The Week in History Issue 5.

The most interesting things that happened (Historically) this week.

Issue 5 includes : Maximinus Thrax proclaimed emperor 20 March (235), Murder of Tsar Paul I 23 March (1801). Catholic Emancipation, 24 March (1829). Robert the Bruce becomes King of Scotland. 25 March (1306).


The Bond Villain Emperor.

Maximinus Thrax, there’s an ordinary name for you. Conjures images of some crazed billionaire plotting world domination. Well he wasn’t a billionaire and he looks much more like a henchman from a Moore Era 007 flick but Maximinus Thrax did end up ruling the world… or at least the bit the Romans cared about.

“THERE was in the Roman army a man named Maximinus whose half-barbarian family lived in a village in the most remote section of Thrace. They say that as a boy he was a shepherd, but that in his youthful prime he was drafted into the cavalry because of his size and strength. After a short time, favored by Fortune, he advanced through all the military ranks, rising eventually to the command of armies and the governing of provinces. 2. Because of his military experience, which I have noted above, Alexander [Severus] put Maximinus in charge of training recruits for the entire army; his task was to instruct them in military duties and prepare them for service in war. By carrying out his assignments thoroughly and diligently, Maximinus won the affection of the soldiers. He not only taught them their duties; he also demonstrated personally to each man what he was to do. As a result, the recruits imitated his manliness and were both his pupils and his admirers. 3. He won their devotion by giving them all kinds of gifts and rewards. Consequently, the recruits, who included an especially large number of Pannonians, praised the masculinity of Maximinus and despised Alexander as a mother’s boy. Their contempt for the emperor was increased by the fact that the empire was being managed by a woman’s authority and a woman’s judgment, and by the fact that Alexander had directed the campaigns carelessly and timidly. They reminded each other of the defeats in the East which had resulted from the emperor’s negligence and of his failure to do anything courageous or vigorous when he faced the Germans. 4. The soldiers were therefore ready for a change of emperors. They had additional reasons for discontent: they considered the current reign burdensome because of its long duration; they thought it profitless for them now that all rivalry had been eliminated; and they hoped that the reign which they intended to institute would be advantageous to them and that the empire would be much coveted and highly valued by a man who received it unexpectedly. They plotted now to kill Alexander and proclaim Maximinus emperor and Augustus, since he was their fellow soldier and messmate and seemed, because of his experience and courage, to be the right man to take charge of the present war. 5. They therefore assembled on the drill field for their regular training; when Maximinus took his position before them, either unaware of what was happening or having secretly made prior preparations for the event, the |169 soldiers robed him in the imperial purple and proclaimed him emperor. 6. At first he refused the honor and threw off the purple, but when they pressed him and, waving their swords, threatened to kill him, he preferred the future risk to the present danger and accepted the empire; often before, he said, dreams and prophecies had predicted this good fortune. He told the soldiers, however, that he accepted the honor unwillingly; he did not really want it and was simply obeying their wish in the matter. 7. He then directed the soldiers to put their thoughts into action, to take up arms and hurry off to attack Alexander while he was still unaware of what had happened. By reaching the emperor before the news of their approach came, they would surprise his soldiers and his bodyguards too. They would either persuade Alexander’s forces to join them, or would overcome them with no difficulty, since the imperial forces would be unprepared and anticipating nothing of this nature. 8. After arousing great enthusiasm and good will among the troops, Maximinus doubled their rations, promised them lavish gifts, and revoked all sentences and punishments. He then marched out, for his camp was not far from the headquarters of Alexander and his companions.”

Herodian “Roman History” 6, 8, 1.

Death of a Tsar.

Tsar Paul I, had he lived would have altered the face of Europe. Unlike his son Alexander, he was an out and out admirer of Napoleon, and was on the point of going to war with him against the coalition powers, when in 1801, a plot was hatched. His son Alexander gave his consent to overthrow his father, who due to his heavy handed pomposity had alienated practically every ally he had. The goal may or may not have been to murder him, but that was the result.

