Fact of the day: 30th June

On this day in 1997 the United Kingdom transferred sovereignty over Hong Kong to the People’s Republic of China.

The transfer of sovereignty over Hong Kong from the United Kingdom to China referred to as “the Handover” internationally or “the Return” in China, took place on 1 July 1997, and marked the end of British rule in Hong Kong.

The handover ceremony was held at the new wing of the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre in Wan Chai on the night of 30 June 1997.

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The principal British guest was Charles, Prince of Wales who read a farewell speech on behalf of the Queen. The newly elected Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Tony Blair, the British Foreign Minister Robin Cook, the departing Hong Kong governor Chris Patten and General Sir Charles Guthrie, Chief of the Defence Staff of the United Kingdom, also attended.

Representing China were the President of the People’s Republic of China, Jiang Zemin; and Tung Chee-hwa, the first Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China.

This event was broadcast on several television and radio stations across the world.

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Fact of the day: 29th June

On this day in 1613 The Globe Theatre in London, England burnt to the ground.

The Globe Theatre was a theatre in London associated with William Shakespeare. It was built in 1599 by Shakespeare’s playing company, the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, on land owned by Thomas Brend and inherited by his son, Nicholas Brend and grandson Sir Matthew Brend, and was destroyed by fire on 29 June 1613.

A second Globe Theatre was built on the same site by June 1614 and closed in 1642.

A modern reconstruction of the Globe, named “Shakespeare’s Globe”, opened in 1997 approximately 750 feet (230 m) from the site of the original theatre.  From 1909, the current Gielgud Theatre was called “Globe Theatre”, until it was renamed in 1994.

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Fact of the day: 28th June

On this day in 1914 Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie were assassinated by Gavrilo Princip in Sarajevo. This is also known as the Casus Belli of World War One. Basically that means this was the catalyst that would lead to the First World War.

For people like me, this is a date I have been looking forward to all year. That is because this year marks the one hundred year anniversary of World War One. A big event.

During this extra special Fact of the Day, I’m going to go through what caused the assassination of Franz Ferdinand and the repercussions of this assassination, which ultimately led to war.

Here’s some background information. In 1908 Sarajevo was annexed by Austria-Hungary. As you could imagine this did not go down too well with Bosnia.  Fast forward six years and Archduke Franz Ferdinand, who was heir to Austria-Hungary, was visiting Sarajevo to inspect the army there. For this visit he took his wife, Sophie.

There was still a lot of resentment surrounding Sarajevo being annexed and people were still vexed about this. Especially seven young Bosnian Serbs who had created a plan to assassinate the Archduke during his journey to the Appel Quay. The first conspirator who tried to kill Franz Ferdinand threw a bomb at his car. He missed and was arrested.

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Fortunately, Franz Ferdinand was not hurt. Following this though he decided to cancel his visit and return home, this time using a different route. Unfortunately, nobody told the driver this – a bit of a rookie mistake, if you ask me.

So on the way back, therefore, the driver turned into Franz Josef Street, following the published route and, when told of his error, stopped the car to turn around. But by stopping the car where he did, he happened to pull up in front of Gavrilo Princip, one of the conspirators – he’d got a second chance at finishing the job he set out to do that morning.

Princip pulled out his gun and shot the Archduke. He then shot his wife Sophie. By 11.30 am, Franz Ferdinand had bled to death.

Now that all seems quite simple, right? But if that was in Austria-Hungary and involved a Serbian shooting an Austrian, why did all of Europe get involved? The answer is also pretty simple.

Basically over the last few years, certain countries had made alliances with other countries. These would be soon known to us as the Triple Alliance and the Triple Entente.

So Austria asked Germany for support in a war against Russia – This was on the assumption that Russia would support Serbia. If they didn’t, Germany wouldn’t support Austria.

Now on July 23rd, the Austrian government sent the Serbian government an ultimatum. Two days later, the Serbs respond saying they’re happy to accept all but one of the conditions. They would not accept that Austrian police should be allowed in Serbia.

July 28th rolls around and Austria-Hungary declares war on Serbia.

The next thing we know, Russia has mobilised its army. Germany declares war on Russia.

Germany then declares war on France on August 3rd and plans to attack Belgium, in order to follow through with the Schlieffen Plan.

August 4th and Great Britain is now involved also. We entered a war due to a treaty we had made in 1839 promising to defend Belgium.

