Friday, December 31, 2010

December 31, 1984 – Goetz Resolves to Vigilantism

On a cold Saturday afternoon, five gunshots rang out on the New York City Subway, heralding a new age of vigilante justice in major American cities. Bernard Goetz, carrying electronics in transport for his business, boarded the No. 2 Express bound for downtown, where he ran across four young men. After exchanging signals, they approached him, cutting him off from the rest of the passengers, and one, Troy Canty, told Goetz, “Give me five dollars.”

Goetz stood, put his hand into his jacket, and asked Canty what he had said. Canty said again, “Give me five dollars.”

Controversy continues as to whether the young men were panhandling or preparing for a mugging, but Goetz took the demand as that of a robbery. He had been mugged before in 1981, when three men jumped him and threw him into a window while trying to get to his valuables. Though he managed to assist an officer in making an arrest, Goetz spent twice the time at the station than the would-be robber did, being charged only with “criminal mischief” and would suffer chest and knee pain for the rest of his life. Never wishing to be a victim again, Goetz applied for a handgun permit, but was denied (possibly on his faking of mental illness some fifteen years before to escape the Vietnam War draft). He purchased a revolver anyway on a trip to Florida, and now he made use of it.

Goetz fired five shots, wounding all four of the young men, Darrell Cabey permanently when the bullet pierced his spinal cord. The other passengers made a terrified dash out of the car, leaving two women behind, nearly trampled. Goetz spoke with them to see that they were uninjured, then met with the conductor, who asked if Goetz was a police officer. Goetz replied simply, “No.”

He hurried home, rented a car, and began to drive through New England to clear his head. On December 26, an anonymous tip gave Goetz's name as matching the description of the gunman and mentioned that he had been mugged before. Goetz learned from his neighbor Myra Friedman that the police had been by his apartment, and, on December 30, he returned to New York City. He prepared to leave again to turn himself in somewhere peaceful when he came across a copy of the Marvel comic book Punisher at a newsstand in New Hampshire. Goetz suddenly felt vindicated in what he had done.

New York City at the time had more than 170% the crime rate of the rest of the United States. Some thirty-eight crimes were committed each day on the subway alone. A New York Times poll showed that 25% of New Yorkers knew family who had been victims of crime in the last year and that “Two in five said muggings and holdups had become so bad that New Yorkers 'have a right to take matters into their own hands.'”

Goetz returned to New York City and began his campaign of masked crime-fighting, combing the city streets, maiming would-be muggers, and leaving calling cards encouraging other New Yorkers to join him. Word spread through front-page newspaper articles despite police and city leaders urging the city to remain calm. The famous Guardian Angels community watch group became split, many holding to their programs of nonviolent outreach while others turned to guns. Pimps and cocaine-dealers were brought down all over the city by covert “heroes” or snipers from apartment rooftops. The New York crime wave came to an abrupt halt and traffickers fled elsewhere.

While crime itself froze, New York became a city on edge, what Mayor Edward Koch referred to as, “some kind of Wild West town.” Police attempted to maintain order with record numbers of shootings while the DA's office was lambasted with claims of self-defense. Some citizens called for tight gun control, others applauded the new peace, and political leaders decried the statistics on injuries as being a huge step backward in race relations (though others reported ).

That March, Goetz was brought in by a special police task force that had studied his patrols through the city. His trial for the initial shootings became a circus as support and opposition poured out from across the nation. While he was acquitted of attempted murder, he was found guilty of reckless endangerment and criminal possession of a weapon, 200 hours community service among his sentences. Goetz asked to perform his service as a volunteer with the police, but his request was denied, citing his references to the justice system as a “joke”, “sham”, and “disgrace.” As more of his shootings became known, he would attend trial for years to come.

With its most influential case setting precedence, masked “superheroes” have been seen throughout the United States and even other countries in the past 25 years, soon earning the nickname “Reals.” Recently, they have been applauded by President Barack Obama (famously a comic book geek) as “active citizenry.” Though armed with legal weaponry such as stun guns, mace, and self-defense training, their casualty rate is notoriously high.

In reality, Goetz turned himself in at a police station in Concord, saying, “I am the person they are seeking in New York.” His actions led to great discussion, but ultimately he would be convicted of reckless endangerment and weapons possession. Crime rates would eventually be lowered by economic forces.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

December 30, 1947 – King Michael Calls for Aid

In the singular event that began the conflict that would become known as World War III, King Michael of Romania gave an international appeal to stop the Soviet takeover of his country. The closing days of World War II saw the Russian occupation of Eastern Europe swallowing up Poland, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, Albania, and East Germany. While the West had agreed to occupy until stability and then withdraw, the Soviets looked to stay and expand their power. Beyond occupation, the Soviets pressed remaining countries to join them by preying on them politically. In 1947, Hungary, having already abolished its monarchy, conducted a plebiscite manipulated by Soviets to bring about the People’s Republic of Hungary. The same year, it looked as if Romania would be the next to fall.

King Michael was unnerved by Soviet clout, but he had seen enough suffering from his people and gradually gave way in March 1945 when he appointed a government dominated by Soviet sympathizers. In 1947, he traveled to London to attend the wedding of his cousins Princess Elizabeth and Philip. There, rumors circulated that he did not wish to return to Romania, though Michael refused any offers of asylum. Seeing his plight, Winston Churchill encouraged Michael with, “above all things, a King must be courageous.”

Michael returned to Romania and immediately felt the pressures of Soviet take-over. But, he was the same Michael that, at a mere 26 years old, had rallied with the pro-Allied leaders of Romania and overthrown the Nazi camp’s stranglehold. The coup had invited in the Soviets, and now it was time for Michael to rebel again. He found his capitalist supporters, locked down the palace, and, on December 30, sent out by radio and telegram an appeal to the United Nations and individual governments of the United States, Britain, France, and others for support against what he called an invasion from the roots.

The diplomatic gamble would pay off as Stalinists overreacted. Prime Minister Groza had threatened to murder 1,000 students who had been arrested for speaking out against the Soviet Union. The massacre began and rallied the Romanian people against Soviet supporters. Declaring a state of unrest, the Prime Minister called for Soviet military aid, and an invasion began that sparked action from Western nations in early 1948. Dwight Eisenhower, again Supreme Commander in Europe, led his generals in the heaviest fighting in eastern Germany, then joining up with the Polish Resistance and sparking revolutions in the rest of the Eastern Bloc. Romania itself would be filled with guerrilla warfare against a vastly superior force until Allied tanks led the liberation of Bucharest in 1949. Michael, who had been spirited out of the country just after the Soviet invasion, returned from his government-in-exile in London shortly thereafter.

Meanwhile, Italy invaded the Julian March in 1948, which was ceded by Yugoslavia, and Tito sued for a separate peace. Mao Zedong in China was defeated by Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalist Army, who made certain that Communism was stamped out in the East. Socialist upstarts in India had been put down by Britain’s agreement of independence, though French Indochina would see much bloodshed before native Vietnamese were given self-rule.

The Allies pressed into Russia through liberating Ukraine. From experience, they knew Stalin would never give up, despite the use of atomic weapons on his bases. The Cold War portion continued as the stalemated Allies waited until Stalin was finally assassinated and Moscow fell into civil war. Russia was Balkanized, and the exhausted Allies fell into retirement, letting loose their colonies over the ‘50s and ‘60s and settling into a new era of capitalistic rule under the American superpower.

In reality, Michael of Romania abdicated under Soviet pressure (what he referred to as “blackmail”) in a radio address while troops surrounded his palace. He and his family went into exile, eventually settling in asylum in Franco’s Spain, while Romania would be under Soviet rule until it would finally see its violent revolution in 1989.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

December 29, 1170 – Bishop Thomas Becket Arrested

After a career of working tightly together as Chancellor and King, upon Becket’s appointment as Archbishop of Canterbury by Henry II of England, the two discovered a rift that drove them to be bitter enemies. They had once been close; Henry even placed his son in Becket’s household for his education. Henry sought control of his lands, both through Church and State. When Theobald, Archbishop of Canterbury died, Henry took it as an opportunity to establish a trusted ally in one of the most powerful positions in the English Church.

Thomas Becket had grown from a fortunate position and constant guest in lordly houses, learning to ride and joust and receiving an excellent legal and canonical education. Upon his installation as archbishop, however, Becket shed his glamorous secular life and became something of an ascetic, even reportedly wearing the penitent hair shirt under his priestly robes. He immediately worked to strengthen the position of the Church, retaking lost land, disallowing Henry from collecting offerings, and excommunicating a royal tenant-in-chief after he refused to acknowledge Becket’s appointment of a clerk. The political rift split wide when Henry called a meeting with the Church heads to discuss canonical customs, and Becket led the bishops in refusing to attend.

Henry pulled his son from Becket’s house and lifted Becket’s many honors, and the diplomatic war erupted with Henry attempting to win favor of the bishops while Becket called on international support from Louis VII. Henry won as the bishops, even Becket, agreed to the customs of the Constitutions of Claredon, and then Becket broke favor by attempting to leave for France without permission. Becket fled into exile for six years. The Pope finally intervened, and Becket returned while many of his excommunications were absolved.

Only a few months later, Becket began a new round of excommunications as Henry’s son had been crowned junior-king by the Bishop of York, which was the right of the Bishop of Canterbury. Upon hearing the news, Henry said from his sickbed, “Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?” Four knights took his words as an order and hurried to Canterbury. Placing their weapons under a tree, they entered the cathedral and demanded Becket return with them to see the king. He refused, turned to run, and tripped over his vestments. The knights apprehended Becket and brought him back to Winchester.

