Wednesday, March 16, 2011

POPnews - March 16th

[From its commanding position on the western bank of the Hudson River adjacent to Highland Falls 80 km (50 miles) north of New York City, West Point has been witness to the sweep of American history from the treason of Benedict Arnold in July 1780 (during which he attempted to turn the fort over to the British, an event known to history as the Betrayal at West Point) to the first graduate Joseph Gardner Swift in 1794 right through to the current day, although it's a little-known fact that most of its pupils have been trained as engineers. The entire site was made a national landmark in 1960.]

1190 - At least 150 Jews were massacred at York (on the day of the Jewish feast of Shabbat ha-Gadol, which is the shabbat before Passover) when an angry mob led by Richard de Malbis which had been laying siege to a building on the site of Clifford's Tower - a prominent part of York Castle where they'd earlier sought and been granted refuge - breached their ersatz Masada*; it was more likely his massive debt with agents of the banker Aaron of Lincoln**, though, that inspired de Malbis to encourage the frenzy in the first place, rather than any religious conviction***. Many of those trapped inside, including Yom Tov of Joigny, committed suicide rather than submit to the worst ravages of the mob; it turns out they didn't honour the promise they made to not harm the survivors after all... 

*Eventually setting it ablaze with all the compassion and integrity we've come to associate with his co-religionists ever since the First Council of Nicaea in 325 CE made them as uppity as all get out!
**Who had - under the aegis of his bank - made possible the building of the Abbey of St. Albans, Lincoln Minster, Peterborough Cathedral, and no fewer than nine Cistercian abbeys, and who was, at the time of his death in 1186, the second wealthiest man in England, after only the King, Henry II, who was nevertheless heavily in his debt.
***Religious self-righteousness being the most convenient cover for a multitude of sins, including greed.

1322 - At the Battle of Boroughbridge during the First War of Scottish Independence Edward II's troops led by Sir Andrew Harclay defeated forces loyal to the King's cousin, Thomas, Earl of Lancaster; also killed in the fracas was Humphrey de Bohun, 4th Earl of Hereford. The rest of the rebellious nobles were captured, charged with treason, and executed - three of them (the Lords Clifford, Mowbray, and Deynville) by being hung in chains from York Castle. 

1521 - Ferdinand Magellan reached the Philippines during his circumnavigation of the world. 

1621 - Samoset, of the Mohegan nation, visited the settlers of Plymouth Colony, greeting them in their own language with the words 'Welcome, Englishmen! My name is Samoset' - which gave them quite a shock let me tell you. 

1660 - England's aptly-named Long Parliament - originally called in November 1640 - finally disbanded itself after having executed Charles I, survived Oliver Cromwell, and made way for the triumphant return of Charles II. 

1689 - The 23rd Regiment of Foot or Royal Welch Fusiliers was founded to oppose the impending Catholicization of England under James II, finally earning the honorific 'royal' during the War of the Spanish Succession in 1713. Having seen much action during the American Revolution, the Boer War, and World War I, in February 2006 they were amalgamated with the Royal Regiment of Wales to form a new large regiment called the Royal Welsh. 

1792 - King Gustav III of Sweden was fatally shot by Jacob Johan Anckarström (aided by Claes Horn and Adolf Ribbing) during a masked ball at the Royal Opera House in Stockholm, finally succumbing to his injuries on March 29th. 

1802 - The United States Military Academy at West Point was established. 

1815 - Prince Willem of the House of Orange-Nassau proclaimed himself King Willem I of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands, making him Holland's first constitutional monarch. 

1861 - Edward Clark became Governor of Texas, replacing Sam Houston, who was evicted from office for refusing to take an oath of loyalty to the Confederacy. 

1939 - Egypt's Princess Fawzia married Iran's Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi; they were divorced 'for her safety' in November 1948 following the birth of their only offspring, Princess Shahnaz Pahlavi.   In March 1949 Her Majesty married Ismail Hussain Shirin Bey and thus forfeited her Iranian titles; her ex-husband, meanwhile, would marry Soraya Esfandiary-Bakhtiari and Farah Diba in turn.

1952 - In Cilaos - a town on the tiny French holding of Réunion in the Indian Ocean - 1,870mm (73 inches) of rain fell in one day, setting a new world record. 

1953 - Yugoslavia's Marshal Josip Broz Tito arrived for a five-day State Visit to the United Kingdom, during which time he was entertained by Her Majesty The Queen. 

1968 - Between 350 and 500 Vietnamese villagers - men, women, and children - were killed by American troops during the My Lai massacre. 

1976 - Britain's Labour Prime Minister, Harold Wilson, resigned, taking the Nation quite by surprise; unbeknownst to most people, Wilson was then in the first stages of Alzheimer's disease. 

1978 - The supertanker Amoco Cadiz split in two after running aground on Portsall Rocks, three miles off the coast of Brittany, resulting in what is now the 5th-largest oil spill in history - but which was then the largest. In all 1.6 million barrels (219,797 tons) were lost, of which less than 20% was recovered... 

1985 - American Associated Press journalist Terry Anderson was taken hostage in Beirut; after six years and nine months in captivity he would be released in December 1991. 

1988 - On the orders of Saddam Hussein the Kurdish town of Halabjah in Iraq was bombed with a mix of poison gas and nerve agents during the Halabja poison gas attack, killing thousands of people in the process.  On the plus side, the attacks used up the weapons of mass destruction Hussein had bought from the very same Western powers who years later invaded Iraq in search of those very same weapons! 

1995 - Mississippi formally ratified the Thirteenth Amendment, becoming the last state to approve the abolition of slavery, 130 years after such a measure had been approved by Congress.
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