First person in U.S. diagnosed with Ebola dies

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/first-person-in-u-s-diagnosed-with-ebola-dies

On this day in 2014, Thomas Eric Duncan, the first person diagnosed with a case of the Ebola Virus Disease in the U.S., dies at age 42 at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas. Shortly before his death, Duncan, who lived in Liberia, had traveled to America from West Africa, which was in the throes of the largest outbreak of the often-fatal disease since its discovery in 1976. After Duncan passed away, two nurses who’d cared for him at the Dallas hospital contracted Ebola; however, both recovered.

On September 15, 2014, Duncan helped transport a sick pregnant woman to a hospital in Monrovia, Liberia. There was no space for the woman at the facility, so she was taken back to the residence where she’d been staying and died not long afterward from Ebola. On September 19, Duncan—whose relatives later said didn’t know he’d been exposed to Ebola—flew to Dallas to visit his fiancé. He arrived in Texas on September 20 and five days later went to the emergency room at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital complaining of abdominal pain and dizziness. Duncan told a nurse he’d recently traveled from Africa but this information wasn’t effectively communicated to the rest of the medical team, who after a matter of hours sent him home with antibiotics.

On September 28, Duncan, his health deteriorating, returned to the hospital by ambulance. Two days later, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Duncan (who wasn’t named publicly at the time) was the first person in America diagnosed with Ebola, a disease that spreads through direct contact with body fluids of an infected individual. (Within a year after the West African Ebola outbreak first was reported in March 2014, thousands of people in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea had perished.) Duncan’s diagnosis sparked anxiety and fear about Ebola across the U.S.; at the time, there were no proven treatments or vaccines for the disease. Health officials started tracking the dozens of people who might’ve come into contact with Duncan after he first became ill, and four of his family members were placed under quarantine for three weeks. None of these people developed Ebola.

Duncan died on October 8 and three days later a nurse who’d cared for him at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital tested positive for Ebola. Four days later, a second nurse at the hospital was confirmed to have contracted the disease. Both women were placed in isolation units at separate medical centers, treated with experimental drugs and declared Ebola-free later that month.

As a result of the events in Dallas, federal officials instituted enhanced screening procedures at a group of U.S. airports handling travelers coming into the country from places with Ebola outbreaks. Officials also issued new guidelines for protective gear worn by health care workers treating patients infected with the virus.

Microsoft founded

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/microsoft-founded

On this day in 1975, at a time when most Americans use typewriters, childhood friends Bill Gates and Paul Allen found Microsoft, a company that makes computer software. Originally based in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Microsoft relocated to Washington State in 1979 and eventually grew into a major multinational technology corporation. In 1987, the year after Microsoft went public, 31-year-old Gates became the world’s youngest billionaire.

Gates and Allen started Microsoft—originally called Micro-Soft, for microprocessors and software—in order to produce software for the Altair 8800, an early personal computer. Allen quit his job as a programmer in Boston and Gates left Harvard University, where he was a student, to focus on their new company, which was based in Albuquerque because the city was home to electronics firm MITS, maker of the Altair 8800. By the end of 1978, Microsoft’s sales topped more than $1 million and in 1979 the business moved its headquarters to Bellevue, Washington, a suburb of Seattle, where Gates and Allen grew up. The company went on to license its MS-DOS operating system to IBM for its first personal computer, which debuted in 1981. Afterward, other computer companies started licensing MS-DOS, which had no graphical interface and required users to type in commands in order to open a program. In 1983, Allen departed Microsoft after being diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma; he was successfully treated for the disease and went on to pursue a variety of other business ventures.

In 1985, Microsoft released a new operating system, Windows, with a graphical user interface that included drop-down menus, scroll bars and other features. The following year, the company moved its headquarters to Redmond, Washington, and went public at $21 a share, raising $61 million. By the late 1980s, Microsoft had become the world’s biggest personal-computer software company, based on sales. In 1995, amidst skyrocketing purchases of personal computers for home and office use, Windows 95 made its debut. It included such innovations as the Start menu (TV commercials for Windows 95 featured the Rolling Stones singing “Start Me Up”) and 7 million copies of the new product were sold in the first five weeks. During the second half of the 1990s, Internet usage took off, and Microsoft introduced its web browser, Internet Explorer, in 1995.