Henry had Becket imprisoned and was found guilty of disobeying customs in trial in 1171. Becket was placed into a monastic cell, and, in 1173, Henry’s sons Henry the Younger and Richard rebelled against him in hopes of achieving their inheritances early (as well as at the mentoring of Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine). Becket escaped and worked his way into Henry the Younger’s court. While the young brothers were strong in France with their mother’s lands, they did not have the guile to manage England, and Becket gave them the advice and subterfuge they needed to undercut their father’s support. The initial rebellion in 1173 had been met with failure, but 1174 won the rebellion for the brothers. They treated Becket literally as a godsend, and he was restored to Canterbury with great new powers.

Henry II went into forced retirement, and Henry the Younger (now III) went about repairing his father’s strained relations with the other Catholic kingdoms, especially France. Richard (called “The Lionhearted”) went on crusade to the Holy Land, liberating Cyprus and staying with his armies while Henry III ruled politically. Much of England’s social power, however, went into the hands of Becket, who set up his nation as a new stronghold and even persuaded Prince John to become Bishop of Canterbury upon Becket’s death in 1189.

The Church continued its firm ecclesiastical position in England as kings and bishops continued to vie for legal power, as did the many barons of the kingdom, though the former two kept the latter in place. One hundred years later, the two would grow even closer as Edward I would be sainted, much like the French St. Louis (King Louis IX). The Church would be instrumental sources of power for Richard III in the Rebellion of 1484. England remained a strong Catholic nation, acting against the Protestant armies of other northern Europe kings. In the 1700s, bids for religious freedom would deprive England of its colonies in North America as well as the Protestant lands of Scotland.

In reality, Thomas à Becket was assassinated as the knights returned with their weapons and reportedly dashed out his brains. He would be revered among Catholicism as a martyr and sainted soon after. In the Rebellion of 1173, Henry II would come to Canterbury and do penance for his part in the murder. He would defeat his sons; Henry the Younger died a decade later of dysentery while still in rebellion, and Richard and John later would become kings themselves. John would yield to the powers of the Church as well as the barons, for whom he would sign the Magna Carta.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

December 28, 1612 – Galileo Discovers a New Planet

Known as the “Father of Modern Astronomy,” “Father of Modern Physics,” and “Father of Modern Science,” Galileo Galilei led mankind in a great many discoveries, even that there were more planets to the cosmos than the five that had been charted since ancient times. While principally supported by patrons, he also had side-incomes from improving compasses and building telescopes. It was with his telescopes that Galileo would discern many secrets of the universe.

In January of 1610, Galileo discovered the four Galilean moons of Jupiter, the first solid description of a celestial object orbiting another. He at first took them for stars, but careful calculation proved that they were, in fact, moons like our own. It called into question the Aristotelian geocentric cosmos that has always been accepted, even with the understanding of a round Earth. That September, he discovered the phases of the planet Venus, which would fully discredit Aristotle and launch a new design by astronomical Tycho Brahe with a fixed Earth being orbited by the Sun, around which Mercury and Venus orbited.

Galileo became a celebrity around Europe and received many graces in Rome, especially from the Catholic Church who applauded his study of the wonders of Creation. Galileo, however, had opinions outside of the Church-recognized Tychonic system and pushed for recognition of a heliocentric universe. He searched for a way to prove the theory and constantly studied the skies.

In late 1612, Galileo came across another celestial object he took as a dim fixed star. A month later, he observed it again, and the star came to fascinate him. Over coming months, he watched it carefully, seeing it move ever so slightly that he could not be certain of his instruments. After some time, it became obvious that the star was moving in retrograde, meaning it had to be a planet like Mars or Jupiter. While Galileo felt certain that was the cause, his principles of observational science forced him to note that it may also have been a comet.

He busied himself with studies of sunspots and lunar mountains, but the strange “star” haunted him. Swallowing his pride, he took to the German Johannes Kepler’s suggestion of a convex lens as the eyepiece rather than Galileo’s concave one. The viewer suffered an inverted image, but the improved image astounded Galileo. During their correspondence on light refraction, Kelper was also able to convince Galileo of the lunar cause of tides, something Galileo always found fictitious as the tides were supposedly due to the movement of the Earth.

As Galileo was coming to appreciate the works of other scientists in his age and being baffled by what he would later recognize as the rings of Saturn, he wrote of new humility in letters to his daughter Virginia, now Sister Maria Celeste. Still, he felt that science must be kept pure, and he approached Rome in defense of Copernican ideals. Galileo was ordered by Cardinal Bellarmine and the Inquisition not to hold or defend heliocentrism. Admitting that without solid proof both were guesses, Galileo decided to treat the Sun-centered universe as a hypothesis, just as he would hold the Earth-centered one.

In 1619, Galileo came into a long discussion with Father Orazio Grassi of the Jesuit Collegio Romano about the nature of comets. While he felt great frustration with what he saw as incorrect science, Galileo methodically and politely arranged the discussion until finally admitting the planet he had been charting for nearly seven years. The Jesuits were shocked at the news, and Galileo conceded that the universe was much deeper than he had imagined, even accepting that comets were more distant than the moon.

Astronomers checked on Galileo’s planet, and confirmation came from various astounded sources. Rome again applauded the great Galileo, who named the planet Uranus after Saturn’s father. Riding his fame, Pope Urban VIII asked Galileo to write a discussion of heliocentrism, which he did in 1632’s Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems. The book stands as a model for fair and objective science to this day, ending with the conclusion that, excepting to fly up into the sky and look down on Earth’s foundations (if any), the question would be solved by discerning parallax of the fixed stars in the sky as Earth rotated around the Sun.

Such a feat would require a telescope of incredible magnitude and precision, and astronomers would quest for another century to find one. In the meantime, yet another planet would be discovered, this one closer than Galileo’s Uranus. English astronomer John Flamsteed would dub it “Nox” in 1690.

In reality, Galileo would note the “dim star” but not notice it sufficiently. He would be notoriously bigoted about his scientific opinions, scoffing at Kepler and Grassi, even though they were correct about tides and comets, respectively. His opinions clashed with those of the Church, and Galileo would be forced to recant heliocentrism and spend the rest of his life under house arrest. Uranus would be mistaken by John Flamsteed as a star and not determined as a planet until William Herschel in 1781. Neptune, though observed by Galileo, would not be discovered until 1846 by Johann Galle.

Monday, December 27, 2010

December 27, 1530 – Pizarro’s Lost Expedition Leaves Panama

For hundreds of years, no one was quite certain what happened to the hundreds of men under the command of Francisco Pizarro y González. Pizarro seemed an apt commander and loyal Spaniard, but many theories have arisen about failures in battle, overwhelming armies of Punians, or the Spanish going native and joining the Inca’s court to deliver them with firearms and horses. After much contention, the truth has gradually been assembled by historians piecing together Spanish chronicles with legend recorded by the Incan Nation.

The initial biographical information about Pizarro is clear beyond his questioned birth date. A somewhat distant relative of Cortés, conqueror of the Aztecs, Pizarro sailed to the New World along with Governor Nicolás de Ovando and some 2,500 colonists. He traveled with Balboa on the explorer’s trek across Panama and was one of the first Europeans to see the Pacific Ocean. His loyalty to Spain was displayed as Pizarro later arrested Balboa for his trial and execution. In good position with the government and spurred by stories of Cortés’ success conquering the Aztecs, Pizarro made company with the priest Hernando de Luque and the soldier Diego de Almagro to explore south and conquer the great wealth of an empire rumored to be there.

Their first expedition went out in 1524, but it quickly returned due to harsh weather, failing supplies, and battles with natives. 1526 saw another attempt, this one twice the size of the first and sailing much farther south. While Pizarro explored jungles, a ship sailed on past the equator and captured a native raft loaded with trade goods of pots, textiles, and, most importantly, gold and jewels. They explored further, but they found new hostilities in a land recently conquered by the Inca and decided to turn back. Pizarro stayed with thirteen men and awaited more provisions. A ship arrived to evacuate them, but Pizarro and his comrades pushed on in exploration, eventually coming across friendly natives at Tumbes and continued south. Finding irrefutable proof of the wealth of the empire to the south (as well as discovering llamas), the explorers returned to Panama to prepare for a third expedition.

The governor refused to allow it, so Pizarro sailed for Spain and returned with the Queen’s signature on the Capitulación de Toledo approving conquest. Pizarro left that December of 1530 and sent back further treasure to Almagro, who was gathering more recruits. Almagro would leave to join him, as would conquistador Hernando de Soto, the only man to return from the expedition. De Soto came back to Panama three years later, sunburned and sporting numerous battle scars, and told vague stories of the Inca attacking and overwhelming the conquistadors without provocation. Others assumed he escaped from a military defeat before reaching the Inca or leaving the expedition once it had changed allegiance to Atahualpa. While his word was debated, de Soto encouraged Spain not to waste human life by sending explorers south again.

From Incan records, it is told that the emperor Atahualpa, newly secured to the throne by defeating his brother Huascar, feared what white-skinned interlopers might do. He gathered survivors of the Battle of Puná and anyone with knowledge about the Spanish while Pizarro was away. Studying their tactics and the tales of conquest in the north, he determined that they were hardly demigods, clearly mortal though greatly powerful. When they appeared at his city of Cajamarca, Atahualpa invited them to feast and then killed the Spaniards in a great ambush, calling out, “My lands shall be no man’s tributary!” It is suspected that de Soto was sent back to Panama as a warning to the Spanish.

