May 12, 2022

#ThrowbackThursday – 12 May

One by one, we’re good, but together, we’re amazing … and sometimes, that statement rings true. But, as history shows, even though people in vast numbers can do wonderful things, they can achieve the same feats by themselves if they push hard enough for it.

On that note, check out these three events that went down in history on 12 May:

1191 – Berengaria, Queen of the Realm She Never Saw

Eight hundred and thirty-one years ago, a Spanish princess was crowned the queen of England – a country, they say, she never set eyes nor foot on throughout the duration of her tenure.

At 21-years-old, Berengaria of Navarre – the daughter of King Sancho VI the Wise of Navarre and Queen Sancha-Beata of Castile – got married to Richard I, the 32-year-old king of England, in Cyprus. She was simultaneously crowned Queen Consort.

According to historians, there is no record of Berengaria ever visiting England during Richard I’s lifetime: soon after their wedding, she travelled with him during the first part of the Third Crusade of the Holy Land. She would soon travel to and settle down in France, but she saw very little of her husband for the entirety of their marriage.

Rather than letting this get in her way, Berengaria devoted herself to good works in the city of Le Mans, where she was much venerated by religious figures and the poor for her piety. She would die there in 1229, having never seen the land over which she and her husband had ruled.

1789 – The Beginning of the End of Slavery

It’s regarded as one of the best speeches ever to be given in the House of Parliament in the United Kingdom, for it pertains to the abolition of the notorious slave trade. 

William Wilberforce was an English politician who was known by other Members of Parliament for his affability, charm, and the ability to present awe-inspiring speeches; history knows him best for advocating the abolition of the slave trade, which saw enslaved African people being transported across the oceans for the purposes of forced labour and servitude.

Appearing before his fellow MPs, Wilberforce – then 29-years-old, over four months short of his 30th birthday – addressed them with a most vivid speech, in which he presented his findings about the conditions in which slaves were transported and treated by their captors, and he also appealed towards the end of the slave trade.

A newspaper at the time quotes him thus: “As soon as ever I had arrived thus far in my investigation of the slave trade, I confess to you sir, so enormous so dreadful, so irremediable did its wickedness appear that my own mind was completely made up for the abolition.

“A trade founded in iniquity, and carried on as this was, must be abolished, let the policy be what it might – let the consequences be what they would, I from this time determined that I would never rest ‘til I had affected its abolition.”

Powerful words, indeed, and very influential in turning people over to his cause over the next few years.

Although slavery in the United Kingdom would only be abolished in 1807. According to reports, when Wilverforce’s abolition bill was finally passed, his fellow MPs gave him a standing ovation.

1984 – A Long-Awaited Visit

In 1964, Nelson Mandela was sentenced to life imprisonment after he was arrested for leaving the country without a permit and for inciting workers to strike against apartheid laws. Twenty years later on this day, he received his first conjugal visit by his wife, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela.

The visit took place at Pollsmoor Prison in Tokai, Cape Town, where Mandela – along with other political stalwarts such as Walter Sisulu and Ahmed Kathrada among others – had been transferred from Robben Island two years prior.

Madikizela-Mandela – who married Mandela in 1958 – had never been able to make physical contact with her husband in the last 20 years: their visits were usually short (30 minutes at most); they were monitored heavily by police officers; they would be separated either by glass panes or wire mesh; and they could not speak to each other unless they spoke English or Afrikaans instead of isiXhosa.

Here, on this particular day at least, the couple were at last allowed to spend a couple of hours in each other’s company without any panes or mesh to separate them.

So, it seems fitting that Mandela and Madikizela-Mandela famously held each other’s hands on the day that the former walked out of prison in 1990 – truly, a symbol of solidarity and endurance if there ever was one.

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