This Week In History

Cato Street Conspiracy. February 23, 1820.

At the end of the 18th century and in the first three decades of the19th, Britain was still predominantly agricultural. But society was changing. Rural living was giving way to industrialization and urbanization. Hard economic times encouraged social unrest. The end of the Napoleonic Wars in 1815 further worsened the economy and saw the return of job-seeking veterans. King George III‘s death on 29 January 1820, created a new governmental crisis. This newly industrialized world produced inflation, food shortages and new patterns of factory employment, and it was during this time of social change that a climate of discontent and radicalism developed. A series of riots and industrial unrest occurred. The government responded with a series of repressive measures, including the Combinatio...

The Battle of Lugdunum. February 19, 197.

After the murder of Emperor Pertinax (193), a struggle began for the succession to the throne, the so-called Year of the Five Emperors. The new self-proclaimed Emperor in Rome, Didius Julianus, had to face the commander of the Pannonian legions, Septimius Severus. Before moving on Rome, Severus made an alliance with the powerful commander of the legions in Britannia, Clodius Albinus, recognizing him as Caesar. After eliminating Didius that same year and then defeating the governor of Syria in 194, Severus launched a successful campaign in the East in 195. Severus then tried to legitimize his power, connecting himself with Marcus Aurelius, and raising his own son to the rank of Caesar. This last act broke Severus’ alliance with Albinus, who was declared a public enemy by the Senate. I...

The Battle of Montereau. February 18, 1814.

The Battle of Montereau was fought during the War of the Sixth Coalition between an Imperial French army led by Emperor Napoleon and a corps of Austrians and Württembergers commanded by Crown Prince Frederick William of Württemberg. While Napoleon’s army mauled an Allied army under Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher, the main Allied army commanded by Karl Philipp, Prince of Schwarzenberg advanced to a position dangerously close to Paris. Gathering up his outnumbered forces, Napoleon rushed his soldiers south to deal with Schwarzenberg. Napoleon´s victory on this battle enabled him not only to hold Montereau, where three major roads crossed, but also to force the Army of Bohemia back towards Troyes, with the intent of pushing it out of France. Napoleon had turned to the south to face Field...

The death of Lady Jane, the Nine Days’ Queen. February 12, 1554.

The great-granddaughter of Henry VII through his younger daughter, Mary Tudor, Jane Grey was a first cousin, once removed, of Edward VI, King of England and Ireland from 1547. In May 1553, she was married to Lord Guildford Dudley, a younger son of Edward’s chief minister, John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland. While the 15-year-old king lay dying in June 1553, he wrote his will, nominating Jane and her male heirs as successors to the Crown partly because his half-sister Mary was Roman Catholic while Jane was Protestant and would support the reformed Church of England, whose foundation Edward claimed to have laid. Both Mary and Elizabeth had been named illegitimate by statute during the reign of Henry VIII after his marriages to Catherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn had been declared void...

The Destruction of Baghdad. 10 February 1258.

In 1257, Möngke resolved to establish firm authority over Mesopotamia, Syria, and Iran. The khagan gave his brother, Hulagu, authority over a subordinate khanate and army, the Ilkhanate, and instructions to compel the submission of various Muslim states, including the Abbassid caliphate. Though not seeking the overthrow of Al-Musta’sim, Möngke ordered Hulagu to destroy Baghdad if the Caliph refused his demands of personal submission to Hulagu and the payment of tribute in the form of a military detachment, which would reinforce Hulagu’s army during its campaigns against Iranian Ismaili states. After defeating the Assassins, Hulagu sent word to Al-Musta’sim, demanding his acquiescence to the terms imposed by Möngke. Al-Musta’sim refused, in large part due to the infl...

Constantius III, co-emperor. 8 February 421.

Constantius was a very competent Roman general who made his first appearance in history during the early Fifth Century. Like many of the Roman Empire‘s most illustrious military men, he had been born in Illyria. It is most likely that he had attained the rank of Master of Soldiers and Cavalry in the service of the Roman emperor Honorius by the year A. D. 411. He swiftly ended the rebellion and usurpation of Constantine III by trapping him in the city of Arelate. Constantine III held out for three months, then surrendered the city after the besiegers promised to spare his life. Honorius refused to honor the promise of clemency and had the ex-emperor and his son executed thirty miles outside the city of Ravenna where Honorius maintained his residence. Constantius was appointed patriciu...

The funeral of Queen Victoria. February 2, 1901.

