On 3 April 1895, the trial of Oscar Wilde on charges of libel against the Marquess of Queensberry began. By the end of it, Wilde would be bankrupt and facing charges of sodomy and gross indecency, leading to his eventual imprisonment. Wilde v. Queensberry (yes, Wilde was the prosecution in the case) essentially stemmed from the fact that his boyfriend’s dad didn’t like him. Wilde … Continue reading The Trial of Oscar Wilde
Score one for literary porn! On November 2, 1960 a jury in London found Penguin Books not guilty of obscenity for publishing the full, unedited version of D.H. Lawrence’s novel Lady Chatterley’s Lover. Prior to 1960, the novel was published in a heavily censored version, if it was permitted at all. But by the late 1950’s and early 60’s, notions of concealing potentially offensive materials … Continue reading The Trial of Lady Chatterley
On 1 August 1834, the Slavery Abolition Act passed by Parliament the previous year came into effect, abolishing slavery throughout the British Empire, with the exceptions of the East India Company’s territories and the islands of Ceylon and Saint Helena. The slavery abolition movement really got started in England in 1772, when Lord Mansfield, sitting in judgment in the Somersett’s Case, declared that slavery was … Continue reading Freedom for (Almost) Everyone!
Spencer Perceval is not one of Britain’s better known prime ministers. In fact, he’s really only notable for one reason: the poor man holds the dubious distinction of being the only British prime minister to have been assassinated. He was shot by John Belingham, a failed businessman who was found guilty of the crime and hanged on May 18, 1812. Bellingham, as you might imagine, … Continue reading Lesson Learned: Just Let it Go!
On 16 January 1572, Thomas Howard, 4th Duke of Norfolk and cousin of Queen Elizabeth, went on trial for his part in the Ridolfi Plot, a scheme to overthrow the Queen and replace her with the Catholic Mary, Queen of Scots. Obviously, it did not go well. The plot itself was the handiwork of Roberto di Ridolfi, a banker who apparently had way too much … Continue reading Killing Cousins
It probably wasn’t considered very remarkable that the Marchioness of Queensberry gave birth to her third son on October 22, 1870. But that third boy, Lord Alfred “Bosie” Douglas, would later start a scandalous affair with none other than Oscar Wilde, destroying the career of one of the world’s most famous playwrights. There was something about the Douglas family—misfortune seemed to find them. A decade … Continue reading With a Friend Like This, Who Needs Enemies?
On May 23, 1701, Captain William Kidd was hanged after being convicted of murder and piracy during a sensational trial before the Admiralty. Although he’s gone down in history as a notorious pirate, it’s more likely Kidd was a privateer who wound up being the victim of really bad circumstances. Kidd was born in Scotland but spent most of his life in New York, where … Continue reading Character Assassination