[Empress Theodora's sudden illness gave rise to a slew of
conspiracy theories about poisoning, despite the
fact that she was by then over seventy.]
1056 - Byzantine Empress Theodora suddenly fell ill; she died just as suddenly a few days later without any legitimate heirs, thus ending the Macedonian dynasty.
1422 - Henry VI became King of England at the age of 9 months; needless to say, his reign didn't go so well. He remains the only monarch of that country to have been restored after being deposed.
1803 - Lewis and Clark began their expedition with the Corps of Discovery - to explore the lands of the Louisiana Purchase with a $2,500 endowment from President Thomas Jefferson - when they departed Pittsburgh shortly after 11 o'clock in the morning.
1869 - Mary Ward, an Irish scientist who worked with microscopes and telescopes, became the first person to die in an automobile accident, when she was run over by a steam-powered prototype built by her cousins.
1876 - Ottoman sultan Murat V was deposed and succeeded by his brother Abd-ul-Hamid II.
1886 - An earthquake since rated at between 6.5 and 7.5 on the Richter Scale killed more than 100 in Charleston, South Carolina.
1888 - Mary Ann 'Polly' Nichols became the first victim of Jack the Ripper.
1907 - Count Alexander Izvolsky and Sir Arthur Nicolson signed the St. Petersburg Convention, which resulted in the Triple Entente alliance between the UK, France, and Russia.
1939 - Nazi Germany mounted a staged attack on Gleiwitz radio station, giving them an excuse to attack Poland the following day, starting World War II in Europe.
1943 - The USS Harmon - the first US Navy ship honouring an African-American - was commissioned; it was named for Leonard Roy Harmon, a mess attendant who was a hero at the Battle of Guadalcanal.
1945 - The Liberal Party of Australia was founded by Robert Menzies.
1957 - The Federation of Malaya gained its independence from the United Kingdom.
1962 - Trinidad and Tobago became independent; although the country became a republic in 1976, it remains within the Commonwealth.
1963 - Walter Cronkite made his debut as the anchor of the CBS Evening News, a job which he held until 1981.
1978 - William and Emily Harris, who together founded the Symbionese Liberation Army, pleaded guilty to the 1974 kidnapping of newspaper heiress Patty Hearst.
1989 - Buckingham Palace announced the separation of the Queen's only daughter The Princess Royal from her husband of 16 years, Captain Mark Phillips; their divorce would become final in April 1992, although the couple appear to remain on good terms.
1991 - Kyrgyzstan seceded from the Soviet Union.
1998 - North Korea reportedly launched Kwangmyongsong, its first satellite; the majority of the international community has called bullshit on this claim.
2005 - A stampede on Al-Aaimmah Bridge in Baghdad killed 1,199 people.
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