9 December 1835

The Texian Army captures San Antonio, Texas.

Inspired by the spirited leadership of Benjamin Rush Milam, the newly created Texan Army takes possession of the city of San Antonio, an important victory for the Republic of Texas in its war for independence from Mexico.

Milam was born in 1788 in Frankfort, Kentucky. He became a citizen and soldier of Mexico in 1824, when newly independent Mexico was still under a republican constitution. Like many Americans who immigrated to the Mexican state of Texas, Milam found that the government both welcomed and feared the growing numbers of Americans, and treated them with uneven fairness. When Milam heard in 1835 that Santa Ana had overthrown the Mexican republic and established himself as dictator, Milam renounced his Mexican citizenship and joined the rag-tag army of the newly proclaimed independent Republic of Texas.

After helping the Texas Army capture the city of Goliad, Milam went on a reconnaissance mission to the southwest but returned to join the army for its planned attack on San Antonio-only to learn that the generals were postponing the attack on San Antonio for the winter. Aware that Santa Ana’s forces were racing toward Texas to suppress the rebellion, Milam worried that any hesitation would spell the end of the revolution. Milam made an impassioned call for volunteers, asking: “Who will go with old Ben Milam into San Antonio?”

Inspired by Milam’s bold challenge, three hundred men did volunteer, and the Texas Army began its attack on San Antonio at dawn on December 5. By December 9, the defending forces of the Mexican army were badly beaten, and the commanding general surrendered the city. Milam, however, was not there to witness the results of his leadership–he was killed instantly by a sniper bullet on December 7. If Milam had survived, he might well have been among the doomed defenders of the Alamo that were wiped out by Santa Ana’s troops the following March.

8 December 1955

The Flag of Europe is adopted by Council of Europe.

The Flag of Europe, or European Flag is the flag of Europe. It consists of a circle of 12 golden stars on an azure background. It is an official symbol of two separate organizations — the Council of Europe and the European Union — both of which term it the “Flag of Europe” or the “European Flag”. It was first adopted in 1955 by the Council of Europe to represent the European continent as a whole. Due to the subsequent emergence of the EU, the flag is sometimes colloquially known as the “flag of the European Union”, but this term is not official.

The flag was designed in 1955, and officially launched later that year by the Council of Europe as a symbol for the whole of Europe. The Council of Europe urged it to be adopted by other European organisations, and in 1985 the European Economic Community adopted it as its own flag (having had no flag of its own before) at the initiative of the European Parliament.

The flag is not mentioned in the EU’s treaties, its incorporation being dropped along with the European Constitution, but it is formally adopted in law. The Council of Europe has a distinctive “Council of Europe Logo” to uniquely identify the organisation, which employs a lower-case “e” in the centre. The logo is not meant to be a substitute for the flag, which the Council flies in front of and in its headquarters, annexes and field office premises.

Since its adoption by the European Union, it has become broadly associated with the supranational organisation due to its high profile and heavy usage of the emblem. However, the flag is sometimes use in its wider denotation, for example representing Europe in sporting events and as a pro-democracy banner. It has partly inspired other flags, such as those of other European organisations and those of sovereign states where the EU has been heavily involved.

The search for a symbol began in 1950 when a committee was set up in order to look into the question of a European flag. There were numerous proposals but a clear theme for stars and circles emerged. Count Richard Nikolaus von Coudenhove-Kalergi proposed that they adopt the flag of his International Paneuropean Union, which was a blue field, with a red cross inside an orange circle at the centre, which he had himself recently adopted for the European Parliamentary Union. Due to the cross symbolism, this was rejected by Turkey. Kalergi then suggested adding a crescent to the cross design, to overcome the Muslim objections. Another organisation’s flag was the European Movement, which had a large green E on a white background. A further design was one based on the Olympic rings: eight silver rings on a blue background. It was rejected due to the rings’ similarity with “dial”, “chain” and “zeros”. One proposal had a large yellow star on a blue background, but it was rejected due to its similarity with the so-called Burnet flag and the flag of the Belgian Congo.

