February 24th in history:
There was celebration in England on this date in 1981, as 32-year-old Prince Charles announced his engagement to 19-year-old Lady Diana Spencer. The royal wedding happened that July, making Diana the Princess of Wales.
The duties of many festival princesses include riding on floats in a parade. There were no floats in U.S. parades until February 24th, 1868, when a float was introduced at a Mardi Gras parade in New Orleans.
Mardi Gras is celebrated on the day before the start of Lent. The Gregorian calendar, announced on February 24th, 1582, made changes in how the dates of Lent and Easter are determined every year. The calendar also declared that some years ending in “00” would not be leap years.
French actress Emmanuelle Riva saw 22 leap years come and go before she received an Oscar nomination for the film “Amour.” Riva celebrated her 86th birthday at the Oscar ceremony on this date in 2013, but lost the Best Actress award to 22-year-old Jennifer Lawrence.
February 19th in history:
Space travelers from Russia and other countries rode aboard the Mir Space Station during its 15 years in Earth orbit. The Mir successfully went into orbit on February 19th, 1986.
On this day in 1988, athletes were competing at the Winter Olympics in Calgary. One of the most memorable athletes at Calgary was British ski-jumper Eddie “The Eagle” Edwards. Heavier than his opponents and requiring glasses, Eddie won a cult following even though he rode his skis to last-place finishes in both his events.
Eddie Arcaro was born February 19th, 1916. Arcaro won almost 4,800 horse races in his career as a jockey, including two Triple Crowns.
Actor Lee Marvin also had success riding a horse. Marvin, born February 19th, 1924, won the Best Actor Oscar in 1965 for playing the drunken gunfighter Kid Shaleen in “Cat Ballou.”
February 6th in history:
Ronald Reagan served two terms in the Oval Office after successful careers as a radio announcer, an actor, and Governor of California. The 40th president was born in Tampico, Illinois, on this date in 1911.
The 20th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution took effect on February 6th, 1933. The amendment clarified the order of succession to the presidency, and moved the start of a presidential term from March 4th to January 20th.
Cardinal Achille Ratti succeeded to the position of pope on February 6th, 1922, taking the name Pius XI. It took 14 ballots for the College of Cardinals to elect Ratti.
James II succeeded his brother, Charles II, as king of England on this date in 1685.
And Princess Elizabeth, the daughter of King George VI, became Queen Elizabeth II of England on February 6th, 1952. That was the second birthday of the daughter of another “King”: singer Natalie Cole, whose father was Nat “King” Cole.
January 30th in history:
The British monarchy came to a temporary end on January 30th, 1649, when King Charles the First was beheaded by opponents of royalty. Oliver Cromwell led England as Lord Protector for several years afterward. When the monarchy was restored, after Cromwell’s death, royalists dug up his body and beheaded him in retaliation on January 30th, 1661.
On January 30th, 1933, Adolf Hitler was sworn in as the chancellor of Germany. Hitler came to power on the 51st birthday of the newly-elected U.S. president, Franklin D. Roosevelt, who was sworn in weeks later. FDR and Hitler would both die in the same month, April 1945, as the U.S. and its allies were about to defeat Nazi Germany in World War Two.
January 30th of 1933 also was the day that a new hero was introduced to radio listeners in America, when station WXYZ in Detroit broadcast the first episode of “The Lone Ranger.” And another famous masked hero celebrates a birthday on January 30th: actor Christian Bale (1974), who played Batman in the “Dark Knight” series of films that started in 2005 with Batman Begins.
January 25th in history:
King Henry VIII was married on January 25, 1533, secretly marrying his second wife, Anne Boleyn. Henry’s desire to end his first marriage and take a new wife led to a major split with the Catholic Church.
A more public royal wedding took place on January 25, 1858. The bride was Princess Victoria, daughter of England’s Queen Victoria. After Mendelssohn’s “Wedding March” was played at the ceremony, many future couples chose to use the song at their weddings.
President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle danced to the same song at every inaugural ball in January of 2009: “At Last,” made famous by singer Etta James. James was born on this date in 1938.
January 20th in history:
John Marshall won a powerful job in the U.S. government on this date in 1801. Marshall was appointed Chief Justice. He led the Supreme Court for 34 years, serving under six presidents.
In 1937, January 20th became Inauguration Day in the U.S., the traditional day for the Chief Justice to swear in the newly-elected president. Before that year, presidents had to wait until March 4th to begin their terms.
England had a new king on January 20th, 1936, when King George the 5th died after a 25-year reign. His oldest son immediately became King Edward the 8th, but he abdicated before the year was done because of the furor over his intent to marry a divorced American woman.
And the artist nicknamed the “Line King,” Al Hirschfeld, died on January 20th, 2003. Hirschfeld was famous for his caricatures of Broadway and Hollywood celebrities. He died five months short of his 100th birthday. Long live the King!
November 5 in history:
Ulysses S. Grant was re-elected president on November 5th, 1872…and at least one person was arrested for casting a ballot for Grant. Susan B. Anthony openly defied the laws barring American women from voting. She was found guilty, and fined 100 dollars.
While Anthony got into trouble for taking part in an election, and voting for the incumbent president, Guy Fawkes has gone down in history for his role in trying to overthrow King James I of England. On this date in 1605, Fawkes was caught guarding a stash of gunpowder intended for blowing up the Parliament. The British have celebrated November 5th as a holiday for centuries, marking the defeat of the “Gunpowder Plot.”
Guy Fawkes was the model for the mask worn by the revolutionary character “V” in the movie “V for Vendetta,” starring Oscar winner Natalie Portman. A few Oscar-winning women have been born on November 5th:
Vivien Leigh (born 1913), who won two Oscars for playing Southern characters, Scarlett O’Hara and Blanche DuBois…
Tilda Swinton (1960), an Oscar-winner for “Michael Clayton” who’s famous for the “Chronicles of Narnia” movies…
And Tatum O’Neal, who was only 10 when she won an Oscar for “Paper Moon” in April of 1974. Born on the same day and year as O’Neal was actress Andrea McArdle, who became famous at 13 as the original lead in the Broadway musical “Annie.”