On This Day – An Experiment in Hovering and Fast Women

30 May

Joan of Arc

Milla Jovovich as Joan

1431 Joan of Arc, the French peasant girl who became a national heroine leading French troops against the English, was burnt at the stake in Rouen for heresy.

Indecent Haste

1536 Eleven days after he had his second wife Anne Boleyn beheaded, King Henry VIII married Jane Seymour, former lady-in-waiting to Anne.

Grenadier Guards

1656 The formation of the Grenadier Guards, the senior regiment of the British Army.

Worth Being Shot At

1842 An assassination attempt was made on Queen Victoria as she drove down Constitution Hill in London with her husband Prince Albert. The would-be assassin was John Francis.

“worth being shot at – to see how much one is loved” -Queen Victoria, speaking of the public outcry at Roderick MacClean’s attempt on her life

The 1840s was a time of political and social turmoil in Europe, republican sympathies being agitated by radical groups in Great Britain as well as the Continent.

In June of 1840, an eighteen year-old Londoner named Edward Oxford fired two pistols at Queen Victoria and Prince Albert as they rode through the city, but misfired and was apprehended by a pair of bystanders. Oxford was judged insane and acquited, but there were whispers that he was a pawn in a Chartist plot to overthrow the monarchy.

The summer of 1842 saw two more attacks. The first was under circumstances almost identical to the 1840 attack, and the would-be assassin, John Francis, was captured and banished. Two months later another teenager, one John William Bean, tried to shoot the Queen with a pistol he had failed to load properly. He spent the next eighteen months of his life in prison for his troubles, but was spared the flogging that Parliament had decreed for those who attempted to strike or shoot the Queen.

Revolutionary excitement reached a high-point in 1848, when the Queen and her family even made a brief flight to the Isle of Wight in fear of a Chartist revolt. The revolt did not take place, but the fears for the Queen’s safety were nonetheless well-founded. In 1849, Irishman William Hamilton attacked the Queen with a pistol, but as with the previous attempt he had failed to load his weapon correctly.

In July of 1850 the Queen was brutally struck in the face by Robert Pate, a discharged army officer who may have been certifiably insane. At least one more assassination attempt took place in the 1850s. In 1872 she was threatened by another Irishman, this time seven year-old Arthur O’Connor, who waved an unloaded pistol at her as her carriage passed into Buckingham Palace. He was tackled by her friend and attendant John Brown.

One of the last and most infamous attempts on Queen Victoria’s life was made by Roderick MacLean, an eccentric Scottish poet who was offended at the Queen’s lack of interest in one of his works. In March of 1882 he missed while firing at her with a pistol at Windsor Rail Station; several schoolboys beat him with their umbrellas until he could be apprehended. MacLean was declared “not guilty, but insane” at his trial. The Queen, indignant at this lenient verdict, called for British law to be changed so criminals could be declared “guilty and insane”.

All in all, Queen Victoria was subjected to no less than eight assassination attempts over the course of her 1837-1901 reign; it seems to have been the clumsiness of the would-be assassins, not God, that saved the Queen.

RMS Aquitania

SS Aquitania.jpg

1914 The new, and at that time the largest Cunard ocean liner, RMS Aquitania weighing 45,647 tons, set sails on her maiden voyage from Liverpool to New York City. In her 36 years of service, Aquitania had the longest service career of any 20th century express liner, a record that stood until 2004, when the Queen Elizabeth 2 (with an ultimate career service of 40 years) became the longest-serving liner.

British Nationals

1948 The British Citizenship Act conferred the status of British subjects on all Commonwealth citizens.

Fast Women

Diane Leather

1954 Diane Leather, of Birmingham University, became the first woman to run a mile in under 5 minutes. Her time was 4 min 59.6 seconds.

An Experiment in Hovering

SR-N1 hovercraft, Lee-on-Solent, England, 5 March 1962.

1959 The first full-size experimental hovercraft, the SR-N1, built by Saunders-Roe and designed by Sir Christopher Cockerell, was launched at Cowes on the Isle of Wight.

The Angry Brigade

1972 The Angry Brigade, a small British anarchist group, went on trial over a series of 25 bombings throughout the United Kingdom.

Second European  Cup

Enter Liverpool FC

1978 Liverpool won the European Cup for the second year running, beating FC Bruges of Belgium 1-0, the lone goal being scored by Kenny Dalglish.

RIP, Mr. Most


2003 The death of Mickie Most, record producer, with a string of hit singles with acts such as The Animals, Herman’s Hermits, Donovan, Kim Wilde and Suzi Quatro, often issued on his own RAK Records label.

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