The Consultative Assembly narrowed their choice to two designs. One was by Salvador de Madariaga, the founder of the College of Europe, who suggested a constellation of stars on a blue background. He had circulated his flag round many European capitals and the concept had found favour. The second was a variant by Arsène Heitz, who worked for the Council’s postal service and had submitted dozens of designs; the design of his that was accepted by the Assembly was similar to Salvador de Madariaga’s, but rather than a constellation, the stars were arranged in a circle. In 1987, Heitz claimed that his inspiration had been the crown of twelve stars of the Woman of the Apocalypse, often found in Marian iconography.

The Consultative Assembly favoured Heitz’s design. However, the flag the Assembly chose had fifteen stars, reflecting the number of states of the Council of Europe. The Consultative Assembly chose this flag and recommended the Council of Europe to adopt it. The Committee of Ministers agreed with the Assembly that the flag should be a circle of stars, but the number was a source of contention. The number twelve was chosen, and Paul M. G. Lévy drew up the exact design of the new flag as it is today. The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe approved it on 25 October 1955. Adopted on 8 December 1955, the flag was unveiled at the Château de la Muette in Paris on 13 December 1955.

7 December 2017

The Marriage Amendment Bill to recognize same sex marriage passes in Australia.

Same-sex marriage has been legal in Australia since 9 December 2017. The legislation to allow same-sex marriage, the Marriage Amendment Act 2017, passed the Australian Parliament on 7 December 2017 and received royal assent from the Governor-General the following day. The law came into effect on 9 December, immediately recognising overseas same-sex marriages. The first same-sex wedding under Australian law was held on 15 December 2017. The passage of the law followed a voluntary postal survey of all Australians, in which 61.6% of respondents supported same-sex marriage.

Other types of recognition for same-sex couples are also available. Under federal law, same-sex couples can also be recognised as de facto relationships, which provide most of the same rights and responsibilities afforded to married couples, although those rights may be difficult to assert and are not always recognised in practice. Although there is no national civil union or relationships register scheme in Australia, most states and territories have legislated for civil unions or domestic partnership registries. Such unions are recognised as de facto relationships under federal law.

Prior to legalisation, 22 same-sex marriage related bills were introduced to Parliament between September 2004 and May 2017, none of which passed into law. These failed attempts came after the Howard Government amended the law in August 2004 to exclude same-sex marriages. The Australian Capital Territory passed a same-sex marriage law in December 2013, though this was struck down by the High Court on the grounds that such a law could only be introduced by the Commonwealth.

De facto relationships, defined in the federal Family Law Act 1975, are available to both same-sex and opposite-sex couples. De facto relationships provide couples who are living together on a genuine domestic basis with many of the same rights and benefits as married couples. Two people can become a de facto couple by entering into a registered relationship or by being assessed as such by the Family Court or Federal Circuit Court. Couples who are living together are generally recognised as a de facto relationship and thus able to claim many of the rights and benefits of a married couple, even if they have not registered or officially documented their relationship.

6 December 1971

Pakistan cuts off diplomatic relations with India, initiating the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971.

The Indo-Pakistani War of 1971 was a military confrontation between India and Pakistan that occurred during the liberation war in East Pakistan from 3 December 1971 to the fall of Dacca on 16 December 1971. The war began with preemptive aerial strikes on 11 Indian air stations, which led to the commencement of hostilities with Pakistan and Indian entry into the war of independence in East Pakistan on the side of Bengali nationalist forces. Lasting just 13 days, it is one of the shortest wars in history.

During the war, Indian and Pakistani militaries simultaneously clashed on the eastern and western fronts; the war ended after the Eastern Command of the Pakistan military signed the Instrument of Surrender on 16 December 1971 in Dhaka, marking the formation of East Pakistan as the new nation of Bangladesh. Officially, East Pakistan had earlier called for its secession from the unity of Pakistan on 26 March 1971. Approximately 90,000 to 93,000 Pakistani servicemen were taken prisoner by the Indian Army, which included 79,676 to 81,000 uniformed personnel of the Pakistan Armed Forces, including some Bengali soldiers who had remained loyal to Pakistan. The remaining 10,324 to 12,500 prisoners were civilians, either family members of the military personnel or collaborators. It is estimated that between 300,000 and 3,000,000 civilians were killed in Bangladesh. As a result of the conflict, a further eight to ten million people fled the country to seek refuge in India.

During the 1971 Bangladesh war for independence, members of the Pakistani military and supporting Islamist militias called the Razakars raped between 200,000 and 400,000 Bangladeshi women and girls in a systematic campaign of genocidal rape.

