History, Less Serious

11/11/11

I’ve already posted something for November 11 as Remembrance/Veterans Day, but given that it’s also one of the twelve days each century when the numbers of the month, day, and year (in mm/dd/yy format, or dd/mm/yy for our European readers) are identical, I thought I’d list the most important events in history for each such day.

(This has the added benefit of creating my favorite blog post URL ever — it looks like I wrote it in binary code. Or like one of our toddlers just pushed down the ’1′ button on the computer and pressed “Publish.”)

Federation Peak

Federation Peak, Tasmania - Creative Commons (Robert Hutton)

1/1/1901

An important date for two countries then part of the British Empire: some West Africans lost autonomy as Nigeria formally becomes a British protectorate, and Australians gained autonomy as the colonies of New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria, and West Australia federated as one commonwealth. G’day!

2/2/2002

Hmm… Kind of a pick ‘em among several marginally interesting but not exactly world-changing events, but we’ll go with the most recent 02/02/02, when writer Claude Brown (Manchild in the Promised Land) and Exodus frontman Paul Baloff both died.

3/3/1703 and 4/4/2004

Even slimmer pickings… For the threes, how about the death of Robert Hooke, a semi-important figure in the British wing of the Scientific Revolution, described by his own biographer as being “in person, but despicable” and “melancholy, mistrustful, and jealous”? (Plus he wrote in code to guard his own ideas, none of which seem to have been all that revolutionary, to my amateur’s eye.) And the fours are represented by the death of Belgian cyclist Alberic “Briek” Schotte, twice world road champion and the runner-up in the 1948 Tour de France.

I know, I know. But it’ll get more interesting.

Fingerprint

A fingerprint, not from either Stratton - Creative Commons (Wilfredor)

5/5/1905

Okay, this is more like it: on this date the Stratton Brothers (Alfred and Albert, if you’re keeping score) were convicted of murder. Why is that so notable? They were the first British criminals convicted using fingerprint evidence. (It had been used in Argentina for the first time thirteen years earlier.) The Strattons were hanged less than three weeks later. And if the authorities had known that this incident would help pave the way for CSI: Miami and CSI: New York, it would have been less than three minutes…

6/6/1606

Pierre Corneille was born. The “founder of French tragedy,” his Wikipedia entry labels him “one of the three great seventeenth-century French dramatists, along with Molière and Racine.” The difference being that I’ve both heard of and attended plays by Molière and Racine. Somehow I’ve missed revivals of Le Cid and Polyeucte.

7/7/1307

King Edward I of England died. “Longshanks” of Braveheart infamy (not sure he ever tossed his son’s male lover out a castle window, though he did exile one of the future Edward II’s closest friends), Edward treated the Jews even worse than the Scots, expelling them from England in 1290. However, other historians admire Edward for modernizing English law, and he was apparently a man of deep Christian faith and completely in love with his wife. The same year he expelled England’s Jewish population, Edward’s queen, Eleanor, died. The distraught king called her the woman “whom living we dearly cherished, and whom dead we cannot cease to love,” and proceeded to commission twelve stone crosses to be placed along the funeral route from Lincoln back to London (home of “Charing Cross”; the original no longer exists, but has been replaced).

8/8/1908

For the first time a Wright brother (Wilbur) flew an airplane in public, at a racetrack in Le Mans, France.

9/9/9

How’s that for a date! It earns a spot thanks to the ambush and massacre of three Roman legions in the Teutoborg Forest, at the hands of Germanic warriors led by the Cheruscan chief Arminius. (Not that Arminius. This one.) To everyone’s surprise, the Romans shrugged and decided simply not to expand their empire in that direction.

Just kidding.

10/10/2010

Well, the Roman general sent out to punish Arminius did die on a 10/10, but in the year AD 19, so that doesn’t help. But one of the greatest soul singers ever, Solomon Burke, died last year on October 10th. Here he is singing one of his most famous songs:

11/11/?

I’ve got nothing. But the day is young…

12/12/1212

The Lion in WinterAnd we’ll finish strong by doubling the twelves in the year itself! (If only I could find something from 11/11/1111…) And go back to the Plantagenets for the death of Geoffrey, the illegitimate son (one of them) of Henry II, named Archbishop of York by his half-brother, Richard the Lionheart.

In the wonderfully overacted movie The Lion in Winter, he’s the brother (played by John Castle) who’s most conniving and least affectionate toward his parents and brothers. (These are both highly relative adjectives, given the family dynamics depicted in the film.) At one point “Geoff” tells his little brother, John, that if he’s a prince, “there’s hope for every ape in Africa.” Later he sums up the various machinations thusly: “I know. You know I know. I know you know I know. We know Henry knows, and Henry knows we know it…. We’re a knowledgeable family.”

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