And there we have it folks. That is the short term lead up to World War One.

Fact of the day: 27th June

On this day in 1462 Louis XII of France was born.

Louis XII was a monarch of the House of Valois who ruled as King of France from 1498 to 1515 and King of Naples from 1501 to 1504.

The son of Charles, Duke of Orléans, and Maria of Cleves, he succeeded his cousin Charles VIII in 1498.

When Louis XII became king in 1498, he had his marriage with Joan annulled by Pope Alexander VI and instead married Anne of Brittany, the widow of his cousin Charles VIII.

This marriage allowed Louis to reinforce the personal Union of Brittany and France.

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Louis persevered in the Italian Wars, initiating a second Italian campaign for the control of the Kingdom of Naples.

Louis conquered the Duchy of Milan in 1500 and pushed forward to the Kingdom of Naples, which fell to him in 1501.

Proclaimed King of Naples, Louis faced a new coalition gathered by Ferdinand II of Aragon and was forced to cede Naples to Spain in 1504.

Louis XII did not encroach on the power of local governments or the privileges of the nobility, in opposition with the long tradition of the French kings to impose an absolute monarchy in France.

A popular king, Louis was proclaimed “Father of the People” in 1506 by the Estates-General of Tours for his reduction of the tax known as taille, legal reforms, and civil peace within France.

Louis XII died in 1515 without a male heir. He was succeeded by his cousin Francis from the Angoulême cadet branch of the House of Valois.

Fact of the day: 26th June

On this day in 1830 George IV of the United Kingdom died.

When George III died in 1820, the Prince Regent, then aged 57, ascended the throne as George IV, with no real change in his powers.

By the time of his accession, he was obese and possibly addicted to laudanum.

George IV spent most of his later reign in seclusion at Windsor Castle, but he continued to intervene in politics.

At first it was believed that he would support Catholic emancipation, as he had proposed a Catholic Emancipation Bill for Ireland in 1797, but his anti-Catholic views became clear in 1813 when he privately canvassed against the ultimately defeated Catholic Relief Bill of 1813.

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By 1824 he was denouncing Catholic emancipation in public. Having taken the coronation oath on his accession, George now argued that he had sworn to uphold the Protestant faith, and could not support any pro-Catholic measures.

The influence of the Crown was so great, and the will of the Tories under Prime Minister Lord Liverpool so strong, that Catholic emancipation seemed hopeless.

In 1827, however, Lord Liverpool retired, to be replaced by the pro-emancipation Tory George Canning.

Fact of the day: 25th June

On this day in 1940 France officially surrendered to Germany at 01:35.

Germany launched an offensive against France and, for reasons of military strategy, also attacked the neutral nations of Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg on 10 May 1940.

That same day the United Kingdom occupied the Danish possessions of Iceland, Greenland and the Faroes to pre-empt a possible German invasion of the islands.

The Netherlands and Belgium were overrun using blitzkrieg tactics in a few days and weeks, respectively.

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The French-fortified Maginot Line and the main body the Allied forces which had moved into Belgium were circumvented by a flanking movement through the thickly wooded Ardennes region, mistakenly perceived by Allied planners as an impenetrable natural barrier against armoured vehicles.

As a result, the bulk of the Allied armies found them trapped in encirclement and were beaten.

The majority were taken prisoner, whilst over 300,000, mostly British and French, were evacuated from the continent at Dunkirk by early June, although abandoning almost all of their equipment.

Fact of the day: 24th June

On this day in 1374 a sudden outbreak of St. John’s Dance causes people in the streets of Aachen, Germany, to experience hallucinations and begin to jump and twitch uncontrollably until they collapse from exhaustion.

Dancing mania was a social phenomenon that occurred primarily in mainland Europe between the 14th and 17th centuries.

It involved groups of people dancing erratically, sometimes thousands at a time. The mania affected men, women, and children, who danced until they collapsed from exhaustion.

One of the first major outbreaks was in Aachen, Germany, in 1374, and it quickly spread throughout Europe; one particularly notable outbreak occurred in Strasbourg in 1518.

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Affecting thousands of people across several centuries, dancing mania was not an isolated event, and was well documented in contemporary reports.

It was nevertheless poorly understood, and remedies were based on guesswork. Generally, musicians accompanied dancers, to help ward off the mania, but this tactic sometimes backfired by encouraging more to join in.

There is no consensus among modern-day scholars as to the cause of dancing mania.