Unlike the 1965 war, the Navy NHQ staffers and commanders of the Pakistan Navy knew very well that the Navy was ill-prepared for the naval conflict with India. The Pakistan Navy was in no condition of fighting an offensive war in deep sea against the Indian Navy, and neither was it in a condition to mount serious defence against Indian Navy’s seaborne encroachment.

In the western theatre of the war, the Indian Navy’s Western Naval Command under Vice Admiral S.N. Kohli, successfully launched a surprise attack on Karachi port on the night of 4/5 December 1971 under the codename Trident. The naval attack involving the Soviet-built Osa missile boats sank the Pakistan Navy’s destroyer PNS Khaibar and minesweeper PNS Muhafiz while PNS Shah Jahan was also badly damaged. Pakistani naval sources reported that about 720 Pakistani sailors were killed or wounded, and Pakistan lost reserve fuel and many commercial ships, thus crippling the Pakistan Navy’s further involvement in the conflict. In retaliation, the Pakistan Navy submarines, Hangor, Mangro, and Shushuk, began their operations to seek out the major Indian warships. On 9 December 1971, Hangor sank INS Khukri, inflicting 194 Indian casualties, and this attack was the first submarine kill since World War II.

The sinking of INS Khukri was followed by another Indian attack on Karachi port on the night of 8/9 December 1971 under the codename Python. A squadron of Indian Navy’s Osa missile boats approached the Karachi port and launched a series of Soviet-acquired Styx missiles, that resulted in further destruction of reserve fuel tanks and the sinking of three Pakistani merchant ships, as well as foreign ships docked in Karachi. The Pakistan Air Force did not attack the Indian Navy ships, and confusion remained the next day when the civilian pilots of Pakistan International, acting as reconnaissance war pilots, misidentified PNS Zulfiqar and the air force attacked its own warship, inflicting major damages and killing several officers on board.

In the eastern theatre of the war, the Indian Eastern Naval Command, under Vice Admiral Nilakanta Krishnan, completely isolated East Pakistan by a naval blockade in the Bay of Bengal, trapping the Eastern Pakistan Navy and eight foreign merchant ships in their ports. From 4 December onwards, the aircraft carrier INS Vikrant was deployed, and its Sea Hawk fighter-bombers attacked many coastal towns in East Pakistan, including Chittagong and Cox’s Bazar. Pakistan countered the threat by sending the submarine PNS Ghazi, which sank en route under mysterious circumstances off Visakhapatnam’s coast.

Due to high number of defections, the Navy relied on deploying the Pakistan Marines – led by Rear Admiral Leslie Mungavin – where they had to conduct riverine operations against the Indian Army, but they too suffered major losses, mainly due to their lack of understanding of expeditionary warfare and the wet terrain of East Pakistan.

5 December 1847

Jefferson Davis is elected to the US Senate.

Jefferson Finis Davis June 3, 1808 – December 6, 1889 was an American politician who served as the only President of the Confederate States from 1861 to 1865. As a member of the Democratic Party, he represented Mississippi in the United States Senateand the House of Representatives prior to switching allegiance to the Confederacy. He was appointed as the United States Secretary of War, serving from 1853 to 1857, under President Franklin Pierce.

Davis was born in Fairview, Kentucky, to a moderately prosperous farmer, the youngest of ten children. He grew up in Wilkinson County, Mississippi, and also lived in Louisiana. His eldest brother Joseph Emory Davis secured the younger Davis’s appointment to the United States Military Academy. After graduating, Jefferson Davis served six years as a lieutenant in the United States Army. He fought in the Mexican–American War , as the colonel of a volunteer regiment. Before the American Civil War, he operated a large cotton plantation in Mississippi, which his brother Joseph gave him, and owned as many as 74 slaves.  Although Davis argued against secession in 1858, he believed that states had an unquestionable right to leave the Union.

Davis married Sarah Knox Taylor in 1835, when he was 27 years old. They were both stricken with malaria soon thereafter, and Sarah died after three months of marriage. Davis recovered slowly and suffered from recurring bouts of the disease throughout his life. At the age of 36, Davis married again, to 18-year-old Varina Howell, a native of Natchez, Mississippi, who had been educated in Philadelphia and had some family ties in the North. They had six children. Only two survived him, and only one married and had children.