In 1998, the U.S. Department of Justice and 20 state attorneys general charged Microsoft with violating antitrust laws by using its dominance to drive competitors out of business; in 2001, the company reached a settlement with the government that imposed restrictions on its corporate practices. Also in 2001, Microsoft joined the video-game market with the launch of its Xbox console, which proved to be a hit. However, in the first decade of the 21st century Microsoft fell behind companies such as Apple in the mobile-phone market and Google in the search-engine market.

“The Guinness Book of Records” debuts

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/the-guinness-book-of-records-debuts

On this day in 1955, the first edition of “The Guinness Book of Records” is published in Great Britain; it quickly proves to be a hit. Now known as the “Guinness World Records” book, the annual publication features a wide range of feats related to humans and animals. To date, the book has sold more than 130 million copies, been translated into more than two dozen languages and is the top-selling copyrighted title in history.

The inspiration for the record book can be traced to November 1951, when Sir Hugh Beaver, managing director of the Guinness Brewery (founded in Dublin in 1759), was on a hunting trip in Ireland. After failing to shoot a golden plover, Beaver and the members of his hunting party debated whether the creature was Europe’s fastest game bird but were unable to locate a book with the answer.

Thinking that patrons of Britain’s pubs would enjoy a record book which could be used to settle friendly disagreements, Beaver decided to have one produced. He hired twin brothers Norris and Ross McWhirter, the founders of a London-based agency that provided facts and statistics to newspapers and advertisers. The book was intended to be given away for free in pubs to promote the Guinness brand; however, it turned out to be so popular the company started selling it that fall and it became a best-seller. An American edition debuted in 1956 and was soon followed by editions in a number of other countries. The McWhirters traveled the globe to research and verify records. Ross McWhirter was involved in compiling the book until his death in 1975 at the hands of Irish Republican Army gunmen; his brother Norris continued to serve as the book’s editor until 1986.

Today, the thousands of official Guinness records include the oldest person ever (Jeanne Louise Calment of France, who died in 1997 at 122 years and 164 days old); the tallest dog ever (a now-deceased Great Dane from Michigan named Zeus, who in 2011 measured 44 inches from foot to withers); and the largest underwater human pyramid (62 people in 2013 in Thailand). Ashrita Furman of New York holds more records than anyone else on the planet. His numerous accomplishments include the longest continuous distance somersaulted (12 miles 390 yards), most apples cut in midair with a samurai sword in 1 minute (29) and fastest mile with a milk bottle balanced on his head (7 minutes 47 seconds).

Germanwings pilot intentionally crashes plane, killing 150 people

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/germanwings-pilot-intentionally-crashes-plane-killing-150-people

On this day in 2015, the co-pilot of a German airliner deliberately flies the plane into the French Alps, killing himself and the other 149 people onboard. When it crashed, Germanwings flight 9525 had been traveling from Barcelona, Spain, to Dusseldorf, Germany.

The plane took off from Barcelona around 10 a.m. local time and reached its cruising altitude of 38,000 feet at 10:27 a.m. Shortly afterward, the captain, 34-year-old Patrick Sondenheimer, requested that the co-pilot, 27-year-old Andreas Lubitz, take over the controls while he left the cockpit, probably to use the bathroom. At 10:31 a.m. the plane began a rapid descent and 10 minutes later crashed in mountainous terrain near the town of Prads-Haute-Bleone in southern France. There were no survivors. Besides the two pilots, the doomed Airbus A320 was carrying four cabin crew members and 144 passengers from 18 different countries, including three Americans.

Following the crash, investigators determined once the captain had stepped out of the cockpit Lubitz locked the door and wouldn’t let him back in. Sondenheimer could be heard on the plane’s black box voice recorder frantically yelling at his co-pilot and trying to break down the cockpit door. (In the aftermath of 9/11, Lufthansa installed fortified cockpit doors; however, when the Germanwings flight crashed the airline wasn’t required to have two crew members in the cockpit at all times, as U.S. carriers do.) Additionally, the flight data recorder showed Lubitz seemed to have rehearsed his suicide mission during an earlier flight that same day, when he repeatedly set the plane’s altitude dial to just 100 feet while the captain was briefly out of the cockpit. (Because Lubitz quickly reset the controls, his actions went unnoticed during the flight.)

