1371 – Think of marrying the boss’s daughter? Can’t aim much higher than Walter Stewart, who married the Scottish King Robert the Bruce’s daughter. Their son Robert becomes king of Scotland on this day.
1651 – As many as 15,000 people along the coast of the North Sea are killed by “Saint Peter’s Flood,” because some saints are mean, I guess. (OK, it’s because it was a St. Peter’s feast day; but it’s still a stupid idea to name it that way.)
1722 – It is actually February 11 in Virginia when George Washington is born; the American colonies don’t change over to the Gregorian calendar until 1752, at which point George objected to having a birthday 11 days too early, and switched to the 22nd. We celebrate George Washington’s birthday today as a holiday which NEVER falls on his birthday.
1744- The Battle of Toulon marks a turning point in the War of the Austrian Succession, not to be confused with the wars over the Spanish, Polish, or Bavarian successions, all of which you distinctly remember from your European history course.
1819 – The United States buys Florida from Spain for $5 million, which is about what the state will be worth after global warming gets through with it.
1821 – Alexander Ypsilantis begins the Greek War of Independence by invading what is now Romania. No, he did not have a bad GPS system in his dashboard. He was trying to get all the Christians in the Ottoman Empire to revolt.
1848 – The French Revolution of 1848 leads to the Second French Republic which promptly elects Napoleon’s nephew as President, who overthrows the republic and proclaims the Second Empire in 1851. Even Karl Marx made fun of this episode in history.
1862 – Jefferson Davis is inaugurated as President of the Confederate States of American for a six-year term. Too bad for him the Confederacy didn’t last much more than three.
1875 – Charles Lyell dies at age 77. Don’t recognize the name? You should. This is the man who made the case that geological processes proved the Earth was millions of years old. Without him, Charles Darwin probably wouldn’t have been able to come up with the theory of evolution. (Ironically, Lyell himself never fully accepted Darwin’s theory.) Queen Victoria made Lyell a baronet, and probably thought she was honoring him, but no title could give him more honor than his role as a man of science.
1921 – A rogue anti-Boshevik Russian military leader of Baltic German descent restores a Buddhist religious figure to the throne of Outer Mongolia. Truth is stranger than Game of Thrones.
1924 – Calvin Coolidge becomes the first President to make a radio broadcast from the White House. Legends that John Cage was inspired by this event are not true.
1980 – Just as Saint Peter flooded the Dutch coast, God takes a hand this time to give the United States Olympic hockey team a victory over the Soviets, the “Miracle on Ice.”
1983 – The play “Moose Murders” opens and closes on Broadway. One would like to think that PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) was responsible for the closing, though its non-existent equivalent, PETH (People for the Ethical Treatment of Humans) would have had a stronger case.
1997 – Scottish scientists announce the cloning of a sheep named Dolly. Scotland . . . sheep . . . why am I not surprised?