On the 18th January 1871, Wilhelm I of Prussia was proclaimed the first German Emperor. The creation of the federal Empire made Wilhelm the head of state and president of the federated monarchies that made up the 27 constituent territories.
Wilhelm had been made the President of the North German Confederation on its formation in 1867, and during the Franco-Prussian War took a leading role in the command of the German forces. With patriotic fervour as a result of the enormously successful German advance, in November 1870 the remaining states south of the river Main joined the North German Confederation.
The next month, on the 10th December, the Reichstag of the Confederation renamed itself the German Empire. Wilhelm was formally declared the German Emperor in the Hall of Mirrors at the Palace of Versailles on the 18th January. The title was accepted grudgingly by Wilhelm who would have preferred “Emperor of Germany” rather than “German Emperor”, but Bismarck warned that this would be dangerous as it suggested he had a claim to other Germanic lands such as Austria, Luxembourg and Switzerland. He also refused to be titled “Emperor of the Germans”, since this would have suggested he ruled with permission from the German people rather than by “the grace of God”. As a believer in divine right, this suggestion was unacceptable to him.
Three months later, on the 14th April, the Reichstag adopted the German Constitution. This stated that the King of Prussia would be the permanent President of the confederation of states that formed the Empire. Therefore, the role of Emperor was directly tied to the Prussian crown.
On the 16th January 27 BCE, the Roman Senate granted Octavian the titles Augustus and Princeps. The title Augustus is understood to roughly translate as “the illustrious one” and, although the title did not grant him political authority, many historians see this as the point at which Augustus’ rule as first Roman Emperor began.
Octavian’s rise to power, and his position as Emperor, was achieved over a long period of time. Julius Caesar was his great-uncle, and in Caesar’s will was declared his adopted son and heir. Consequently he inherited Caesar’s property and lineage, but also a number of titles and offices that had been bestowed upon his adoptive father. Octavian had already proved himself a formidable general, but his position as Caesar’s heir won him further support from many veteran legionnaires.
Octavian’s assumption of the role of an Emperor was achieved by effectively collecting a further range of powers as Princeps Civitatis, which translates as “First Citizen of the State”. These were voluntarily granted to him for life by the Senate. In fact when he appeared before them in 27 BCE to return the powers he had already accumulated, the Senate requested he remain and even extended his authority. Consequently his position was in keeping with the traditions of the Republic as his powers came from the Senate, but in practice he wielded exclusive political power. Furthermore, having been granted control of the more problematic provinces of the empire, the Senate had effectively given him control of the vast majority of the Roman army, which further guaranteed his dominance of Roman politics.
On the 6th January 1066, Harold Godwinson was crowned king of England. Harold II was the last Anglo-Saxon king of England, but reigned for barely nine months before being killed at the Battle of Hastings on the 14th October by Norman invaders led by William of Normandy.
The day before Harold’s coronation, Edward the Confessor died. He had suffered a series of strokes in late 1065 and lay in a coma for much of the remainder of his life. He died without an heir, and this sparked a succession crisis that culminated in the Norman invasion of England later that year.
The Normans claimed that Edward had promised the throne of England to William. Reported by various Norman chroniclers, the Bayeux Tapestry shows that Harold even swore an oath on sacred relics to support William’s claim to the English throne after becoming shipwrecked in 1064. The reliability of this story is debated by historians, especially since it goes against the English tradition that the new king would be chosen by the Witenaġemot – the “meeting of wise men”.
Whatever the truth of Edward’s promise and Harold’s meeting with William, Edward apparently regained consciousness and entrusted his kingdom to Harold for “protection” shortly before he died. When the Witenaġemot met on the 6th January they elected Harold as king, and his coronation took place the same day. Historians generally believe that this took place in Westminster Abbey, which had been built by Edward and had been consecrated just a few days earlier on the 28th December 1065. Hearing of Harold’s accession to the English throne, William soon began preparing to invade.
On the 4th January 1642, Charles I attempted and failed to arrest the Five Members of Parliament, prompting the English Civil War and his own eventual execution for treason.
Charles ascended to the throne in 1625, but as a believer in the divine right of kings ruled without Parliament for eleven years of personal rule. During this time his policies – particular those regarding taxation and religion – were met with hostility from his subjects.