With conquest out of the question, the Spanish largely turned east and north, securing the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico as well as moving around Portuguese land in Brazil to Argentina. Trade with Europe would build with the Inca, first in secret as the smallpox plague swept through the empire and then marginally promoted by Atahualpa’s descendant Túpac. It is with Túpac that Francis Drake would make a treaty during his circumnavigation of the Earth in 1578. Trade blossomed, exchanging gold and exotic flora for weapons and manufactured goods, eventually turning the west coast of South America into an economic dependency under English influence as had been seen in parts of India and East Asia.

In reality, Atahualpa underestimated his opponents. Agreeing to an audience with Pizarro, Atahualpa was ambushed and captured. The Spanish demanded a roomful of gold and two rooms of silver as ransom and, receiving it, still had Atahualpa executed as murderer of his brother. Placing puppet-emperors upon the throne, Pizarro effectively conquered the Inca and added yet more land and riches to the growing Spanish Empire.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

December 26, 1776 – Washington's Disaster at Trenton

After successes in 1775 in Lexington, Massachusetts Colony, and the taking of Fort Ticonderoga in New York, 1776 was a bleary year for the American Revolutionists. Their Continental Congress struggled to find money and support while the Continental Army faced a string of defeats across New York and New Jersey. Knowing that the cause was nearly lost, Commander-in-Chief General George Washington made a last-ditch effort at attacking Hessian soldiers already in winter quarters across the Delaware River at Trenton.

Colonel Johann Rall, a 56-year-old veteran with ample experience in battle as a mercenary, was to be placed in command at Trenton reluctantly by his superior Carl von Donop. Rall was loud, did not understand English, and, though he was known to fight well, did not thrive in the between-battle times of war. He avoided work and was lax on the discipline of his troops, inspiring little confidence. Donop, however, came down with a bitter cold and decided not to march with his soldiers rooting out New Jersey militia. He sent Rall instead, who fiercely pursued the rebels, scarcely stopping in Mount Holly as they pursued Samuel Griffin and his men.

In Trenton, despite his illness, Donop was vigorous in his orders for the men. He followed suggestions by his engineers at fortifying the town and ensured round-the-clock posts for guards despite the horrible weather. On the night of the 25th, rain turned to sleet, and guards were shocked to see initial American skirmishers on the morning of the 26th. Donop called out his men, and Washington was forced to attack the defended high ground. The Americans broke, and Donop took up pursuit, capturing Washington and many of his cannon. Few soldiers returned to ranks, the rest disappearing into the New Jersey wilderness.

With the harsh blow at Trenton, much of the fervor for independence died over the winter and into the spring. Horatio Gates succeeded Washington as Commander-in-Chief and led strong defenses against British General Burgoyne's campaign to separate New England from the rest of the colonies. On October 7, 1777, defeat at Saratoga sounded the death knell for the Revolutionary War. Gates claimed he could easily have won with more men, but the support for actual war was waning. It stood as the last major battle in the north, though backwoods rebels would string out the war for years with harrying attacks and withdraws laden with ambushes. The Southern Colonies would also cause continual frustration for the British Army, but the taking of Charleston on May 12, 1780, would end major battles there as well, but hardly the fighting. Nathanael Greene, Commander-in-Chief after Gates, carried his famous motto, “We fight, get beat, rise, and fight again.”

While the rebels continued to drag on the war, the question fell to Parliament of what to do with those they had captured. Washington had been shipped to London soon after Trenton and stripped of his land, though the government could not see fit to execute him and create a martyr like General Benedict Arnold, who had died leading his men in a charge at Saratoga. Offers were made to return him to status quo ante bellum, but the general refused. He, like his countrymen, simply refused to give up. Washington remained a prisoner for the duration of the war, though many others such as John Hancock, Thomas Paine, and Samuel Adams would be publicly hanged as treasonous instigators.

Gradually, the American leadership would destroy itself through infighting and abandonment. Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin would attempt to create a government-in-exile in Paris, but they simply became novelties at the French Court. Their writings and arguments would contribute to the French Revolution that would happen some years later. The Americans, meanwhile, slipped farther and farther west, and, in 1785, the Colonies came back under firm control.

Worn out politically, diplomatically, and economically by what seemed to become a war of attrition, Britain came under its own revolutions in the 1790s. King George III was blamed for the long-lasting and, being deemed unfit for the throne by act of Parliament, was removed. Britain again became a parliamentary republic, and Washington was sent back to Virginia to live out the rest of his life as a poor, though admired, man.

In reality, Rall stayed in Trenton while Donop took to the field. He viewed the Revolutionary army with contempt and did not bother building defenses. Not even posting guards, the Hessians were taken by surprise and their retreat cut off; Rall would be mortally wounded in the battle. While tactically a minor victory, the show of success by Washington's audacity to attack in an ice storm as well as the proving of American troops over regulars gave the Revolution much needed clout to go on toward victory at Saratoga, which would lead to a French alliance.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

December 25, 1915 – Second Christmas Truce Takes Hold

The words of Chief of Staff Hulmuth von Moltke from 1914 rang in the Kaiser's ears, “Your Majesty, this war cannot be won.”

Wilhelm II had initially rejected the view of Moltke and fired him, but as 1915 dragged on, it became possible that the German fate was sealed. There were new developments such as air warfare and poison gas, leading to whole new aspects of battle. A further innovation was mass-propaganda, and the Kaiser decided this may be the method to come out ahead in an unwinnable war.

In 1914, the soldiers in the field began what was to be known as the Christmas Truce. On Christmas Eve, the German troops decorated their trenches and sang carols. The English troops, who recognized many of the tunes from their own carols, joined in singing. The artillery bombardments on both sides ended for the night, allowing soldiers to collect their dead, and joint services were held honoring the fallen on both sides. Once-enemies approached each other across the “No Man's Land”, exchanging gifts, sharing food, and engaging in games of football. Commanders on both ends reacted with disgust at the fraternization, but the unofficial truce lasted until after New Years' Eve in many places along the lines.

The cases of fraternization had continued despite the horrors of war by attrition. A German unit attempted a truce over Easter, but were warned away by their British opponents. Later that November, units from Saxony and Liverpool successfully fraternized. The soldiers in the trenches obviously did not care for the war; the Kaiser merely had to convince them to take a stand against it. While the Allied command issued orders against fraternization that upcoming Christmas, German orders encouraged the possibility and handed out gifts to exchange (including reasons for the war to be ended). Despite the orders, the soldiers in the trenches met and joined again in their small feasts and games of football. The Allied commanders erupted at the news and began court martial proceedings for hundreds, possibly thousands. Rebellion broke out among the ranks. Wilhelm was urged to attack while the Allies were weak, but he intended to win the war rather than a few battles before the Allies had propaganda material to regroup.

Seizing the diplomatic initiative and ensuring that word of the Christmas Truce spread past censorship, Wilhelm capitalized on the friendly spirits among the common soldiers. He demanded an armistice in the West, which the Allies agreed only along with an armistice in the East. Talks began, and the politicians finally conceded under pressure from the soldiers and their families. Lists of demands were drawn up, and, for each point, games of football and other athletic events would decide the victor. While troops remained in station during an armistice, Germany hosted the 1916 Olympics in Berlin that summer as it had planned to do before the war. Fighting for honor as well as diplomatic success, athletes built value with gold, silver, and bronze medals to be used in agreements during what would be a precursor to the League of Nations.

The notion was considered ludicrous by many, but war weariness kept naysayers from the majority opinion. Germany did not fair as well as the Allied nations, and most of the world expected the Kaiser to turn against his own idea and restart the war. To their surprise, he did not and ordered the removal of troops from France and Belgium as part of the agreement, though he kept Alsace-Lorraine. Reparations were traded, and war was formally outlawed in 1918.

Europe celebrated the War to End All Wars, though the name was hardly apt. Wars went underground, constantly fed by international espionage, support for uprisings (such as the Russian Civil War that would eventually stomp out notions of communism), and sabotage of other nations' teams. Tempers flared over each scandal, but war did not come back to the world stage until Ireland's fight for independence in 1928 was found to be supported overtly by the Germans. The Irish Revolt exploded outside of British borders with a Royal Navy blockade of Germany to cease supplies. The Germans countered with an invasion of Belgium to secure new ports, and Europe was swallowed up in the Second World War.

In reality, the Christmas Truces were suppressed. Following the 1914 truce, orders were followed for the most part opposing informal truces in 1915. A few examples were seen in 1916, but continual artillery fire ended most chances for fraternization. World War I would drag on until Armistice Day, November 11, 1918, after the deaths of some ten million and twenty million more wounded.

Friday, December 24, 2010

December 24, 1979 – Brezhnev Orders Stand Down in Afghanistan

After enjoying a dominant position in international diplomacy over the United States, the latter 1970s carried a decline for the Soviet Union. Nixon had opened US relations with Communist China and ended American involvement in the Vietnam War that had nearly torn the country apart. In 1979, Egypt and Israel had reached a peace agreement hosted by the US. Iraq, too, had fallen away from Soviet dependence when it began purchasing Italian and French weapons. Farther east, however, things were looking up for the Soviet Union: Iran had overthrown its US-backed Shah and American-Afghani relations had all but ended after their ambassador was killed during an assault against the militants who had kidnapped him.

