1653 — Oliver Cromwell becomes Lord Protector of England

The final resolution of the power vacuum that existed in England after King Charles I was deposed was somewhat inevitable: Oliver Cromwell was always going to wind up at the top of the heap. Lambert’s creation of the Instrument of Government, following the dissolution of the Rump Parliament, and then that of the Barebones Parliament, provided for Oliver Cromwell to be appointed Lord Protector of England for life.

This was kingship in almost every respect: Cromwell would rule until his death, the position would be hereditary, and Cromwell would even wind up dissolving Parliament yet again to put a stop to reforms they wanted that he saw as overly democratic. By the time it ended, with Cromwell’s death in 1658, he was easily as unpopular as Charles had been before him. Some of the smarter Englishmen even realised that the problem with their political system might lie with autocracy in any form rather than monarchy itself.

Referenced in:
Oliver Cromwell — Monty Python

1916 — Rasputin is murdered

Rasputin is one of the legends of the Twentieth Century. He was definitely real, but has been imputed with supernatural powers since at leat 1890. A popular preacher in his native Russia, he came to international prominence in 1905 when he was summoned to the imperial palace to heal Prince Alexei. His success in doing so led to him having great influence over the Tsarina, and, it was rumoured, the Tsar.

There were rumblings against him from quite early on, but they only became truly serious as it became clear that Russia’s involvement in World War One was becoming increasingly disastrous. A group of aristocrats led by Prince Felix Yusupov, were alleged to have poisoned him with a dose of cyanide large enough to kill five people, then shot him in the head. Still not dead, Rasputin attacked Yusupov, and the conspirators clubbed him, tied him up and dumped the body in the Neva river.

It is unclear how much truth there is to this – the poisoning in particular has been disputed. He was definitely shot in the forehead and dumped in the river, and he definitely died. But his death, like his life, remains controversial and disputed.

Referenced in:
Rasputin — Boney M