[The text of it may be as dry as an overcooked haggis, but the meaning of it is concise and unequivocal; there was a Scotland long before there was an England, it calls out, and ye can like it or lump it! Although it later forced England's Edward III to sign the Treaty of Northampton in March 1328, successive English rulers paid the declaration no heed, and the endurance of the Scottish national identity even less - always at their peril.]
402 CE - Roman general Stilicho defeated the Visigoths under Alaric I at the Battle of Pollentia by surprising them during their celebration of Easter - making this battle the very first 'War on Easter', if you will.
1320 - The Scottish nobility reaffirmed their independence by signing the Declaration of Arbroath, which was then submitted to Pope John XXII at Avignon; believed to have been drafted by Bernard of Kilwinning at Arbroath Abbey, its rhetoric represents a watershed in the First War of Scottish Independence.
1327 - The poet Petrarch first saw his idealized love, Laura (possibly Laura de Noves), in the church of Saint Clare in Avignon; he then proceeded to write 366 poems about her which, even for a smitten poet, is a lot. During the Renaissance they were collected - and are still available as - Il Canzoniere.
1385 - João, Master of the Order of Aviz, was declared King João I by Portugal's council, which met at Coimbra to settle the disputed secession; although the half-brother of his predecessor Ferdinand I, he was technically illegitimate (his mother being Pedro I's mistress Teresa Lourenço and not his consort Constance of Peñafiel). João I's ascension nevertheless ended the civil war known as the 1383-1385 Crisis, brought an end to the Portuguese Interregnum, and established the royal House of Aviz; accordingly, he was remembered within his own lifetime as João the Good.
1652 - Dutch sailor Jan van Riebeeck established a resupply camp at the Cape of Good Hope, which eventually became Cape Town.
1782 - Rama I succeeded King Taksin of Thailand, who was overthrown in a coup d'état after having been declared insane for his delusions of divinity, a practice sorely in need of restoration in certain circles today...
1814 - Napoleon abdicated, whereupon he was exiled to Elba; not very well, as it turns out, but it was a nice first try.
1830 - The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was organized by Joseph Smith, Jr. and others at Fayette, New York.
1895 - Oscar Wilde was arrested (at London's Cadogan Hotel) after losing a libel case against John Sholto Douglas, 9th Marquess of Queensberry.
1930 - Having left the Sabarmati Ashram in March, the Mahatma arrived at Dandi, where he raised a lump of mud and salt and declared: 'With this, I am shaking the foundations of the British Empire.' Thus began the Salt Satyagraha, and the even longer trek towards independence for India set in motion by the declaration of the Purna Swaraj in December 1929.
1947 - The first Tony Awards - given for excellence in the theatre - were presented by the American Theatre Wing at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City.
1965 - Intelsat I (nicknamed Early Bird) - the first communications satellite to be placed in geosynchronous orbit - was launched for COMSAT; deactivated in August 1969, it was briefly reactivated for its 25th Anniversary, and remains inoperational but aloft.
1968 - Racial violence erupted in dozens of cities across the United States in reaction to the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.; however, a double explosion which killed 41 and injured 150 in Richmond, Indiana's downtown district was related to a faulty natural gas line, and not to the riots then setting major urban centres ablaze.
1970 - Four California Highway Patrol officers - Walt Frago, Roger Gore, George Alleyn, and James Pence - were killed in a shoot out with Jack Twinning and Bobby Davis in the parking lot of a restaurant in the California town of Newhall, in what came to be called the Newhall massacre. Despite the aid of a bystander, former US Marine Gary Kness, Twinning and Davis were able to make their getaway - albeit only briefly; Davis was arrested shortly after stealing a camper van belonging to Daniel Schwartz, and Twinning killed himself to avoid capture the next morning following a hostage situation involving Stephen Hoag. Davis was found dead of an apparent suicide in his cell at Kern Valley State Prison in August 2009.
1973 - NASA launched its Pioneer 11 spacecraft to explore the outer solar system.
1994 - The Rwandan Genocide began when an aircraft carrying that country's president, Juvénal Habyarimana, and Burundian president Cyprien Ntaryamira was shot down near Kigali International Airport whereupon it crashed into the grounds of the Presidential Residence; many theories abound as to who is responsible, but the sad fact is that almost 1 million Rwandans paid the ultimate price - their own lives - for Hutu hatred of Tutsi. The conflict is eloquently described in Canadian Lieutenant-General Roméo Dallaire's memoir Shake Hands With the Devil, as well as in the 2004 film Hotel Rwanda.
2004 - Rolandas Paksas became the first president of Lithuania to be peacefully removed from office by impeachment.
2005 - Kurdish leader Jalal Talabani became President of Iraq, while Shiite Arab Ibrahim al-Jaafari was named prime minister the next day; al-Jaafari has since been replaced by Nouri al-Maliki.
2009 - A 6.3 magnitude earthquake struck near the Italian city of L'Aquila, killing 307; adding insult to injury, during an inspection of the damage by Silvio Berlusconi, the Italian president couldn't understand why those in temporary shelters were complaining, likening their plight to a 'camping weekend'. He then went on to sexually harass a woman doctor who was aiding in the relief.
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