paddy and wishing someone would go round and do a nasty to Archbishop Thomas Becket, who was annoying him. My brief says that the real story is that one of his knights, called William, suggested bumping off the old vicar, but Henry intervened, saying: 'Will! No one rid me of this turbulent priest!'"