December 14, 2018 all-day

On this day in history:

557 – – – – Constantinople is severely damaged by an earthquake.

835 – – – – Emperor Wenzong of the Tang dynasty conspires to kill powerful eunuchs of the Tang court, but the plot is foiled. The Emperor was angry about the power the eunuchs had (they were probably a bit angry too – given their circumstances) and so he conspired with then chancellor Li Xun and the general Zheng Zhu to slaughter the eunuchs.  But the eunuchs realized what was happening and counterattacked with soldiers under their command.  Li Xun, Zheng, as well as many of their associates were slaughtered and, thereafter, the eunuchs had an ever firmer control over Emperor Wenzong and his government than before.

1287 – – – St. Lucia’s flood – the Zuiderzee wall in the Netherlands collapses, killing over 50,000 people.

1542 – – – Princess Mary Stuart becomes Queen of Scots at the age of only one week on the death of her father, James V of Scotland. Mary spent most of her childhood in France while Scotland was ruled by regents (a person appointed to govern a state because the monarch is a minor, is absent or is incapacitated), and in 1558, she married the Dauphin of France, Frances. (note – she was 16 at this point). He ascended the French throne as King Francis II in 1559, and Mary briefly became queen escort of France, until his death in December 1560. (she was now 18)  Widowed, Mary returned to Scotland, arriving on 19 August 1561. Four years later, (at age 23) she married her first cousin, Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley and in June 1566 they had a son, James. In February 1567, Darnley’s residence was destroyed by an explosion, and he was found murdered in the garden. James Hepburn, 4th Earl of Bothwell, was generally believed to have orchestrated Darnley’s death, but he was acquitted of the charge in April 1567, and the following month he married Mary. ( she was now 25) Following an uprising against the couple, Mary was imprisoned in Loch Leven Castle. On 24 July 1567 she was forced to abdicate in favor of her one-year-old son. After an unsuccessful attempt to regain the throne, she fled southwards seeking the protection of her first cousin once-removed, Queen Elizabeth I of England. Mary had once claimed Elizabeth’s throne as her own, and was considered the legitimate sovereign of England by many English Catholics, including participants in a rebellion known as the Rising of the North, an unsuccessful attempt by Catholic nobles from Northern England to depose Queen Elizabeth and replace her with Mary. This move – Mary’s seeking protection from Elizabeth – was not a good move.  Perceiving her as a threat, Elizabeth had her confined in various castles and manor houses in the interior of England. After eighteen and a half years in custody, Mary was found guilty of plotting to assassinate Elizabeth in 1586. (Mary was 44) And, Mary was beheaded the following year at Fotheringhay Castle.

1591 – – – St. John of the Cross died.  Old John is an interesting story – at least I would think for Catholics. He became a priest in 1567 and considered joining the Carthusian Order where monks lived cloistered in individual cells. However, he encountered Theresa of Avila, a charismatic Carmelite nun and she asked John to follow her. He was attracted by the strict routine followed by Theresa, a routine she hoped to reintroduce to her order, as well as her devotion to prayer and simplicity. In 1568, Theresa founded a new monastery. Within a couple years, John and his fellow friars, relocated to a larger site for their monastery. He traveled to Avila at the invitation of Theresa to become her confessor and spiritual guide. He remained in Avila until 1577. While there, he had a vision of Christ and made a drawing that remains to this day called, “Christ from Above.” The little drawing shows Christ on the cross, looking down on him from above. It has been preserved. He ended up deeply involved in a terrible rift within the Carmelite Order and he work to reform the order been approved by the Papal Nuncio. This assignment had its pitfalls.  A group of Carmelites who were against the reforms broke into John’s residence and kidnapped him. He was taken by force to the order’s main house in Toledo and placed on trial for disobedience, found guilty and punished by imprisonment. And, it was a tough imprisonment.  His cell was so small he could barely lie on the floor. He was fed only bread and water, and occasional scraps of salt fish. Each week he was taken into public and lashed, then returned to his cell. After nine months, John managed to pry his cell door from its hinges and escape. He joined Teresa’s nuns in Toledo, and spent six weeks in the hospital to recover. In 1579, he was sent to the town of Baeza to be rector of a new college and to support the Discalced Carmelites in Andalusia. In 1580, Pope Gregory formally authorized the split between the Discalced Carmelites and the rest of the order. This ended the rift within the order. At that time, there were about 500 members in the order living in 22 houses. Saint John of the Cross was beatified by Pope Clement X in 1675, and Canonized by Pope Benedict XIII in 1726. He is the patron of Contemplatives, mystics and Spanish poets and his feast day is celebrated on this date.