Crash investigators also learned Lubitz had a history of severe depression and in the days before the disaster had searched the Internet for ways to commit suicide as well as for information about cockpit-door security. In 2008, Lubitz, a German native who flew gliders as a teen, entered the pilot-training program for Lufthansa, which owns budget-airliner Germanwings. He took time off from the program in 2009 to undergo treatment for psychological problems but later was readmitted and obtained his commercial pilot’s license in 2012. He started working for Germanwings in 2013. Investigators turned up evidence that in the months leading up to the crash Lubitz had visited a series of doctors for an unknown condition. He reportedly had notes declaring him unfit to work but kept this information from Lufthansa.

Instances of pilots using planes to commit suicide are rare. According to The New York Times, a U.S. Federal Aviation Administration study found that out of 2,758 aviation accidents documented by the FAA from 2003 to 2012, only eight were ruled suicides.

Google is incorporated

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/google-is-incorporated

On this day in 1998, search engine firm Google, co-founded by Larry Page and Sergey Brin, who met at Stanford University, files for incorporation in California. Google went on to become the planet’s most-used search engine, and the word “google” entered the lexicon as a verb meaning to search the World Wide Web for information about a person or topic. Google eventually expanded its products and services to include advertising programs, statistical tools, email, maps, a web browser and a mobile operating system. It has become one of the world’s largest tech companies.

In 1996, Page and Brin, then in their early 20s and graduate students in computer science at Stanford, started working on a search engine for the burgeoning web and called it BackRub. In September of the following year, they registered the domain name Google.com. The name is play on “googol,” a term for the numeral 1 followed by 100 zeros; the co-founders thought the moniker was a good way to symbolize their mission of organizing the vast amount of data on the web. In August 1998, Page and Brin received $100,000 from an investor. That same month, prior to leaving for the Burning Man festival in Nevada, the pair added a small drawing to the Google logo to let people know they’d be out of the office; thus launching the Google doodle. (Since then, a wide variety of doodles have appeared on Google homepages to celebrate holidays and other events.) After Google filed for incorporation in September 1998, its first office was in a garage in Menlo Park, California. In February 1999, the startup, which by then had eight employees, relocated to an office in the neighboring city of Palo Alto.

Google opened is first international office, in Tokyo, in 2001. Three years later, more than 800 Google employees moved to a new corporate headquarters, dubbed the Googleplex, in Mountain View, California. Soon after, the company launched an email service, Gmail. Also in 2004, Google held an initial public offering that raised $1.67 billion and valued the company at $23 billion (a decade later, in 2014, Google’s market capitalization was $390 billion). A long string of product roll-outs followed, such as Google Maps and Google Analytics (a service to measure website performance) in 2005; Google Calendar and translation service Google Translate in 2006; a mobile operating system, Android, was announced in 2007 (the first phone built on the system was released a year later); and a web browser, Google Chrome, in 2008. Google also acquired a number of businesses, including YouTube, the video-sharing site, which it snapped up in 2006.

Around 2010, the tech giant established Google X, a secretive lab dedicated to developing groundbreaking, “moonshot” products such as self-driving cars and delivery drones. In 2015, Google restructured its operations—which by then also included a biotech business focused on extending human lifespan; a maker of Internet-connected devices for the home; and a high-speed Internet service, among other ventures—into a conglomerate called Alphabet. At the time, the web search engine that started it all in 1998 continued to dominate the competition, handling more than 3 billion searches a day.

Amazon opens for business

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/amazon-opens-for-business

On this day in 1995, Amazon officially opens for business as an online bookseller. Within a month, the fledgling retailer had shipped books to all 50 U.S. states and to 45 countries. Founder Jeff Bezos’s motto was “get big fast,” and Seattle-based Amazon eventually morphed into an e-commerce colossus, selling everything from groceries to furniture to live ladybugs, and helping to revolutionize the way people shop.

Bezos earned an undergraduate degree in computer science and electrical engineering from Princeton University in 1986 then worked in the financial services industry in New York City. In 1994, after realizing the commercial potential of the Internet and determining that books might sell well online, he moved to Washington State and founded Amazon. He initially dubbed the business Cadabra (as in abracadabra) but after someone misheard the name as “cadaver,” Bezos decided to call his startup Amazon, after the enormous river in South America, a moniker he believed wouldn’t box him into offering just one type of product or service.

