577AD: Death of Saint Brendan the Navigator, the Irish monk whose legendary travels in a leather currach helped establish the idea of a lush and inhabited island across the sea from Europe. “St. Brendan’s Island” often shows up on early maps; one school of thought believes it indicates that Brendan was actually the first European to make landfall in North America. He remains the patron saint of sailors and navigators.
1536: Opening day of Anne Boleyn’s trial for treason, adultery and incest. Anne was the daughter of Thomas Boleyn, 1st Earl of Wiltshire, and his wife, Lady Elizabeth Howard, and was educated in the Netherlands and France, largely as a maid of honour to Queen Claude of France. Anne returned to England in early 1522, to marry her Irish cousin James Butler, 9th Earl of Ormond; the marriage plans were broken off, and instead she secured a post at court as maid of honour to Henry VIII’s wife, Catherine of Aragon. Early in 1523 Anne was secretly betrothed to Henry Percy, son of the 5th Earl of Northumberland, but the betrothal was broken off when Percy’s father refused to support their engagement. Cardinal Wolsey refused the match in January 1524 and Anne was sent back home to Hever Castle. In February or March 1526, Henry VIII began his pursuit of Anne. She resisted his attempts to seduce her, refusing to become his mistress, which her sister Mary had been. It soon became the one absorbing object of Henry’s desires to annul his marriage to Catherine of Aragon so he would be free to marry Anne. When it became clear that Pope Clement VII would not annul the marriage, the breaking of the Catholic Church’s power in England began. In 1532, Henry granted Anne the Marquessate of Pembroke. Henry and Anne formally married on 25 January 1533, after a secret wedding on 14 November 1532. On 23 May 1533, newly appointed Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Cranmer declared Henry and Catherine’s marriage null and void; five days later, he declared Henry and Anne’s marriage valid. Shortly afterwards, the Pope decreed sentences of excommunication against Henry and Cranmer. As a result of this marriage and these excommunications, the first break between the Church of England and Rome took place and the Church of England was brought under the King’s control. Anne was crowned Queen of England on 1 June 1533. On 7 September, she gave birth to the future Queen Elizabeth I. Henry was disappointed to have a daughter rather than a son but hoped a son would follow and professed to love Elizabeth. Anne subsequently had three miscarriages, and by March 1536, Henry was courting Jane Seymour. In order to marry Jane Seymour, Henry had to find reasons to end the marriage to Anne (wikipedia).
1532: Sir Thomas More resigns as England’s Lord High Chancellor, his second attempt to leave Henry VIII’s court over the issue of papal versus royal supremacy.
1602: English navigator Bartholomew Gosnold discovers Cape Cod.
1643: Four year old Louis XIV ascends to the throne of France on the assassination of his father, Henry IV. Dubbed “The Sun King” by the media of the time, he famously responded when asked about the nature of the State, “L’etat, c’est moi! [I am the state]”
1776: The Virginia Convention instructs its delegates to the Continental Congress in Philadelphia to propose a resolution of independence from Great Britain.
1801: Birth of William Seward (d.1872), Secretary of State in the Lincoln Administration, and the official at Lincoln’s deathbed who announced to the press, “Now he belongs to the ages.” In the Andrew Johnson Administration, Seward became the chief advocate of the United States’ purchase of Alaska from Russia in 1867. The popularly remembered “Seward’s Folly” cost the country $7,200,000.00, or 2 cents per acre.
1860: Opening day of the Republican National Convention in Chicago. Springfield lawyer and former Member of Congress Abraham Lincoln defeats the front-runner New Yorker William Seward on the third ballot.
1864: The Battle of Spotsylvania Court House, the third sequential battle in U.S. Grant’s Overland Campaign to capture Richmond. Coming a week after the Wilderness fight, the battle was characterized by horrific bloodletting and unprecedented firepower that flattened the landscape and destroyed every tree and bush in the battle area. The climax occurred at the Bloody Angle, where hand-to-hand fighting occurred back and forth across trench lines and muddy fields completely filled with the corpses of the fallen. The mud was so thick that men who lost their balance were trampled and drowned before they could get back up. Because Lee was able to hold his position, and because the number of casualties was heavily weighted against the Union, it was technically a Confederate victory. But the battle was so costly to Lee that he was never able to re-gain the initiative against Grant, who continued to shift his army to the left and continue to probe and plunge against Lee’s ever-weakening right flank, eventually leading to the establishment of the siege line around Petersburg.
1868: President Andrew Johnson is acquitted on his impeachment trial by a single vote in the U.S. Senate.
1884: Death of inveterate tinkerer and inventor Cyrus McCormick (b.1809). McCormick is best known as the inventor of the mechanical reaper, which enabled viable economic growth for the huge farms of the Great Plains. His company formed the foundation of today’s International Harvester.
1889: Death of John Cadbury (b.1801), English grocer whose temperance beliefs led him to explore cocoa and chocolate as an alternative to the alcohol he saw ravaging the lives of the poor
1918: As a companion bill to its recently passed Espionage Act, Congress passes, and President Wilson signs, the Sedition Act. It makes it illegal to criticize, e.g.: to“…willfully utter, print, write or publish any disloyal, profane, scurrilous, or abusive language” about the U.S.government during time of war. In addition to a $10,000 fine and 20 years in prison, the Postmaster General was tasked to halt mail deliveries to and from any person convicted or associated with a person convicted of the act. Over 1500 were charged and more than 1000 were convicted. Wilson’s Attorney General sought to keep a peacetime version in place after the war, but Congress repealed it in December, 1920.
1928: Mickey Mouse makes his first appearance in a cartoon, the originally silent short Plane Crazy. The more popular Steamboat Willy came out in November.
1948: With the expiration at midnight of the League of Nations mandate to British Palestine, David Ben-Gurion proclaims the State of Israel from a museum in Tel Aviv. Guns from Syria, Jordan and the United Arab Republic (Egypt) are already firing in the background of his announcement
1949: Frustrated and embarrassed by the stunning success of the nearly year-long Berlin Airlift* (where air deliveries of food and supplies eventually surpassed pre-blockade rail shipments) the Soviet Union ends the Berlin Blockade, which is now recognized as the first battle of the Cold War. The success of the airlift compounded the political failure of the Soviets to intimidate the Western powers and led to the establishment of a separate West Germany on the 23rd of May.
1957: Great Britain detonates its first hydrogen bomb, a high altitude air burst, over Christmas Island in the South Pacific.
1963: Last flight of Project Mercury, with Gordon Cooper completing 22 earth orbits over the course of a 34 hour flight. His re-entry course landed him in the Pacific recovery zone only four miles from the prime recovery ship, USS Kearsarge (CVS-33).
1981: Pope John Paul II survives an assassination attempt by Turkish terrorist Mehmet Al Agca, part of a plot that originated in Bulgaria. The Pope forgave Agca and visited him on a number of occasions in his prison cell.
2006: As we speak [i.e., as we spoke in 2006], a 300 foot slab of rock is growing out of the dome in the crater of Mount St. Helens. Raw magma has also been spilling out of the core, helping to rebuild the conical shape of the mountain. Volcanologists do not expect another massive eruption but they are quick to point out that “things can change.” The US Forest Service runs a real-time camera aimed at the mountain. Website is: http://www.fs.fed.us/gpnf/volc anocams/msh/ and there are loads of interesting pictures and links to other volcano sites.