What happened this month in history?

January 4th 1967

High Speed World Record Attempt Ends in Tragedy.

Briton Donald Campbell lost his life doing what he loved best on January 4th 1967. He lost control of his all-metal turbo jet engine speedboat, Bluebird K7, which bounced three times, before somersaulting into the air and crashing into the water at very high-speed on Coniston Water, in Lancashire, England. Campbell was killed instantly in the accident.

On the fateful day of his crash, he was trying to break a new water speed record in excess of 300mph when tragedy struck, but it is said he may not have died if he wasn’t so stupidly obstinate. You see Campbell lived under the huge shadow of his dismissive famous father, Sir Malcolm Campbell, a successful high-speed racer, who held various land and water speed records in the 1920’s and 30’s. And so in an attempt to emulate his father’s success,  Donald did everything he could to prove him wrong with his own daredevil antics and often reckless pursuit of speed.  In so doing, he gained notoriety, becoming a multiple land and water record breaker in his own right. But it is his horrible crash that he is best remembered for, even more so than any of his previous record breaking attempts.

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 January 15th 1559

The Coronation of Queen Elizabeth I.

Elizabeth’s rise to the throne of England may be likened to a roller coaster ride with its emotional highs and lows. At birth, she was the presumptive heiress to the throne, only to be pushed aside and declared illegitimate through political maneuvering by her father Henry VIII, during his turbulent reign as King of England. He would timely reverse his decision in 1544, but still upon his death the line of succession would bypass both Elizabeth and her half-sister, Mary, in favour of their younger half brother Edward VI.

Good fortune, it seems did not smile kindly upon Elizabeth or Mary. During Edward’s reign, under the influence of a regency council, the young King Edward would pass over both his sisters long-held claims to the throne, controversially in favour of his first cousin once removed, Lady Jane Grey. The succession plan, thwart with problems, immediately ignited a crisis, especially upon Edward’s death, when Lady Grey tried to legitimize her claim to be Queen. But in a rare show of solidarity, Henry VIII’s daughters struck back organizing themselves at the head of a large army and rode into London to reclaim what they believed was their sovereign right. The populist Mary, ahead of her sister, Elizabeth was declared Queen of England. 

England was a dangerous place for Protestants, especially for the protestant Elizabeth, under Queen Mary,  a devote Catholic. Mary saw fit to impose her pro-Catholic dogma throughout the kingdom and even made efforts to restore papal rule again in England. She also went to great lengths to victimize and prosecute Protestants in her realm. (Mary would earn the nickname “Bloody Mary” for her efforts.) Mary even imprisoned Elizabeth briefly in the Tower of London in 1554, in the same tower Elizabeth’s mother Anne Boleyn had spent her last horrible days as a prisoner, before being beheaded on the orders of Henry VIII. With this in mind Elizabeth had good reason to fear her mother’s fate.

Elizabeth’s tower imprisonment came as a direct response to the Protestant rebellion that took place during Mary’s reign. Some people believe it was a desperate act. Fortunately, Mary’s prosecutions would largely fail, including her attempt to punish her sister for treason. Elizabeth would be mercifully released after no evidence of a conspiracy could be proved.

During the last months of Mary’s reign, it became clear that she was mortally ill. Her parliament urged her to name her sister, Elizabeth as heir apparent. She reluctantly agreed and approved the succession of Elizabeth. (A condition of Elizabeth’s succession was that she had to promise of that she wouldn’t change Mary’s Catholic reforms and legislation. Of course, the Protestant Elizabeth was shrewd enough to placate Mary with many promises, but in short time broke her pledge upon Mary’s death.

After Mary’s death, and as if she had not suffered enough indignity, Elizabeth would survive a brief Catholic plot against her, before a largely Protestant English parliament would finally call Elizabeth to take her place as ‘queen of this realm’. On the eve of her coronation Elizabeth to the Lord Mayor and the people of London said: “I will be as good unto you as ever a queen was unto her people.” And with those timely words Elizabeth I, in her coronation robes, patterned with Tudor roses and trimmed with ermine, become Queen of England, at the age of 25, in Westminster Abbey, London, on 15th Janauary 1559.

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January 16th 1547

Ivan The Terrible crowned Russia’s first Czar.