“The aide-de-camp in waiting, who knew all the doors and passages of the palace, as he was daily on duty there, guided the first band with a dark lantern to the entrance of the Emperor’s dressing-room, which adjoined his bedroom. A young valet who was on duty stopped the conspirators and cried out that rebels were coming to murder the Emperor. He was wounded in the struggle which ensued, and rendered incapable of further resistance. His cries waked the Emperor, who got out of bed and ran to a door which communicated with the Empress’s apartments and was hidden by a large curtain. Unfortunately, in one of his fits of dislike for his wife, he had ordered the door to be locked ; and the key was not in the lock, either because Paul had ordered it to be taken away or because his favourites, who were opposed to the Empress, had done so, fearing lest he should some day have a fancy to return to her. Meanwhile the conspirators were confused and terrified at the cries of Paul’s faithful defender, the only one he had at a moment of supreme danger when he believed in his onmipotence more than ever and was surrounded by a triple line of walls and guards. Zuboff, the chief of the band, lost heart and proposed to retire at once, but General Bennigsen (from whom I obtained some of these details) seized him by the arm and protested against such a dangerous step. ‘ What ? ‘ he said, ‘You have brought us so far, and now you want to withdraw ? We are too far advanced to follow your advice, which would ruin us all. The wine is drawn, it must be drunk. Let us march on.’ It was this Hanoverian that decided the Emperor’s fate ; he was one of those who had only that evening been informed of the conspiracy. He placed himself at the head of the band, and those who had most courage, or most hatred for Paul, were the first to follow him. They entered the Emperor’s bedroom, went straight to his bed, and were much alarmed at not finding him there. They searched the room with a light, and at last discovered the unfortunate Paul hiding behind the folds of the curtain. They dragged him out in his shirt more dead than alive ; the terror he had inspired was now repaid to him with usury. Fear had paralysed his senses and had deprived him of speech ; his whole body shivered. He was placed on a chair before a desk. The long, thin, pale, and angular form of General Bennigsen, with his hat on his head and a drawn sword in his hand, must have seemed to him a terrible spectre. ‘ Sire,’ said the General, ‘ you are my prisoner, and have ceased to reign ; you will now at once write and sign a deed of abdication in favour of the Grand-Duke Alexander.’ Paul was still unable to speak, and a pen was put in his hand. Trembling and almost unconscious, he was about to obey, when more cries were heard. General Bennigsen then left the room, as he has often assured me, to ascertain what these cries meant, and to take steps for securing the safety of the palace and of the Imperial family. He had only just gone out at the door when a terrible scene began. The unfortunate Paul remained alone with men who were maddened by a furious hatred of him, owing to the numerous acts of persecution and injustice they had suffered at his hands, and it appears that several of them had decided to assassinate him, perhaps without the knowledge of the leaders or at least without their formal consent. The catastrophe, which in such a case was, in a country like Russia, almost inevitable, was doubtless hastened by the cries above referred to, which alarmed the conspirators for their own safety. Count Nicholas Zubof man of herculean proportions, was said to be the first that placed his hand on his sovereign, and thereby broke the spell of imperial authority which still surrounded him. The others now saw in Paul nothing^ but a monster, a tyrant, an implacable enemy and his abject submission, instead of disarming them, rendered him despicable and ridiculous as well as odious in their eyes. One of the conspirators took off his official scarf and tied it round the Emperor’s throat. Paul struggled, the approach of death restoring him to strength and speech. He set free one of his hands and thrust it between the scarf and his throat, crying out for air. Just then he perceived a red uniform, which was at that time worn by the officers of the cavalry guard, and thinking that one of the assassins was his son Constantine, who was a colonel of that regiment, he exclaimed : ‘ Mercy, your Highness, mercy ! Some air, for God’s sake ! ‘ But the conspirators seized the hand with which he was striving to prolong his life, and furiously tugged at both ends of the scarf. The unhappy Emperor had already breathed his last, and yet they tightened the knot and dragged along the dead body, striking it with their hands and feet. The cowards who until then had held aloof, surpassed in atrocity those who had done the deed. Just at that time General Bennigsen returned. I do not know whether he was sincerely grieved at what had happened in his absence ; all he did was to stop the further desecration of the Emperor’s body. Meanwhile the cry ‘Paul is dead’ was heard by the other conspirators, and filled them with a joy that deprived them of all sentiment of decency and dignity. They wandered tumultuously about the corridors and rooms of the palace, boasting to each other of their prowess ; many of them found means of adding to the intoxication of the supper by breaking into the wine cellars and drinking to the Emperor’s death.”

Memoirs of Prince Adam Czartoryski Vol I.


Need one day more?