With waning influence in the western Middle East, the Soviets looked to a goal dating back over a century in the Great Game, political one-uppings with the British Empire in an attempt to hold all of Central Asia under a sphere of influence. Always looking for warm-water ports, the Russians had long desired to add Iran to their empire. Even if possible, it would be a long-term goal, and more immediate were the goings-on in Afghanistan.

In 1973, former Prime Minister Mohammad Daoud Khan overthrew the king in the coup known as the Saur Revolution and would be overthrown himself five years later by the army and the People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan. Forced modernization and violent purges of factionalism caused a great deal of turmoil, but the government was Soviet-supported, even signing a treaty that outlined rights for calling upon the Soviet Union for military support. As the unrest broke into full-fledged civil war and half of Afghanistan’s army deserted or joined the opposing Mujahideen, President Amin and the PDPA asked for Soviet help, first with helicopter support in June, then rifle divisions in July, and increasingly through December when Brezhnev gave orders prepping for deployment of Russian troops.

His plans changed immediately, however, after a leaked, and possibly false, note from US President Carter’s national security advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski read, “We now have the opportunity of giving to the Soviet Union its Vietnam War.” Brezhnev did not make the note public, but it did alter his opinion on Afghanistan’s significance. President Amin had already been straying from Soviet loyalty, and his purges had killed numerous supporters of Russia. Brezhnev decided that the Afghanis would lie in the graves they dug for themselves rather than support them.

The diplomatic shift was handled carefully. The PDPA cried out as abandoned, but Brezhnev remained firm and offered advisers and the use of training facilities. Amin and his government attempted to appeal to China and Pakistan, that latter of which did send troops to defend Pakistani nationals, but it was too little and too late. His government collapsed in 1980, the same year as the successful Olympics in Moscow. Sending food and medical supplies to the new nation, Brezhnev managed to gain a foothold in diplomacy there, opening up relations that would later lead to heavy Russian economic influence.

With the 1980s, international significance returned to the USSR. Using Afghanistan as leverage, the Russians were able to convince Carter and the US Senate to ratify the SALT II nuclear weapons manufacture treaty. The Iran-Iraq War saw another leap forward as the American-supported Saddam Hussein began a long stalemate as the two nations brutalized one another beginning in 1980. The USSR secretly afforded the Iranians weapons, keeping the war going and ultimately drawing in beleaguered American action to contain the altercation.

By the time the war ended, the Americans were war-weary in the Middle East. Saddam’s invasion of Kuwait prompted action from the UN Security Council, and the USSR led action by securing northern Iraq. Citing defense of the Kurdish people, the Soviets refused to pull out much as they had done in Eastern Europe after World War II, and the US saw a new wave of the Cold War begin in the Middle East. Using Afghanistan as a model, the USSR would also later see Iran become an economic satellite, cutting the Middle East in half.

CIA actions in Pakistan and beyond the Sandy Curtain encouraged insurgence, finding a new balance between the world’s two superpowers. USSR influence continues to push eastward with increased Socialist activity in India, where many political commentators speculate we may see another Korea in coming decades of the Cold War.

In reality, Brezhnev ordered the USSR’s 40th Army into Afghanistan. Over the next decade, the Soviets would fight a never-ending war against guerilla soldiers who disappeared among the mountains and caves after devastating attacks. The war would drain the Soviet Union of military might and public support, ultimately contributing to its fall and the end of the Cold War in 1991.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

December 23, 1888 – Van Gogh Murders Gauguin

The troubled life of Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh took its darkest turn as he murdered his roommate and fellow artist, Paul Gauguin.

Van Gogh was born March 30, 1853, and suffered a lifetime of mental illness, most based in anxiety and magnified by poor nutrition and alcohol. He described his youth as “gloomy and cold and sterile” in a later letter to his brother Theo. Boarding school troubled him as a student, prompting him to leave abruptly. His uncle managed to find him a position as an art dealer, bringing van Gogh to London where he fell in love with his landlady’s daughter. She rejected him, and he fled to Paris, where he lost his job after voicing his opinions that art was not to be treated as a commodity.

After stints as a minister’s assistant, bookshop worker, and missionary, in 1880, he decided to become an artist in pursuit of God’s service. His early work while in the Netherlands was notoriously dark and somber, such as The Potato Eaters with its ugly portrayal of genuine peasants. In 1886, he moved to Paris to study art further, moving in with his younger brother Theo, who had always supported Vincent financially and emotionally despite, or because of, his worries about Vincent’s mental health.

Van Gogh’s work brightened, and Theo used his art-dealer connections to introduce him to many other artists whose work helped to influence van Gogh’s growing styles. After some 200 paintings and two years imbibing and smoking too much, van Gogh sought to leave the city in pursuit of a dream of an artists’ colony. He settled in Arles in the south of France, much to the chagrin of locals and, after ten months, persuaded his friend Paul Gauguin to join him.

Gauguin, five years van Gogh’s senior, was a man of experimentation and a leader in the Symbolist movement. He held some Peruvian blood and had lived in South America in his youth. After serving in the French Navy, marrying a Danish woman, and beginning a career as a stockbroker, he quit it all in 1885 to paint full time. Gauguin had met van Gogh in 1887, and the two shared similar experiences with depression. In October of 1888, he moved to stay with van Gogh in his famed Yellow House in Arles, beginning a nine-week deterioration of their friendship that would lead into an altercation where van Gogh slashed Gauguin’s throat with a razor.

According to interviews, van Gogh immediately regretted his action and attempted to save Gauguin by gingerly holding his throat, but the latter bled to death. Neighbors were roused by van Gogh carrying Gauguin’s body into the street and screaming for the police to arrest a murderer. Van Gogh was indeed arrested and sentenced to death, though his brother Theo successfully campaigned (and bribed) for Vincent to be placed permanently into a mental institution. There van Gogh was allowed to paint and was studied by eminent psychiatrists.

Great shock was raised in Paris, London, and Brussels at word of the Murderer-Artist, and galleries were filled with his works, instantly in demand and expensive. Van Gogh had achieved fame, but he remained in horrid mental condition at the guilt of murder. When his brother died in 1891 of syphilis’s dementia paralytica (believed from over-celebration at his newfound wealth), Vincent stopped painting and became increasingly suicidal, famously stabbing out his left eye with a paintbrush. After months of interrupted attempts, van Gogh hanged himself by his own shirt.

The shock increased throughout Europe’s artistic circles, and the new reaction was that the post-Impressionist style was too much for the human mind. It became unpopular among the wealthy to pay artists to paint unrealistically, just as one would not pay to see dogs fight. Underground galleries continued to show lesser known artistic experiments, but New Realism dominated the art world until the horrors of World War I gave a new call for escapism. Haunting Abstractionism and Surrealism of the Mad Generation exploded across Europe and North America in the 1920s and ‘30s, which itself would ultimately fall as the pendulum of taste swept back toward realistic depictions in art for the next twenty years.

In reality, van Gogh only threatened Gauguin with the razor. He panicked at his actions and fled to a local brothel, where he famously cut off the lobe of his left ear and gave it to a prostitute. Gauguin never saw van Gogh again, instead going about finding his “tropical paradise” and pioneering Primitivism. Van Gogh would spend the rest of his life in and out of hospitals while also painting some of his best known works such as Starry Night. He went for a walk in a field on July 27, 1890, and shot himself in the chest.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

December 22, 1849 – Political Martyr Dostoyevsky Shot

Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s childhood led his great mind into the only option for its escape: revolution. His father, a raging alcoholic, was a retired military surgeon who moved his family into a small apartment on the grounds of Moscow’s Mariinsky Hospital for the Poor, where he practiced. The hospital was surrounded by bitter poverty such as an orphanage for the abandoned and an asylum for the insane. Such conditions would be forever impressed upon the young Fyodor. Suffering from epilepsy himself, Fyodor would defy his parents’ wishes and explore the hospital gardens, visiting with patients and building a sense of hope out of such bitterness.

At age 16, after the death of his mother, Dostoyevsky was sent to military engineering school, and his father died soon after. He fell in love with literature and suffered through mathematics enough to manage a commission, eventually becoming a lieutenant. Dostoyevsky left the military in 1843 and turned fulltime to literature, translating Balzac and creating his own fiction. His first published work came in 1846 as a novella entitled Poor Folk, and Dostoyevsky was thrown into literary fame. Fame was fleeting; his next work, The Double, met with frowns of disappointment.

His explorations of schizophrenia and literary experimentation were given up after The Double, and Dostoyevsky pushed himself toward the trials of poverty that he had known so well. He joined the Petrashevsky Circle, a reading and discussion group of progressives in St. Petersburg. While they made some movement, there was no great organization for change beyond theory.

Across Europe in 1848, however, there was much action for change. The Revolutions of 1848 spread across the continent, and Czar Nicholas feared an uprising in Russia. He had easily quashed the 1825 Decembrist Revolt and ended Peter the Great’s ideals of Westernization, instead turning back toward orthodoxy. With challenges to autocracy rising in many other empires, Nicholas decided to end the revolution before it could take place by rounding up any progressively minded intellectual. The Petrashevsky Circle was among the groups arrested and put through public mock execution rituals, displays in which the populace could see the might of the Czar’s will but also his grace at giving reprieves.