1780 – – – Alexander Hamilton marries Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton at the Schuyler Mansion in Albany, New York.

1812 – – – The French invasion of Russia ends as the remnants of the Grande Armee are expelled from Russia.

1814 – – – War of 1812 – The Royal Navy seizes control of Lake Borgne, Louisiana.

1819 – – – Alabama becomes the 22nd state.

1902 – – – The Commercial Pacific Cable Company lays the first Pacific telegraph cable – from San Francisco to Honolulu.

1903 – – – The Wright brothers make their first attempt to fly with the Wright Flyer at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.

1913 – – – Haruna, the fourth and last Kongo-class ship, launches, eventually becoming one of the Japanese workhorses during World War I and World War II.

1918 – – – (a) Friedrich Karl von Hessen, a German prince elected by the Parliament of Finland to become King Vaino I, renounces the Finnish throne.  (b) Portuguese President Sidonio Pais is assassinated.

1939 – – – The Soviet Union is expelled from the League of Nations for invading Finland.

1940 – – – Plutonium (Pu-238) is first isolated at Berkeley, California

1941 – – – Seven days after Pearl Harbor Japan signs a treaty of alliance with Thailand.

1962 – – – NASA’s Mariner 2 becomes the first spacecraft to fly by Venus.

1963 – – – The dam containing the Baldwin Hills Reservoir bursts, killing five people and damaging hundreds of homes in Los Angeles

1964 – – – Heart of Atlanta Motel v. United States – the Supreme Court rules that Congress can use the Commerce Clause to fight discrimination.

1972 – – – Eugene Cernan is the last man to walk on the moon, after he and Harrison Schmitt complete the third and final extravehicular activity of the Apollo 17 mission. Sorry, I can’t help myself – back when Nadia was heading congressional affairs for NASA in the late 1980s there was a retirement dinner for Hans Mark who was retiring from his position as Deputy Administrator of NASA and we were seated at a table with six – yes six – astronauts who had walked on the moon.  At some point Harrison Schmitt, who was known for such things, said something that was completely incomprehensible.  Alan Shepard leaned over to me and said, “Bob, don’t ever let anyone tell you there are no negative effects of long-term weightlessness.” Ah, Alan Shepard, the only one to even hit a golf ball on the moon! Actually three attempts and on the last one he noted it went, “miles, and miles, and miles.”

1994 – – – Construction begins on the Three Gorges Dam on the Yangtze River.

1995 – – – Yugoslav Wars – The Dayton Agreement is signed in Paris by the leaders of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, Croatia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

1998 – – – Yugoslav Wars – The Yugoslav Army ambushes a group of Kosovo Liberation Army fighters attempting to smuggle weapons from Albania into Kosovo, killing 36.

2004 – – – The Millau Viaduct, the tallest bridge in the world, is formally inaugurated near Millau, France.

2008 – – – Muntadhar al-Zaidi throws his shoes at then-President George W. Bush during a press conference in Baghdad.

2012 – – – Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting – 28 people, including the gunman, are killed in Connecticut.

Composed by Robert A. McConnell

Any opinions expressed herein are solely those of the writer and not necessarily those of the U.S.-Ukraine Foundation. 




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