His religious policies towards Scotland culminated in the outbreak of the Bishops’ Wars in 1639, which saw a Scottish army invade England in August 1640. Charles became convinced that the Scots had been encouraged in some way by the Five Members: John Pym, John Hampden, Denzil Holles, Arthur Haselrig and William Strode. Charles was afraid of them turning the London mob against him, and had heard rumours of a plan to impeach the Queen, so he charged them with treason.
The Five Members failed to respond to a summons on the 3rd January. Therefore on the afternoon of the 4th the King himself entered the House of Commons chamber – an act that was a huge violation of Parliamentary privilege – and sat in the Speaker’s chair to demand the men be handed over to him.
The Five Members had already left the building for safety, and when asked for their whereabouts the Speaker announced that he wouldn’t tell the king their location as he was a servant of Parliament, not the crown. Exclaiming that “the birds have flown,” Charles soon fled the capital. The English Civil War began just a few months later.
Relations between Catholicism and Judaism cover a long, complex and violent history in which Christians revered the Jewish scriptures yet held Jews collectively responsible for the crucifixion of Jesus. However, the murderous anti-Semitism of the Nazi Holocaust led to moves for reconciliation between the two religions in the second half of the 20th century.
A key milestone in relations came when the Second Vatican Council published Nostra aetate, (‘In Our Time’) in 1965. This document formally rejected the idea of collective Jewish responsibility for the crucifixion. Two decades later, John Paul II became the first Pope to visit a synagogue where he called Jews “our beloved elder brothers” and condemned anti-Semitism.
Despite these positive steps towards reconciliation, the diplomatic negotiations between Israel and the Holy See in the 1990s were still enormously complex. Significantly the Vatican maintained its call for Jerusalem to have ‘international status’ due to its unique position as a holy site for Christians, Jews and Muslims. Property rights and tax exemptions for the Church in Israel also featured heavily in the discussions.
The agreement was signed by Monsignor Claudio Celli, the Vatican Undersecretary of State, and Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister Yossi Beilin. However, it has never been ratified by the Israeli Knesset due to ongoing economic disputes over the legal status of church properties in Israel. Despite this, the Vatican appointed an apostolic nuncio to Israel in 1994 while Israel appointed an ambassador to the Vatican.
On the 29th December 1170, Thomas Becket – the Archbishop of Canterbury – was murdered in front of the altar of Canterbury Cathedral. He had been appointed by Henry II to the most important religious position in England in 1162, but was slain after some of the king’s men interpreted one of their ruler’s angry outbursts as the desire to have Becket killed.
Thomas Becket was appointed Chancellor by Henry in 1155. In this job he proved himself to be a loyal member of the king’s court and so when Theobald, the existing Archbishop of Canterbury died, Henry saw his chance to dominate the church by appointing Becket to succeed him.
Having a loyal friend in the most senior religious position in England made sense to Henry. However, as Archbishop of Canterbury, Becket’s allegiance quickly switched to siding with the church. This frustrated Henry, who asked Becket to sign the Constitutions of Clarendon in 1164 to extend the king’s authority over the clergy. Becket refused, and shortly after being summoned to the king to explain his actions fled to France.
Becket returned in 1170 but, after excommunicating members of the clergy for supporting Henry, found himself the target of an angry outburst by the king – which almost certainly wasn’t “Who will rid me of this troublesome priest?” Whatever Henry did say, however, it was enough to encourage four knights to travel to Canterbury and kill him inside the Cathedral. It is said that the fatal blow split his skull. Becket was canonised by the Pope barely two years after the murder, and in 1174 the king himself walked barefoot to Canterbury in penance.
On the 25th December 1066, William of Normandy was crowned King of England at Westminster Abbey. The event ended in chaos as Norman guards outside mistook the sounds of the cheering crowd inside for the start of a riot.
William, having defeated the English king Harold at the Battle of Hastings on the 14th October 1066, was forced to fight on after a number of English nobles nominated Edgar the Ætheling as the new king. When he crossed the Thames at Wallingford in early December he was met by Stigand, the Archbishop of Canterbury, who just a few weeks earlier had elected Edgar as king. However, he immediately abandoned Edgar and submitted to William, who soon marched to Berkhamsted where Edgar himself gave up his claim to the throne.
William’s coronation in Westminster Abbey on Christmas Day saw both Norman and English nobility in attendance. Norman troops were stationed outside the abbey and in the surrounding streets in case of trouble while the coronation itself was conducted by Geoffrey, the Bishop of Coutances, and Ealdred, the Archbishop of York. The account of Orderic Vitalis, the Anglo-French chronicler of Norman England, tells how the assembled nobles cheered loudly when asked if they agreed to William becoming King of England.
