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 'Dirks On this Day in History Blog' by Guest Historian Dirk Puehl
Guest Historian Guest Historian Dirk Puehl says, highly recommended author of #onthisday #history Google+ posts If you're interested in viewing samples of my other work why not visit Dirk Puehl site.

February 15

In 1911, it was grim irony that the wreck of the "Nimrod" was discovered drifting in the pack ice on Ernest Shackleton's birthday by his old rival Roald Amundsen.
This post was written by Dirk Puehl the highly recommended author of #onthisday #history Google+ posts.

Amundsen discovers the NimrodDirk Puehl writes - "Who is the third who walks always beside you? When I count, there are only you and I together. But when I look ahead up the white road. There is always another one walking beside you. Gliding wrapt in a brown mantle, hooded. I do not know whether a man or a woman. - But who is that on the other side of you?" (T.S. Eliot, "The Waste Land")

Since Amundsen was a Norwegian citizen and not subject to the gagging orders imposed by British Home Secretary Winston Churchill and the Admiralty, at least some of the quite disturbing news of Amundsen's discovery leaked out, but were mainly covered by rather dubious elements of the international press and Amundsen, fearing for his reputation as a scientist, refused to comment on his discovery in public until his death in 1928 and the mystery of Shackleton's death and the fate of the "Nimrod" were soon overshadowed by the outbreak of the Great War.

Fact is that Amundsen alerted the sealing steamer "Aurora" to make contact with British authorities who send the Port Stanley-based cruiser HMS "Glasgow" to investigate. Alerted by wireless, London decided to create virtually a restricted area in Antarctica by dispatching a whole squadron of cruisers under the command of Rear-Admiral Sir Christopher Cradock. Cradock's first action was to seize Amundsen's logs and records and send him on his way in the "Fram". Protests of the Norwegian and German government were officially ignored. The little-known "Nimrod" protocol, passed during the London Conference of 1912, finally ended similar international irritations and made Antarctica the "no-go area" it was until the late 1950s, the naval blockade, joined by the United States, Japan and France, was in place until 1936.

March 1

In 1827, it was rather a chance meeting that brought the German professor Friedrich Eduard Beneke together with Rosmerta Howl from Carmarthen.
This post was written by Dirk Puehl the highly recommended author of #onthisday #history Google+ posts.

Beneke, Welsh WizardDirk Puehl writes - The former had just returned to Berlin after years of disfavour for speaking out against mighty Hegel, the latter visited the Prußian capital in the wake of "Pickwick" Fürst von Pückler-Muskau.

The Welsh adventureß was an infrequent guest in the famous Salon of Rahel Varnhagen where she and Beneke became acquainted during a soiree. A lengthy discussion together with the famous Romantic poet Ludwig Tieck ensued, with Beneke lecturing his position of metaphysics, Tieck adding the sense of wonder and magic while Rosmerta introduced the professor and the poet to Iolo Morganwg's theory of concentric rings of existence emerging from the old Celtic Otherworld, the Annwn, then a pet theory of the Welsh revival circles.

Whether the unfamiliar theory and ancient lore or the charms of Rosmerta Howl captivated Beneke's interest is open to debate. While Tieck perpetuated the meeting in his novel "The Scholar" ("Der Gelehrte"), Beneke began to study history, language and customs of the old Gauls and Britons with a vengeance. He studied Brythonic languages together with Friedrich Rückert who was equally captivated by the topic and began to estrange his Berlin students beyond anti-Hegelian positions with highly theoretical deliberations on other and spirit-worlds as well as metempsychosis.

Beneke finally lost his chair at the Berlin University of the Arts in 1832 and returned to Göttingen to earn a meagre living as lecturer, since the late 1830s as assistant of the Princeps mathematicorum Carl Friedfrich Gauß, he even published a paper on "Paraxial Approximation and the Wisdom of the Ancients" and was noted especially in students' anecdotes for sudden appearances and disappearances in and from improbable places.

Beneke was in correspondence with quite a few members of the Gwyneddigion Society on the inheritance of Iolo Morganwg who had died in 1826 as well as the whereabouts of Rosmerta Howl until he finally met with William Owen Pughe and others in London in 1835. How he made the journey from Göttingen to there with almost no means to speak of remains a mystery. The discußions followed up the topics of the surviving correspondence, about the Welsh fairies, the Tylwyth Teg, fairy paths, the Annwn and, of course, Rosmerta. He finally met her in Camarthen in 1836 and returned to Göttingen a year later after a prolonged but undocumented sojourn in the historical region of Brycheiniog in Southern Wales.

His unexpected reappearance in the German university town saw him not only obviously financially independent but in even more frequent meetings with Gauß without giving lectures anymore. Beneke resettled to a lonely manor in the nearby Harz mountain range where he continüd his studies in utmost privacy. He was rumoured to have been seen in various European towns and ancient locations from Spain, France and Bohemia and even Central Turkey to Scotland and Ireland until he finally disappeared on March 1st, 1854 on the island of Anglesey. His body was discovered in June 1856, floating in a Berlin Canal, without any obvious reasons for his death.

January 25

In 1841, British Admiral Jackie Fisher was born on this day in Ramboda, Ceylon (present day Sri Lanka).
This post was written by Dirk Puehl the highly recommended author of #onthisday #history Google+ posts.