In the spring of 1995, Bezos invited a small group of friends and former colleagues to check out a beta version of Amazon’s website, and the first-ever order was placed on April 3 of that year, for a science book titled “Fluid Concepts and Creative Analogies.” When Amazon.com went live to the general public in July 1995, the company boldly billed itself as “Earth’s biggest bookstore,” although sales initially were drummed up solely by word of mouth and Bezos assisted with assembling orders and driving the packages to the post office. However, by the end of 1996 Amazon had racked up $15.7 million in revenues, and in 1997 Bezos took the company public with an initial public offering that raised $54 million. That same year, Bezos personally delivered his company’s one-millionth order, to a customer in Japan who’d purchased a Windows NT manual and a Princess Diana biography. In 1998, Amazon extended beyond books and started selling music CDs, and by the following year it had added more product categories, such as toys, electronics and tools.

By December 1999, Amazon had shipped 20 million items to 150 countries around the globe. That same month, Bezos was named Time magazine’s Person of the Year. In 2000, the company introduced a service allowing individual sellers and other outside merchants to peddle their products alongside Amazon’s own items. Meanwhile, Amazon continued to spend heavily on expansion and didn’t post its first full-year profit until 2003.

In 2007, Amazon debuted its Kindle e-reader; four years later, the company announced it was selling more e-books than print books. Also in 2011, Amazon’s tablet computer, the Kindle Fire, was released. Among a variety of other ventures, Amazon launched a cloud computing service in 2006; a studio that develops movies and TV series, in 2010; and an online marketplace for fine art, in 2013, which has featured original works by artists including Claude Monet and Norman Rockwell. Additionally, Amazon has acquired a number of companies over the course of its history, including online shoe shop Zappos, video game streaming site Twitch.tv and Kiva Systems a maker of automation technology for fulfillment centers. In 2015, Amazon surpassed Walmart as the world’s most valuable retailer. Two decades after its founding and with Bezos still at the helm, Amazon’s market value was $250 billion.

Barack Obama is inaugurated

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/barack-obama-is-inaugurated

On a freezing day in Washington, D.C., Barack Hussein Obama is sworn in as the 44th U.S. president. The son of a black father from Kenya and a white mother from Kansas, Obama had become the first African American to win election to the nation’s highest office the previous November.

As the junior U.S. senator from Illinois, he won a tight Democratic primary battle over Senator Hillary Clinton of New York before triumphing over Arizona Senator John McCain, the Republican candidate, in the general election. Against a backdrop of the nation’s devastating economic collapse during the start of the Great Recession, Obama’s message of hope and optimism—as embodied by his campaign slogan, “Yes We Can”—struck an inspirational chord with a nation seeking change.

As Inauguration Day dawned, crowds of people thronged the National Mall, stretching from the Capitol Building to beyond the Washington Monument. According to an official estimate made later by the District of Columbia, some 1.8 million people witnessed Obama’s inauguration, surpassing the previous record of 1.2 million, set by the inaugural crowd of Lyndon B. Johnson in 1965.

The ceremonies ran behind schedule, and it wasn’t until just before noon that Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. administered the presidential oath of office to the president-elect. While being sworn in, Obama placed his hand on a Bible held by his wife, Michelle—the same Bible used by President Abraham Lincoln at his first inaugural.

Obama opened his inaugural address, which lasted some 20 minutes, by recognizing the challenges facing the nation at the outset of his administration—the worsening economic crisis, ongoing war against radical extremism and terrorism, costly health care, failing schools and a general loss of confidence in America’s promise.

In the face of these obstacles, he offered a message of cautious yet confident optimism. “The challenges we face are real,” Obama declared. “They are serious and they are many. They will not be met easily or in a short span of time. But know this, America, they will be met.”

Obama referred only briefly to the historic nature of his presidency in his speech, saying near the end that part of America’s greatness was the fact that “a man whose father less than 60 years ago might not have been served at a local restaurant can now stand before you to take a most sacred oath.”

Instead, he emphasized the theme of civic responsibility that another youthful Democratic president—John F. Kennedy—used to such great effect nearly 50 years earlier, calling on the American people to embrace the challenges they faced in such a difficult period: “What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility, a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize grandly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character, than giving our all to a difficult task. That is the price and promise of citizenship.”

After the inauguration, Obama attended the traditional inaugural luncheon in Statuary Hall, the original chamber of the House of Representatives. He and Michelle then traveled down Pennsylvania Avenue to the White House as part of the 15,000-person inaugural parade, and would attend no fewer than 10 official inaugural balls that evening.

