[The arrest of France's King Louis XVI and his family in Varennes - the day after their audacious escape attempt, on this day in 1791 (an event rendered here in the most romantic terms by Thomas Falcon Marshall) - led to their imprisonment in the Tuileries Palace, the abolition of the French monarchy, and some of the most egregious excesses of the French Revolution - including the storming of the Tuileries by the good people of Paris in August 1792, plus the executions of the King and the Queen, and the death of the pre-teen Dauphin while in prison besides. At the time of their capture, though, they were within 10 km (6 miles) of their destination, having already made a nerve-wracking 241 km (150 mile) journey from Paris...]
451 CE - Roman General Flavius Aetius in alliance with King Theodoric I of the Visigoths defeated Attila the Hun at the Battle of Chalons, forcing his retreat from Gaul across the Rhine; the last major military engagement of the Western Roman Empire - and undoubtedly the high point of the reign of Valentinian III - the battle nevertheless only delayed the collapse of the Roman Empire, which came in September 476 CE.
1214 - Oxford University was granted its charter - making it the oldest university in the English-speaking world - although lectures were being given there as early as 1096.
1631 - During the Sack of Baltimore the coastal Irish village was attacked by Algerian pirates from the Barbary Coast under the command of Jan Janszoon; 108 English planters and Irish villagers were abducted in the raid, all but two of whom likely spent the rest of their lives as slaves.
1685 - As the Monmouth Rebellion gathered momentum in its campaign against his openly papist uncle James II, James Scott, 1st Duke of Monmouth - the illegitimate son of Charles II and his mistress, Lucy Walter - declared himself King of England at the White Hart Inn in the Somerset village of Taunton.
1756 - A British garrison was imprisoned in the so-called Black Hole of Calcutta following the capture of Fort William by Siraj ud-Daulah, the Nawab of Bengal.
1782 - The Great Seal of the United States was adopted by Congress.
1791 - Just after 10 pm France's King Louis XVI and his immediate family - Queen Marie Antoinette, their children the Dauphin and Madame Royale, and the King's sister Madame Élisabeth - set out on what came to be known as the Flight to Varennes, an attempt to escape their impending fate in the teeth of the French Revolution, by posing as the servants of their childrens' governess, the Marquise de Tourzel, who herself posed as a Russian baroness; although meticulously planned by Count Axel von Fersen and the Baron de Breteuil, the plot was botched by ineptitude in its execution, which ironically led to a couple of history's more successful executions - namely those of the King and Queen themselves. The royal family were arrested the following afternoon (the King having unfortunately been recognized in the town of Sainte-Menehould, by a postmaster named Jean-Baptiste Drouet) when the royal family were within easy reach of their intended destination, Montmédy.
The entire event is thrillingly recounted by Lady Antonia Fraser in her book Marie Antoinette: The Journey.
1819 - The U.S. vessel SS Savannah arrived at Liverpool; although it was the first steam-propelled vessel to cross the Atlantic, most of the journey was made under sail.
1837 - Queen Victoria ascended to the throne following the death of her uncle, William IV - having turned 18 just one day shy of four weeks earlier, on May 24th. She received the news from William Howley, Archbishop of Canterbury, and Lord Conyngham just after 6 AM in her sitting room at Kensington Palace. For all the upheaval her young accession brought about, the fact that she was 18 at the time did spare the country from a regency - which would have been dominated by Victoria's overbearing mother, the Duchess of Kent, and the Duchess' closest advisor, the sinister John Conroy; the throne also delivered the young Queen from the personal influence of her mother as well, which would have been as much of a relief for Her Majesty as it was frustrating for the Duchess.
For further reading may the Pop Culture Institute recommend Her Little Majesty, by Carrolly Erickson.
1862 - Barbu Catargiu, the Prime Minister of Romania, was assassinated.
1863 - West Virginia became the 35th US state.
1877 - Alexander Graham Bell installed the world's first commercial telephone service in Hamilton, Ontario.
1893 - Lizzie Borden was acquitted of the brutal axe murder of her father and stepmother.
1919 - 150 people died in a fire at the Teatro Yaguez in the Puerto Rican town of Mayagüez.
1948 - Toast of the Town - which later became The Ed Sullivan Show - made its television debut.
1960 - Mali and Senegal were granted independence from France.
1979 - ABC News correspondent Bill Stewart was shot dead by a Nicaraguan soldier under the regime of Anastasio Somoza Debayle; the murder was caught on tape and sparked an international outcry against the regime.
1991 - The German Parliament moved the capital from Bonn back to Berlin.
2001 - Pervez Musharaff became President of Pakistan.
share on: facebook