I’m recycling most of this from last November 11. Lazy? Sure, but keep in mind that I won’t get a chance to pull this again unless one of two equally unlikely things happens: (a) we adopt a calendar with more than twelve months; or (b) I’m still blogging on New Year’s Day in the year 2101, into my fifth quarter-century of life and probably using the last Mac Book Pro in existence.
It’s been a while since I’ve done a “This Day in History” post, but given that this is 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.
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!
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.
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…
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.
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).
For the first time a Wright brother (Wilbur) flew an airplane in public, at a racetrack in Le Mans, France.
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.
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 two years ago on October 10th. Here he is singing one of his most famous songs:
As reported in the New York Times the next day… Dateline: Canton, Ohio:
To decide which would take the office of Mayor, on which the vote resulted in a tie [3,414-3,414], Mayor Arthur Turnbull, Democrat, and Harry Schilling, Socialist, guessed odd or even as to the number of grains of corn contained in a cup scooped from a bag held by a member of the Stark County Board of Elections. Turnbull took the even, Schilling the odd. There were 110 kernels in the cup.
And 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.
Not to be confused (as I was the first time I wrote this post) with Henry’s legitimate son (with Eleanor of Aquitaine) named Geoffrey, who shows up in the wonderfully overacted movie The Lion in Winter as the brother (played by John Castle) who’s most conniving and least affectionate toward his parents and brothers. (This is saying something, 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.”