Today, but back in the day
1167 King John, England’s worst king, is born. Author Thomas Costain described Richard the Lionheart’s brother as ‘selfish, cruel, shameless, cynical, lustful, dishonourable and utterly false’. A slightly more measured assessment by historian JC Holt, calls John ‘suspicious, vengeful and treacherous’. In a war with the French king Philip II, he lost Normandy and almost all his other possessions in France. In England. After a revolt of the barons, he was forced to seal the Magna Carta (1215). When his brother, Richard, was held for ransom, rather than pay the amount demanded, he offered to pay for Richard to remain in chains. Once free, the elder brother sent word that, “look to you, the devil is loose’
1497 A flotilla of three Portuguese ships under the command of Vasco da Gama sail up the eastern seaboard of southern Africa, and moor overnight in the lee of a headland, which may have been the Bluff. Probably because of the date, Da Gama names the land Terra do Natal. It is not known whether sailors landed to take on fresh water, which seems improbable as they make landfall three days later, at the mouth of the Limpopo.
1524 Portuguese Vasco da Gama dies en route to India.
1651 Accompanied by 82 men and 8 women, Jan van Riebeeck sets off from Texel, in The Netherlands, for the Cape of Good Hope, where he is to oversee the setting up of a refreshment station to supply Dutch ships on their way to the East.
1914 The Christmas Truce of World War I begins with a series of unofficial ceasefires along the Western Front as French, German, and British soldiers cross ‘no-man’s land’ to exchange greetings, food and souvenirs, sing carols and play games of football. By the following Christmas, strongly-worded orders had curtailed the ceasefires, and by 1916 soldiers were no longer amenable to a truce as the war became increasingly bitter.
1928 At Kommetjie, near Cape Town, 103 whales are washed ashore.
1951 Libya gains independence from Italy, which had ruled it since 1912. After independence, it became a constitutional monarchy under King Idris until he was overthrown in a military coup led by Muammar Gaddafi in 1969.
1953 A bridge on New Zealand’s North Island is damaged by a volcano and collapses as a passenger train crosses over it, killing 151 people.
1989 Hunted by invading US forces seeking to arrest him, Panama’s dictator, Manuel Noriega, seeks asylum at the Vatican embassy.
2008 The Lord’s Resistance Army begins a series of attacks in the DRC, massacring more than 400 people. Founded by Ugandan militant Joseph Kony, who claimed he was fighting for a Christian Uganda, the group has been designated as a terrorist group by UN Peacekeepers, the EU, and various other governments.
2012 In the latest in a string of deadly road accidents involving children, 11 die after a minivan with 15 youngsters aged between 4 and 6 in it, plunges into a pond in the southern Chinese province of Jiangxi.