Honoring Davis’s war service, Governor Albert G. Brown of Mississippi appointed him to the vacant position of United States Senator Jesse Speight, a Democrat, who had died on May 1, 1847. Davis, also a Democrat, took his temporary seat on December 5, and in January 1848 he was elected by the state legislature to serve the remaining two years of the term. In December, during the 30th United States Congress, Davis was made a regent of the Smithsonian Institution and began serving on the Committee on Military Affairs and the Library Committee.

In 1848, Senator Davis proposed and introduced an amendment to the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo that would have annexed most of northeastern Mexico, but it failed on a vote of 11 to 44. Southerners wanted to increase territory held in Mexico as an area for the expansion of slavery. Regarding Cuba, Davis declared that it “must be ours” to “increase the number of slaveholding constituencies.” He also was concerned about the security implications of a Spanish holding lying relatively close to the coast of Florida.

A group of Cuban revolutionaries led by Venezuelan adventurer Narciso López intended to liberate Cuba from Spanish rule by the sword. Searching for a military leader for a filibuster expedition, they first offered command of the Cuban forces to General William J. Worth, but he died before making his decision. In the summer of 1849, López visited Davis and asked him to lead the expedition. He offered an immediate payment of $100,000, plus the same amount when Cuba was liberated. Davis turned down the offer, stating that it was inconsistent with his duty as a senator. When asked to recommend someone else, Davis suggested Robert E. Lee, then an army major in Baltimore; López approached Lee, who also declined on the grounds of his duty.

The Senate made Davis chairman of the Committee on Military Affairs on December 3, 1849, during the first session of the 31st United States Congress. On December 29 he was elected to a full six-year term. Davis had not served a year when he resigned to run for the governorship of Mississippi on the issue of the Compromise of 1850, which he opposed. He was defeated by fellow Senator Henry Stuart Foote by 999 votes. Left without political office, Davis continued his political activity. He took part in a convention on states’ rights, held at Jackson, Mississippi, in January 1852. In the weeks leading up to the presidential election of 1852, he campaigned in numerous Southern states for Democratic candidates Franklin Pierce and William R. King.

4 December 1881

The Los Angeles Times is first published.

The Los Angeles Times is a daily newspaper which has been published in Los Angeles, California, since 1881. It has the fourth-largest circulation among United States newspapers, and is the largest U.S. newspaper not headquartered on the east coast. The paper is known for its coverage of issues particularly salient to the U.S. west coast, such as immigration trends and natural disasters. It has won more than 40 Pulitzer Prizes for its coverage of these and other issues. As of June 18, 2018, ownership of the paper is controlled by Patrick Soon-Shiong, and the executive editor is Norman Pearlstine.

In the nineteenth century, the paper was known for its civic boosterism and opposition to unions, the latter of which led to the bombing of its headquarters in 1910. The paper’s profile grew substantially in the 1960s under publisher Otis Chandler, who adopted a more national focus. In recent decades, the paper’s readership has declined and it has been beset by a series of ownership changes, staff reductions, and other controversies. In January 2018, the paper’s staff voted to unionize, and in July 2018 the paper moved out of its historic downtown headquarters to a facility near Los Angeles International Airport.

The Times was first published on December 4, 1881, as the Los Angeles Daily Times under the direction of Nathan Cole Jr. and Thomas Gardiner. It was first printed at the Mirror printing plant, owned by Jesse Yarnell and T.J. Caystile. Unable to pay the printing bill, Cole and Gardiner turned the paper over to the Mirror Company. In the meantime, S. J. Mathes had joined the firm, and it was at his insistence that the Times continued publication. In July 1882, Harrison Gray Otis moved from Santa Barbara to become the paper’s editor. Otis made the Times a financial success.

Historian Kevin Starr wrote that Otis was a businessman “capable of manipulating the entire apparatus of politics and public opinion for his own enrichment”. Otis’s editorial policy was based on civic boosterism, extolling the virtues of Los Angeles and promoting its growth. Toward those ends, the paper supported efforts to expand the city’s water supply by acquiring the rights to the water supply of the distant Owens Valley.