Birth of Jackie FisherDirk writes - "Chatfield, there seems to be something wrong with our bloody ships today", Admiral Beatty said to his flag captain when one of his battlecruisers after the other blew up under the fire of Hipper's Schlachtkreuzer during the Battle of Jutland. On Jacky Fisher's 172th birthday the question might suggest itself - what if Fisher did not pursue his concept of "Battlecruisers" in the early 1900s.

Whatever made Sir John "Jacky" Fisher reconsider his plan of fast and heavy armed, but weak-armoured warships with speed as their best protection, it seemed to leave Great Britain in a decisively weak position at the outbreak of the Great War in August 1914.

Not only had the Royal Navy to rely on large armoured cruisers to protect the long trade lines of the Empire and the German Admiral von Spee's squadron's consisting of the two battlecruisers "Moltke" and "Goeben" that broke through into the Pacific and later the Indian Ocean gave them quite a headache until they were finally brought to bay by the Imperial Japanese Navy.

However, Fisher had an ace up his sleeve with his "New Model Fleet". Following up from the design of HMS Dreadnought in 1906, he pursued the design of the liquid (i.e. oil) fuelled "Fast Battleship" type with a vengeance. But even though Fisher predicted the outbreak of the war with Germany for August 1914, his chef d'oeuvre and swan song, the "Nelson"-class were not ready for action at that time.

Mid-1915, HMS "Nelson", the type ship, and her sisters "St Vincent", "Collingwood" and "Howe" were ready for sea, the other four followed in spring 1916. Their superior design, speed, armour and armament paid off on May 31st when Jellicoe's "Grand Fleet" and the German "Hochseeflotte" met off Jutland.

Commanded by David Beatty, the "New Model Fleet" squadron matched Admiral Hipper's battlecruisers in speed, while their 6'' deck and 14'' midships' armour protected them from critical hits by German 12'' shells, while their new 16'' guns quickly broke their enemy's resistance. Joining Jellicoe's main battle afterwards, Beatty and his new fast battleships played a decisive role in making the Battle of Jutland an overwhelming Royal Navy victory.

What followed was that the remains of the German Hochseeflotte remained bottled up in their harbours until the end of the war, January 25th 1918, that was brought about (among other reasons) by the tight British naval blockade that could not even been broken by the German U-boat offensive.?

December 7

In 1724, on this day Louisa ("Louise") Hanover was born at Leicester House in London, England.
This post was written by Dirk Puehl the highly recommended author of #onthisday #history Google+ posts.

Birth of Princess Louise HanoverWhen King George II of Britain died unexpectedly died in the middle of a war in October 1760 and the heir apparent had eloped a couple of months before with his ladylove Lady Sarah Lennox, the sister of the future prime minister, to the continent, eyes turned to the North towards George's only surviving child, 36 years old Queen Louise of Denmark and Norway.

Against the weighty influence of British Tories and Danish ministers Moltke and Bernstorff and a French threat to declare war, Louise was finally named Queen Regent of Great Britain in 1761 with her only son Christian as heir of both the British and Danish throne.

With growing liberal, almost radical influence flowing in from the continent and headed by the physician of the mentally ill Christian, one German Johann Friedrich Struensee, Queen Louise I on the one hand furthered trade with her American colonies even by handing over the reins to her political opponent Lord Halifax while giving in to most of the growing colonial demands by following the guidance of her Whig prime minister Charles Lennox, 3rd Duke of Richmond.

When the Danish king Frederick V, Louise's husband, finally passed on after a life of debauchery in 1766, matters in Europe grew tight again. The British public resented Christian of Denmark with a vengeance giving Tory influence in both houses an almost meteoric rise. Tory leader Lord North produced the plan to recall George II's grandson from Hanover, forcing Louise to abdicate in his favour. With almost no support to speak of, Louise indeed decided to renounce the throne on her birthday, December 7th 1766, while her nephew was crowned as George III on January 6th 1767.

Nominating North as his prime minister, one of George III's governmental decisions was to ratify the Townshend Act, raising taxes in the American Colonies.

June 24

In 1532, the future King of Scotland Robert Dudley was born on this day.

Birth of Robert Dudley, King of ScotlandWhen Mary, the ex-queen of France returned to her native Scotland in August 1561 and was met with stubborn resistance of her future Protestant subjects, it needed several attempts of her half-brother James Stewart, 1st Earl of Moray to finally renounce her Catholic faith. After a reconciliation with John Knox, the leader of the local Protestant reformation and signing the Treaty of Edinburgh, Mary Stuart became Mary Queen of the Scots.

The royal widow was finally persuaded to marry the Englishman Robert Dudley, then 1st Earl of Leicester - who himself was talked into going to Scotland and leaving the side of Elizabeth I and finally agreed to marry Mary after she accepted Protestantism. The couple had issue in 1562.

Leicester's and Mary's son Robert was acknowledged as heir to the Scottish and later the English throne by Elizabeth. With her marriage to Robert Dudley, Queen Mary obviously got far more than she had bargained for - as she was still speculating for the English throne and continuously trying to bully her husband into taking steps against Elizabeth, he, as a convinced Puritan had not only massively strengthened the rights of Sottish Parliament but reacted decisively against his wife's ambitions. In 1571, a discovered plot of English Catholic noblemen against Elizabeth's life with obvious involvement of Mary led to her banishment at Findlater Castle on the Moray Firth.

