On this day in history, August 2

At the beginning of women’s month, we remember the feared ‘Lioness of Brittany’.

At the beginning of women’s month, we remember the feared ‘Lioness of Brittany’.

Published Aug 2, 2023


Significant and interesting snippets of news with a South African angle, from this day in history.

216BC The Carthaginian army, from Africa, led by Hannibal defeats a stronger Roman army at the Battle of Cannae.

1100 King William II of England (William Rufus) is killed by an arrow shot by Sir Walter Tyrell while hunting in the New Forest.

1343 A French nobleman, Olivier IV de Clisson, is beheaded on the orders of the French king. Olivier’s enraged widow, Jeanne de Clisson, sells her estates and raises a force of men with which to attack French shipping and ports. The ‘Lioness of Brittany’ then plies the English Channel for 13 years with a small fleet of black-painted ships with red sails, led by her flagship, the My Revenge. Legend has it, she would personally torture and behead her prisoners, leaving only one alive to go back to France and warn their navy of the doom they would face if they happened to meet with her menacing and merciless fleet. Jeanne’s name became a popular legend on both sides of the Channel. While most of her story is seen as a folk tale, there’s evidence proving her existence and crucial moments of her life, like her birth, marriages, the trial and sentence of Olivier, and the place of her death. However, all the interesting and almost fantastical elements of the story are quite hard to prove, since the only records of her pirate years were spread through stories that lack of verifiable facts. Still, her story has survived and shows that, even in a time when women were not destined to become the protagonists of amazing stories, there were many who challenged that thought. She is portrayed as a hurt woman willing to risk everything to fight against injustice, who did not care about the role she was expected to fulfil, and who showed all her courage and leadership skills to lead a fleet against one of the most powerful armies in the world.

1610 During explorer Henry Hudson’s search for the Northwest Passage, he sails into the great bay in Canada that bears his name.

1870 The Tower Subway, the world’s first underground tube railway, opens in London.

1906 Maria Koopmans-De Wet, who was instrumental in alleviating suffering among women in British concentration camps during the Anglo-Boer War, dies.

1922 A typhoon hits Shantou, China, killing more than 50 000 people.

1925 Dr Piet Koornhof, one of the most controversial figures from the apartheid era, is born in Leeudoringstad, North West.

1934 Adolf Hitler becomes Germany’s Führer – supreme leader.

1939 Albert Einstein and Leo Szilard write to US President Franklin D Roosevelt, urging him to develop a nuclear weapon.

1990 Iraq invades Kuwait.

1999 The Gaisal train disaster claims 285 lives in Assam, India.

2004 Jazz legend Sipho Gumede dies.

2017 Great Britain’s Prince Philip, aged 96, makes his final solo public appearance before retiring from public engagements.

2018 Apple becomes the first American-listed company to reach $1 trillion in value.

2018 Pope Frances declares the death penalty unacceptable in all cases, reversing church teachings.

2019 Saudi Arabia announces new freedoms for women, including being able to travel independently abroad without permission.

2019 Singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran’s Divide tour, after 893 days on the road, becomes the most attended and highest grossing tour.

2020 South Africa confirms more than 500 000 cases of Covid-19 with 10 107 deaths, the highest total in Africa.

2020 Islamic State stages a jail break at a prison in the Afghan city of Jalalabad, placing bombs at its entrance. The result: a 20-hour gunfight, 29 deaths and over 300 prisoners at large.

2020 The United Arab Emirates starts up the Arab world’s first nuclear power station at the Barakah plant.