The efforts of the Times to fight local unions led to the October 1, 1910 bombing of its headquarters, killing twenty-one people. Two union leaders, James and Joseph McNamara, were charged. The American Federation of Labor hired noted trial attorney Clarence Darrow to represent the brothers, who eventually pleaded guilty.

Otis fastened a bronze eagle on top of a high frieze of the new Times headquarters building designed by Gordon Kaufmann, proclaiming anew the credo written by his wife, Eliza: “Stand Fast, Stand Firm, Stand Sure, Stand True.

3 December 1979

Ruhollah Khomeini becomes the first Supreme Leader of Iran.

Sayyid Ruhollah M?savi Khomeini 24 September 1902 – 3 June 1989, known in the Western world as Ayatollah Khomeini, was an Iranian politician and marja. He was the founder of the Islamic republic of Iran and the leader of the 1979 Iranian Revolution that saw the overthrow of the last Shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, and the end of 2,500 years of Persian monarchy. Following the revolution, Khomeini became the country’s Supreme Leader, a position created in the constitution of the Islamic Republic as the highest-ranking political and religious authority of the nation, which he held until his death. He was succeeded by Ali Khamenei on 4 June 1989.

Khomeini was born in 1902 in Khomeyn, in what is now Iran’s Markazi Province. His father was murdered in 1903 when Khomeini was six months old. He began studying the Quran and the Persian language from a young age and was assisted in his religious studies by his relatives, including his mother’s cousin and older brother.

Khomeini was a marja in Twelver Shia Islam, a Mujtahid or faqih and author of more than 40 books, but he is primarily known for his political activities. He spent more than 15 years in exile for his opposition to the last Shah. In his writings and preachings he expanded the theory of welayat-el faqih, the “Guardianship of the Islamic Jurist”, to include theocratic political rule by Islamic jurists. This principle was appended to the new Iranian constitution after being put to a referendum. According to The New York Times, Khomeini called democracy the equivalent of prostitution. Whether Khomeini’s ideas are compatible with democracy and whether he intended the Islamic Republic to be democratic is disputed. He was Time magazine’s Man of the Year in 1979 for his international influence, and Khomeini has been described as the “virtual face of Shia Islam in Western popular culture”. In 1982, he survived one military coup attempt. Khomeini was known for his support of the hostage takers during the Iran hostage crisis, his fatwa calling for the murder of British Indian novelist Salman Rushdie, and for referring to the United States as the “Great Satan” and Soviet Union as the “Lesser Satan.” Khomeini has been criticized for these acts and for human rights violations of Iranians.

He has also been lauded as a “charismatic leader of immense popularity”, a “champion of Islamic revival” by Shia scholars, who attempted to establish good relations between Sunnis and Shias, and a major innovator in political theory and religious-oriented populist political strategy. Khomeini held the title of Grand Ayatollah and is officially known as Imam Khomeini inside Iran and by his supporters internationally. He is generally referred to as Ayatollah Khomeini by others. In Iran, his gold-domed tomb in Tehr?n’s Behesht-e Zahr?? cemetery has become a shrine for his adherents, and he is legally considered “inviolable”, with Iranians regularly punished for insulting him.

In March 1979, shortly after Ruhollah Khomeini’s return from exile and the overthrow of Iran’s monarchy, a national referendum was held throughout Iran with the question “Islamic Republic, yes or no?”. Although some groups objected to the wording and choice and boycotted the referendum, 98% of those voting voted “yes”. Following this landslide victory, the constitution of Iran of 1906 was declared invalid and a new constitution for an Islamic state was created and ratified by referendum during the first week of December in 1979. According to Francis Fukuyama, the 1979 constitution is a “hybrid” of “theocratic and democratic elements” with much of it based on the ideas Khomeini presented in his work Islamic Government: Governance of the Jurist. In the work, Khomeini argued that government must be run in accordance with traditional Islamic sharia, and for this to happen a leading Islamic jurist must provide political “guardianship” over the people. The leading jurist were known as Marja’.

The Constitution stresses the importance of the clergy in government, with Article 4 stating that

“all civil, criminal, financial, economic, administrative, cultural, military, political, and all other statutes and regulations be keeping with Islamic measures;…the Islamic legal scholars of the watch council will keep watch over this.”

and the importance of the Supreme Leader. Article 5 states

“during the absence of the removed Twelfth Imam government and leadership of the community in the Islamic Republic of Iran belong to the rightful God fearing… legal scholar who is recognized and acknowledged as the Islamic leader by the majority of the population.”