Robert ruled Scotland until his death in 1588, succeeded by his son Robert IV. Raised in the Puritan spirit of his father, his reforms after ascending the throne of England in 1603 were the main reasons of the Cavalier's revolt and the Civil War a generation later.

December 21

In 1118, on the feast day of St Thomas the Apostle, Henry II's trusty right hand Thomas á Becket was born in Cheapside, London.
This post was written by Dirk Puehl the highly recommended author of #onthisday #history Google+ posts.

Birth of Thomas a BecketServing as Lord Chancellor since 1155, Becket became instrumental in Henry's policy keeping the king's dominance over the English church and curbing Papal influence in the kingdom for good.

Starting with classifying and taxing the church as every other landowner in the realm, the church's influence and independence was further reduced when Becket was appointed Archbishop of Canterbury, enforcing the Constitutions of Clarendon that put an end to the separate canonical law. While Henry actually had planned just to have a say in the trials of clerks and priests in ecclesiastical courts, Becket furthered the crown's influence to the point that outside of minor questions of faith, the clergy was politically silenced.

Protesting bishops and abbots were dispossessed quickly, their property either allocated to the crown, the loyal Bishopric of Canterbury or Becket himself who became one of England's major landowners in the process.

Becket played a decisive role in regards of foreign affairs in furthering the approach to Frederick Barbarossa's Holy Roman Empire by active support against Pope Alexander III who did his best to supress the English as well as the Empire's anti-clerical policy. The combined efforts led to a removal of Alexander who was about to excommunicate everything north of the Alps except France. Henry's and Becket's policy was finally acknowledged by Pope Calixtus III - laying the groundwork of the great conflicts between the French crown and England and the Holy Roman Empire in the 13th century.

Becket himself died at the age of 71 in London after serving King Richard I as loyal as he served his father.

February 8

In 1952, on this day Elizabeth II was proclaimed Queen of the United Kingdom.
This post was written by Dirk Puehl the highly recommended author of #onthisday #history Google+ posts.

Elizabeth Mountbatten-Windsor, Queen of HeartsDirk Puehl writes - "The sovereign has under a constitutional monarchy such as ours, three rights - the right to be consulted, the right to encourage, the right to warn". (Walter Bagehot, 1867)

When the "Maléter Note" reached the British Foreign Ministry, a warning by the commander of an armoured division stationed in Budapest that the Soviets were about to crush the Hungarian insurgents on October 29th, the young Queen Elizabeth II, in office for just three years was shown top secret government papers for the first time - in this particular case the plans of the imminent Anglo-French invasion of Egypt.

It was probably her estrangement towards Winston Churchill and his opposition against the dismemberment of the Empire that made the young Queen remind Prime Minister Anthony Eden of his promise "peace comes first, always" - and a remarkably farsighted assessment of Great Britain's post-war role. The US and Soviets already struggling for influence in the Near and Middle East would not let a war against Egypt go unpunished - and the US special allies could hardly condemn a Soviet invasion of Hungary and support a Western attack on Egypt, especially with Eisenhower's support of the decolonisation process.

The young queen's exertion of influence behind the scenes did cause some upheaval in British and French military circles, but the task force of 6 six allied aircraft carriers and a battleship did nothing but threaten off the Egyptian coast - while Khrushchev threatened the UK, France and Israel with a massive "rocket attack" should they dare to attack Nasser's Egypt or the Suez Canal - and invaded Hungary. A signal towards potential Arab allies about how the Soviet Union would treat their foederati if they didn't toe the line. A major setback for Soviet influence in the Middle East.

The first immediate lesson the U.K. as well as France learned beyond ultra-conservative sabre-rattling was the necessity of a third power in the emerging cold war if both ex world powers wouldn't want to be on the drip of either the US and the USSR forever - the latter's foreign minister Molotov made France an offer almost too good to refuse: French neutrality and withdrawal from the NATO versus cessation of Soviet support for Algerian rebels.

But Prime Minister Guy Mollet decided to stick to the West - and, not without the leverage of the new "Queen of Hearts", arranged the quiet integration of France into the Commonwealth of Nations - with Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark and Norway following within the next five years. The third power, the Commonwealth, had indeed been established in the Mid-Sixties.

March 22

In 1765, it might have been pure ignorance paired with a certain amount of overconfidence that made the British general Jeffrey Amherst act like he had an army of 10.000 behind him when he triggered the Great Indian War, because, actually, Amherst had no army to speak of.
This post was written by Dirk Puehl the highly recommended author of #onthisday #history Google+ posts.

Great Indian WarAfter the end of the Seven Years' War that brought Great Britain immense territorial gains but had cost a fortune, Lord Bute's Tory government had decided in 1762 to demote most of the large army still stationed in North America to cut expenses but to severe many officers' connections with the former Whig government as well. Bute had just survived a beginning political debacle due to a well aimed shot from the Secretary of Treasure Samuel Martin into the chest of the radical journalist John Wilkes during a duel and decided to root out any Whiggish tendencies wherever they might be found.

Besides the political hotbed, the cost of maintaining a large standing army overseas could probably not have been financed without additional taxation of the American colonies, such as a Stamp Act, in brief discussion in 1764 but finally dismissed for various reasons. However, the 2.000 soldiers Amherst had at his disposal were neither enough to much impress the French settlers in Canada who refused to swear their allegiance to King George to move places to their new settlements in Louisiana nor to lend weight or even credibility to the policy the British general pursued on the new Indian frontier.

