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This Day in History - 16th December


1485 The birth of Catherine of Aragon, the first of Henry VIII’s wives. At the age of three, Catherine was betrothed to Prince Arthur, heir to the English throne, and they married in 1501, but Arthur died five months later. Catherine subsequently married Arthur's younger brother, the recently-succeeded Henry VIII, in 1509.She bore him six children but only one survived (Mary I), and Henry divorced her against the Pope’s wishes, in his pursuit for a male heir.

1653 Following the execution of Charles I, Oliver Cromwell failed to get the Parliament he wanted and became Lord Protector, turning himself into an uncrowned king for the next four years. He was buried in Westminster Abbey but after the Royalists returned to power, they had his corpse dug up, hung in chains, and beheaded.


1773 Taxes by Britain on tea and other commodities led Samuel Adams and 150 ‘Sons of Liberty’ disguised as Mohawk Indians to hold what became known as the Boston Tea Party. 342 tea chests worth £18,000 were tossed off Griffin’s Wharf into Boston Harbour. The War of Independence had begun.


1784 The birth at this house in Llanfihangel-y-pennant, near Dolgellau, of Mary Jones. At the age of 15 she walked twenty-six miles barefoot across the countryside to buy a copy of the Welsh Bible from Thomas Charles because she did not have one of her own. The walk inspired the founding of the British and Foreign Bible Society.


1775 The birth of Jane Austen, English novelist whose works of romantic fiction made her one of the most widely read writers in English literature. She was enthralled by Lyme Regis and collated material for her last novel Persuasion which was published posthumously and is said to be the most autobiographical of all her novels.


1882 Sir Jack Hobbs, renowned cricketer and the first of his sport to be knighted, was born. He played for Surrey from 1905 to 1934 and for England in 61 Test matches from 1908 to 1930. Hobbs is widely regarded as cricket's greatest-ever opening batsman and holds world records in first-class cricket for scoring the most runs and the most centuries.


1914 German warships attacked the seaside resort of Scarborough, believing it to be a major British port. Hartlepool and Whitby were also targeted. It was the first successful bombing on British shores for 250 years.


1916, A public display of Baden Powell's new book 'The Wolf Cub's Handbook' was held at Caxton Hall, Westminster, nine years after the foundation of his Boy Scouts Association.


1929 Barnes Wallis saw his R100 airship carry out its first test flight. After departing from Howden in Yorkshire, she flew slowly to York then set course for the Government Airship Establishment at Cardington, Bedfordshire, cruising at around 50 mph on four engines.


1944 The Battle of the Bulge began in the Ardennes. By 21st January, the Germans had been pushed back to their original line, having lost some 120,000 men in the offensive.


1969 MPs voted by a big majority for the permanent abolition of the death penalty for murder.


1977 The Queen unveiled the new underground link from central London to Heathrow; the first from a capital city to its major airport.


1988 Junior Health minister Edwina Currie resigned after her earlier comments (3rd December) when she said that most of Britain's egg production was infected with the salmonella bacteria.


1991 Britain named Stella Rimington as the first woman to head its security service, MI5.


1998 USA & Britain combined bombing attacks on Iraq after UN weapons inspectors were expelled from the country, contrary to assurances given by Saddam Hussein.


2001 Thousands of campaigners took to the streets of Edinburgh to protest against a bill to end hunting with dogs, the uncertain future of rural schools and the handling of the foot and mouth crisis. It was the largest demonstration of its kind ever witnessed in Scotland.


2012 Tour de France and Olympic time trial champion Bradley Wiggins was voted the 2012 BBC Sports Personality of the Year. At the same event Lord Coe, the Olympics 2012 chief, was awarded the BBC Lifetime Achievement Award.


2013 Figures showed that the UK paid more than £27m in aid to China last year. China, which has poured billions into its flagship space programme, has a GDP of £5.2 trillion compared with Britain’s £1.5 trillion.


2013 A Hillsborough pre-inquest hearing was told that a police video of the tragedy had an 'unexplained 10-minute gap in the middle'. New inquests into 96 fans’ deaths would commence in March 2014 and consider the emergency services' response for the first time.


2013 Lloyd’s of London appointed its first female Chief Executive, Inga Beale, who had three decades of international insurance and reinsurance experience.


2014 Bernard Manning, son of the controversial late comedian of the same name, said that he would put the 'World Famous Embassy Club' in Harpurhey, Manchester up for sale. The club was said to have inspired Peter Kay's TV show Phoenix Nights. The club features a mosaic of Mr. Manning senior, in which his ashes are mixed with the grouting.