Although the Grand Prince of Moscow, Ivan IV had already effectively ruled Russia since 1533, he decided to raise the stakes and had himself officially crowned as the first Russian Czar (Caesar) on January 16th 1547. His bold coronation was a message to his subjects and Europe that he saw himself, like the Byzantine’s once did, as God’s representative here on earth. Greatly influenced by the Metropolitan of Moscow, Saint Macarius, to establish Russia as a Christian state, Ivan tied his new position strategically to Orthodoxy.

His reign lasted until 1584 with a long list of notable achievements. His reforms were extensive, introducing measures of self-government and at the same time curtailing the power of the aristocracy. In foreign policy, he promoted and forced Russia into Europe, while at home a detailed new legal code and cultural development, such as the printing press, helped modernize Russia. However, his reign is also remembered for him virtually bankrupting the state and his long campaign of terror against the Russian nobility, putting to death thousands of victims. It was during this period of ‘madness’ that he infamously beat his pregnant daughter-in-law, causing her to miscarriage and blinded the architect of St. Basil’s Cathedral, so he could not build anything of equal beauty again. Tragically he also killed his own son, in a fit of rage, which hastened the extinction of the Rurik dynasty.

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January 21st 2017

The Women’s March events take place in Washington and around the world.

Peaceful demonstration and the freedom of assembly are arguably one of the central principles established in most democratic countries around the world. This was no more evident than in the Women’s March on Washington, in which an estimate of half a million people, featuring prominent politicians and celebrities, marched along the National Mall , expressing deep-set concerns that woman’s rights will be eroded under the new administration of President Donald Trump.

The public outcry of support was also strongly felt across the United States, and key cities in 60 countries around the world, where action was called for legislation and policies regarding women’s and basic human rights, to be addressed respectfully, especially after Trump’s aggressive comments throughtout the 2016 presidential campaign, divided public opinion across the United States. Some of the central key concerns related to Trump’s degrading comments to woman, Mexicans, Muslims and his plan to repel President Obama’s 2010 Affordable Care Act.

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January 24th 41 AD

Emperor Caligula is Murdered.

The 3rd Emperor of the Roman Empire was a troubled youth named Gaius Julius Augustus Germanicus. We know him better as Caligula or “Little Boots”, a mad and depraved tyrant who ruled for four short years. Believing that he was a living God, he indulged in perverse and bizarre behavior that shocked the Roman populace. If we are to believe all that we read about him, he slept with his sisters and anyone really who taught his fancy, he devised awful new methods of torture, killed prominent Romans for no good reasons and according to legend fed his favourite horse, Incitatus, at his dinner table. The tale of Caligula’s mad affection for his horse went too far when he allegedly even attempted to elevate his horse to the consulship?

The seemingly strange rule of Caligula came to an end at the hands of members of the Praetorian Guard. Early in 41 AD, on January 24th, after being repeatedly humiliated (Caligula apparently took to mocking members of his imperial guard), two members (maybe more) of the Praetorian Guards slipped into a remote part of the palace and stabbed him to death. They went on to murder his wife and baby daughter, smashing her head against a wall. The Senate finally hoped that by desecrating his memory and statues that he might in time be forgotten from the annals of Roman history.

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January 28th 1986

The Space Shuttle Tragedy

This year marks the 30th anniversary of one of modern history’s most dramatic disasters. The Space Shuttle Challenger and her seven-member crew set out on a space voyage that seemed routine for NASA on January 28th 1986, when a ruptured O-ring in the right solid rocket boaster caused a massive explosion, just 73 seconds after the Challenger was launched. In the midst of the break up of the Space Shuttle and its two rockets, the crew cabin detached and plummeted into the ocean at unbelievable speeds. All seven-members of the Challenger sadly lost their lives.

In the immediate aftermath, NASA went into lock down and were severely criticized for its lack of transparency with the press and wider public. The disaster led to a two and a half-year suspension of the Space Shuttle program. A subsequent commission investigation found that NASA had seriously disregarded a multitude of warnings around safety.

*This particular article was originally published on January 2nd 2016. It will continue to be on occasions updated to include additional material, giving you the reader a rough guide to what happened this month in history!