Dostoyevsky himself was arrested April 23, 1849, and, on November 16, sentenced to death by firing squad. After the mock execution, he assumed this would be another of the Czar’s displays, and it was generally agreed that he would receive a reprieve. However, due to bureaucratic bungling in the delivery of the reprieve, Dostoyevsky was shot by order of a zealous commander.

Shock settled over St. Petersburg, and Dostoyevsky’s writings spread through the city and, then, the country. Many historians suggest that not all of the writings were his, but his depictions of the lives of serfs and the poor are recognized as genuine. Propaganda or not, the works ignited the Russian people as they discussed around fires and over glasses of vodka. Nicholas, refusing to appear weak, repressed those calling for government apology on what was increasingly viewed as a terrorist assassination.

That spring, Russian Mikhail Bakunin escaped from imprisonment while being handed over to Austrian authorities for his organization of the Dresden Uprising the year before. Aided by Russian revolutionist leaders, the 1850 Rising began as Bakunin arrived and announced the liberation of the serfs. Pandering to Slavophile ideals and collectivism, the bureaucracy was overthrown, aristocracy and Jewish farmers alike around the country were slaughtered, and Nicholas was violently ushered off the throne in favor of a much weakened Alexander II constitutionally bound by a council of advisers, Bakunin among them.

Monarchs in Europe debated sending military aid to the Czar, but renewed troubles with revolts in their own empires kept them from assembling a campaign. New stability would be founded in nationalism, citing the best for one’s people and country. Strong, central leadership struck both the West and Russia, but the return to the mir, or collective village, style of living would create a sharp ideological division between the two. As the West modernized, Russians settled into orthodoxy, ultimately preparing for swift military defeat by Imperial Germany after the turn of the century.

In reality, Dostoyevsky received his reprieve. He was exiled to Siberia, being transformed by suffering through new levels of poverty, and then returned to St. Petersburg, writing some of the greatest works in the Russian language, Notes from Underground, Crime and Punishment, and The Brothers Karamazov.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

December 21, 1937 – Fire Breaks out at Carthay Circle Theater

Never before or since has Hollywood seen as terrible of a disaster as it did on the night of the premier of the ill-fated Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Created by Silly Symphonies animator Walt Disney, the film’s doom seemed to be prophesied. Hollywood executives, as well as Disney’s own brother Roy and his wife, Lilian, tried to talk him out of the notion of a full-length animated feature film as they were certain no audience would want to sit through something so ridiculous as a cartoon dwarf movie. Disney persisted, however, even mortgaging his own home to pay for the $1.5 million production costs, astronomical for the day.

The film was set to premier at the Carthay Circle theater, which was growing in popularity with premiers such as Romeo and Juliet and The Life of Emile Zola in the last two years. The theater was Spanish Colonial Revival style, featuring an exterior of painted concrete and a bell tower sporting a colossal neon sign. As the star-studded audience sat waiting in the circular auditorium, an electrical fire from the neon sign began atop the roof. It went unnoticed for some time, spreading behind the walls raised above the roofline to create a tent effect. Survivors said that they smelled smoke, but it was blamed on a number of cigarettes and cigars.

Rumors say that Disney, desperate not to let a small technical fire ruin the premier of the film into which he had thrown his whole life, preempted the warning and stopped ushers from beginning an evacuation. The truth will never be known as Disney’s body was found after the fire in the projection room, apparently trying to save the film reels, the same that ignited in the burst that would be the first signal of danger to the auditorium. By the time fire alarms began to ring, the fire itself had spread over the roof and destabilized the theater’s famed tower. Moviegoers began to flee toward the exits when the roof collapsed and flaming debris instantly killed dozens. Over a hundred more would be dead by the end of the night despite the race by rescuers to pull trapped victims from under the inferno.

Among the victims of the Carthay Fire were Disney himself, radio comedian George Burns (whose wife Gracie Allen would go immediately into retirement, saying, “The act is over”), young singing sensation Judy Garland, It Girl Mary Pickford, columnist Ed Sullivan, and, most famously, Clark Gable, who, after making certain his girlfriend Carole Lombard had gotten to safety, returned to the fire and saved Shirley Temple. He escaped the fire itself but died the next morning due to complications from smoke inhalation.

It is said that the Golden Age of Hollywood ended with the fire, but the town recovered and continued to produce. In a move that many considered poor taste, the Carthay Circle was rebuilt, hoping to open for the premier of The Wizard of Oz in 1939. Shirley Temple, starring as Dorothy Gale, refused to set foot in the building again, and the premier was moved. Instead, the first new show at the Carthay Circle was the notorious flop Gone with the Wind. Gary Cooper had passed on the film’s role of Rhett Butler, which came to Errol Flynn. While his acting was defined by critics as superb, too many audience members expected sword fighting, and the film’s budget of $4 million ruined MGM Studios as the box office did not pay out.

Whether out of respect for the disaster, because Disney was no longer living to push for the genre, or from a simple lack of public interest, it would be decades before another full-length cel-animated feature film would be attempted, gradually coming into mainstream out of the underground comix movement. Few films would be seen as largely profitable until 1986’s Oscar-winning animation Howard the Duck restarted the genre with its biting social commentary, though overall moviegoers would care more for monster films featuring costumes and camera tricks, robotics, and stop motion.

In 1974, the acclaimed disaster film The Towering Inferno would give a semi-fictional account of the evening with Paul Newman as Gable and Steve McQueen as Charles Chaplin, who was partially crippled when a beam crushed his leg. Critics and Hollywood historians alike routinely name Inferno the best disaster film of all time.

In reality, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was a hit. The Animated Classics genre would be born to great applause, literally a standing ovation from the star-filled audience. Disney and his dwarfs appeared on the cover of Time less than a week later, and he would go on to revolutionize the entertainment industry with his film and TV productions, innovations, and amusement parks. The Carthay Circle soon premiered another great hit, Gone with the Wind, in 1939.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

December 18, 1917 – US Temperance Amendment Passed

After nearly a century of social and political clamoring, the Temperance Movement made its greatest victory in the passing of the Eighteenth Amendment, also known as the Temperance Amendment. While the original draft for the wording called for the prohibition of “the manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors”, a rewrite in committee changed the goal of the proposal to make intoxication itself a federal crime.

The question of the constitutionality of banning traded goods was suddenly removed, and the new question of personal liberty came into effect. However, after some eighty years of presence, the Temperance Movement had the clout to shout down the naysayers. Beginning in the 1830s out of the same spiritual and social revolutions that would conjure ideas of the abolition of slavery and women’s rights, the Temperance Movement would make great initial strides, such as the Maine Law of 1851 banning the sale of alcohol except for “medicinal, mechanical or manufacturing purposes.” Thirteen states would have this legal prohibition until riots in 1855 caused the law’s repeal. The Civil War and other social reforms took precedence in America for the next few decades, but the Temperance Movement continued to smolder.
After the Civil War, temperance began anew with the Women’s Christian Temperance Movement and the Prohibition Party. The total removal of alcohol became the goal, as was seen in the state constitution of Kansas and WCTU leader Carrie Nation vandalizing saloons, shaming customers, and breaking bottles with her notorious hatchet. Education became a useful tool for the spread of the idea of abolition in forms such as the Department of Scientific Temperance Instruction, begun in 1880. True clout began to grow, and by the time World War I began, all necessary pieces fell to complete the puzzle with the argument of saving grain for the war effort, the silencing of German-American naysayers, and the Anti-Saloon League carrying numerous votes.

The 1916 election gave ample seats in Congress to the “dries” arguing for prohibition with 140 to 64 in the Democratic Party and 138 to 62 Republicans. Using their majority, an amendment for prohibition seemed inevitable, but reminder of the Maine riots and the need for public support brought on the question that prohibition may be a legal step too far, though public control would be perfectly acceptable along the lines of maintaining peace and the public welfare.

Upon the ratification of the Temperance Amendment in 1919, the Volstead Act was introduced to Congress establishing definitions of “intoxication” and clarification of punishments, ultimately leading back to the Temperance Movement’s ideals of education. Many leaders such as Billy Sunday cried that the amendment did not go far enough by outright prohibition, but they were quickly settled onto tasks of how to reform those arrested and sent to federal rehabilitation communities. While their methods were morally questionable as berating the prisoners, forcing scientifically derived “purging” diets, psychological shock, and ruthless work hours to keep the devil away from idle hands, they managed enough of a success rate to continue. Police were given local methods of rooting out intoxication through various tests and, using the research of Dr. Francis E. Anstie, detection of alcohol on the breath or in the urine. Public intoxication cases dropped rapidly at the beginning of the 1920s, and quiet intoxication at home escaped notice without a warrant.

However, the crackdown on intoxication led the practice deep underground. Prostitution parlors combined with opium houses gained a whole new business in allowing drunks a place to hide out. Following the new revenue, gangster crime rose in some of the larger cities, most notoriously Chicago. A new push from the Temperance Movement arose in the 1920s to ban alcohol altogether, but public opinion had shifted toward indulgence on material things, and numbers among the temperance clubs dwindled.

To this day, though definitions have been adapted due to other intoxicants such as marijuana in 1937 and to the broad Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970 after the “Free Your Mind” campaigns of the late 1960s, it remains illegal to be inebriated in the United States. Critics cite overcrowded rehab centers and high crime rates as outcomes of this crackdown, but healthy economic productivity seems to outweigh any negatives since suspicion of not appearing timely at work will bring G-men armed with breath-sensors and comprehension exams to one’s door.

