On this day in history, February 8

Death of a king

Death of a king

Published Feb 8, 2024


More than just dates and boring facts.

1587 The execution of Mary, Queen of Scots, is botched. Instead of a clean beheading, the first strike of the axe strikes the back of her skull; the second isn’t much better and leaves her head hanging by a piece of sinew. Later as her head was held aloft, her auburn tresses are revealed to be a wig as the head falls to the ground, revealing very short, grey hair.

1834 Russian chemist Dmitry Mendeleev, best known for formulating the Periodic Law, and creating a periodic table of elements, is born.

1837 Russian poet Alexander Pushkin winds up dead after he foolishly agrees to a duel with French military officer Georges d’Anthès.

1881 The Boers defeat the British at the Battle of Ingogo Heights, near Schuinshoogte.

1884 Cetshwayo, cousin of Shaka and the last king of an independent Zululand, dies.

1904 A surprise Japanese torpedo attack at Port Arthur starts the Russo-Japanese War.

1906 Bambatha Rebellion: 14 policemen go to arrest those who threatened a tax collector at Henley, Natal, but are forced to retreat with two of their number dead.

1920 Bolshevik troops capture Odessa, ending foreign involvement in the Russian civil war.

1931 A coal mine explosion in Manchuria kills 3 000 miners.

1945 Soviet fighter pilot Mikhail Devyataev makes a daring escape from a Nazi concentration camp on the island of Usedom, by hijacking the camp commandant’s plane.

1969 The Allende Meteorite, ‘the best-studied meteorite in history’, breaks up in the atmosphere over Chihuahua, Mexico.

1983 Prize stallion and Derby winner, Shergar is kidnapped in Ireland. Never found, Lloyds of London pays out the $10.6 million insurance.

1988 Just a few months after sever flooding, Natal is placed on flood alert as torrential rains lash the province.

2010 A storm in the Hindu Kush mountains of Afghanistan triggers at least 36 avalanches, burying 4km of road, killing at least 172 people and trapping 2 000 travellers.

2014 A hotel fire in Medina, Saudi Arabia kills 15 Egyptian pilgrims.

2022 The Horn of Africa with 13 million people now faces a humanitarian crisis amid drought where the rainy season has failed three years in a row, says the UN World Food Programme.