Sources

“Obama is Sworn In as the 44th President,” New York Times, January 20, 2009.

President Barack Obama’s Inaugural Address, Obama White House Archives.

“How Many Attended Obama’s Second Inauguration?” CBS News, January 21, 2013.

“Obama’s First Inaugural: A Look Back at the 2009 Celebration in Photos,” The Atlantic, January 18, 2013.

Donald Trump is inaugurated

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/donald-trump-is-inaugurated

In the culmination of his extraordinary rise to power over a tumultuous election year, Donald John Trump is inaugurated as the 45th president of the United States in Washington, D.C.

From the time he kicked off his presidential campaign in June 2015 at his namesake Trump Tower in New York City, Trump seemed an unlikely candidate for the nation’s highest office.

But with his brash promises to crack down on illegal immigration, bring back jobs for working class Americans and overturn the political establishment, the endlessly controversial real estate mogul and reality TV personality triumphed amid a crowded Republican primary field. He then pulled off an upset victory over his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton, in the general election in November 2016.

On a rainy Inauguration Day, a crowd of supporters—many of them wearing Trump’s distinctive red “Make America Great Again” caps—gathered to watch the inaugural ceremonies, held on the West Front of the Capitol Building.

Though crowd experts estimated that between 300,000 and 600,000 people attended Trump’s inauguration (around a third of the crowd on hand for the 2009 inauguration of his immediate predecessor, Barack Obama), the White House and Trump himself disputed that assessment, claiming the media deliberately underestimated the crowd total.

After Associate Justice Clarence Thomas swore in Vice President-elect Mike Pence and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir performed “America the Beautiful,” Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. administered the presidential oath of office to Trump.

For his swearing-in, Trump placed his hand on two Bibles held by his wife, Melania Trump, a Slovenian native who became the first foreign-born U.S. first lady since Louisa Adams, the British-born wife of John Quincy Adams. One was Trump’s personal Bible, which his mother had given him when he was a child; the other was the Bible used by Abraham Lincoln at his first inauguration in 1861, and again by Obama in 2009 and 2013.

At 70, Trump became the oldest man to assume the presidency, and the first to have no previous record of government or military experience. In his inaugural address, which at some 16 minutes was the shortest since Jimmy Carter’s in 1977, he stuck close to the dark, ominous message he relied on during the campaign, referring to grim images of inner-city poverty and “rusted-out factories scattered like tombstones” across the national landscape. “The American carnage stops right here and stops right now,” he intoned, in one of the most striking lines of the 1,433-word address.

Calling himself the protector of the “forgotten men and women” in America, Trump struck a clear populist note in his speech, reportedly drawing inspiration from the inaugural address given by Andrew Jackson in 1829. Like Trump, Jackson had triumphed thanks to a populist movement among Americans who embraced his anti-establishment, anti-elite message.

Trump also sounded a nationalistic tone in his address, repeatedly using the term “America first” to refer to the economic policies his administration planned to implement. Worried observers of the speech noted that “America First” was also the name of the movement founded by Charles Lindbergh in the 1940s, which worked to keep the United States from going to war against Nazi Germany.

After the inaugural ceremony, President Trump attended a traditional inaugural luncheon held in National Statuary Hall in the Capitol, then followed the inaugural parade route down Pennsylvania Avenue to the White House. The new president and first lady ended their evening by attending three official inaugural balls.

On the following day, hundreds of thousands of people flooded the nation’s capital for the Women’s March on Washington, a mass protest of the Trump administration, the Republican-led Congress and their stances on reproductive, civil and human rights. In all, more than 2.5 million people reportedly joined the protest, marching in cities across the United States and around the globe.

Sources

“Trump becomes 45th president of the United States,” CNN, January 21, 2017.
“Donald Trump Strikes Nationalistic Tone in Inaugural Speech,” Wall Street Journal, January 20, 2017.
“Donald Trump is Sworn In as President, Capping His Swift Ascent,” New York Times, January 20, 2017.
“There’s no evidence that Trump’s inauguration was the most-watched in history. Period.” Washington Post, January 23, 2017.
“‘America First’: From Charles Lindbergh to President Trump,” NPR, February 6, 2017.

Women’s March

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/womens-march

On the first full day of Donald Trump’s presidency, hundreds of thousands of people crowd into the U.S. capital for the Women’s March on Washington, a massive protest in the nation’s capital aimed largely at the Trump administration and the perceived threat it represented to reproductive, civil and human rights.