The troops outside mistook these cheers for a fight between the Normans and English inside the church, so set fire to some of the English houses nearby before charging into the Abbey itself. The arrival of the troops panicked the coronation guests, many of whom fled the Abbey while the bishops frantically finished the ceremony amongst the commotion.
On the 11th December 1936, King Edward VIII of the United Kingdom announced his abdication in a worldwide radio broadcast. He had signed the Instruments of Abdication on the 10th, but it only became official when he gave royal assent to His Majesty’s Declaration of Abdication Act 1936 after it was passed by Parliament the next day.
Edward abdicated in order to marry American divorcee Wallis Simpson. Simpson had divorced her first husband in 1927, and was married to a second when her relationship with the then Prince of Wales began. Edward was in a serious relationship with Wallis when he became king following the death of his father on the 20th January 1936, but as the head of the Church of England faced a crisis since divorced people were forbidden from remarrying if their ex-spouses were still alive, as was the case with Wallis.
Wallis Simpson filed for divorce from her second husband in October 1936, which led to speculation in the American press that marriage to Edward was imminent. Although the British press remained silent on the matter, he was warned that this wouldn’t be the case for much longer and that he needed to address the issue. In the middle of November Edward told Stanley Baldwin, the British Prime Minister, of his intention to marry Wallis. Baldwin gave the King three options: give up the idea of marriage; marry against his ministers’ wishes; or abdicate. He chose the latter.
Less than a month later his younger brother was proclaimed King George VI while Edward became Duke of Windsor. He married Wallis on the 3rd June 1937.
On the 5th December 1934, the Wal-Wal Incident took place which laid the foundations for the Abyssinia Crisis. A skirmish between a Somali garrison in the service of Italy, and Ethiopian troops who sought the withdrawal of Italian forces from the area, resulted in over 150 deaths and a diplomatic crisis that ended in the Italian invasion of Abyssinia the following year.
A 1928 treaty had agreed the boundary between Italian Somaliland and Ethiopia. However, in 1930 Italy built a fort at the Wal-Wal oasis that was approximately 50 miles inside the Abyssinian side of the border and so contravened the agreement.
At first the Italian presence was tolerated by the Abyssinians with their only response being an increase in their military personnel in the area. However, in November 1934 a force of approximately 1000 Abyssinian soldiers arrived at the fort and demanded it be handed over: this demand was refused by the garrison’s commander.
The following day, a group of British and Abyssinian surveyors arrived at the fort and found themselves caught up in the dispute. The British withdrew in order to avoid any bloodshed, but the Abyssinians stayed and joined their countrymen in a face-off with the garrison. Although the exact cause of the skirmish that began on the 5th December is unclear, it’s generally accepted that neither side tried particularly hard to avoid it.
Despite this, both sides protested the actions of the other. While Abyssinia went to the League of Nations, Italy outright demanded compensation. The diplomatic crisis that ensued eventually led to the Italian invasion of Abyssinia in October 1935.
United States Senator Joseph McCarthy was censured for “conduct that tends to bring the Senate into dishonour and disrepute.”
Joseph McCarthy was elected to the Senate for the state of Wisconsin in 1946. He was thrust into the public eye in February 1950 after a speech to the Republican Women’s Club of Wheeling, West Virginia in which he claimed that 205 communists had infiltrated the U.S. State Department. Following his re-election in 1952, McCarthy became chairman of the Senate’s Committee on Government Operations and of its permanent subcommittee on investigations.
McCarthy used his position to launch a series of high profile investigations of people he claimed to have Communist sympathies. Although his tactics were condemned by politicians including President Dwight D. Eisenhower, McCarthy’s investigations stretched from Voice of America news service to the United States Army. Known as the Second Red Scare, the first having begun after the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917, more than 2,000 government employees lost their jobs in what some viewed as a witch-hunt.
Support for McCarthy declined rapidly after the television broadcast of the Army-McCarthy hearings in April and May 1954. The Senator was accused of pressuring the army to give his aides preferential treatment, and the hearings exposed his bullying tactics. The army’s chief counsel, Joseph Nye Welch, even interrupted McCarthy to ask, ‘Have you no sense of decency, sir?’
Meanwhile Edward R. Murrow’s popular documentary program See It Now ran a negative piece on the Senator that further turned public opinion against him. On 2 December 1954 the Senate condemned McCarthy for conduct ‘contrary to Senate traditions’ by 67 votes to 22.