In reality, the Eighteenth Amendment prohibited “the manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors within, the importation thereof into, or the exportation thereof from the United States and all territory subject to the jurisdiction thereof for beverage purposes.” The Age of Gangsters would reign through the 1920s and ‘30s, fueled by speakeasies. With the economic tension of the Great Depression, the Twenty-first Amendment would repeal the Eighteenth in 1933 due to crime and illegal, non-taxable, business.

Friday, December 17, 2010

December 17, 1637 – Shimabara Rebellion Sparks Opening of Nippon

In the 1630s, a climate of heavy taxation and famine would ignite a rebellion that would change the island nation of Nippon forever. In the Shimabara Domain under Matsukura Katsuie (as well as the Karatsu Domain under Terasawa Katataka), peasants were driven into bitter poverty by construction projects by the Matsukura clan attempting to climb the hierarchy of the lords by building up his defenses and preparing for an invasion. Many peasants were Christian, as the previous lord family Arima had been. When the Arima had left, the peasants had stayed, and now the Matsukura enacted persecution to keep the believers of foreign things under its thumb.

Rebellion broke out in 1637 with the assassination of a local tax collector, Hayashi Hyōzaemon. Amakusa Shiro, a charismatic teenager, led them, claiming to be the "Fourth Son of Heaven" prophesied to be the one to begin the Christianization of Nippon. Masterless samurai, many of whom had been involved in the plotting that autumn, joined the peasants, and their ranks swelled by impressing the conquered neighbors into joining their cause. While besieging neighboring castles, armies from nearby Kyushu arrived, and the rebels made a series of advances and retreats, eventually taking refuge in Hara Castle.
Though outnumbering the defenders four-to-one, the shogunate forces were only able to take up a siege of the castle. After several potential strategies, the commanders called for aid from the Dutch, white-faced demons that arrived from far in the west on wooden ships not long after the Portuguese. The Dutch gave the army gunpowder and cannon as well as advisers on how to use them most effectively. Having gone through generations of warfare with Spain during what would become known as the Eighty Years’ War, the Dutch had learned many of the subtleties of artillery. The tradeship de Ryp took up a position along with the battery-mounted cannons on land, and the barrage of the castle began.

After some fifteen days, the rebels broke and called for truce. Incendiaries and heavy shot had devastated the castle and ruined much of their supplies. With the dead piling up, the peasants began to surrender en masse. The castle ruins were burned, and more than 30,000 sympathizers were executed. Amakusa Shiro had died in the barrage, and his battered severed head was returned to Nagasaki.

The shogunate learned valuable lessons from the rebellion. Foremost, the Shimabara peninsula had to be repopulated (even its lords, as Matsukura Katsuie had committed suicide and Terasawa Katataka died childless), and the reshuffling established a new and prosperous hierarchy rewarding those who had worked for the good of Nippon. Another lesson was the dangers of foreign religion, and Christianity was driven underground as the Kakure Kirishitan. The third, and perhaps most important, lesson was the effectiveness of Western technology and technique. Industrial spies were shipped back to Europe, learning all they could of Western weaponry, architecture, metallurgy, textiles, and, key to the future of Nippon, manufacture.

Initially relying on the Dutch, the Nipponese would later turn to the English and even cleverly pit Western countries against one another to gain greater advantages in trade. In the eighteenth century, the Nipponese would emulate the steam engine of James Watt to great success. When Europe became embroiled in the affairs of the French Revolution (ideals refused in Nippon as they found interest only in technology, not social philosophy) and Napoleonic Wars, Nippon seized the opportunity to colonize and create its own empire. Invading Korea and using it as a launching ground for the conquest of Manchuria, Nippon secured the coal and iron mines it needed to lead the world in industrial power.

Over the course of the nineteenth century, Nippon would become the major figure in the Pacific, conquering many of the unclaimed Polynesian islands and using the Hawaiian Royals as a buffer to keep the expansive Americans at bay. The Nipponese purchase of Alaska from the Russian Empire after beating out the United States in a bidding war served as the West’s wakeup call to the political clout of Nippon. Later defeating the Russians in war, the West would realize Nippon’s clout was more than mere wealth and trade.

Europeans would clamor to bring Nippon into lasting treaties and even their short-lived League of Nations, but the policy of avoiding Western culture stood. Minor trades could be made for technology (they gained many scientists from Fascism in exchange for resources), but there would be no military pacts. Each time as the West has torn itself apart several times over the centuries, the Nipponese have sat out, gaining a little more wealth, industrial productivity, and power.

In reality, the Dutch guns did not work effectively. The defenders of Hara Castle sent a mocking message, "Are there no longer courageous soldiers in the realm to do combat with us, and weren't they ashamed to have called in the assistance of foreigners against our small contingent?" At Japanese request, the de Ryp was withdrawn, and, after the rebellion was put down, Japan began the sakoku policy severely limiting commerce and foreign relations. It would last more than two centuries until the arrival of Commodore Perry in 1853.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

December 16, 1773 – Subversives Arrested while Attacking Ships in Boston Harbor

Discontent had been broiling in the British American Colonies for several years over various taxes that had been levied on the colonists to pay for their military protection as well as a share of the debt from what they called the French and Indian War (Seven Years' War). The Sugar Act had been passed in 1764, and the Stamp Act, requiring a small fee for any official publication, in 1765. The colonists objected to the right of Parliament to lay taxes on unrepresented subjects and some, such as the fraternity Sons of Liberty, began to rebel violently. Both were repealed, and the rebellion settled until new, though low, taxes attempted to establish the right of Parliament to tax colonies. Boston, a powerful shipping town, was a center of trouble, and troops were quartered there, leading to the misunderstanding of the Boston Massacre in 1770. Disgusted at the violence, both sides quieted for a time.

In 1773, Parliament passed the Tea Act to aid the struggling East India Company, a government bailout of the day. When news of the act spread, the rebels kicked up again. Not only was this an infringement upon their perceived rights as humans for representative government, but it also seemed to set a precedent for government-backed monopolies. Among the rebels was Samuel Adams, an elected official of the Massachusetts House who also served as the ring-leader of the Sons of Liberty. Tea ships arrived in Boston Harbor, and Adams and others voted a resolution to urge the captain of the Dartmouth to leave Boston and return to England by December 16. As more ships arrived, the rebels refused to allow them to be unloaded and Governor Thomas Hutchinson refused to allow them to leave without paying the duty on the tea. One the night of the deadline, dozens of the Sons of Liberty (some dressed needlessly in the disguise of Mohawk Indians) rallied and attempted to storm the ships. However, tipped by an anonymous source, the Boston guard was there, and the soldiers apprehended the majority of the men, including Samuel Adams, though he was not in the mob itself.

The political climate cooled as the men sat in prison, some petitioning for their release, others calling them traitors. At Benjamin Franklin's suggestion, a new order arose: repay what had been destroyed (several fellow merchants chipping in), but keep up boycotts of the East India Company. Governor Hutchinson was caught up in a release of embarrassing letters about the Bostonian people, and 1774 would see him removed from office. Seeing that their tie to the Americans weakening, Parliament would experiment with allowing marginal popular control over the appointment of the next governor. Lord North appointed a series of potential governors, including the military General Gage, and finally settled on William Pitt the Elder for the position, who was confirmed by the Massachusetts House. Pitt attempted to decline, but the King insisted, and soon the former prime minister arrived in Boston. While he held the title, much of the business of the colony was performed by his son, Pitt the Younger. The Pitts would resolve the financial issues and allow Parliament to repeal the Tea Act with the passage of the Taxation of Colonies Act 1778, which would grant the colonists a right to avoid taxation.

Pitt the Younger seemed to take up the life mission of establishing a system of representative government for the Colonies. Along with James Madison, he fell in among the followers of philosopher Thomas Jefferson. The push was gradual over the 1790s, and war with Spain in 1801 would give Parliament the surge to grant representation in guarantee of colonial support of the Crown. Over the course of the nineteenth century, individual rights would continue to grow, such as the end of slavery and the suffrage of women. The precedent of government-sponsored businesses would also grow, establishing huge corporations to foster the Industrial Revolution. While humanity reached unimagined levels of technology and material fulfillment, philosophers Karl Marx and, later, Ayn Rand would predict an age where workers threw off their chains and owned the wealth themselves, working for the betterment of their community as well as their own interests. So far, the revolutions that have occurred have been steps forward with a few great leaps backward into despotic tyrannies ruled by fear and force. For the most part, people are comfortable, though not totally happy, with their fluoxetine–laced lives.

In reality, the Tea Party was not stopped. Thousands had attended the meeting at the Old South Meeting House, and a few dozen proceeded to board the ships and destroy some 342 chests of tea. Parliament responded with a crackdown on Boston and the colonies known as the Coercive Acts, and the escalation continued to the American Revolution and the Declaration of Independence.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

December 15, 533 – Belisarius Killed at Tricamarum

The Byzantine general Flavius Belisarius looked to be Emperor Justinian's best hope for reaffirming and expanding the waning political power of his empire. What had once been the Roman domination of the known world was now but the eastern quadrant, tying together Egypt, Judea, Syria, Asia Minor, and Greece with Constantinople as its century-old capital. Belisarius had been instrumental as a young commander putting down the Nika riots that had turned from unruly racing-spectators to a force that nearly overthrew Justinian. As a reward, and a move for the expansion-minded Justinian, Belisarius was sent on an expedition to put down the usurper Gelimer who had taken over the Vandal kingdom of Hilderic.