When various Cherokee and Great Lakes people, mainly the Ottawa chief Pontiac, decided they'd had it with Amherst's arrogance and bullying and attacked settlements and undermanned British forts, a large portion of the continents English speaking population from Illinois to the Ohio and the Appalachians was fleeing for the East Coast. The war raged on for two years with almost genocidal dimensions on both sides, the Native's forces more or less openly supported with materiel by France until finally fresh British regiments arriving in Boston and New York were able to at least stop Pontiac from invading the East Coast.

In 1766 The following Treaty of Fort Ticonderoga drove a coach and six horses through the British gains of the Seven Years' War, in the former French territories of North America and Canada where the rebellion of the Franco-Canadians already had begun. The impotence of King George to protect his American subjects was one of the main reasons for the American Rebellion 10 years later.

January 18

In 1688, Lionel Sackville English political leader and Lord Lieutenant of Ireland was born on this day.
This post was written by Dirk Puehl the highly recommended author of #onthisday #history Google+ posts.

Irish King of the RoadsDirk writes - Today is the 325th birthday of Lionel Sackville, 1st Duke of Dorset, the "Irish King of the Roads".

While the first part of his life took its course relatively uneventful, a chance meeting, allegedly in a Dublin house of ill repute with the great Irish orator James Grattan and young Henry Flood changed Dorset's policy during his second term as Lord Lieutenant of Ireland entirely.

While Catholic emancipation was out of the question in the 1750s, Dorset managed to get an exemption from the Navigation Act of 1663, virtually granting Ireland the same commercial rights and privileges Scotland had since the Union, making Irish built vessels "English Bottoms" as well.

The steadily increasing trade with the American colonies and the West Indies made harbours like Sligo, Galway and especially Cork and Wexford natural ports of call, were the infrastructure behind not in a rather medieval state. Until the end of his second and during his third Lieutenancy in the 1760s, Dorset was responsible for the construction of the "Auld Triangle", the three great roads connecting the Irish West and South with Dublin with funds collected by the great Anglo-Irish landholders by means of persuasion, promise and sheer blackmailing.

The tax exemption and possibilities of direct shipping from Irish ports also gave a meteoric rise to local wool production and the establishment of a new breed of sheep called the "mamat" within a generation, making most of the Emerald Island a rather prosperous place by the end of the 18th century. Famines like the one in 1740/41 seemed to be a thing of the past. An entirely new Irish self-consciousness was born as well, marking the starting positions for negotiations and finally the Civil War of 1798.

February 1

In 1771, Succeeding Lord Hawke today, 242 years ago, as First Lord of Admiralty, Welbore Ellis, Lord Dover, not only kept on the good work of his predecessor in reforming the Royal Navy but surpassed him - mostly by being one of the few upright persons in the otherwise chaotic and corrupt government of Lord North.
This post was written by Dirk Puehl the highly recommended author of #onthisday #history Google+ posts.

Lord Dover, Saviour of the Royal Navy"I have neither intrigued nor caballed; I have in a great degree secluded myself from company to avoid all suspicion and misrepresentation, and have rested with a most resigned confidence in your Majesty's goodness to me, and having assured your Majesty that I was only your's, I have carefully avoided every other connexion and support". (Welbore Ellis, Lord Dover)

Dirk writes - With the growing problems in Britain's American Colonies, Dover's reform of the naval yards and especially naval suppliers saw the Royal Navy well prepared, when troubles became all-out war and the European powers joined in.

Dover's reforms did not only cut costs for fleet maintenance by more than 25%, allowing for a sufficient number of ships-of-the-line in European waters as well as on the North American station but had a lasting effect on the virulent nepotism up to then prevailing in the promotional system of the Navy.

Cashiering an able admiral like Rodney for his favouritisms in 1781 after his relieving of the Great Siege of Gibraltar did not exactly make Dover a popular figure, neither with the public nor the fleet. Lord Howe though, the victor of the Battle of Chesapeake Bay who ensured the British dominance off the coast of North America and the Caribbean, celebrated Dover as the Saviour of the Navy.

Dover's fall came a short time after the end of the war in 1782 when he was accused of sodomy and forced to retire. Lord North finally had the leeway to make the infamous John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich, First Lord for a third spell until his government fell in 1784.

April 5

In 1614, the first recorded interracial in the New World between the planter John Rolfe and the "Mother of the Confederation" Pocahontas took place in Jamestown, Virginia. Initially, Rolfe saw marriage to a daughter of the paramount chief of the then already relatively powerful Native Powhatan Confederation as a good idea to secure his expanding tobacco plantations. What agenda Pocahontas and her father, known as Chief Powhatan may have pursued originally is unclear, but the baptised and newly-wed Native Princess took her husband to a visit of the English mother country, accompanied by trusted Powhatan advisors. She met with King James I in England who almost had Rolfe executed for high treason for forming an alliance without royal consent and excluded him from the meetings on grounds of his lower social status. Pocahontas fell ill when the couple was about to return to Virginia, but finally recovered and returned to the New World in the spring of 1618.
This post was written by Dirk Puehl the highly recommended author of #onthisday #history Google+ posts.