“Whereas by various Acts of parliament certain restraints and disabilities are imposed on the Roman Catholic subjects of his Majesty, to which other subjects of his Majesty are not liable, and whereas it is expedient that such restraints and disabilities shall be from henceforth discontinued, and whereas by various Acts certain oaths and certain declarations, commonly called the declarations against transubstantiation and the invocation of saints and the sacrifice of the mass, as practised in the Church of Rome, are or may be required to be taken, made, and subscribed by the subjects of his Majesty as qualifications for sitting and voting in parliament and for the enjoyment of certain offices, franchises, and civil rights, be it enacted … that from and after the commencement of this Act all such parts of the said Acts as require the said declarations, or either of them, to be made or subscribed by any of his Majesty’s subjects as a qualification for sitting and voting in parliament or for the exercise or enjoyment of any office, franchise, or civil right, be and the same are (save as hereinafter provided and excepted) hereby repealed.

II. And be it enacted that … it shall be lawful for any person professing the Roman Catholic religion, being a peer, or who shall after the commencement of this Act be returned as a member of the House of Commons, to sit and vote in either house of parliament respectively, being in all other respects duly qualified to sit and vote therein, upon taking and subscribing the following oath, instead of the oaths of allegiance, supremacy, and abjuration: I, A.B., do sincerely promise and swear that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to his majesty King George the Fourth and will defend him to the utmost of my power against all conspiracies and attempts whatever, which shall be made against his person, crown, or dignity. And I will do my utmost endeavour to disclose and make known to his Majesty, his heirs and successors, all treasons and traitorous conspiracies which may be formed against him or them. And I do faithfully promise to maintain, support, and defend, to the utmost of my power, the succession of the Crown, which succession, by an Act entitled An Act for the further limitation of the Crown and better securing the rights and liberties of the subject, is and stands limited to the Princess Sophia, electress of Hanover, and the heirs of her body, being Protestants; hereby utterly renouncing and abjuring any obedience or allegiance unto any other person claiming or pretending a right to the Crown of this realm. And I do further declare that it is not an article of my faith, and that I do renounce, reject, and abjure the opinion that princes excommunicated or deprived by the Pope or any other authority of the see of Rome may be deposed or murdered by their subjects or by any person whatsoever. And I do declare that I do not believe that the Pope of Rome, or any other foreign prince, prelate, person, state, or potentate, hath or ought to have any temporal or civil jurisdiction, power, superiority, or pre-eminence, directly or indirectly, within this realm. I do swear that I will defend to the utmost of my power the settlement of the property within this realm as established by the laws, and I do hereby disclaim, disavow, and solemnly abjure any intention to subvert the present church establishment as settled by law within this realm, and I do solemnly swear that I never will exercise any privilege to which I am or may become entitled, to disturb or weaken the Protestant religion or Protestant government in the United Kingdom. And I do solemnly, in the presence of God, profess, testify, and declare that I do make this declaration and every part thereof in the plain and ordinary sense of the words of this oath, without any evasion, equivocation, or mental reservation whatsoever. So help me God.

V. And be it further enacted that it shall be lawful for persons professing the Roman Catholic religion to vote at elections of members to serve in parliament for. England and for Ireland, and also to vote at the elections of representative peers of Scotland and of Ireland, and to be elected such representative peers, being in an other respects duly qualified, upon taking and subscribing the oath hereinbefore appointed and set forth….

X. And be it enacted that it shall be lawful for any of his Majesty’s subjects professing the Roman Catholic religion to hold, exercise, and enjoy all civil and military offices and places of trust or profit under his Majesty, his heirs or successors; and to exercise any other franchise or civil right … upon taking and subscribing … the oath hereinbefore appointed….

XII. Provided also, and be it further enacted that nothing herein contained shall extend or be construed to extend to enable any person or persons professing the Roman Catholic religion to hold or exercise the office of guardians and justices of the United Kingdom or of regent of the United Kingdom, under whatever name, style, or title such office may be constituted, nor to enable any person, otherwise than as he is now by law enabled, to hold or enjoy the office of lord high chancellor, lord keeper or lord commissioner of the great seal of Great Britain or Ireland, or the office of Lord Lieutenant, or lord deputy, or other chief governor or governors of Ireland, or his Majesty’s high commissioner to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland.

XIV. And be it enacted that it shall be lawful for any of his Majesty’s subjects professing the Roman Catholic religion to be a member of any lay body corporate, and to hold any civil office or place of trust or profit therein, and to do any corporate act or vote in any corporate election or other proceeding, upon taking and subscribing the oath hereby appointed and set forth, instead of the oaths of allegiance, supremacy, and abjuration, and upon taking also such other oath or oaths as may now by law be required to be taken by any persons becoming members of such lay body corporate….