Article 107 in the constitution mentions Imam Khomeini by name and praises him as the most learned and talented leader for emulation. The responsibilities of the Supreme Leader are vaguely stated in the constitution, thus any ‘violation’ by the Supreme Leader would be dismissed almost immediately. As the rest of the clergy governed affairs on a daily basis, the Supreme Leader is capable of mandating a new decision as per the concept of Vilayat-e Faqih.

2 December 1908

Puyi becomes Emperor of China at the age of two.

Chosen by Empress Dowager Cixi on her deathbed, Puyi became emperor at the age of 2 years and 10 months in December 1908 after the Guangxu Emperor died on 14 November. Titled the Xuantong Emperor, Puyi’s introduction to the life of an emperor began when palace officials arrived at his family residence to take him. On the evening of 13 November 1908, without any advance notice, a procession of eunuchs and guardsmen led by the palace chamberlain left the Forbidden City for the Northern Mansion to inform Prince Chun that they were taking away his three-year-old son Puyi to be the new emperor. The toddler Puyi screamed and resisted as the officials ordered the eunuch attendants to pick him up. Puyi’s parents said nothing when they learned that they were losing their son. As Puyi cried, screaming that he did not want to leave his parents, he was forced into a palanquin that took him back to the Forbidden City. Puyi’s wet nurse Wang Wen-Chao was the only person from the Northern Mansion allowed to go with him, and she calmed the very distraught Puyi down by allowing him to suckle one of her breasts; this was the only reason she was taken along. Upon arriving at the Forbidden City, Puyi was taken to see Cixi. Puyi later wrote:

I still have a dim recollection of this meeting, the shock of which left a deep impression on my memory. I remember suddenly finding myself surrounded by strangers, while before me was hung a drab curtain through which I could see an emaciated and terrifying hideous face. This was Cixi. It is said that I burst out into loud howls at the sight and started to tremble uncontrollably. Cixi told someone to give me some sweets, but I threw them on the floor and yelled “I want nanny, I want nanny”, to her great displeasure. “What a naughty child” she said. “Take him away to play.”

His father, Prince Chun, became Prince Regent. During Puyi’s coronation in the Hall of Supreme Harmony on 2 December 1908, the young emperor was carried onto the Dragon Throne by his father. Puyi was frightened by the scene before him and the deafening sounds of ceremonial drums and music, and started crying. His father could do nothing except quietly comfort him: “Don’t cry, it’ll be over soon.”

Puyi did not see his biological mother, Princess Consort Chun, for the next seven years. He developed a special bond with his wet nurse, Wen-Chao Wang, and credited her as the only person who could control him. She was sent away when he was eight years old. After Puyi married, he would occasionally bring her to the Forbidden City, and later Manchukuo, to visit him. After his special government pardon in 1959, he visited her adopted son and only then learned of her personal sacrifices to be his nurse.

Puyi’s upbringing was hardly conducive to the raising of a healthy, well-balanced child. Overnight, he was treated as an emperor and unable to behave as a child. The adults in his life, except for Wang Wen-Chao, were all strangers, remote, distant, and unable to discipline him. Wherever he went, grown men would kneel down in a ritual kowtow, averting their eyes until he passed. Soon he discovered the absolute power he wielded over the eunuchs, and he frequently had them beaten for small transgressions. As an emperor, Puyi’s every whim was catered to while no one ever said no to him, making him into a sadistic boy who loved to have his eunuchs flogged. The Anglo-French journalist Edward Behr wrote about Puyi’s powers as emperor of China, which allowed him to fire his air-gun at anyone he liked:

The Emperor was Divine. He could not be remonstrated with, or punished. He could only be deferentially advised against ill-treating innocent eunuchs, and if he chose to fire air-gun pellets at them, that was his prerogative.

—?Edward Behr
Puyi later said, “Flogging eunuchs was part of my daily routine. My cruelty and love of wielding power were already too firmly set for persuasion to have any effect on me.” The British historian Alex von Tunzelmann wrote that most people in the West know Puyi’s story only from the 1987 film The Last Emperor, which downplays Puyi’s cruelty considerably.

