1725 – Jonathan Wild died. He was perhaps the most infamous criminal of London — and possibly Great Britain — during the 18th century, both because of his own actions and the uses novelists, playwrights, and political satirists made of them.
He invented a scheme which allowed him to run one of the most successful gangs of thieves of the era, all the while appearing to be the nation’s leading policeman. He manipulated the press and the nation’s fears to become the most loved public figure of the 1720s; this love turned to hatred when his villainy was exposed. After his death, he became a symbol of corruption and hypocrisy.
When Wild was taken for execution to the gallows at Tyburn , Daniel Defoe said that the crowd was far larger than any they had seen before and that, instead of any celebration or commiseration with the condemned,
“wherever he came, there was nothing but hollowing and huzzas,
as if it had been upon a triumph.”
Wild’s hanging was a great event, and tickets were sold in advance for the best vantage points. Even in a year with a great many macabre spectacles, Wild drew an especially large and boisterous crowd. The hangman, Richard Arnet, had been a guest at Wild’s wedding.
In the dead of night, Wild’s body was buried in secret at the churchyard of St Pancras Old Church next to Elizabeth Mann, his third wife. His burial was only temporary.
In the 18th century, autopsies and dissections were performed on the most notorious criminals, and consequently Wild’s body was exhumed and sold to the Royal College of Surgeons for dissection. His skeleton remains on public display in the Royal College’s Hunterian Museum in Lincoln’s Inn Fields.
1040 – Harold Harefoot died. King of England from 1035 to 1040. His cognomen “Harefoot” referred to his speed, and the skill of his huntsmanship.
He was the younger son of Cnut the Great, king of England, Denmark, and Norway by his first wife, Ælfgifu of Northampton, although Florence of Worcester (12th century) claimed that Ælfgifu wanted to have a son by the king but was unable to, so she secretly adopted the newborn children of strangers and pretended to have given birth to them. Harold was reportedly the son of a cobbler, while his brother Svein Knutsson was the illegitimate son of a priest. Its probably a myth.
Harold died at Oxford, of “a mysterious illness”, although an Anglo-Saxon charter attributes the illness to divine judgment…not least because he’d alledgedly defrauded some monks out of land that they had their covetous eyes on.
He was buried at Westminster Abbey… for a while. His body was subsequently exhumed, beheaded, and thrown into a fen bordering the Thames when Harthacnut assumed the throne in June 1040.
The body was recovered by a fishermen, and resident Danes reportly had it reburied at their local cemetery in London, before it was eventually buried in a church in the City of Westminster, St. Clement Danes.
A contradictory account in the Knýtlinga saga (13th century) reports Harold buried in the city of Morstr, alongside his half-brother Harthacnut and their father Cnut. While mentioned as a great city in the text, nothing else is known of Morstr.
1478 – George, Duke of Clarence, convicted of treason against his older brother Edward IV of England, was “executed in private” at the Tower of London.
A tradition grew up that he was drowned in a butt of Malmsey wine. This may have originated in a joke, based on his reputation as a heavy drinker. However, a butt was equal to three hogsheads — 477.3 litres (105 imperial gallons) easily enough to drown in.
A body, believed to be that of Clarence, which was later exhumed, showed no indications of beheading, the normal method of execution for those of noble birth at that time.
1930 – Elm Farm Ollie became the first cow to fly in a fixed-wing aircraft, doing so as part of the International Air Exposition in St. Louis, Missouri, United States.
On the same trip, which covered 72 miles in a Ford Trimotor airplane from Bismarck, Missouri to St. Louis, she also became the first cow milked in flight. This was done ostensibly to allow scientists to observe midair effects on animals, as well as for publicity purposes.
1941 – Irma Thomas born. American singer, known as the “Soul Queen of New Orleans“. A contemporary of Aretha Franklin and Etta James, but while never experiencing their level of commercial success, she still has a large cult following among soul aficionados.