This Week in History 12th – 18th January.

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12th January 1879:  British – Zulu was begins.

Lieutenant General Fredric Augustus led British troops in the invasion of Zululand.  At first, the British suffered heavy losses, for example at Isandlwana, where 1,300 troops were killed or wounded.  However, the British gained the advantage on March 29 at the battle of Khambula.  Zulu forces were forced to surrender in the following month at Ulundi but they continued to rebel until 1887, when the British formally annexed Zululand.  It was then made a part of British run neighbouring Natal, which would later join the Union of South Africa in 1910.

13th January 1128:  Knights Templar recognised by the Pope.

Pope Honorius II declared the military order, the Knights Templar, an army of God and granted them papal sanction.  Founded in 1118, the Templars, led by Hughes de Payens, saw it as their mission to protect pilgrims going to the Holy Land during the Crusades. They took strict vows of poverty, obedience and chastity, keeping the number of Templars low.  However, it was only individuals who could not amass riches, the order as an institution had no such restrictions and over the years became very wealthy from gifts of land and money from their wealthy supporters. 

By the 14th century, many other religious orders became jealous of the wealth and influence of the Templars and in 1307, King Philip IV of France and Pope Clement V joined forces and conspired to bring down the order, arresting their leaders and getting confessions under torture of heresy, sacrilege and Satanism, dissolving them in 1312.  The Catholic Church today admits the unjust nature of the persecution of the order, claiming Pope Clement was pressured into it by secular leaders.  Many stories have developed around the Templars, such as the belief that they discovered holy relics such as the Ark of the Covenant, and some believe that the surviving members of the order escaped to Scotland and continued their practises and evolved into the secret society known as the Masons.

14th January 1784:  American War for Independence ended.

Britain officially agreed to recognise the independence of the 13 states that made up the United States of America, by signing the second treaty of Paris.  Boundaries were agreed between the remaining British colonies in the North and the US, and all prisoners of war were to be released.  The US was to return land and property, including slaves, which had been confiscated from British people during the war.  Not all promises made in the treaty were honoured in the post war years.  The British failed to abandon their Western forts and debts and properties were often not returned to the British merchants they had been confiscated from. 

15th January 1559:  Elizabeth I crowned Queen of England.

The daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, Elizabeth, was crowned at Westminster Abby, succeeding her half-sister, Mary I, who died two months earlier.  Elizabeth set about undoing many Catholic reforms put in place by Mary and established a permanent Protestant Church of England, a move that made her popular with many of the Lords of England, most of whom were Protestant.  However, her religious tendencies made her many enemies as well, there were several plots against her from her Catholic enemies and the Pope refused to recognise her as the legitimate sovereign of England.  The biggest enemy she faced was Catholic Spain, which was, along with France, one of the super powers of the day. 

Matters came to a head in 1588, when the Spanish Armada set sail to invade England.  A combination of wilful fighting on the part of the British fleet, half of which were merchant and/or pirate ships, half Navy, and some extremely good luck with the weather, led to the defeat of the Armada and a rise in the popularity of the queen amongst her own people.  By the end of her reign, Elizabeth had put England on the map as a world power and is widely considered to be one of its greatest monarchs.

16th January 1919:  Prohibition takes effect.

The 18th amendment to the US constitution banning,  “manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors for beverage purposes,” became law on this day in 1919.  From the 19th century, temperance societies had been trying to ban alcohol over concerns on its adverse affects.  Despite all the effort by authorities to enforce the law, prohibition had the opposite of the desired effect of lowering crime and its underground sale helped organised crime outfits to flourish in the USA.  The prohibition laws were over turned in 1933, with the passing of the 21st amendment.

17th January 1950:  The Great Brinks Robbery.

More than $2 million was stolen by a gang of eleven highly organised thieves from the Brinks Armoured Car depot in Boston Massachusetts.  Seen as almost the perfect crime, the culprits were finally caught only days before the statute of limitations was set to expire on the crime.  The gang, led by life long criminal Tony Pino, had staked the depot out for a year and a half to determine when it was holding the most money.  When the day to put the plan into action came, the gang, wearing blue coats and Halloween masks, surprised and tied up guards and staff.  It took just half an hour for them to take $2.7 million worth of notes, coins, checks and money orders, leaving absolutely no clues as to their identities.  One of the gang, Specs O’Keefe, had to leave his share of the money with another member while he served a prison sentence for another crime and close to the expiry of the statute of limitations, he began to suspect he might be cheated out of his share, so hinted that he might talk.  A hit man was sent to kill him but only managed to wound him, prompting O’Keefe to testify against the others.  Eight members of the gang were arrested and convicted but hardly any of the loot was recovered.

18th January 1919:  Peace conference to end World War One begins.

The negotiations began in Paris, France between world leaders to finally bring an end to ‘the war to end all wars’.  USA President Woodrow Wilson argued for a police of ‘peace without victory’, claiming Germany should not be treated too harshly.  Prime Ministers Georges Clemenceau of France and Lloyd George of Britain, on the other hand, wanted to punish and weaken Germany for the immense cost caused by the war.  Germany was not represented at the conference until May, when a draft of the Versailles Treaty was handed to them.  The treaty was signed exactly five years after the murder of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, which triggered the war and was humiliating to the Germans, in particular Article 231 which forced them to accept full responsibility for the war.   

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