On this day on 26th September

On this day in 1087 William Rufus was crowned by Lanfranc, the Archbishop of Canterbury. His father William the Conqueror died on 9th September 1087. He was not a popular ruler. According to the historian Frank Barlow: "Monastic writers, although acknowledging some of William's virtues, looked askance at his morals. By associating him with what they considered effeminate fashions in dress and comportment they hinted at his homosexuality. And since he never married and is not known to have had any bastards this has been generally accepted.... Rufus has also been judged not only irreligious but also atheistical, even heretical. Certainly he shared the soldier's disrespect for Christian morality and the clerical life."

Death of William Rufus
Death of William Rufus

On this day in 1580 Frances Drake completed circumnavigation of the world, sailing into Plymouth aboard the Golden Hind. Drake returned to England as a very wealthy man and he was able to purchase the Buckland Abbey estate. In 1581 Queen Elizabeth knighted Drake and later that year he was elected to the House of Commons.

Sir Francis Drake by Nicholas Hilliard (1581)
Sir Francis Drake by Marcus Gheeraerts (1591)

On this day in 1665 the Great Plague was creating serious problems in London. It is estimated that 7,165 people died of the disease in the previous week.

The Great Plague
The Great Plague

On this day in 1789 President George Washington appointed Thomas Jefferson as his Secretary of State and Alexander Hamilton as Treasury Secretary. In the 1800 presidential election Jefferson defeated John Adams. Jefferson appointed his long-term friend, Meriwether Lewis, as his personal secretary. At this time Jefferson read about the adventures of Alexander Mackenzie. In his book, Voyages from Montreal, Mackenzie had described his two expeditions where he had tried to find a navigable route to the Pacific Ocean. For the next few months Jefferson and Lewis discussed the possibility of exploring these unknown lands.

Thomas Jefferson by Rembrandt Peale (1800)
Thomas Jefferson by Rembrandt Peale (1800)

On this day in 1857 Henry Plummer killed John Vedder. Plummer, who had been having an affair with Vedder's wife, was sentenced to 10 years in San Quentin. In May 1863, Plummer was elected sheriff of Bannack . Unknown to the people of Bannack, Plummer was the leader a 100 man gang that were involved in local robberies. The gang wore ties in a special knot to identify fellow members and called themselves as the "Innocents". Crime in the town increased dramatically and in during the first couple of months after he was appointed, more than 100 citizens were murdered. A Vigilante Committee was formed and eventually a member of the Innocents confessed that Plummer was the gang's leader. On 10th January, 1864, Henry Plummer was lynched by the vigilantes.

Sheriff Henry Plummer hanged in the gallows he built (1864)
Sheriff Henry Plummer hanged in the gallows he built (1864)

On this day in 1907 Anthony Blunt was born. In 1934 Arnold Deutsch recruited Blunt as a Soviet agent. He joined a Soviet spy ring that included Kim Philby, Donald Maclean, Guy Burgess, John Cairncross and Michael Straight. Christopher Andrew has argued in his book, The Defence of the Realm: The Authorized History of MI5 (2009): "KGB files credit Deutsch with the recruitment of twenty agents during his time in Britain. The most successful, however, were the Cambridge Five: Philby, Maclean, Burgess, Blunt and Cairncross.... All were committed ideological spies inspired by the myth-image of Stalin's Russia as a worker-peasant state with social justice for all rather than by the reality of a brutal dictatorship with the largest peacetime gulag in European history.... All were rebels against the strict sexual mores as well as the antiquated class system of inter war Britain. Burgess and Blunt were gay and Maclean bisexual at a time when homosexual relations, even between consenting adults, were illegal." In 1964 Blunt admitted being a Soviet agent and named twelve other associates as spies. They were all given immunity from prosecution. It seems you can be a Soviet spy as long as you are a member of the establishment.

Guy Burgess
Anthony Blunt

On this day in 1908 a gang led by Jozef Pilsudski, a member of the People's Will organization, stole 200,000 rubles from a mail train in Bezdany. Pilsudski used this money to build up a new revolutionary army. Roman Dmowski, the main leader of the Polish nationalist movement, believed the best way to achieve a unified and independent Poland, was to support the Triple Entente against the Triple Alliance. Pilsudski disagreed and saw Russia as the main enemy. Pilsudski began building a private army that he hoped would enable Poland to fight for its independence from Russia. In 1914 Pilsudski and his 10,000 men fought with the Austrians against the Russian Army but after the Russian Revolution his loyalty was questioned and he was arrested and imprisoned in July 1917. On his release in 1918 Pilsudski became provisional head of state and leader of all Polish troops. Pilsudski represented Poland at the Versailles Treaty and his army successfully defended Poland against the Red Army (1919-20). During the Russian Civil War Pilsudki's army made considerable gains and the Soviet-Polish Treaty of Riga (1921) left Poland in control of substantial areas of Lithuania, Belorussia and the Ukraine. Pilsudski remained in charge of the army until 1923. After three years retirement, Pilsudski staged a military coup in May 1926. For the next nine years Pilsudski was the virtual dictator of Poland.

