John I, Duke of Lorraine died on the 23rd in 1390. He was an aristocrat and discovered very early that simply being born into the aristocracy, while having innumerable advantages, puts huge amounts of pressure on your path in life. He had become Duke of Lorraine when his father, Rudolf, died in battle on August 26, 1346. John was just six months old at the time. Not a bad entry on his resume, don’t you agree? Records however are meant to be broken. Almost two centuries later, Mary I, Queen of Scots, technically became Queen of Scotland after her father, James V, died on December 14, 1542. She was six days old when she assumed the mantel of power.
Mary Esty, Martha Cory, Ann Pudeator, Samuel Wardwell, Mary Parker, Alice Parker, Wilmot Redd, and Margaret Scott were all convicted of witchcraft in the Salem witch trials. They were all executed on the 22nd in 1692. They were the last people executed for witchcraft in New England.
Hurricane season opened on June 1 and this year, if you live near the water on Long Island or New England, I suggest that you make certain that your homeowner’s insurance policy is paid for and in force. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has determined that those two locales are in 100-year zones, meaning that once a century a storm will hit the areas with devastating force. A Category 3 hurricane hit Long Island on the 21st in 1938. The force of the storm broke the island into pieces before heading for New England. Montauk became, briefly, an island when the Napeague Stretch was washed away. A bit to the west, the storm tore through the island in Southampton. The Shinnecock Canal is only there today because the Army Corps of Engineers decided to keep the channel that the storm created open. The tallest structure on the East End was the Whalers Church in Sag Harbor. Its steeple was toppled by the wind and has yet to be replaced. As happens every time there is a big storm, Dune Road in Westhampton was washed away. All reports that I have read say that in all likelihood, this was NOT the hundred-year storm everyone is anticipating.
The sixteenth century was not a particularly good time to be a Roman Catholic living in England. Actually, it was a horrible time to be one. Roman Catholicism had been outlawed and its practice was grounds for imprisonment as well as execution. Poet Chidiock ‘Charles’ Tichborne was born into a Roman Catholic family in 1558. On the 20th in 1586, Tichborne was disemboweled while still alive for crimes unrelated to his poetry. In fact, there is only one surviving example of his work, which was written the evening before he was to be executed. He called it Tichborne’s Elegy; its opening line is “My prime of youth is but a frost of cares” and it was written for his wife. Queen Elizabeth, when she heard of the details of the execution and the public’s reaction to it, instituted a bold penal reform. Henceforth, Tichborne’s co-conspirators, as well as others who were to be executed, were to be hung by the neck until they were quite dead before they were disemboweled.
As a nation, we take many of our rights under the Constitution for granted. Of particular importance is the 5th amendment[i], which gives us the right to not testify if that testimony will incriminate us. I am certain that Giles Corey, a resident of the Massachusetts Bay Colony feels that he was born a century too early. He had been arrested on charges of witchcraft, imprisoned and asked to testify in the case, which he adamantly refused to do. On the 19th in 1692, he was led to a pit in an open field beside the jail and before the Court and witnesses, in accordance with English common law; he was subjected to the procedure of “Peine forte et dure". His jailers stripped him of his clothing, laid him on the ground in a pit, placed boards on his chest, after which six men lifted some very heavy stones and placed them one by one, on Corey’s stomach and chest until he died.
[i] No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.
If you're concerned about global warming and the recent opening of the elusive Northwest Passage due to the melting polar ice cap there is nothing here for you. If O.J. Simpson's arrest is of concern, again, there is nothing here on that occurence. Similiarly, there is absolutely nothing here about Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan or amateurs with blood alcohol levels just over 0.8 when they get arrested for DWI. You won't find a thing about Senator Larry Craig or nominee for Attorney General Michael Mukasey either. You will find a bunch of interesting facts presented in a palatable manner. Enjoy reading. On the 18th in 1932, movie actress Peg Entwistle, upset that her acting career was not developing as quickly as she had hoped it would committed suicide by climbing to the top of the Hollywood[i] sign in Los Angeles, California, stood on the letter ’H’ and plunged fifty feet to her death at the base of the sign. She had had the foresight to neatly fold her clothes and leave them nearby. In one of her pockets was a suicide note stating that ‘I am afraid. I am sorry for everything. If I had done this years ago, I could have saved a lot of pain. PE[ii]’
[i] The sign had originally read HOLLYWOODLAND and was an advertisement for a rather tawdry real estate development.
[ii] In a stunning bit of irony, two days after Entwistle committed suicide, her uncle opened a letter, post marked the day before she died, that had been mailed to her by the Beverly Hills Playhouse; in it was an offer for her to play the lead role in a stage production—in which her character would commit suicide in the final act.
The United States, with its long history of freedom and opportunity, has long been a beacon in the darkness for people seeking a better life. In the 1840s, Joshua Abraham Norton, a poor orphaned Englishman, saw that light and made a beeline for America. As immigrants before and after him, Norton arrived on our shores with only the clothes on his back, hope and a suitcase filled with over $40,000 in cash. He worked hard in the land of opportunity and managed to achieve greatness. I offer the following as proof of his greatness: On the 17th in 1859, he declared himself Emperor Norton I, Emperor of these United States and Protector of Mexico[i]. His reign was notable for its lack of scandals involving small boys, though it was chock full of financial impropriety.
[i] Norton did everything by the book, so he issued an edict advising Congress of the change in chief executive. A portion of it reads:
WHEREAS, a body of men calling themselves the National Congress are now in session in Washington City, in violation of our Imperial edict of declaring the said Congress abolished;
WHEREAS, it is necessary for the repose of our Empire that the said decree should be strictly complied with;
NOW, THEREFORE, we do hereby Order and Direct Major-General Scott, the Command-in-Chief of our Armies, immediately upon receipt of this, our Decree, to proceed with a suitable force and clear the Halls of Congress.