At the same time, more than 3 million people in cities across the country and around the world held their own simultaneous protests in a global show of support for the resistance movement.

During the 2016 presidential campaign, the release of a 2005 recording of Trump commenting in crude language about how his celebrity status allowed him to force himself on women prompted numerous women to come forward with accusations about his past inappropriate sexual conduct. Trump dismissively called the recording “locker room talk” and disputed the accusers’ claims.

But his unexpected victory over his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton—the first female presidential nominee of a major party in U.S. history—outraged and saddened many who objected to his past treatment of and statements about women, as well as his controversial positions and rhetoric during the campaign.

The idea of the Women’s March began on the social networking website Facebook the day after the election, when a Hawaii woman named Teresa Shook voiced her opinion that a pro-woman march was needed as a reaction to Trump’s victory. After thousands of women signed up to march, veteran activists and organizers began planning a large-scale event scheduled for January 21, 2017, the day after Inauguration Day.

Leading up to the Women’s March on Washington, the organizers expected some 200,000 people to attend. As it turned out, as many as 500,000 showed up, with buses, trains, airplanes and packed cars ferrying large groups of protesters to the capital from far-flung locations. Many of the marchers donned pink clothing for the occasions, as well as the unofficial uniform of the march: pink knit hats with cat-like ears on top, dubbed “pussy hats” in a nod to Trump’s unfortunate word choice in the 2005 recording.

On the same day, millions more people took part in sister marches held in all 50 states and more than 30 foreign countries, ranging from Antarctica to Zimbabwe. According to later estimates collected by the Washington Post, some 4.1 million people reportedly took part in the various Women’s Marches across the United States, along with around 300,000 worldwide.

In New York City—Trump’s hometown—some 400,000 people marched up Fifth Avenue, while in Chicago the crowd grew so large (more than 150,000) that organizers called off the march and rallied in the city’s Grant Park instead. Los Angeles reportedly saw the largest demonstration in the country, with as many as 750,000 demonstrators. Despite the size of the demonstrations, they remained largely peaceful, with no arrests reported in Washington, D.C., and only a handful in other cities.

The protesters who took part in the various Women’s March events voiced their support for various causes, including women’s and reproductive rights, criminal justice, defense of the environment and the rights of immigrants, Muslims, gay and transgender people and the disabled—all of whom were seen as particularly vulnerable under the new administration.

Rather than a single-day demonstration, the Women’s March organizers and participants intended their protests as the start of a resistance movement. After the march in Washington, D.C., organizations like EMILY’s List and Planned Parenthood held workshops designed to encourage civic participation among women, including running for office.

And in October 2017, MarchOn, a progressive group founded by march leaders from around the country, launched a Super PAC as part of its efforts to create political change, including mobilizing supporters to vote in the 2018 midterm elections and beyond.

Sources

“At 2.6 million strong, Women’s Marches crush expectations,” USA Today, January 22, 2017.
“Shaded pink, women’s protest fills the streets of downtown L.A.,” Los Angeles Times, January 22, 2017.
“This is what we learned by counting the women’s marches,” Washington Post, February 7, 2017.
The March, Women’s March website.

Anne Boleyn is executed

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/anne-boleyn-is-executed

On this day in 1536, Anne Boleyn, the infamous second wife of King Henry VIII, is executed on charges including adultery, incest and conspiracy against the king.

CATHERINE OF ARAGON

King Henry had become enamored of Anne Boleyn in the mid-1520s, when she returned from serving in the French court and became a lady-in-waiting to his first wife, Catherine of Aragon.

Dark-haired, with an olive complexion and a long, elegant neck, Anne was not said to be a great beauty, but she clearly captivated the king. As Catherine had failed to produce a male heir, Henry transferred his hopes for the future continuation of his royal line to Anne, and set about getting a divorce or annulment so he could marry her.

For six years, while his advisers worked on what became known as “the King’s great matter,” Henry and Anne courted first discreetly, then openly—angering Catherine and her powerful allies, including her nephew, Emperor Charles V.

In 1532, the savvy and ruthless Thomas Cromwell won control of the king’s council and engineered a daring revolution—a break with the Catholic Church, and Henry’s installation as supreme head of the Church of England. Many unhappy Britons blamed Anne, whose sympathies lay with England’s Protestant reformers even before the Church’s steadfast opposition turned her against it.

