May 15, 1536: Anne Boleyn is found guilty of treason.
Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII’s second wife after Catharine of Aragon and the wife for whom the king broke away from the Catholic Church, was arrested in May of 1536 and charged with adultery, incest, and treason. Her arrest took place only three years after her marriage to Henry, which had so far produced no male heirs and only one healthy child; the king had meanwhile taken Jane Seymour, who was to become his third wife just weeks after Anne Boleyn’s execution, as a mistress. Anne was, according to contemporary accounts, intelligent, witty, and anything but submissive. all traits that Henry found desirable, even exciting, in a mistress, but not in a wife; her confrontational nature combined with her failure to bear male heirs healthy enough to survive past infancy caused their marriage to crumble.
Anne Boleyn’s arrest was based on accusations of her illicit sexual relationships with a court musician, several aristocrats, and Anne’s own brother George; she was charged with both adultery (a form of treason when committed by a queen) and plotting the death of the king (another form of treason). Of her accused lovers, five were found guilty of treason, including George Boleyn, and executed by decapitation on May 17, 1536. Anne was held in the Tower of London and remained there until her own execution on May 19, 1536; her final words were reportedly a prayer:
To Jesus Christ I commend my soul; Lord Jesus receive my soul.
Anne Boleyn was survived by one child, who was the only one of her siblings to survive birth and infancy, who was declared illegitimate and deprived of her birthright not long after her mother’s execution in order to clear the way for her father’s male heirs, and who eventually became one of England’s most famous, most influential monarchs.
April 2, 1513: Juan Ponce de León lands at Florida.
In March of 1513, Juan Ponce de León, the Spanish governor of Puerto Rico, set out with three ships and two hundred men at the urging of Catholic Monarchs. Although there is no (reliable) written evidence that Ponce de León was also encouraged by the king and queen to seek the mythical Fountain of Youth, or that the explorer sought it out himself, it is a widely-held and romantic (though still apocryphal) belief that he set out to find the fountain on the Bahaman island of Bimini and instead discovered Florida. After Ponce de León’s death, the Fountain of Youth legend became inextricably linked to his exploration and to Florida, specifically St. Augustine. Antonio de Herrera y Tordesillas, a historian who was born over two decades after the explorer’s death, mentioned the fountain briefly in his account of the Florida journey:
Having overhauled the vessels, it appearing to Juan Ponce that he had labored much, he resolved, although against his will, to send some one to examine the island of Bimini; for he wished to do it himself, because of the account he had of the wealth of this island, and especially of that particular spring so the Indians said that restores men from aged men to youths, the which he had not been able to find…
Regardless, Ponce de León and his men arrived ashore on April 2, 1513, in a lush and colorful land he called Florida, both for the abundance of vegetation and because it was Easter season (Pascua Florida). Although he and his expedition are credited as the European discoverers of Florida (and namers of the region, of course), they were likely not the first Europeans to set foot there, and of course, the peninsula was home to hundreds of thousands of Native Americans, who were initially friendly toward the Europeans but quickly became involved in violent skirmishes with them. As governor of Puerto Rico, Ponce de León had been complicit, a leading figure, even, in the severe mistreatment and subjugation of the indigenous people of the island, particularly through the use of the encomienda system, and he likely would have subjected the people of Florida (which he had been contractually given to settle and govern) to the same treatment had he not been mortally wounded in a Calusa attack during his first colonization attempt in 1521.
January 16, 1547: Ivan IV Vasilyevich (“Ivan the Terrible”) is crowned Tsar of All the Russias.
Ivan IV was the son of Vasili III, Grand Prince of Moscow, a title he acquired upon his father’s death when he was just three years old. Ivan’s mother served as regent for five years until her own death, and eight-year-old Ivan and his younger brother were left in the care (or rather custody) of the boyars, who mostly neglected the boys and fought among themselves for power (one of the families may have even had a hand in Ivan’s mother’s mysterious death). In 1547, the sixteen-year-old Grand Prince had himself crowned “Tsar of All the Russias”, marking the beginning of the Tsardom of Russia, which lasted until 1721, when it was succeeded by the Russian Empire. The tsar was no mere duke - he was an autocrat granted “by the Grace of God” power equal to the emperors of Rome and Byzantium, as was only fitting for a state whose rulers saw it as the “Third Rome”. Ivan was crowned at the Cathedral of the Dormition in Moscow with the symbolically significant “Golden Cap” - Monomakh’s Cap.
Although granted the sobriquet “Terrible” by English-speakers, Ivan’s Russian nickname, “grozny” means something closer to “fearsome” or “formidable”.
Medusa burgonet, Italy, 1543 (Filippo Negroli)
Favorite Artists - Albrecht Dürer (May 21, 1471 – April 6, 1528)