Initially, the expedition went well. Gelimer marched to meet the invading Belisarius at Ad Decimum (the marker ten miles south of Carthage). The attack on the Byzantines nearly overwhelmed Belisarius until Gelimer saw that his brother Ammatas's troops were sparsely arranged. By the time Gelimer came to reinforce him (disengaging from a winning fight along the main road), Ammatas had been killed, and Gelimer stopped fighting to bury him. The battle became a rout, and Belisarius took Carthage while the grieving Gelimer fled.

Twelve weeks later, Gelimer formed up with an army of another brother, Tzazon, and marched on Carthage, which Belisarius had been fortifying. Gelimer used money as an axillary weapon, offering a bounty to locals for Roman heads and seeking to bribe Belisarius' Hun mercenaries away from him. When time for battle came, Belisarius knew he could not trust such craft to a long siege and marched to meet Gelimer in the field.

They came together at Tricamarum, 30 miles from Carthage, Belisarius outnumbered more than three-to-one. Roman cavalry led by Belisarius charged against the Vandal infantry lines, hoping that they would break, but the death of Belisarius caused them to falter. Gelimer solidified his troops and charged the infantry on foot, overwhelming the Romans. Finding the body of the fallen Belisarius, Gelimer placed his head upon a pike as a standard of victory. When word reached Justinian of the defeat of the expedition, his dreams of extension of his rule shattered.

Gelimer maintained rule over the western Mediterranean, the Ostrogoths halted Byzantine attempts at seizing Italy and the seat of the Pope, and the end of the Byzantines came as Zabergan, Khan of the Bulgars, crossed the Danube in 559 and stormed Constantinople in 562. The Roman Empire officially ended, and the age of Germanic rule settled over Europe. Great leaders like Pepin and Charlemagne would unite tribes into strong kingdoms, few more famous than the Vandal king Golomor stopping Caliphate expansion west of Egypt, causing them to turn more northward through the Black Sea.

While Europe remained a significant corner of the world, it would rarely take the central position of the Muslim Middle East. The Caliph and other leaders controlled trade, built great libraries, and furthered science and mathematics. With the fall of the Khans and invention of modern banking, centers in Baghdad, Alexandria, and Timbuktu would become massive metropolitan cities, eventually dwarfing the ancient supremacy of Rome with its estimated population of one million. Economics would lead to imperialism, spawning a rivalry between Islamic states in exploration and controlling resources from colonies in the New World, ports of call and spheres of influence in the Far East, and dependent satellites in nearby, though barbaric, Europe.


In reality, Tzazo was killed in the cavalry charges. Gelimer again lost his nerve at the death of a brother, and his army was routed. Belisarius finished the conquest of North Africa for Justinian and then began an invasion of Italy against the Ostrogoths. He also conducted the affirmation of peace by the Persians and came out of retirement in 559 to defeat the Bulgars. With a powerful, expansive empire, Justinian set the Byzantines to rule another millennium until the fall of Constantinople in 1453 to the Ottomans after the Crusades.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

December 14, 1861 – Prince Albert Recovers

After a terrible year involving a carriage crash, scandal with the Prince of Wales cavorting with the Irish actress Nellie Clifden, shouldering many of the Queen's duties during her mourning of the death of her mother, the Duchess of Kent, and intervening in harsh diplomatic response to the United States of America blocking Confederate envoys in a raid upon a British ship, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, Prince Consort of the United Kingdom, finally had some luck. His chronic illness with what his physician William Jenner had diagnosed as typhoid fever finally began to clear up. It would remain a cold, solemn Christmas, but, by spring, Albert would be well among the living.

Despite his brush with death, Albert continued with his lifelong dedication and energy to his many causes. Up to that time, he had transcended the typically quiet position as consort, where he revolutionized and expanded his and the Queen's many estates with advanced technology and practices. Albert additionally took up causes such as the abolition of slavery and reforms of nearly every policy. He served as Chancellor at the University of Oxford, modernizing the curriculum, as well as president for the society for Advancement of Science. During the turbulent times of the 1840s, Albert supported the government in enacting progressive policies without need for violence. His work to open the international scope of London ultimately succeeded in the Great Exhibition of 1851, made greater by its lowering of entrance prices to a single shilling, making the exhibition accessible to the lower classes and opening the eyes of thousands to the greater world. While Albert attempted to obtain a peaceful diplomatic agreement between Russia and the Ottoman Empire, the Crimean War would break out, causing his popularity to plummet.

Renewed with life in 1862, Albert shifted his attentions to a diplomatic solution in the ongoing American Civil War. A weaker United States would be politically advantageous to the world-leader Britain, though it did not want it as an enemy. Albert told the political envoys that Her Majesty's Government admired the CSA's sense of independence and were willing to contribute, but they simply could not back the institution of slavery on moral grounds. In 1863, the South began a policy of voluntarily freeing slaves with government compensation, and the abolitionist support in the North began to wane. The war would come to an end with separate but equal nations in 1865 after the loss of Abraham Lincoln in the election of 1864.

In 1870, Albert would again try his hand at steadying international conflicts by trying to cool the head of Emperor Louis Napoleon of France, but the Franco-Prussian War would go on, nonetheless. As it ended with the Treaty of Frankfurt, Albert admired his native Germany in its unification and used his rights as Prince of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha to address Kaiser Wilhelm on the goods of liberal, paternal governance. He often visited his daughter Victoria and son-in-law Frederick, encouraging them to discipline their son Friedrich Wilhelm and once caning the boy himself for not minding his elders. Biographers record incidents between Albert and the lad who would become Kaiser Wilhelm II as greatly instrumental into shaping him into the mindful, studious man he was.

Building diplomacy with Germany and developing industrial policy would dominate the latter years of Albert's life. Suffering from what modern historians believe to be cancer, but about which his medical documents were politely vague, Albert died in 1879, two days short of matching his father's lifespan. His legacy stands throughout Europe to this day, creating monarchy that is an example of morality to its people, aimed at mutually advantageous diplomatic agreements, and tied tightly to education, industry, and technological development. While many Marxist and radicals call Albert "paternalist" and "deceptively authoritarian", most credit him with enabling a twentieth century where the majority of wars have been colonial or internal affairs dealing with anti-imperial, anarchical threats.

In reality, Prince Albert died after his lungs became congested. The Queen would grieve for him the rest of her life, and Britain, who had received him at times with mediocrity, showered his memory with sympathy. Memorials crowded London and the world, such as Prince Albert Hall, the Prince Albert Memorial, the Albert Medal of the Royal Society of Arts, and Africa's Lake Albert.

Monday, December 13, 2010

December 13, 1577 – Ill-fated Drake Expedition Leaves England

The privateer Francis Drake had been a useful asset to the English Crown through his lifelong (however short) wrath against the Spanish. As was a young sailor, he was captured with his cousin Sir John Hawkins by the Spanish, only to escape and supposedly vow revenge. Sailing in the West Indies, Drake built a career in piracy, eventually falling in with the French buccaneer Le Testu. The two formed a raid on the Spanish Main, during which Le Testu would be captured and executed, but Drake and his men would escape laden with as much gold and silver as they could carry.

In 1577, Drake was given a mission by Queen Elizabeth to attack the Spanish along the Pacific coast. Magellan had crossed into the quieter waters of the Pacific for Spain some fifty years before, and conquests by Pizarro had spurred great wealth from the fallen Inca. While the treasure would have to sail through the screen of pirates past the Spanish Main, its transport in the Pacific was all but peaceful. Setting out of Plymouth on November 15, the expedition was immediately plagued with problems.

Foul weather forced them to Cornwall, and the fleet returned to Plymouth, setting out again that December. Many might have taken the bad start as a sign, but Drake was reputedly not a man of superstition (unless it worked into his favor). They added a sixth ship to their fleet that had been captured from the Portuguese, the first and nearly only good luck of the voyage. Upon crossing the Atlantic, Drake scuttled two of his ships due to the loss of manpower.

In what is today Argentina, Drake and his remaining men came to San Julian, the same bay where Ferdinand Magellan had executed mutinous men decades before. Their bleached bones still hung from gibbets, and Drake took advice Magellan's legacy. He executed a mutinous commander, Thomas Doughty, a former friend who had been with Drake since their participation in fending off Scottish ships during the Rathlin Island massacre in Ireland. Doughty had caught Drake's brother stealing, and Drake had turned against him since. Without producing a writ from the Crown to prove his powers or giving Doughty a trial, Drake pronounced him guilty of mutiny, treason, and witchcraft, having him beheaded.

Further bad luck followed as the captured Portuguese ship Mary was found to be rotted, and two more ships were lost passing through the Strait of Magellan. Drake's remaining men on the one last ship, Golden Hind, waned in morale (believing that God was punishing them because of what had been done to Thomas Doughty) until they began to attack Spanish towns and capture ships. They were seemingly invincible until Drake gave chase to the treasure ship Nuestra Señora de la Concepción, which turned out to be a Spanish trap. The English privateers were captured, and many, including Drake, were killed in the fighting. A few survived as prisoners of war or joined the Spanish as sailors, and enough trickled back to England to tell the tale of the failed Drake expedition.

