May 7, 1915: A German U-boat sinks the RMS Lusitania.
Before Lusitania left New York for Ireland on May 1, 1915, a message from the German Embassy was printed in dozens of American newspapers, warning any who boarded the British liner that they were risking their lives in doing so:
…in accordance with formal notice given by the Imperial German Government, vessels flying the flag of Great Britain, or any of her allies, are liable to destruction in those waters and that travellers sailing in the war zone on the ships of Great Britain or her allies do so at their own risk.
Despite this warning, 1,265 people boarded the ship as passengers, including over a hundred American citizens. Ships sailing through war zones constantly ran the risk of attack, but Lusitania’s voyage (despite some submarine warnings) went fairly smoothly. However, as Lusitania neared the coast of Ireland on May 7, the SM U-20, a U-boat that happened to be in the right place at the right time, fired a single torpedo at the ship. She sunk in only eighteen minutes. Unlike Titanic, Lusitania reportedly had more than enough lifeboats for all its passengers to evacuate to safety - yet 1,195 people died of the 1,959 aboard, including 128 Americans.
The British and Americans were understandably outraged; some condemned the attack as a war crime. German officials countered that the sinking was justified, because Lusitania had (according to their official statement) been carrying “large quantities of war material in her cargo” at the time of her sinking. Stubbornly upstanding President Wilson declared that “there is such a thing as a nation being so right that it does not need to convince others by force that it is right”, affirming his intention to keep his country neutral. Even so, the sinking of Lusitania had permanently turned the opinion of the American public against Germany, although it would take strikes against their own ships to push the United States to enter the war.
April 23, 1775: J.M.W. Turner is born.
This Romantic-era Impressionist forefather, called the “painter of light”, was controversial during his life - he was admittedly talented, yet heavily criticized for what was perceived to be an excessive use of color and haze. Today, he is regarded one of the greatest landscape painters of all time, using pure paint and passion to depict the beauty - and sometimes destructive power - of nature. Turner’s technique and style apparently later influenced many Impressionists, including Claude Monet himself.
(pictured above: a self-portrait of the artist.)
April 16, 1746: The Battle of Culloden is fought.
This momentous battle brought to an end the second and last of the Jacobites’ efforts to restore the British crown to the Scottish House of Stuart. It was fought between British forces under Prince William Augustus, son of George II, and the Jacobites under “the Young Pretender” Charles Edward Stuart, whose own grandfather was the deposed King James II.
“The ‘Forty-five”, or the Jacobite Rebellion of 1745, took place at the same time as a larger pan-European conflict - the War of the Austrian Succession; as Great Britain concentrated its forces across Europe and in India and North America, the Young Pretender took this opportunity to launch an invasion of England, with limited support from France. By late 1745, however, Charles had been pushed back to Scotland, and, on April 16, his army met the superior British forces at the village of Culloden for one final clash.
The untrained Jacobite army, made up largely of (unwilling) clansmen from the Scottish highlands, suffered around 2,000 casualties to William’s 300, and they quickly dispersed after their defeat. With the Stuart cause crushed, Charles fled to France, never to return to Scotland. Following the battle, William made efforts to stamp out Jacobitism and rebellion (his tactics in doing so earned him the sobriquet “Butcher”), while around the same time, Parliament passed two acts that were designed to dismantle the clan system and suppress Gaelic culture and dress.
April 2, 1982: The Falklands War begins.
This war over the sovereignty of the Falkland Islands, an archipelago off the east coast of South America, began when Argentine forces invaded and subsequently occupied the islands. The United Kingdom responded with their own forces within days, and the entire conflict lasted a little over two months, ending in June of 1982. The British prevailed, losing 258 men to an Argentinean loss of 649, but to this day, Argentina claims the islands as its own territory.
Pictured above are two pro-war, propagandistic headlines from both the Argentinean and British sides (the Spanish headline reads “We are Winning”). Plus, BBC reflects upon the 30th anniversary of the conflict.
Cavaliers vs. Roundheads
“Cavalier”, as a term, was probably popularized (with respect to the English Civil War) in the late 1630s or early ’40s, already carrying a derogatory connotation and often appearing alongside the term “Royalist”. The root of the word itself comes from the Latin caballarius - “horseman” - from which chevalier and caballero are also derived. The Cavaliers were probably skilled riders (some of them, anyway), but they are best remembered for their extravagant, elaborate fashion and hairstyles - this, at least, was the image that history has preserved, thanks to artists like Anthony van Dyck. The Parliamentarians and Puritans intended for the word to paint the Royalists as frivolous, dissolute, and hedonistic, though it was eventually rendered obsolete as a political term in the late 1600s, replaced by “Tory”.
“Roundhead” surely was a knock on the short, cropped hairstyles of some of the Puritans, in contrast to the Charles II-style ringlets that were popular with the so-called Cavaliers. According to some sources, this was the case, as an authority describes a crowd in Westminster in 1641:
They had the hair of their heads very few of them longer than their ears, whereupon it came to pass that those who usually with their cries attended at Westminster were by a nickname called Roundheads.
Oliver Cromwell himself wore his hair longer than the typical Roundhead. Like “Cavalier”, the term applied only to a portion of the enemy faction; in this case, only the military and non-Independent Puritans could logically be called “Roundheads”. And, like “Cavalier”, “Roundhead” was succeeded by a different, more modern term - “Whig”.
March 27, 1625: Charles I ascends the throne.
… and thus, the Cavalier Years began. These were the years of plumed hats, Van Dyke beards, the Three Musketeers, the cavalry, swashbuckling, and religious strife. ‘Twas a great time for hair and fashion… but not a great time for the English government’s treasury, which was heavily suffering from a large deficit, or Parliament, which had been dissolved by the king several times during his reign. After eleven years of “Personal Rule” (“Eleven Years’ Tyranny”, to some), Charles I fled London to raise an army, beginning the English Civil War.
In 1649, his son, Charles II, would return with a vengeance, bringing to England an even more frivolous monarchy than the one Oliver Cromwell had crushed.