July 6th in history:
One of the worst circus fires in U.S. history occurred on July 6th, 1944, in Hartford, Connecticut. More than 160 people died and hundreds more were injured when the Ringling Brothers big top caught fire and collapsed within minutes. Two young people who survived the Hartford fire and later became famous were actor Charles Nelson Reilly and drummer Hal Blaine.
Among the many famous performers Blaine worked with on records was John Lennon. On this date in 1957, 16-year-old Lennon and his band the Quarrymen were about to perform at a church social in Liverpool, England when he was introduced to 15-year-old Paul McCartney. Only seven years later, Lennon and McCartney became movie stars when the first Beatles movie, “A Hard Day’s Night,” premiered in England on July 6th, 1964.
On the day that “A Hard Day’s Night” made its debut, future president George Walker Bush turned 18. His father, George Herbert Walker Bush, was running for a U.S. Senate seat in Texas that year. The older Bush lost that election, but he rose through Republican ranks to become vice president under Ronald Reagan, and then president himself. First Lady Nancy Reagan, born July 6th, 1921, was Ronald Reagan’s second wife, and he was the first divorced man to be elected president.
When England’s Henry VIII wanted to end his first marriage to wed Anne Boleyn, one of his chief opponents was Lord Chancellor Thomas More. For opposing the king, More eventually was convicted of treason, and was beheaded on July 6th, 1535.
June 28th in history:
England’s King Henry VIII was born on June 28th, 1491. Queen Victoria’s coronation took place on that same date in 1838.
Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie were assassinated on June 28th, 1914, while riding in an open car in Sarajevo. They were shot several hours after someone else tried to bomb their car. Historians argue that the assassinations set off the First World War – which ended exactly five years later, June 28th, 1919, with the signing of the Treaty of Versailles.
The Versailles Palace became the home of the French royal court during the reign of King Louis XIV, who was played by Mel Brooks in his movie “History of the World, Part One.” Brooks, born on this date in 1926, has directed “Blazing Saddles,” “Young Frankenstein,” and “The Producers,” all featuring Gene Wilder, who also appeared in a satire of French royalty called “Start the Revolution Without Me.” Wilder appeared in three movies with his third wife, Gilda Radner, born on June 28th, 1946. Radner was best known for comic characters such as Lisa Loopner and Roseanne Roseannadanna on “Saturday Night Live.” Her death from ovarian cancer at age 42 inspired the formation of the cancer support organization Gilda’s Club.
Mike Tyson was trying to become king of the boxing world again on June 28th, 1997, when he fought WBA heavyweight champ Evander Holyfield. Tyson bit Holyfield’s ears during the third round of the title bout, and was disqualified, allowing Holyfield to keep the championship.
May 28th in history:
When wedding bells rang for King Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, not everybody was happy. Henry had ended his first marriage so he could make Anne his wife, and eventually became the head of the Church of England. But on May 28th, 1533, the Archbishop of Canterbury declared that the king’s new marriage was valid.
The most famous bell in England, “Big Ben,” was hauled by 16 horses from the foundry where it was made to the Palace of Westminster on this date in 1859. The 13-ton bell still rings on the hour inside the palace tower.
On May 28th, 1930, the Chrysler Building towered over every other building in the world, when it opened in New York. It lost the honor of being the world’s tallest building less than a year later, when the Empire State Building opened several blocks away.
May 19th in history:
King Henry VIII and his relatives made history on May 19th in different years.
On this day in 1499, Catherine of Aragon was married by proxy to Henry’s brother Arthur, the Prince of Wales. When Arthur died months after their formal marriage, it was arranged for Catherine to marry Henry.
Henry ended his marriage to Catherine so he could marry Anne Boleyn. But after Anne did not give Henry a male heir, he had her tried for treason. Anne was beheaded on May 19th, 1536.
Henry and Anne’s only child, Princess Elizabeth, eventually became queen of England. On May 19th, 1568, Elizabeth had her rival, Mary, Queen of Scots, arrested.
Two very tall actors associated with princesses were born on May 19th. Andre the Giant (born 1946) played Fezzik in the movie “The Princess Bride.” And Peter Mayhew (1944) appeared on-screen with Princess Leia while playing Chewbacca in “Star Wars” episodes IV through VII.
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.
September 22 in history:
Nineteen people were hanged in Salem, Massachusetts, during a seven-month period in 1692, for allegedly practicing witchcraft. The final hanging happened on September 22nd that year.
Twenty-one-year-old Nathan Hale was hanged as a spy by the British on this date in 1776 in New York City. Hale had gone behind enemy lines to observe the movements of British troops.
The American colonists were rebelling against England’s King George III, who was crowned on this date in 1761. George set a record as England’s longest-reigning monarch, serving for 59 years — a record broken on September 22nd, 1896, by his granddaughter, Queen Victoria.
Anne of Cleves was queen of England for a very short time, only six months. She was the fourth wife of King Henry VIII, who had the marriage annulled. Anne was born on September 22nd, 1515.
September 7 in history:
A girl named Elizabeth started life as a princess when she was born in England on September 7th, 1533. Her father was King Henry VIII. Her mother was Anne Boleyn. Elizabeth Tudor became queen of England when she was 25, and reigned for nearly 50 years.
Citizens of Egypt got to elect their own president for the first time on this date in 2005. Before that, the Egyptian parliament chose the president. The winner of the election was Hosni Mubarak, who had already been president for 24 years. Mubarak’s opponents claimed the voting was rigged.
Nikita Khrushchev didn’t wait to be elected “First Secretary” of the Soviet Communist Party. He took power on September 7th, 1953, and remained in control for 11 years.
And a two-day contest called the Atlantic City Pageant began in New Jersey on this date in 1921. Margaret Gorman, representing Washington, D.C., won that first pageant. It was a tourism gimmick, designed to bring visitors to the city after Labor Day, and was later renamed the Miss America Pageant.