While Spain and England continued to prey upon one another at sea, they would never fully go to war. Much of the infantry battles would be fought vicariously in the Netherlands, and war would rarely be formally declared upon the high seas. Spain grew in is colonies to the south, and England began to establish its own colonial plantations in the north, rarely making profit until the implement of tobacco. Spain maintained the upper hand in what became a war of attrition between Protestant and Catholic kingdoms in Europe. The colonies grew, but gradual setbacks in Atlantic trade rights kept England on par with the colonial aspirations in North America of the Dutch and Swedes. By the time the American colonial period waned through the Liberty Rebellions of Europe, North America was a hodgepodge of countries of varying nationalities and dependencies upon their mother countries.

In reality, Drake's capture of the ship nicknamed Cagafuego was a great success, taking some 26 tons of silver, 80 pounds of gold, a golden crucifix, jewels, and chests of valuables. Drake would sail as far north as California (claimed as New Albion) and circumnavigate the Earth, arriving in Plymouth on September 26, 1580. He would be knighted, enter politics, and return to the seas in raiding the city of Cadiz on the Spanish mainland. Such audacity of war would spawn King Phillip II of Spain to launch the Spanish Armada aimed at transporting troops to an invasion of England. Drake would be instrumental in the English defeat of the Armada, signaling the end of Spanish dominance upon the high seas.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

December 12, 1939 – Battle of Tolvajärvi Becomes Finnish Rout

Throughout its history, Finland had struggled to free itself from the imperialistic influence of her neighbors. In the Medieval period, Sweden settlers dominated the natives and achieved rule with the Finnish people being commoners. During the wars of the eighteenth century known as the Greater Wrath and Lesser Wrath, Russia, revolutionized after the time of Peter the Great, occupied Finland. Ultimately, the Finnish War of 1808-9 would wrest control from Sweden and turn Finland into an autonomous grand duchy within the rule of the Russian Empire.

Finland would stay under Russian influence for another century until the Russian Civil War would give way to Finland's independence on December 6, 1917. Relations between the Finnish Republic and the eventual Soviet Union remained strained. While non-aggression treaties were signed in the 1930s, Soviet invasion would spark the Winter War on November 30, 1939, as a side-event to the growing Second World War.

The nations were scarcely matched: Finland's army was 30% that of Russia, its air force 3%, and its armored vehicles 1%. While the numbers were overwhelming, the Red Army was still recovering from Stalin's Great Purge of more than 30,000 officers imprisoned or executed in 1937. Meanwhile, the Finns held high morale and unbreakable commitment to resistance. While the Russians had air superiority and powerful advances with tanks, the Finnish troops had minor victories, holding the Russians moving northward from Leningrad across the isthmus between the Gulf of Finland and Lake Ladoga. While the Mannerheim Line held there, more Russian troops crossed from north of the lakes. The Finns planned to meet them at Tolvajärvi.

The Finnish battle plan was to use the frozen lakes as points to cross and attack the oncoming Soviets in a pincer movement. The Finns engaged with Soviets, who outnumbered them five-to-one. Rather than attempt to press ahead along the road, the Soviets withdrew. Thinking that he had caught the Russians unawares, Finnish Colonel Talvela took up pursuit. Despite taking losses during the retreat, the Russians came under artillery protection and counterattacked, wiping out the Finnish defenders.

With the harsh victory at Tolvajärvi, the Russians picked up momentum that would bring them around the lake and encircle the Finnish defenders along the Mannerheim Line. Helsinki would fall March 13, 1940, and Finland would be declared part of the Soviet Union. While the quick conquest had been a military victory, the Finnish people had not yet given up the fight. Secretly supplied by Hitler's Germany, the Finn resistance would be an enormous strain on Stalin's manpower and resources. By the time the German invasion of Russia began with Operation Barbarossa in 1941, the Soviets would be ill prepared to fight since so many were already working to maintain occupation.

The Eastern European Theater would be a bloodbath with Stalin desperately fighting to keep Hitler from taking Moscow, Stalingrad, and, especially, Leningrad, whose siege began September 8, 1941. In 1943, Stalin would proclaim an end to rule over Finland and recall troops to bolster his defenses. Rising up as a fascist power, the Finns would counterattack, leading to the fall of Leningrad. In June 1944, Moscow fell, but Stalin continued fight on, eventually reversing the tide of war back to near the 1941 border.

The Western Front, however, eventually pushed into Germany, and Hitler's regime fell with the taking of Berlin by General George S. Patton on May 2, 1945. Armistice fell across Central Europe, and Finland's fascist government collapsed under Soviet pressure. While the Russians did not occupy much of Eastern Europe, they did take hold of their old Russian imperial possessions, including Finland. It would not be until after the end of the Cold War that Finland, then a bleak, backwater economy, would regain its independence.

In reality, the Russians were planning assaults on the Finnish flanks, and the Finnish 16th Regiment held them by their audacity of attack. Russians took thousands of casualties while the Finns only had some one hundred killed and 250 wounded. Despite victory at the Battle of Tolvajärvi, the Winter War would end with substantial lands being ceded by Finland to Russia. It would take up an alliance with Germany after Operation Barbarossa in the Continuation War theater of World War II, reaching an armistice with the Soviet Union in 1944. After balancing a delicate neutrality through the Cold War, Finland would find a prominent place in the European Union and be among the first to institute the euro.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

December 11, 1936 – Edward VIII of England Crowned

After a scandalous summer, Edward VIII would stand in Westminster Abbey in December to receive the Crown and swear to uphold the laws of England, Scotland, and the Empire as well as serve as Defender of the Faith. He had reigned since the death of his father, George V, that January, and a suitable amount of time of mourning had passed to engage in the celebration of a new monarch. It would be a change of obedience to tradition from Edward’s notorious shirking, such as his insistence on facing left on coins to show the part of his hair instead of following the usual alternating of the direction faced with every new monarch.

In the minds of many, there was concern that Edward, Prince of Wales, would be suitable for king at all. He had lived a good royal childhood, but Alan Lascelles, his private secretary during the ‘20s and ‘30s, wrote “for some hereditary or physiological reason his normal mental development stopped dead when he reached adolescence.” He carried on many affairs, some with married women, and caused great concern from his father and the prime minister. In 1930, George V gave Edward a house at Fort Belvedere, where he would meet the woman that would forever change his life, Mrs. Wallis Simpson. The American had divorced her first husband, Earl Spencer, in 1927, and was currently married to Ernest Simpson. Despite the marriage, Edward fell in love with her, and she with him, which caused scandal to arise so much that the King and Prime Minister had them followed by secret police.

When the king died on January 20, 1936, Edward ascended the throne and immediately continued scandal. He observed the proclamation of his ascension alongside the still-married Mrs. Simpson, criticized the Government by saying “something must be done” upon visiting the struggling miners of South Wales, and suggested to some that he meant to marry the divorcée Mrs. Simpson, which would be morally unacceptable as the leader of the Church of England.

Everything in Edward’s life changed again on July 16, 1936, as he was horseback riding near Buckingham Palace. On Constitution Hill, Jerome Brannigan, an Irishman, produced an envelope for the King. Inside were letters, photographs, and various papers showing that Mrs. Simpson had been seeing, and doing more, with other men. The King became furious, and police escorted Brannigan away. While some modern historians suspect the documents were fabricated by MI5, they were treated as genuine at the time. Edward immediately broke relations with Mrs. Simpson through a letter and refused to receive her despite the many times she asked. In an action that had shown shocking discipline for the man who had left Oxford without a degree, the King searched through little-used law until he found grounds to banish Mrs. Simpson from Britain and the whole of the Empire. She would move to France and later be married to writer and painter Henry Miller for her third marriage.

Following his split from Mrs. Simpson, Edward became what those close to the royal family described as “a hard man.” He threw himself into the work of the king and made good on his note that “something must be done”, pushing for new socialist systems being integrated into Britain. His policies on the colonies were initially indifferent, then forcefully paternal, such as famously saying that there were "not many people in Australia" and he didn’t care for their opinion.

Most famously in his reign was his relationship with German Fuhrer Adolph Hitler. Edward had seemed an admirer of Hitler’s, and many of Edward’s programs at overcoming the Depression in Britain mirrored those of the Third Reich. In 1938, however, upon Hitler’s desire for expansion into Czechoslovakia, the King forbade Prime Minister Chamberlain to give expansionist Germany a single inch. The French Government sought peace at the expense of imperialism, but Edward refused, even if it meant war. He had observed the trenches in WWI and noted that he did not want war, but he would be willing to risk military action in order to protect the world from predators. He wrote then-MP Winston Churchill, “I was promised peace once before, and I was betrayed. Never again will I or my country ascribe to vague promises from those who shall not keep them.”

War did erupt in 1939 with Hitler’s military occupation of the Sudetenland , and Edward had made certain that the British Armed Forces were ready with years of preparation and military buildup. Using allied Poland and Belgium as launching grounds, the expeditionary forces caught Hitler in a pincer move along with French forces from the Saarland. The Fuhrer was found dead in his bunker after the taking of Berlin in 1941, apparently from suicide.

After the war, Britain regained its position as leader among world affairs. Edward would spend the rest of his reign putting out the fires of Communism and independence in various parts of the empire. After years of strenuous work, he died in 1962 at age 67. Having never married, he would be succeeded by his niece, Queen Elizabeth II.

In reality, Edward VIII abdicated on December 11, 1936. Jerome Brannigan had approached him with a pistol, supposedly out of aiding MI5 sort out an international plot on the king’s life. Facing great political pressure, he decided to leave the crown for true love. He would marry Wallis June 3, 1937, be considered pro-Nazi, and continue to spark scandal until the Duke of Windsor’s death in 1972.

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