JANE SEYMOUR

At Queen Anne’s coronation in June 1533, she was nearly six months pregnant, and in September she gave birth to a girl, Elizabeth, rather than the much-longed-for male heir. She later had two stillborn children, and suffered a miscarriage in January 1536; the fetus appeared to be male.

By that time, Anne’s relationship with Henry had soured, and he had his eye on her lady-in-waiting, the demure Jane Seymour.

After Anne’s latest miscarriage, and the death of Catherine that same month, rumors began flying that Henry wanted to get rid of Anne so he could marry Jane. (Had he attempted to annul his second marriage while Catherine was still alive, it would have raised speculation that his first marriage was valid after all.)

Henry had apparently convinced himself that Anne had seduced him by witchcraft, and also told Cromwell (Anne’s former ally, now her rival for power in Henry’s court) that he wanted to take steps towards repairing relations with Emperor Charles.

ARREST AND IMPRISONMENT

Seeing Anne’s weak position, her many enemies jumped at the chance to bring about the downfall of “the Concubine,” and launched an investigation that compiled evidence against her.

After Mark Smeaton, a court musician, confessed (possibly under torture) that he had committed adultery with the queen, the drama was set in motion at the May Day celebration at the king’s riverside palace at Greenwich.

King Henry left suddenly in the middle of the day’s jousting tournament, which featured Anne’s brother George Boleyn, Viscount Rochford, and Sir Henry Norris, one of the king’s closest friends and a royal officer in his household. He gave no explanation for his departure to Queen Anne, whom he would never see again.

In quick succession, Norris and Rochford were both arrested on charges of adultery with the queen (incest, in Rochford’s case) and plotting with her against her husband. Sir Frances Weston and Sir William Brereton were arrested in the following days on similar charges, while Queen Anne herself was taken into custody at Greenwich on May 2.

DUKE OF NORFOLK

Led before the investigators (chief among them her own uncle, the Duke of Norfolk) to hear the charges of “evil behavior” against her, she was subsequently imprisoned in the Tower of London.

The trial of Smeaton, Weston, Brereton and Norris took place in Westminster Hall on May 12. At the conclusion of the trial, the court sentenced all four men to be hanged, drawn and quartered. Three days later, Anne and her brother, Lord Rochford, went on trial in the Great Hall of the Tower of London.

The Duke of Norfolk presided over the trial as lord high steward, representing the king. The most damning evidence against Rochford was the testimony of his own jealous wife, who claimed “undue familiarity” between him and his sister.

TRIAL OF ANNE BOLEYN

As for Anne, most historians agree she was almost certainly not guilty of the charges against her. She never admitted to any wrongdoing, the evidence against her was weak and it seems highly unlikely she would have endangered her position by adultery or conspiring to harm the king, whose favor she depended upon so greatly.

Still, Anne and Rochford were found guilty as charged, and Norfolk pronounced the sentence: Both were to be burnt or executed according to the king’s wishes.

On May 17, the five condemned men were executed on Tower Hill, but Henry showed mercy to his queen, calling in the “hangman of Calais” so that she could be beheaded with the sword rather than the axe.

ANNE BOELYN EXECUTION

On the morning of May 19, a small crowd gathered on Tower Green as Anne Boleyn—clad in a dark grey gown and ermine mantle, her hair covered by a headdress over a white linen coif—approached her final fate.

After begging to be allowed to address the crowd, Anne spoke simply: “Masters, I here humbly submit me to the law as the law hath judged me, and as for mine offences, I here accuse no man. God knoweth them; I remit them to God, beseeching Him to have mercy on my soul.” Finally, she asked Jesus Christ to “save my sovereign and master the King, the most godly, noble and gentle Prince that is, and long to reign over you.”

With a swift blow from the executioner’s sword, Anne Boleyn was dead. Less than 24 hours later, Henry was formally betrothed to Jane Seymour; they married some 10 days after the execution.

While Queen Jane did give birth to the long-awaited son, who would succeed Henry as King Edward VI at the tender age of nine, it would be his daughter with Anne Boleyn who would go on to rule England for more than 40 years as the most celebrated Tudor monarch: Queen Elizabeth I.

Sources

Antonia Fraser, The Wives of Henry VIII (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1992).
Alison Weir, The Lady in the Tower: The Fall of Anne Boleyn (New York: Ballantine Books, 2010).