Mother of the ConfederationPocahontas went to the territory of the Powhatan soon after and was rarely seen in the colony for quite a while, probably dealing together with her father with the uprising of Tomocomo, a shaman who accompanied the Rolfes to England and was quite obviously set against teaming up with the English settlers with a vengeance. While the Powhatan territory became more and more a holding centre for refugees from the colony - two thirds of its inhabitants were actually there against their will, coloured slaves bought from a Dutch man-of-war as well as the deported from England who all fled west to Werowocomoco, the Powhatan capital on the York River - traditional elements within the tribal confederation pursued a policy of isolation against the foreigners. After the death of Pocahontas' father in 1618, his brother Opechancanough tried to turn the tide - the princess was acclaimed "High Chief" of all Tsenacommacah or tribes while her uncle collected the dissatisfied elements and began a guerilla war. Against the new "Mother of the Confederation" as well as the English invaders. Though Governor Thomas Dale repulsed the haphazard invasion of Opechancanough along the James River, he called to the mother country for reinforcements and Pocahontas' Powhatan Confederation had a full fledged war at her hands in the early 1620s.

Nonetheless, the English colonial troops were not strong enough to fundamentally harm the Powhatan Confederation but managed to dislocate the Tsenacommacah settlements east of the headland of the headwaters of the James River, securing the colony and allowing a permanent settlement of the Confederation in the Appalachian region between the new Pennsylvania and the territory of the Shawnee and Cherokee in what was to become Kentucky. After Pocahontas death in 1646 she was succeeded by her son Thomas Rolfe. His descendants dominated the Powhatan Confederation for the next 150 years until Powhatan joined the rebellion as 14th colony in 1776.

March 29

In 1638, the first two Swedish ships, the "Fogel Grip" and the "Kalmar Nyckel" landed at the site of today's metropolis Kristinastad and established the first Swedish settlement in the New World. With 600 settlers following to strike roots soon after, the new colony was soon at loggerheads with the Dutch settlement of Nieuw Nederland.
This post was written by Dirk Puehl the highly recommended author of #onthisday #history Google+ posts.

New Sweden founded in AmericaEven though the Dutch did not take violent action while the Thirty Years' War raged in Europe and the mother country was threatened, matters changed after the Peace of Westphalia in 1648. Nya Sverige (New Sweden) would have been a short-lived episode if King Charles XI had pursued his policy of strength in the eastern Baltic regions.

With profits from fur trade coming in and the old Swedish chancellor Oxenstierna having a focus on consolidating the economy, the new course of the Swedish Empire became quite obvious. Following victories over Denmark and control of the Kattegat and Skagerrak passages into the North Sea and the Atlantic, as well as an agreement of more or less exporting people from Poland and Lithuania - instead of warring on them - to tackle the colony's main problem, the lack of manpower, soon established a busy traffic between the north eastern American seaboard and Scandinavia. The Dutch saw their position in the Americas almost indefensible when war after war followed with the English in the second half of the 17th century and decided to sell their possessions rather than have them fall into English hands and ally with the Swedes.

Nya Sverige meanwhile had expanded to the Stora Sjoarna (Great Lakes) region in the west and drove a wedge between existing French and English settlements in the North and South of the continent, and the great colonial conflicts of the early 18th century between the three European major powers were already foreshadowed, when Swedish settlers drove away the French explorers Jolliet, Marquette and La Salle from the Mississippi River valley and founded the local capital of Gustavia (after the governor Gustav Johansson Prinz). The War of Spanish Succession finally brought hostilities to the Americas in earnest, with the French and Spanish on one and the Swedes and the English on the other, with the excellent Swedish troops making all the difference in the North of Louisiana, leaving France with the area south of the Arkansas River after the Peace of Utrecht.

Growing ideas of absolutistic rule in the late 17th and early 18th century in the Swedish Empire under Charles XI and Charles XII, colonial taxation and the competition with the English in North America marked the uneasy situation of Nya Sverige until the 1750s when the Amerikanska Kriget or American War determined the new development the continent was about to take.
An article from the multi-author American Mini-states thread.

December 14

In 1542, on this day Princess Mary Stuart becomes Mary, Queen of Scots.
This post was written by Dirk Puehl the highly recommended author of #onthisday #history Google+ posts.

Princess Mary Stuart becomes Mary, Queen of ScotsWhen Mary, the ex-queen of France returned to her native Scotland in August 1561 and was met with stubborn resistance of her future Protestant subjects, it needed several attempts of her half-brother James Stewart, 1st Earl of Moray to finally renounce her Catholic faith. After a reconciliation with John Knox, the leader of the local Protestant reformation and signing the Treaty of Edinburgh, Mary Stuart became Mary Queen of the Scots today, 470 years ago.

The royal widow was finally persuaded to marry the Englishman Robert Dudley, 1st Earl of Leicester - who himself was talked into going to Scotland and leaving the side of Elizabeth I and finally agreed to marry Mary after she accepted Protestantism. The couple had issue in 1562.

Leicester's and Mary's son Robert was acknowledged as heir to the Scottish and later the English throne by Elizabeth.

With her marriage to Robert Dudley, Queen Mary obviously got far more than she had bargained for - as she was still speculating for the English throne and continuously trying to bully her husband into taking steps against Elizabeth, he, as a convinced Puritan had not only massively strengthened the rights of Sottish Parliament but reacted decisively against his wife's ambitions. In 1571, a discovered plot of English Catholic noblemen against Elizabeth's life with obvious involvement of Mary led to her banishment at Findlater Castle on the Moray Firth.

