#TodayInHistory – February 74 min read
February 7 – Some important events on this day
1238 👉🏼 The Mongols burn the Russian city of Vladimir
1301 👉🏼 Edward of Caernarion (later Edward II) becomes first (English) Prince of Wales
1783 👉🏼 Great Siege of Gibraltar launched by France and Spain against the British colony during American War of Independence is lifted after 3 years and 7 months.
The longest siege endured by the British Armed Forces and one of the longest sieges in history, the battle at Gibraltar was one part of the American War of Independence. Britain controlled Gibraltar, having seized it from Spain, and both the French and the Spanish saw an opportunity to inflict damage on Britain and recover colonial possessions.
The siege began in 1779 when Spain blockaded the colony, but it failed when British ships were able to get through the lines. A Spanish attempt to attack was defeated by a British assault in 1781, after which the French entered to assist their allies. A final ‘grand assault’ was planned by the French and Spanish, and took place on September 18, 1792, but was a catastrophic failure; 60,000 men could not defeat the 5,000 defenders. Newly invented ‘floating batteries’, a type of ship, were also unable to break the defenders and were sunk.
On this day, the siege was ended after a British convoy was able to slip through the blockade. The victory was decisive for the British, even though the War of Independence was a victory overall for the Americans and their allies.
1839 👉🏼 Henry Clay declares in Senate “I had rather be right than president”
1842 👉🏼 Battle of Debre Tabor: Ras Ali Alula, Regent of the Emperor of Ethiopia defeats warlord Wube Haile Maryam of Semien
1845 👉🏼 The Portland Vase, thought to date to the 1st century BC is shattered into more than 80 pieces by a drunken visitor to the British Museum.
The glass Roman vase, 24.5cm high, was discovered in a funerary monument in Rome in the 16th century. After belonging to several different owners it was acquired in 1784 by the Duchess of Portland, a noted collector of antiquities.
In 1810 the 4th Duke of Portland loaned the vase to the British Museum in London for permanent exhibition, where it was seemingly safe forever.
But neither the duke nor the museum had anticipated what would happen when William Lloyd paid a visit on this day. Apparently he had been drinking for several days and was well intoxicated when he hurled a sculpture at the glass case containing the precious Vase. The guy, who said he was a student at Trinity College, Dublin, was arrested and later appeared in court charged with causing wilful damage. But his lawyers argued that the law under which he was being prosecuted applied only to the destruction of objects worth no more than five pounds.
As a result he was convicted “only” of destroying the glass case and was fined three pounds.
Investigations by the British Museum led, however, to a twist in the story. It was learned that although the vandal had been living in London under the name of William Lloyd, his real name was William Mulcahy. And although, as he claimed, he was a student, he had gone missing some time before from Trinity College.
Fortunately for him, the Duke of Portland decided not to bring a civil action for damages because he did not want Mulcahy’s impoverished family to suffer for “an act of folly or madness which they could not control”.
The British Museum bought the vase outright in 1945. It had been reconstructed in 1845 after the vandalism, but the work was only partly successful.
Another attempt was made in 1948 and a final restoration, using modern techniques, in 1988. The vase, back on display, now shows little sign of the original damage.
1856 👉🏼 Colonial Tasmanian Parliament passes the 1st piece of legislation (the Electoral Act of 1856) anywhere in the world providing for elections by way of a secret ballot
1914 👉🏼 Charlie Chaplin debuts silent film character The Tramp in “Kid Auto Races at Venice”
1979 👉🏼 Pink Floyd premiere their live version of “The Wall” in Los Angeles
1991 👉🏼 The IRA launches a mortar attack on 10 Downing Street during a cabinet meeting.
1992 👉🏼 Maastricht Treaty signed by 12 countries from the European Community (EC) to create the European Union (EU)
2018 👉🏼 All citrus fruit can be traced to the southeast foothills of the Himalayas, according to DNA study published in “Nature”
2019 👉🏼 First reports of poisonous homemade alcohol killing people in the Indian states of Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh, will go on to kill about 100