By age 7, Puyi had two sides to his personality: the sadistic emperor who loved to have his eunuchs flogged, expected everyone to kowtow to him and enjoyed puppet shows and dog fights, and the boy who slept at night with Wang, suckling her breasts and content to be loved for just once in the day. Wang was the only person capable of controlling Puyi; once, Puyi decided to “reward” a eunuch for a well done puppet show by having a cake baked for him with iron filings in it, saying, “I want to see what he looks like when he eats it”. With much difficulty, Wang talked Puyi out of this plan.

Every day Puyi had to visit five former imperial concubines, called his “mothers”, to report on his progress. He hated his “mothers”, not least because they prevented him from seeing his real mother until he was 13. Their leader was the autocratic Empress Dowager Longyu, who successfully conspired to have Puyi’s beloved wet nurse Wang expelled from the Forbidden City when he was 8 on the grounds that Puyi was too old to be breast-fed. Puyi especially hated Longyu for that. Puyi later wrote, “Although I had many mothers, I never knew any motherly love.”

Puyi noted that to travel from just one building to another in the Forbidden City or for a stroll in the gardens, he was always surrounded by “large retinue” of eunuchs and that:

In front went an eunuch whose function was roughly that of a motor horn; he walked twenty or thirty yards ahead of the party intoning the sound ‘… chir … chir …’ as a warning to anyone who might be waiting in the vicinity to go away at once. Next came two Chief Eunuchs advancing crabwise on either side of the path; ten paces behind them came the centre of the procession. If I was being carried in a chair there would be two junior eunuchs walking beside me to attend to my wants at any moment; if I was walking they would be supporting me. Next came an eunuch with a large silk canopy followed by a large group of eunuchs, some empty-handed, others holding all sorts of things: a seat in case I wanted to rest, changes of clothing, umbrellas and parasols. After these eunuchs of the Imperial Presence came eunuchs of the Imperial tea bureau with boxes of various kinds of cakes and delicacies … They were followed by eunuchs of the Imperial dispensary … at the end of the procession came the eunuchs who carried commodes and chamberpots. If I was walking, a sedan-chair, open or covered according to the season, would bring up the rear. This motley procession of several dozen people would proceed in perfect silence and order.

Puyi never had any privacy and had all his needs attended to at all times, having eunuchs open doors for him, dress him, wash him, and even blow air into his soup to cool it. Puyi delighted in humiliating his eunuchs, at one point saying that as the “Lord of Ten Thousand Years” it was his right to order a eunuch to eat dirt: “‘Eat that for me’ I ordered, and he knelt down and ate it”. At his meals, Puyi was always presented with a huge buffet containing every conceivable dish, the vast majority of which he did not eat, and every day he wore new clothing as Chinese emperors never reused their clothing. The eunuchs had their own reasons for presenting Puyi with buffet meals and new clothing every day, as Puyi’s used clothes made from the finest silk were sold on the black market, while the food he did not eat was either sold or eaten by the eunuchs themselves.

Puyi had a standard Confucian education, being taught the various Confucian classics and nothing else. He later wrote: “I learnt nothing of mathematics, let alone science, and for a long time I had no idea where Beijing was situated” When Puyi was 13, he met his parents and siblings, all of whom had to kowtow before him as he sat upon the Dragon Throne. By this time, he had forgotten what his mother looked like. Such was the awe in which the Emperor was held that his younger brother Pujie never heard his parents refer to Puyi as “your elder brother” but only as the Emperor. Pujie told Behr his image of Puyi prior to meeting him was that of “a venerable old man with a beard. I couldn’t believe it when I saw this boy in yellow robes sitting solemnly on the throne”. It was decided that Pujie would join Puyi in the Forbidden City to provide him with a playmate, but Puyi was notably angry when he discovered his brother was wearing yellow – the color of the Qing – as he believed that only Emperors had the right to wear yellow, and it had to be explained to him that all members of the Qing family could.

1 December 1822

Peter I is crowned Emperor of Brazil.

English: Peter I; 12 October 1798 – 24 September 1834, nicknamed “the Liberator”, was the founder and first ruler of the Empire of Brazil. As King Dom Pedro IV, he reigned briefly over Portugal, where he also became known as “the Liberator” as well as “the Soldier King”. Born in Lisbon, Pedro I was the fourth child of King Dom João VI of Portugal and Queen Carlota Joaquina, and thus a member of the House of Braganza. When their country was invaded by French troops in 1807, he and his family fled to Portugal’s largest and wealthiest colony, Brazil.

