[After the turbulent reign of his half-brother Harthacanute, that of Edward the Confessor was a comparative dawdle; peace and prosperity, however, come at a price - in this case an erosion of royal authority in favour of the country's three most powerful nobles... So while the power struggles of the Crown with Godwin, Earl of Wessex, Leofric, Earl of Mercia, and Siward, Earl of Northumbria, may have threatened to tear England asunder they were excellent practice for the greater threats of ongoing Viking invasion (which would be repelled once and for all under Edward's successor Harold Godwinson at the Battle of Stamford Bridge in 1066) and the Norman Conquest to come - which would not only succeed in bringing the English under foreign rule less than a year after the Confessor's death but also ironically unite them as a people in a loathing for the French that would last for a thousand years...]
1043 - Edward the Confessor, England's penultimate Saxon King, was crowned at Winchester Cathedral.
1287 - Pope Honorius IV died; he was succeeded by Nicholas IV in February 1288 - a papal vacancy or sede vacante of more than ten months. While this was unusual the longest papal conclave in history followed the death of Pope Clement IV in November 1268, and lasted until the election of Pope Gregory X in September 1271.
1559 - The treaty known as the Peace of Cateau-Cambrésis - having been signed by representatives of England's Elizabeth I and France's Henri II the previous day - was signed by those of Henri II and Spain's Philip II at Le Cateau-Cambrésis, ending the Italian Wars.
1860 - The first successful run of the Pony Express - from Saint Joseph in Missouri to Sacramento in California - took place; it would be made entirely redundant by the advent of the First Transcontinental Telegraph in October 1861.
1882 - Robert Ford killed the outlaw Jesse James for a $5,000 reward; Ford was recently portrayed by Casey Affleck, who was Oscar-nominated for the same film - The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford - that starred Brad Pitt as James.
1895 - The trial of Oscar Wilde opened; originally a libel trial instigated by Wilde himself against the frankly loathsome Marquess of Queensberry - father of Wilde's lover Lord Alfred Douglas - it ended with Wilde's own imprisonment in Reading Gaol on the grounds of homosexuality.
1922 - Joseph Stalin became the first General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.
1929 - An order was placed with John Brown & Company by the Cunard Line to build RMS Queen Mary, which would serve as the company's flagship for more than 30 years; retired in December 1967, the Queen Mary is now a major tourist attraction in Long Beach, California.
1936 - Bruno Richard Hauptmann was executed for the kidnap and murder of the Lindbergh baby.
1946 - Japan's Lieutenant-General Masaharu Homma was executed in the Philippines for leading the Bataan Death March.
1948 - US President Harry S. Truman signed the Marshall Plan, which authorized $5 billion in aid for 16 European countries adversely affected by World War II.
1953 - The first issue of TV Guide (shown, at right) hit newsstands bearing a full-colour image of Desi Arnaz, Jr. - whose own birth coincided with that of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz's fictional son, Little Ricky*... TV Guide came about after Walter Annenberg's Philadelphia-based Triangle Publications bought up numerous similar regional periodicals such as TV Forecast, TV Digest, and Television Guide with the aim of going national. At a price of just 15 cents, it quickly became the magazine with the highest circulation in the United States, peaking at around 20 million issues sold weekly in the 1970s. In fact, it would take the advent of cable in the early 1980s to bring about its decline, and even at that it would take twenty years, the Internet, and a 500-channel universe to do it!
*Originally aired on January 19th of that year, the I Love Lucy episode entitled Lucy Goes to the Hospital was watched by some 44 million people, representing 72% of the country's televisions at that time... To put it into perspective, the inauguration of President Dwight D. Eisenhower the following day only garnered 29 million viewers! I've said it before and I'll say it again - sitcoms represent the nadir of Western Civilization... But they're so damn funny!
1955 - Apparently the ACLU announced it would defend Allen Ginsberg's Howl in court, where it was facing obscenity charges.
1968 - Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his 'I've Been to the Mountaintop' speech; it would be the last major speech given by the prominent civil rights leader before his assassination.
1982 - A Royal Navy task force left Portsmouth with the intention of retaking the Falkland Islands.
1987 - Jewels belonging to the late Duchess of Windsor fetched top price at an auction in Switzerland; in all the sale netted some $45 million - 7 times the pre-sale estimate - which went to her principal beneficiary, the Pasteur Institute.
1993 - The steeplechase at the Grand National - held annually at Aintree Racecourse near Liverpool - was declared void after a false start.
1996 - The so-called Unabomber, Theodore Kaczynski, was arrested at his cabin in Montana.
2004 - Seven suspects in the March 2004 bombing of Madrid's Estación Atocha committed suicide rather than be captured as police surrounded their hideout in Leganés; one G.E.O. officer was killed and 11 police wounded when the apartment building in which the men were hiding blew up, while between five and eight other suspects escaped in the ensuing chaos.
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