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Rotten History - January 7

On This Day in Rotten History...

In 1131 – (886 years ago) – a Danish prince named Canute Lavard was killed by his cousin Magnus, who viewed him as competition for the Danish throne. Canute was the son and nephew of Danish kings and had been chosen by his uncle, King Niels of Denmark, to establish peace with the Slavic warriors who kept attacking the area of what is now the border between Denmark and Germany. Canute’s success in that assignment made him a contender for kingship, a favorite of the Holy Roman Emperor, and a target of the jealous hatred of Magnus, the son of King Niels. A few years after murdering Canute, Magnus himself would die in battle, still trying to cement his own claim to the throne. Canute, meanwhile, would be canonized as a Roman Catholic saint in 1169.

In 1355 – (662 years ago) – Inês de Castro, the mistress of Crown Prince Pedro of Portugal, was beheaded in front of her own children on orders of Pedro’s father, King Afonso IV. Inês had been a lady-in-waiting to Constança of Castile, Prince Pedro’s lawful wife, whom he had been forced to marry for political reasons. Pedro and Inês became passionate lovers, and after Constança died of childbirth, Pedro went on to have four more children with Inês. But King Afonso still would not let his son marry Inês, since he feared that it would confuse future claims of royal succession, which could escalate into bloody political conflict. Instead, the king sent three courtiers to kill Inês. When the king died two years later, Pedro inherited the throne and had two of the courtiers executed by having their hearts ripped out of their bodies as he watched. Pedro then announced that he and Inês had been secretly married, thus retroactively and posthumously making her queen. On his orders, her body was exhumed, dressed in royal finery, presented to the court, and then given a majestic reburial. In ensuing centuries the story of Inês de Castro would be told in countless works of literature, and would give rise to a conversational expression that persists in Portugal to this day: “Agora é tarde; Inês é morta” — It’s too late, Inês is dead.

In 1948 – (69 years ago) – Captain Thomas Mantell, a twenty-five-year-old Air National Guard pilot and World War II veteran on routine patrol in the skies over Fort Knox, Kentucky, was told to pursue an unidentified flying object that other witnesses later described either as round and white or as having “the appearance of a flaming red cone” in the sky. Mantell put his P-51 Mustang fighter into a steep climb, chasing the UFO until he reached an altitude of twenty-five thousand feet. But his cockpit was not pressurized and he had no oxygen mask, so he lost consciousness as his plane spun out of control and finally crashed. The death of an experienced military pilot in pursuit of a UFO made national headlines, and UFO sightings suddenly became a matter of great public concern. The pop-culture fascination would continue through the 1950s and beyond as commentators speculated about whether UFOs and so-called flying saucers came from Soviet Russia or even from outer space. Meanwhile, Air Force investigators concluded that Mantell’s mysterious object had most likely been a high-altitude balloon from the US Navy’s then-secret Skyhook research program.

Rotten History is written by Renaldo Migaldi

Rotten History


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