Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Pop History Moment: The Death of Edward the Confessor

For most of us, our death causes a period of grief among a select handful of family and friends, the grief passes, and the survivors move on; there are a thankfully small number, though, whose deaths cause unimaginable suffering, military invasion, and the end of a way of life that had endured for a thousand years.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketThe death of Edward the Confessor (on this day in 1066) was, naturally enough, of the latter kind. When the son of Ethelred the Unready finally went to his reward, he showed plenty of his father's decisiveness by leaving an unsettled succession; since determining the succession is any dying King's most important job, it's safe to say Edward didn't do his utmost to fulfill his coronation oath - that is, to protect the realm and its subjects.

By temperament and training, Edward had always been partial to Normans, and often favoured them for the Kingdom's top jobs over Saxons; when he chose Robert of Jumièges for Archbishop of Canterbury, well, it's a good thing they didn't have Private Eye in those days, because it was the scandal of the age, seeing as it overrode the express wishes of his own powerful father-in-law, Godwin, Earl of Wessex.

In the end, the Witenagemot chose Harold Godwinson, a Saxon nobleman (Earl of Wessex since 1053, and brother of the Queen) who claimed he'd been promised the throne on Edward's death bed; this rankled the ire of the Duke of Normandy - a man still known as William the Bastard - who had by some means or other extracted the same promise from the feckless, if pious, King (either in 1052 when William visited London, or else in 1064, as a reward for rescuing Edward from a shipwreck).

Then there was a third claim, from King Harald III of Norway... All of which made 1066 a very turbulent year indeed.
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In Memoriam: Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto

When considering the Bhutto family legacy thus far, the most important distinction to make is: is a corrupt albeit democratically elected leader better, the same as, or worse than, a dictator? Certainly the followers of the lying murderer General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq felt the same about Bhutto the father as the followers of equally weaselly General Pervez Musharraf did about his daughter Benazir. So was the voicing of those concerns legitimate worry about widespread corruption in the government of Pakistan, politicking, or merely two-faced scoundrelism on their part? In both cases, though, at least the Bhuttos (and their alleged corruption) had been elected by an expression of popular will, while their harshest critics were (and are) little more than gun-toting thugs.

PhotobucketBhutto was born on this day in 1928, when Pakistan was still a part of British India; his father, Sir Shah Nawaz Bhutto, was prominent in Muslim politics, and served as Prime Minister under the Nawab of Junagadh. Bhutto was one of the wealthiest landowners in the province of Sindh, Western-educated and erudite in the family tradition, as would be his son and grand-daughter.

First a teacher, then a lawyer, in 1957 Bhutto became the youngest member of Pakistan's delegation to the United Nations, and by 1961 was serving as Foreign Minister under President Muhammad Ayub Khan.

Now prominent in the life of Pakistan in his own right, Bhutto founded the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) in November 1967. Following massive anti-government protests sponsored by PPP, Bhutto was arrested in November 1968; after his release and the fall of the government, the new President, General Yahya Khan, promised free elections in December 1970, at which PPP won some seats, but in which victory was claimed by the Awami League, with whom Bhutto refused to work. Following the attempted genocide of Operation Searchlight against Bengali nationalism, war with India in December 1971, and the independence of Bangladesh (formerly East Pakistan) Yahya Khan resigned, transferring power to Bhutto.

As President, Bhutto met with Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, and together they signed the Shimla Agreement; despite his work at peace, Bhutto was also the founder of Pakistan's nuclear program, today probably the greatest threat to peace in the world. In August 1973 Bhutto turned over the presidency to Fazal Ilahi Chaudhry, and assumed the title Prime Minister.

By 1977 it was time to hold elections, elections which would prove to be Bhutto's downfall in more ways than one; facing the Pakistan National Alliance (PNA), a coalition of parties opposed to Bhutto, the PNA was defeated at the polls, at which time they maintained that the elections had been rigged, and Muslim opposition leader Maulana Maududi called for Bhutto's overthrow. In July 1977 Bhutto and his cabinet were arrested.

In October Bhutto went on trial for the 'conspiracy to murder' Ahmed Raza Kasuri, and in March 1978 he was sentenced to death, a sentence which was carried out the following month, despite international condemnation. Bhutto himself went to the gallows insisting that his death had been ordered by the US government, which threat (he said) was first delivered to him by then-Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, voicing opposition by the US Administration to the nuclear program Bhutto had instigated.

Bhutto's legacy today is as complicated as the man himself; hailed as a nationalist and Shaheed by his supporters, he continues to be reviled as a corrupt opportunist by his foes.
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POPnews - January 5th

[Engineer Joseph Strauss faced many uphill battles in building his most famous structure, almost none of which were geographical; once construction got underway he was ably aided by Irving Morrow, who designed the towers, and San Francisco city engineer Michael O'Shaughnessy, who named it. It was the city's residents who persuaded them to leave the bridge International Orange, which is the colour of the sealant used.]

1463 - Poet François Villon was banished from Paris and thereafter dropped out of the historical record...

1477 - Charles the Bold was killed at the Battle of Nancy, whereupon Burgundy became part of France.

1527 - Felix Manz, a leader of the Anabaptist congregation in Zürich, was the first person to be executed by drowning under an edict aimed at outlawing adult re-baptism - which is a key precept of his religion.

1675 - At the Battle of Colmar a French army commanded by Vicomte of Turenne defeated Frederick William, Elector of Brandenburg, who headed a unified force of Brandenburgian and Austrian troops.

1757 - France's King Louis XV survived an assassination attempt by Robert-François Damiens - who then went on to become the last person executed in France by the traditional and gruesome form of capital punishment used for regicides and wannabes alike: drawing and quartering.

1895 - In the midst of the Dreyfus Affair French army officer Alfred Dreyfus was publicly stripped of his rank and sentenced to life imprisonment on French Guiana's Devil's Island following a secret court martial.

1896 - An Austrian newspaper reported that Wilhelm Roentgen had discovered a type of radiation later known as X-rays.

1933 - Construction of the Golden Gate Bridge - connecting San Francisco to Marin County across San Francisco Bay - began.

1949 - Work began on the foundation of Basildon new town, in the British county of Essex.

1968 - Alexander Dubček came to power at the head of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia, thus beginning the so-called Prague Spring.

1970 - The long-running American soap opera All My Children premiered; the show - created by Agnes Nixon - has since surpassed its 10,000th episode.

1974 - Antarctica's warmest reliably measured temperature, 59°F (15°C), was recorded at Vanda Station.

1975 - The Tasman Bridge - which spans the Derwent River, near the central business district of Hobart, in Tasmania - was struck by the bulk ore carrier Lake Illawarra, killing twelve people.

1976 - The Kingsmill Massacre occurred when 10 Protestant textile workers were murdered by the IRA in retaliation for the killing of six Catholic men the previous day.

1981 - Peter Sutcliffe was charged with committing the Yorkshire Ripper murders.

1993 - Washington state executed Westley Allan Dodd by hanging - the first legal hanging in the US since 1965.

1996 - Hamas operative Yahya Ayyash was killed by an Israeli-planted booby-trapped cell phone.

2003 - London's Metropolitan Police arrested seven suspects in connection with the Wood Green ricin plot, which had allegedly been organized as an attack against the London Underground.

2005 - Eris, the largest known dwarf planet in our solar system, was discovered by the team of Michael E. Brown, Chad Trujillo, and David L. Rabinowitz using images originally taken in October 2003 at the Palomar Observatory.
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