Fact of the day: 31st August

On this day in 1888 Mary Ann Nichols was murdered. She was the first of Jack the Ripper’s confirmed victims.

At about 23:00 on 30 August, Nichols was seen walking the Whitechapel Road; at 00:30 she was seen to leave a pub in Brick Lane, Spitalfields. An hour later she was turned out of 18 Thrawl Street as she was lacking fourpence for a bed, implying by her last recorded words that she would soon earn the money on the street with the help of a new bonnet she had acquired.

She was last seen at the corner of Osborn Street and Whitechapel Road, at 02:30, an hour before her death, by Nelly Holland. Nichols claimed she had made enough money to pay for her bed three times over, but had drunk it all away.

At about 3:40, she was found lying on the ground in front of a gated stable entrance in Buck’s Row, Whitechapel, about 150 yards from the London Hospital and 100 yards from Blackwall Buildings, by cart driver Charles Cross.

Her skirt was raised. Another passing cart driver on his way to work, Robert Paul, approached and Cross pointed out the body. Cross believed her to be dead, but Paul was uncertain and thought she might be unconscious.

They pulled her skirt down to cover her lower body, and went in search of a policeman. They informed PC Jonas Mizen and continued on their way to work. As Mizen was approaching the body, PC John Neil came from the opposite direction on his beat and by flashing his lantern, called a third policeman, PC John Thain, to the scene. download (6)

As news of the murder spread, three horse slaughterers from a neighbouring knacker’s yard in Winthrop Street, who had been working overnight, came to look at the body. None of the slaughterers, the police officers patrolling nearby streets, or the residents of houses alongside Buck’s Row reported hearing or seeing anything suspicious before the discovery of the body.


Fact of the day: 30th August

On this day in 1797 Mary Shelley, English author and playwright (d. 1851) was born.

Mary Shelley was born Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin in Somers Town, London, in 1797. She was the second child of the feminist philosopher, educator, and writer Mary Wollstonecraft, and the first child of the philosopher, novelist, and journalist William Godwin. Wollstonecraft died of puerperal fever ten days after Mary was born.

Since Frankenstein was published anonymously in 1818, readers and critics argued over its origins and the contributions of the two Shelleys to the book.download (5)

There are differences in the 1818, 1823, and 1831 editions, and Mary Shelley wrote, “I certainly did not owe the suggestion of one incident, nor scarcely of one train of feeling, to my husband, and yet but for his incitement, it would never have taken the form in which it was presented to the world.” She wrote that the preface to the first edition was Percy’s work “as far as I can recollect.”

James Rieger concluded Percy’s “assistance at every point in the book’s manufacture was so extensive that one hardly knows whether to regard him as editor or minor collaborator” while Anne K. Mellor later argued Percy only “made many technical corrections and several times clarified the narrative and thematic continuity of the text.”

Fact of the day: 29th August

On this day in 1395 Albert III, Duke of Austria (b. 1349) died.

Albert III was born in Vienna, the third son of Duke Albert II of Austria and his wife Joanna of Pfirt. Even though his father had determined that the eldest son should be the sole successor, after his father’s death in 1358, Albert later inherited the rule from his two older brothers Rudolf IV and Frederick III and later shared it with his younger brother Leopold III.

In 1377, Albert went on a crusade against the pagan Lithuanians and Samogitians.

After Rudolf’s and Frederick’s death without an heir, Albert and his remaining brother, Leopold III, entered, in 1379, into the Treaty of Neuberg to divide the Habsburg territories. Albert received Austria proper while Leopold ruled over Styria, Carinthia, Tyrol and Further Austria.download (4)

His government was beneficial to the realm, as he supported the arts and sciences. Albert was an apt scholar himself, particularly as a mathematician. He expanded the University of Vienna and attempted to refurbish Vienna.

Albert died in August 1395 at the castle Schloss Laxenburg. He is buried in the Ducal Crypt in the Stephansdom cathedral in Vienna.

Fact of the day: 28th August

On this day in 1619 Ferdinand II was elected emperor of the Holy Roman Empire.

With the Oñate treaty, Ferdinand obtained the support of the Spanish Habsburgs in the succession of his childless cousin Matthias, in exchange for concessions in Alsace and Italy.

