1520 – Moctezuma II, Tlatoani of the Aztecs, dies

Moctezuma II had the extreme misfortune to be the Tlatoani (ruler or king) of the Aztec Empire at the time when Hernan Cortez and his men landed in Mexico. For a number of reasons – but mostly the technological superiority of the Spaniards – it was under his rule that the Aztec Empire fell to the Spaniards (although Moctezuma and several of his successors were maintained as puppet rulers by the Spanish for a time).

Moctezuma died a broken man, having lost his entire empire in all but name, and fearing for what would become of his people and their culture in the face of the rapacity and missionary fervour of their Spanish conquerors.

Referenced in:

Cortez the Killer — Neil Young

1916 – Roger Casement is sentenced to death for treason

Sir Roger Casement was still a young man when he toured colonial Africa and South America in the early years of the 20th century. His first hand experience of the evils of imperialism and racism radicalized him, and upon his return to his native Ireland, he broke his ties with the British establishment, becoming a founder of the Irish Volunteers, a revolutionary group dedicated to Irish independence.

Upon the outbreak of World War One, Casement attempted to bring his forces in on the German side (with the understanding that Ireland would be granted independence after the British were defeated) but negotiations foundered, although the Germans did agree to supply the Irish rebels with 20,000 rifles. However, the attempt to deliver them was intercepted by the British, and Casement was arrested three days before the Easter Rebellion of 1916, convicted of treason and stripped of his title. He was executed later that year, and his body was not returned to Ireland until 1966, where he was buried in a state funeral with full honours in the Republican section of Glasnevin Cemetery in Dublin.

Referenced in:

Banna Strand — Wolfe Tones

1964 – Eric Dolphy dies

Born in 1928, Eric Allan Dolphy first came to prominence as a member of Miles Davis’ jazz quintet. He played bass clarinet, alto saxophone and flute. In the early Sixties, he became a recognized jazz leader himself. An exponent of free jazz, Dolphy’s improvisational style was so original and avant garde that he frequently transcended the boundaries of that form.

On June 28, he collapsed into a diabetic coma while in Berlin. Despite being rushed to hospital, he died the next day. A journalist once wrote of his music that it was “too out to be in and too in to be out” – a fitting epitath for a man who recognized few limits in his art.

Referenced in:
Woke Up This Morning – Alabama 3

1967 – Jayne Mansfield dies in an automobile accident

Jayne Mansfield was one of the great blonde bombshells so beloved of American cinema in the Fifties and Sixties. Along with Mamie van Doren and Marilyn Monroe, Mansfield defined beauty for a generation of American men. By 1967, Mansfield’s star was in decline. Fashions had changed, and left her somewhat behind. She was still a celebrity, but her days of headlining films were coming to an end.

At approximately two thirty in the morning, the car Mansfield was traveling in rear-ended a truck that braked abruptly. Mansfield, her driver Ronnie Harrison and her lover Sam Brophy, all of whom were sitting in the front seat, were killed almost instantly in the impact as the car went under the rear of the truck. Mansfield’s three children, sitting in the backseat, survived with minor injuries.

Referenced in:
Kiss Them For Me — Siouxsie and the Banshees