Jozef Pilsudski
Jozef Pilsudski

On this day in 1923 Gustav Stresemann, Chancellor of Germany, brings an end to the passive resistance in the Ruhr and resumed payment of reparations. He also tackled the problem of inflation by establishing the Rentenbank. Stresemann was severely criticized by members of the Social Democratic Party and Communist Party over his unwillingness to deal firmly with Adolf Hitler and other Nazi Party leaders after the failure of the Beer Hall Putsch. Later that month the socialists withdrew from Stresemann's government and he was forced to resign as chancellor. In the new government led by Wilhelm Marx, Stresemann was appointed as foreign minister. He accepted the Dawes Plan (1924) as it resulted in the French Army withdrawing from the Ruhr. Under Hans Luther Stresemann's skilled statesmanship led to the Locarno Treaty (December, 1925), the German-Soviet Treaty (April, 1926) and Germany joining the League of Nations in 1926. Later that year he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Gustav Stresemann negotiated the Young Plan but soon after that he suffered two strokes and on 3rd October, 1929 he died of a heart attack.

Gustav Stresemann
Gustav Stresemann

On this day in 1938 Adolf Hitler issues ultimatum to Czech government, demanding Sudentenland. Around 25% of the population was German. After the First World War the Sudetenland (some 11,000 square miles) became part of Czechoslovakia. Benito Mussolini suggested to Hitler that one way of solving this issue was to hold a four-power conference of Germany, Britain, France and Italy. This would exclude both Czechoslovakia and the Soviet Union, and therefore increasing the possibility of reaching an agreement and undermine the solidarity that was developing against Germany. The meeting took place in Munich on 29th September, 1938. Desperate to avoid war, and anxious to avoid an alliance with Joseph Stalin and the Soviet Union, Neville Chamberlain and Edouard Daladier agreed that Germany could have the Sudetenland. In return, Hitler promised not to make any further territorial demands in Europe.

Sudentenland
Sudentenland

On this day in 1939 the Junkers Ju 88 made its first flight. It was the main bombers used by the Luftwaffe during the Battle of Britain and the Blitz. Like other major aircraft used during the Second World War it was constantly being modified. Production continued throughout the war and a total of 16,000 were built by 1945.

Junkers Ju 88
Junkers Ju 88

On this day in 1960 the first TV debate between John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon took place. Howard K. Smith moderated the debate. Nixon refused make-up for the first debate, and as a result his facial stubble showed prominently on the black-and-white TV screens at the time. During the debate, Nixon started sweating under the hot studio lights giving way to visible beads of perspiration. He had chosen a light gray suit which faded into the backdrop of the set and seemed to match his ashen skin tone. One political commentator commented: "My God, they've embalmed him before he even died."

John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon
John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon

On this day in 1960 Cuban leader Fidel Castro delivers a 4 hour and 29 minute long speech at the United Nations. President Dwight Eisenhower responded by approving a Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) plan to overthrow Castro. The plan involved a budget of $13 million to train "a paramilitary force outside Cuba for guerrilla action." The strategy was organised by Richard Bissell and Richard Helms. An estimated 400 CIA officers were employed full-time to carry out what became known as Operation Mongoose. Edward Lansdale became project leader whereas William Harvey became head of what became known as Task Force W. The JM WAVE station served as operational headquarters for Operation Mongoose. Sidney Gottlieb of the CIA Technical Services Division was asked to come up with proposals that would undermine Castro's popularity with the Cuban people. Plans included a scheme to spray a television studio in which he was about to appear with an hallucinogenic drug and contaminating his shoes with thallium which they believed would cause the hair in his beard to fall out. Allen W. Dulles, the director of the CIA initiated talks with two leading figures of the Mafia, Johnny Roselli and Sam Giancana. Later, other crime bosses such as Carlos Marcello, Santos Trafficante and Meyer Lansky became involved in this plot against Castro.

Fidel Castro delivers his speech at the United Nations
Fidel Castro delivers his speech at the United Nations

On this day in 1963 Lee Harvey Oswald travels on Continental Trailways bus to Mexico City where he visited the Cuban Embassy where he attempted to get permission to travel to Cuba. His application was turned down and after trying to get a visa for the Soviet Union he arrived in Dallas in October, 1963. Marina Oswald and their daughter June, were living with a woman called Ruth Paine. Oswald rented a room in Dallas and with the help of Ruth Paine, he found a job at the Texas School Book Depository.

Lee Harvey Oswald, Marina Oswald and their daughter June
Lee Harvey Oswald, Marina Oswald and their daughter June