In 1617, he was elected King of Bohemia by the Bohemian diet, in 1618, King of Hungary by the Hungarian estates, and in 1619, Holy Roman Emperor.download (3)

His devout Catholicism caused immediate turmoil in his non-Catholic subjects, especially in Bohemia. He did not wish to uphold the religious liberties granted by the Letter of Majesty conceded, signed by the previous emperor, Rudolph II, which had guaranteed the freedom of religion to the nobles and the inhabitants of the cities.

Additionally, Ferdinand was an absolutist monarch and infringed several historical privileges of the nobles.

Given the relatively great number of Protestants in the kingdom, including some of the nobles, the king’s unpopularity soon caused the Bohemian Revolt.

The Second Defenestration of Prague of 22 May 1618 is considered the first step of the Thirty Years’ War.

Fact of the day: 27th August

On this day in 1172 Henry the Young King and Margaret of France were crowned as junior king and queen of England.

They were formally married on 27 August 1172 at Winchester Cathedral, when Henry was crowned king of England a second time, this time together with Margaret, by Rotrou, the archbishop of Rouen.

Young Henry fell out with his father in 1173. Contemporary chroniclers allege that it was due to the young man’s frustration that his father had given him no realm to rule, and feeling starved of funds.download (2)

The rebellion seems, however, to have drawn strength from much deeper discontent with his father’s rule, and a formidable party of Anglo-Norman, Norman, Angevin, Poitevin and Breton magnates joined him.

The civil war (1173–74) came close to toppling the king and he was narrowly saved by the loyalty of a party of nobles with holdings on the English side of the Channel, and the defeat and capture of the king of Scotland.

Young Henry sought a reconciliation after the capture of his mother and the failure of the revolt. By the terms of the settlement, his funds were much increased and he apparently devoted most of the next seven years to the amusement of the tournament.

Fact of the day: 26th August

On this day in 1676 – Robert Walpole, English politician, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom (d. 1745) was born.

Robert Walpole, 1st Earl of Orford, known before 1742 as Sir Robert Walpole, was a British statesman who is generally regarded as the first Prime Minister of Great Britain.

Although the position of “Prime Minister” had no recognition in law or official use at the time, Walpole is nevertheless acknowledged as having held the office de facto because of his influence within the Ministry.

A Whig who was first elected to parliament in 1701, Walpole served during the reigns of George I and George II. Some sources date his tenure as “Prime Minister” from 1730 when, with the retirement of Lord Townshend, he became the sole and undisputed leader of the Cabinet.download (1)

But his premiership is normally dated from 1721, when he became First Lord of the Treasury; this was generally upheld by the contemporary press, most notably that of the opposition, who focused far more attention on Walpole than on Townshend.

Walpole continued to govern until 1742; he was not only the first but also the longest serving Prime Minister in British history.

Fact of the day: 25th August

On this day in 1830 The Belgian Revolution began.

The Belgian Revolution was the conflict which led to the secession of the southern provinces from the United Kingdom of the Netherlands and established an independent Kingdom of Belgium.

The people of the south were nearly all Catholics; half were French-speaking. Many outspoken liberals regarded King William I’s rule as despotic. There were high levels of unemployment and industrial unrest among the working classes.

On 25 August 1830 riots erupted in Brussels and shops were looted. Theatergoers who had just watched a nationalistic opera joined the mob. Uprisings followed elsewhere in the country. Factories were occupied and machinery destroyed. Order was restored briefly after William committed troops to the Southern Provinces but rioting continued and leadership was taken up by radicals, who started talking of secession.

Dutch units saw the mass desertion of recruits from the southern provinces, and pulled out. The States-General in Brussels voted in favour of secession and declared independence. In the aftermath, a National Congress was assembled.download

King William refrained from future military action and appealed to the Great Powers. The resulting 1830 London Conference of major European powers recognized Belgian independence. Following the installation of Leopold I as “King of the Belgians” in 1831, King William made a belated military attempt to reconquer Belgium and restore his position through a military campaign.

This “Ten Days’ Campaign” failed because of French military intervention. Not until 1839 did the Dutch accept the decision of the London conference and Belgian independence by signing the Treaty of London.