Robert ruled Scotland until his death in 1588, succeeded by his son Robert IV. Raised in the Puritan spirit of his father, his reforms after ascending the throne of England in 1603 were the main reasons of the Cavalier's revolt and the Civil War a generation later.

December 28

In 1694, on this day joint Sovereign of England, Scotland, and Ireland, Queen Mary II made a miraculous recovery from smallpox.
This post was written by Dirk Puehl the highly recommended author of #onthisday #history Google+ posts.

Queen Mary II survives the poxWhen King Billy fell victim to "the little gentleman in the black velvet waistcoat" [1] in July 1702, his wife Mary took over the responsibilities of governing the kingdom for good - a role she had actually filled since 1690, with dwindling success and support, both from parliament and the English population. Besides a strict adherence to Protestant morals unheard of since the days of Cromwell, she had estranged almost all of her subjects by inexplicable personnel decision - leaving England without capable leaders at the outbreak of the War of Spanish Succession.

After continuous military failures on the continent, Queen Mary II decided to leave her late husband's Grand Alliance and withdrew England from the war in 1702, spending the countries military resources to quell various rebellions and leaving the door open for the landing of James II's son James Francis in Torbay with no opposition from the Royal Navy but almost full support from the Tories. James was not willing to renounce his Catholic faith, but granted the largest possible religious freedom for England, Scotland and Ireland. Queen Mary II was forced to resign, establishing James III as the next Catholic Stuart monarch on the English throne, facing not only the coming Protestant uprisings but the united Bourbon France and Spain.

November 3

In 1957, when Sputnik 2 left Earth, the Soviet spacecraft was the first vessel designed by humans carrying a living being into the universe. Aboard was the dog Laika, out there to test, if a complex organism would actually be able to survive in zero gravity for a longer period.
This post was written by Dirk Puehl the highly recommended author of #onthisday #history Google+ posts.

Space Age and Dog Years"Work with animals is a source of suffering to all of us. We treat them like babies who cannot speak. The more time passes, the more I'm sorry about it. We shouldn't have done it.. We did not learn enough from this mission to justify the death of the dog" (Oleg Georgovitch Gazenko, one of the Soviet animals in space programme, 1998).

Laika allegedly died after a few hours in, not from the state of weightlessness but of stress and noise and heat in the capsule. Since Sputnik 2 burned up during the re-entry into Earth's atmosphere, the actual fate of Laika remained officially unclear.

Three years later the Soviet Union started the next attempt to bring something living into space.. and back again. The two dogs Belka and Strelka were sent out in Sputnik 5 and everything seemed to work as expected, from the start of the craft in the Baikonur Cosmodrome until Sputnik V's first orbit. Then the life signs of the two dogs suddenly disappeared from Baikonur's measuring devices - from normal to simply gone in an instant.

Even though Sputnik 5 managed a soft landing, necessary for the planned manned space flights, the craft's hatch was open and everything inside destroyed. No clue about the two dogs could be found. Next year's plan to send a man into space had to be postponed for an indefinite time. The next unmanned flights, Soviet as well as those launched by the US, experienced serious setbacks, once they penetrated Earth's atmosphere. In 1961, Shepard reported three comet-like apparitions, accompanying him on his suborbital flight, a failure of his instruments after roughly 5 minutes and the apparitions following him until a height of roughly 30.000 feet.

The phenomenon continued to be visible, on clear nights even with bare eyes, while almost every attempt, Soviet, US, European, Japanese, Chinese and Indian, to launch something into space either inexplicably failed as soon as the object left Earth's atmosphere or downright exploded. The reporting of seeing the three comets ceased in 1985, as sudden as it began in 1960 and international space programmes slowly began to ramp up in the early 1990s again.

February 22

By 1371, Robert Stewart who ruled Scotland after a fashion would neither accept David as a king nor an even stronger English dominance in his homeland.
This post was written by Dirk Puehl the highly recommended author of #onthisday #history Google+ posts.

The Auld AllianceDirk Puehl writes - With high probability Robert Stewart's rebellion of 1363 marks one of the turning points of history in England's troublesome north and the end of the independent medieval kingdom of Scotland. Even though the English suffered a serious drawback or three, the Battle of Neville Cross and the capture of the King of the Scots, David II, was the beginning of the end. David, in English confinement since his 17th birthday returned to his native land almost an Englishman and with no heirs but King Edward III's pressure at his back to remit his enormous ransom in favour of naming a scion of the House of Plantagenet as successor to the throne of Scotland, he was a rather unwelcome monarch.

Robert Stewart who ruled Scotland after a fashion would neither accept David as a king nor an even stronger English dominance in his homeland. Invoking again the so-called "Auld Alliance" with France and buying continental mercenaries from the money that was intended as first instalment for David's ransom according to the Treaty of Berwick, he and his conspirators, the Lords of Douglas and March, suddenly proved themselves to be a real threat in Edward's back while he was campaigning in France.

Unable to put down the Stewart's revolt with his own meagre resources, King David fled to York to await Edward's reaction, while the rebels quickly threatened Northumberland and moved South with considerable strength and took Durham in late July. Edward acted promptly.

Withdrawing his support for Pedro the Cruel in Northern Spain, he recalled his sons Edward of Woodstock and John of Gaunt from that theatre and hurried them and their battle-hardened troops north to Normandy to cross the channel before the beginning of winter.