The outbreak of the Liberal Revolution of 1820 in Lisbon compelled Pedro I’s father to return to Portugal in April 1821, leaving him to rule Brazil as regent. He had to deal with threats from revolutionaries and insubordination by Portuguese troops, all of which he subdued. The Portuguese government’s threat to revoke the political autonomy that Brazil had enjoyed since 1808 was met with widespread discontent in Brazil. Pedro I chose the Brazilian side and declared Brazil’s independence from Portugal on 7 September 1822. On 12 October, he was acclaimed Brazilian emperor and by March 1824 had defeated all armies loyal to Portugal. A few months later, Pedro I crushed the short-lived Confederation of the Equator, a failed secession attempt by provincial rebels in Brazil’s northeast.

A secessionist rebellion in the southern province of Cisplatina in early 1825, and the subsequent attempt by the United Provinces of the Río de la Plata to annex it, led the Empire into the Cisplatine War. In March 1826, Pedro I briefly became king of Portugal before abdicating in favor of his eldest daughter, Dona Maria II. The situation worsened in 1828 when the war in the south resulted in Brazil’s loss of Cisplatina. During the same year in Lisbon, Maria II’s throne was usurped by Prince Dom Miguel, Pedro I’s younger brother. The Emperor’s concurrent and scandalous sexual affair with a female courtier tarnished his reputation. Other difficulties arose in the Brazilian parliament, where a struggle over whether the government would be chosen by the monarch or by the legislature dominated political debates from 1826 to 1831. Unable to deal with problems in both Brazil and Portugal simultaneously, on 7 April 1831 Pedro I abdicated in favor of his son Dom Pedro II, and sailed for Europe.

Pedro I invaded Portugal at the head of an army in July 1832. Faced at first with what seemed a national civil war, he soon became involved in a wider conflict that enveloped the Iberian Peninsula in a struggle between proponents of liberalism and those seeking a return to absolutism. Pedro I died of tuberculosis on 24 September 1834, just a few months after he and the liberals had emerged victorious. He was hailed by both contemporaries and posterity as a key figure who helped spread the liberal ideals that allowed Brazil and Portugal to move from Absolutist regimes to representative forms of government.

The people of Brazil, who had enjoyed the privilege of being the seat of royal authority, did not take well to returning to colony status. Pedro took his father’s advice, and that of his wife, who wrote to him: “The apple is ripe: pick it now, or it will rot.” Pedro dramatically declared independence on September 7, 1822 in the city of São Paulo. He was crowned Emperor of Brazil on December 1, 1822. Independence was achieved with very little bloodshed: some Portuguese loyalists fought in isolated locations, but by 1824 all of Brazil was unified with relatively little violence. In this, Scottish Admiral Lord Thomas Cochrane was invaluable: with a very small Brazilian fleet he drove the Portuguese out of Brazilian waters with a combination of muscle and bluff. Pedro proved himself skillful in dealing with rebels and dissidents. By 1824 Brazil had its own constitution and its independence was recognized by the USA and Great Britain. On August 25, 1825, Portugal formally recognized Brazil’s independence: it helped that João was King of Portugal at the time.

30 November 1936

The Crystal Palace in London is destroyed by fire.

On November 30, 1936, the Crystal Palace, an iconic structure which had come to epitomise the pomp of the Victorian era, was destroyed by one of the greatest fires ever seen in London.

The 990,000 square foot cast iron and plate glass building was constructed in Hyde Park for the Great Exhibition in 1851, at the behest of the Queen’s husband Prince Albert. In 1854 it was redesigned and reconstructed on Penge Common, by Sydenham Hill in South East London.

At just after 7pm on the evening of November 30 the Palace’s manager, Sir Henry Buckland, was walking in the grounds of the building when he saw a red glow emanating from it. He found two nightwatchmen trying to douse a fire that had begun in the women’s cloakroom and spread to the central transept.

The blaze took hold with alarming speed as the flames, helped by a strong wind, swept across the Palace’s acres of timber flooring, up into galleries and along glazing bars. The Penge Fire Brigade was not called until nearly 8pm; by that time, the building was an inferno.