Following a custom she maintained throughout her widowhood, Victoria spent the Christmas of 1900 at Osborne House on the Isle of Wight. Rheumatism in her legs had rendered her lame, and her eyesight was clouded by cataracts. She died on Tuesday 22 January 1901, at half past six in the evening, at the age of 81. Her son and successor King Edward VII, and her eldest grandson, Emperor Wilhelm II of Germany, were at her deathbed. In 1897, Victoria had written instructions for her funeral, which was to be military as befitting a soldier’s daughter and the head of the army, and wearing white instead of black. On 25 January, Edward VII, the Kaiser and Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught, helped lift her body into the coffin. She was dressed in a white dress and her wedding veil. An array of me...

The death of Septimius Severus. February 4, 211.

By 210, Septimius Severus‘ campaigning had made significant gains in Britain, despite Caledonian guerrilla tactics and heavy Roman casualties. The Caledonians sued for peace, which Severus granted on condition they gave up control of the Central Lowlands. The Caledonians, short on supplies and feeling their position was becoming desperate, revolted later that year along with the Maeatae. Severus prepared for another protracted campaign within Caledonia. He was now intent on exterminating the Caledonians, telling his soldiers: “Let no-one escape sheer destruction, no-one our hands, not even the babe in the womb of the mother, if it be male; let it nevertheless not escape sheer destruction”. Severus’ campaign was cut short when he fell fatally ill. He withdrew to Eboracum a...

King Charles II of England dissolves the Cavalier Parliament. January 24, 1679.

Although previously favourable to the Crown, the Cavalier Parliament was alienated by the king’s wars and religious policies during the 1670s. In 1672, Charles II issued the Royal Declaration of Indulgence, in which he purported to suspend all penal laws against Catholics and other religious dissenters. In the same year, he openly supported Catholic France and started the Third Anglo-Dutch War. The Cavalier Parliament opposed the Declaration of Indulgence by claiming that the king had no right to arbitrarily suspend laws passed by Parliament. Charles withdrew the Declaration, and also agreed to the Test Act, which forced the public officials to receive sacrament under the forms of the Church of England as well as denounce teachings of the Catholic Church as “superstitious and idolatr...

Constantine, co-emperor of the Byzantine Empire. January 22, 613.

  Constantine was crowned co-emperor by his father on 22 January 613 and shortly after was betrothed to his cousin, Gregoria, a daughter of his father’s first cousin, Nicetas. As they were second cousins, the marriage was technically incestuous, but this consideration must have been outweighed by the advantages of the match to the family as a whole. Furthermore, its illegality paled into insignificance beside Heraclius‘ marriage to his niece Martina the same year. In comparison, Constantine’s marriage was far less scandalous than that of his father’s. Constantine and Gregoria married in 629 or perhaps early 630 and in that year their first child, Constans II was born. Their second child was another son, Theodosius. They also had a daughter named Manyanh who lat...

Pizarro founds Lima. January 15, 1535.

When natives along the coast threatened his expedition to Panama, Pizarro moved inland and founded the first Spanish settlement in Peru, San Miguel de Piura. Atahualpa, the last Inca king, refused to tolerate a Spanish presence in his lands, but was captured by Pizarro during the Battle of Cajamarca on 16 November 1532. A ransom for the emperor’s release was demanded and Atahualpa filled a room with gold, but Pizarro charged him with various crimes and executed him on 26 July 1533, overriding his associates who thought he was overstepping his authority. The same year, Pizarro entered the Inca capital of Cuzco and completed his conquest of Peru. In January 1535, Pizarro founded the city of Lima, a project he considered his greatest achievement. Quarrels between Pizarro and his longtim...

Otho, Emperor of Rome. January 15, 69 AD.

Galba was childless and far advanced in years, and Otho, encouraged by the predictions of astrologers, aspired to succeed him. He came to a secret agreement with Galba’s favourite, Titus Vinius, agreeing to marry Vinius’ daughter in exchange for his support. However, in January 69 AD, his hopes were dashed by Galba’s formal adoption of Lucius Calpurnius Piso Licinianus. Desperate as Otho was because of the state of his finances, he found the money needed to purchase the services of some twenty-three soldiers of the Praetorian Guard. On the morning of 15 January, Otho attended as usual to pay his respects to Galba, and then hastily excused himself and hurried from the Palatine Hill to meet his accomplices. He was then escorted to the Praetorian camp, where he was saluted a...

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