While the Stewart's undisciplined troops occupied themselves with plundering Northumbria and Durham, the Plantagenet's princes' army arrived in the North in October 1363. Lord Douglas' hastily assembled contingent was defeated at the Battle of Barnard Castle, Robert tried to withdraw back to Scotland but his withdrawal went slowly and was hindered by the large baggage carts filled with plunder that his men insisted to bring with them.

His column was literally rolled up by the English and what was left defeated on November 1st in the All Saints' Battle near Bamburgh Castle. The Stewart was taken captive and executed in London in 1364.

With a victorious Plantagenet army at his back, David could return to Edinburgh but had no choice to name an English prince as his heir - John of Gaunt was named heir apparent on Christmas Day 1363 and acceded the throne as John II of Scotland after David's dead on February 22nd 1371.

A last glimpse of Scottish independence in the Middle Ages was at least in debate, when King John II fell out with his brother Richard II, King of England, but, after the latter's untimely death in 1400, John's son Henry was crowned King of England and Scotland, the name of Scotland being a historical footnote for "The North" for a very long time.

January 11

In 1645, Robert Devereux, 3rd Earl of Essex, former Captain General of the Parliamentary Forces was hanged on his fifth-fourth birthday.
This post was written by Dirk Puehl the highly recommended author of #onthisday #history Google+ posts.

The Execution of Robert DevereuxWhen King Charles I victorious troops finally entered London in December 1644, Devereux as among the first who were rounded up and sentenced to death in a drumhead court.

Even though being a member of the moderate faction during the Long Parliament, Essex was in the rather uncomfortable position as Captain General, tasked with preserving the "Safety of his Majesty's Person" when Charles declared war on Parliament at Nottingham Castle three years earlier. With an unwavering loyalty towards Protestantism and Parliament, Essex decided to make a stand and was chosen to lead the troops on ground of his previous military experience on the continent.

When the two adversary groups clashed for the first time in a major battle at Edgehill in Warwickshire in October of the same year, it seemed that commissioning was the right decision. Even though Royalist Prince Rupert's initial cavalry charge saw the mounted Roundhats running, Essex well-disciplined infantry made a stand. When his reserves took the Royalist's footmen in the flanks and broke them, it was his personal effort to grab a pike and lead his badly battered troops to follow up in a well disciplined charge that finally decided the day of Edgehill for Parliament.

Essex emerged as primary military leader of Parliament and led the war against the King with no real edge, staggering every which way through the countryside without seeking a decision but finally making peace. When he met again with Prince Rupert and the Royalist forces at Marston Moor in July 1644, it came back to roost that the Captain General had surrounded himself with military nonentities. "The King's Devil" Prince Rupert of the Rhine, meanwhile Charles' supreme commander, sought battle and even though outnumbered, beat Essex with innovative tactics and decisive action. After Marston Moor, the conflict later known as the First Civil War was virtually over.

January 4

In 1649, on this day the Rump Parliament voted to put Charles I on trial. But Dirk Puehl wonders what if the outbreak of the English Civil War had actually been avoided by a game-changing point of divergence?
This post was written by Dirk Puehl the highly recommended author of #onthisday #history Google+ posts.

The Fortuitous Death of Thomas WentworthWhen Thomas Wentworth, 1st Earl of Stafford (pictured), succumbed to disease in September 1640 it was as if an evil spirit had been banished from King Charles said. Even though still lingering between bankruptcy, dangerous continental ideas of Absolutism and flirting with Catholicism, Charles was no longer goaded into conflict at all costs with his parliament.

When the latter went into session in September of that year, later known as the "Long Parliament" the doors were finally open for reconciliation. As King Charles was not able to lay his hands on the late Earl of Stafford's financial assets, he made quite a lot of concessions to avoid total bankruptcy - one of them being the agreement to finally divorce his unpopular French Catholic wife Henrietta Maria. This announcement made before the Long Parliament on January 4th 1641 eased tensions palpably.

During the rest of Charles rule, things never went to easy between him and parliament with his lingering demands of royal supremacy, but never went as far as being an open conflict again after the approval of almost all members to the war with France that broke out when Henrietta Maria fled with both her sons to her native lands after Charles had married Lady Anne Montagu, daughter of one of his generals and parliamentary leader Edward Montagu, 2nd Earl of Manchester.

May 1

By 1936, it was by no means unheard of that a small naval squadron of naval units had a major influence on the outcome of a whole war, even though it is rare that such a success is bought dearly by one of the greatest catastrophes in civil navigation.
This post was written by Dirk Puehl the highly recommended author of #onthisday #history Google+ posts.

The Sinking of the Conte di Savoia"Long live the First of May! Long live international Proletarism!" read the cable of Lt Commander Grigori Ivanovich Shchedrin of the Soviet submarine "Kirovets" to his home base in Kronstadt, when his boat and her sister ship "Voroshilovets" ship broke out into the Atlantic to support the Republican Government in the Spanish Civil War on May 1st 1936.

The two years old Soviet subs were especially designed for laying mine fields, a function the old Imperial Russian Navy had already successfully tested before the Great War. Thus, the first success of the Soviet boats might be the severe mine damage the Nationalist cruiser "Canarias" received en route from her base in Ferol in Northern Spain to break the Republican blockade of the Strait of Gibraltar.