XVI. Provided also, and be it enacted that nothing in this Act contained shall be construed to enable any persons, otherwise than as they are now by law enabled, to hold, enjoy, or exercise any office, place, or dignity of, in, or belonging to the United Church of England and Ireland, or the Church of Scotland, or any place or office whatever of, in, or belonging to any of the ecclesiastical courts of judicature of England and Ireland respectively, or any court of appeal from or review of the sentences of such courts, or of, in, or belonging to the commissary court of Edinburgh, or of, in, or belonging to any cathedral or collegiate or ecclesiastical establishment or foundation, or any office or place whatever of, in, or belonging to any of the universities of this realm, or any office or place whatever, and by whatever name the same may be called, of, in, or belonging to any of the colleges or halls of the said universities, … or any college or school within this realm; or to repeal, abrogate, or in any manner to interfere with any local statute, ordinance, or rule, which is or shall be established by competent authority within any university, college, hall, or school, by which Roman Catholics shall be prevented from being admitted thereto or from residing or taking degrees therein.

XXIV. And whereas the Protestant Episcopal Church of England and Ireland, and the doctrine, discipline, and government thereof, and likewise the Protestant Presbyterian Church of Scotland, and the doctrine, discipline, and government thereof, are by the respective Acts of Union of England and Scotland, and of Great Britain and Ireland, established permanently and inviolably, and whereas the right and title of archbishops to their respective provinces, of bishops to their sees, and the deans to their deaneries, as well in England as in Ireland, have been settled and established by law, be it therefore enacted that if any person after the commencement of this Act, other than the person thereunto authorised by law, shall assume or use the name, style, or title of archbishop of any province, bishop of any bishopric, or dean of any deanery in England or Ireland, he shall for every such offence forfeit and pay the sum of £100.

XXV. And be it further enacted that if any person holding any judicial or civil office, or any mayor, provost, jurat, bailiff, or other corporate officer, shall after the commencement of this Act resort to or be present at any place or public meeting for religious worship in England or in Ireland, other than that of the United Church of England and Ireland, or in Scotland, other than that of the Church of Scotland, as by law established, in the robe, gown, or other peculiar habit of his office, or attend with the ensign or insignia, or any part thereof, of or belonging to such his office, such person shall, being thereof convicted by due course of law, forfeit such office and pay for every offence the sum of £100.

XXVI. And be it further enacted, that if any Roman Catholic ecclesiastic, or any member of any of the orders, communities, or societies hereinafter mentioned, shall, after the commencement of this Act, exercise any of the rites or ceremonies of the Roman Catholic religion or wear the habits of his order, save within the usual places of worship of the Roman Catholic religion, or in private houses, such ecclesiastic or other person shall, being thereof convicted by due courses of law, forfeit for every such offence the sum of £50.

XXXIV. And be it further enacted that in case any person shall after the commencement of this Act, within any part of this United Kingdom, be admitted or become a Jesuit, or brother, or member of any other such religious order, community, or society as aforesaid, such person shall be deemed and taken to be guilty of a misdemeanour, and being thereof lawfully convicted, shall be sentenced and ordered to be banished from the United Kingdom for the term of his natural life.

XXXVII. Provided always, and be it enacted that nothing herein contained shall extend or be construed to extend in any manner to affect any religious order, community, or establishment consisting of females bound by religious or monastic vows.”

A Crown in Haste.

The Greatest King of Scotland has no proper history written about him. Only an epic poem written decades after he died. This is the bit where he becomes King, but the road from then on was long, and filled with hardship, more some might say than with glory.

“The Lord de Bruce to Glasgow bound. Sent out to all the country round, Calling his followers to his side, A great array, with him to ride. To Scone, where he was crowned in haste And on the throne of Scotland placed, As was the practice in that day. But in this place I shall not say Aught of the pomp and circumstance. Prescribed by ancient ordinance. Or of the lords there, save that they All to King Robert homage pay. From Scone he travelled near and far. To seek friends for the coming war. He knew his work was scarce begun And that, before his realm was won, He must contend in stubborn fight, Against the King of England’s might, One who in fell and ruthless rage Excelled all living in that age. When to King Edward it was told How that the Bruce, who was so bold, First struck Sir John the Comyn dead. Then had the crown placed on his head,”

The Bruce of Bannockburn : being a translation of the greater portion of Barbour’s Bruce.

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