Since the larger part of the Spanish navy remained loyal to the Republic, "Caudillo" Franco had severe problems to ship his insurgent troops from North Africa to the Spanish Mainland. His Italian and German allies supported him with aerial transports but the majority was to be transported by sea. Thus, a convoy was assembled in Tangier to ship contingents of the mutinous Spanish Foreign Legion and mercenaries to Spain. Among them was the Italian liner "Conte di Savoias", chartered by Franco's supporter, the Spanish billionaire Juan March. The 800 feet "Conte" was constructed for the accommodation of roughly 2.500 passengers, when the convoy left Tangier, probably twice that number were aboard for the relatively short passage to land the troops near Cadiz. Escorted by the light cruiser "Almirante Cervera" and under the cover of Italian bombers, the convoy left Tangiers on September 9th to be immediately stalked by the Republican submarine C-3 acting in concert with the two Soviet subs.

While the Italian bombers were driven off by the heavy anti-aircraft fire from the Spanish battleship "Jaime I" and two destroyers off Cape Espartel and the Republican blockade of the Strait held, the convoy decided to make for the Atlantic and set a course for Ferol. In the night of September 10th, the three subs attacked. A fan of torpedoes fired by "Voroshilovets" hit the "Canarias" who sank within minutes while at least two projectiles from "Kirovets" and C-3 struck the "Conte". The big liner turned to the side while the three submarines crept closer, surfaced and attacked the rest of the convoy with their guns, making a rescue of survivors of the two capital ships impossible. More than 5.000 people were dead by morning.

The loss of life and war material proved to be a grave setback for "Caudillo" Franco and his Nationalist insurgents in the Civil War, while the sinking of the "Conte di Savoias" is rated amongst the most severe maritime disasters in history.

April 26

In 1861, on this day Judah P. Benjamin was inaugurated as Vice President of the Confederate States of America.
This post was written by Dirk Puehl the highly recommended author of #onthisday #history Google+ posts.

Walk the Line"We should have freed the slaves, THEN fired on Fort Sumter". (Lieutenant General James Longstreet, Gettysburg, 1993)

Whatever might have happened to the CSA if "The Little Pale Star from Georgia" Alexander Stephens acceded the office of "Vice President of the Confederate States of America" is open to debate - however, after most future states of the temporary CSA already had seceded from the Union and Stephens was on his way to deliver a speech in Savannah, Georgia, he unexpectedly died of exhaustion on March 20th, 1861, four weeks before the war broke out.

Stepping into his role was Judah P. Benjamin who was inaugurated on April 26th, 14 days after Beauregard accepted the surrender of Fort Sumter. The former designated Secretary of War of the CSA was strongly opposed against that what was to be known as Stephens' Swan Song - his "cornerstone" of the CSA, slavery on grounds of racial superiority of the Whites. If this was a personal conviction of Benjamin or political consideration is not clear, however, the diplomats chosen by him en route to persuade the major European powers to acknowledge the CSA had a clear announcement in their diplomatic bag: the South would abolish slavery.

While the Southern soldiers pushed North during the first months of war and pressed the Federals hard, Benjamin's diplomatic corps negotiated with both Great Britain and France an agreement - both would acknowledge the CSA as a sovereign state as soon as they had abolished the inanely atavistic idea of slavery, guaranteed taking on an immense governmental debt for taking over Great Britain's imports that went so far into the Union and suspending the Monroe Doctrine if France continued his invasion of Mexico.

When news of this plan leaked out of inner governmental and military circles, the Confederate's Western border states, Georgia and Texas almost ran amok. Stephens' speech about the cornerstone of the Confederacy being based on slavery was published in most newspapers, the governors of states like Alabama and Mississippi threatened to secede from the Confederacy and called for early elections.

The Union victory at Pittsburg Landing in April 1862 made most of the involved parties reconsider the facts. With the losses suffered in battle, the Western CSA grew cautious in seceding again, while the Europeans asked themselves if they had picked the right horse. It was time for Benjamin to goad President Davies into action. The Richmond Emancipation Proclamation was issued immediately after the Battle of Sharpsburg on October 1st 1862, while French and British naval formations were already at sea, positioned along the vital trade lines to protect them from eventual Union commerce raiders and to the Eastern seaboard and the Gulf of Mexico to end the blockade imposed by the Federals. Emperor Napoleon III of France acknowledged the CSA on October 16th, Palmerston's government followed three days later.

While a war with the Europeans on top of the Civil War was the last thing President Lincoln wanted, things went arse over tip in the Confederacy. Governor Francis Lubbock declared that Texas' secession from the Confederacy with immediate effect, withdrawing Texan troops from the Eastern theatre of the war to "protect the homeland from restless natives and the French" and to invade Kansas. Alabama, Mississippi and Georgia followed while Arkansas rejoined the Union. The relatively straightforward frontlines of the Civil War had become a hardly understandable patchwork within a month and nobody exactly knew who was at war with whom anymore within four weeks.

The USA and what was left of the CSA at least negotiated an armistice by Christmas 1862 to sort things out after New York finally had left the Union and joined the Confederates with the Royal Navy guaranteeing the city's safety from repercussions by the Federals. What followed was the chaos that minted the continent from Yucatan to the Canadian Border until the end of the century.

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© Today in Alternate History, 2013-. All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.