May 12 Events in History

This article delves into significant historical events that occurred on May 12, providing a chronological overview from medieval engagements to modern technological advancements and global incidents.

It highlights the diverse array of events that have shaped politics, culture, technology, and social structures around the world.

Each event is expanded upon to offer insights into its impact and legacy, ranging from royal marriages and pivotal battles to groundbreaking innovations and pivotal diplomatic visits.

May 12th – On this Day in History

1191 – Richard I of England marries Berengaria of Navarre in Limassol, Cyprus; she is crowned the same day

Richard I, also known as Richard the Lionheart, married Berengaria of Navarre while on the Third Crusade. The wedding took place in Limassol, Cyprus, and on the same day, Berengaria was crowned Queen of England.

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The marriage was strategic, bolstering political alliances, but it is noted that Richard spent very little time with Berengaria. She accompanied him on the Crusades but returned to Europe where she lived mostly in isolation from her husband, who was more engaged in military campaigns and affairs of state.

Richard the Lionheart

1364 – Jagiellonian University, the oldest university in Poland, is founded in Kraków

The Jagiellonian University was founded by Casimir III the Great in Kraków, Poland. It is the oldest university in Poland and one of the oldest in the world. Initially called the Studium Generale, it was established by a royal charter and began with three faculties: Liberal Arts, Medicine, and Law.

The university has grown significantly over the centuries and has been a major center of scientific and cultural growth. Notably, Nicolaus Copernicus was one of its students.

1551 – National University of San Marcos, the oldest university in the Americas, is founded in Lima, Peru

The National University of San Marcos, located in Lima, Peru, was officially established on May 12, 1551, making it the oldest continuously operating university in the Americas. It was founded by Royal Decree issued by Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor and King of Spain.

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The university originally focused on religious studies but expanded into other areas over the centuries. It has played a significant role in the political, scientific, and cultural development of Peru.

1588 – The Spanish Armada, with 130 ships and 30,000 men, sets sail from Lisbon heading to the English Channel (it will prove a disastrous campaign for the Spanish)

The Spanish Armada, also known as the “Invincible Armada,” was a fleet assembled and sent out by King Philip II of Spain in 1588. Its primary mission was to overthrow Protestant England, led by Queen Elizabeth I.

The fleet comprised 130 ships and around 30,000 men. It set sail from Lisbon, but the campaign was disastrous for the Spanish. The Armada faced severe weather and robust resistance from the English fleet, culminating in a significant defeat that diminished Spain’s maritime dominance in the world.

1689 – King William’s War: William III of England joins the League of Augsburg starting a war with France

King William’s War, part of a wider conflict known as the Nine Years’ War, began when William III of England joined the League of Augsburg to oppose France. This conflict, fought in North America, involved French and British colonial forces and their respective Native American allies.

The war reflected the European struggle for power and influence, and in North America, it was characterized by frontier skirmishes and brutal raids. This war set the stage for ongoing French and British hostilities in the region over the next century.

1780 – In the largest defeat of the Continental Army, Charleston, South Carolina is taken by British forces

During the American Revolutionary War, the siege of Charleston marked one of the most significant defeats for the Continental Army. British forces, led by General Sir Henry Clinton, besieged the city beginning in March 1780 and successfully captured it on May 12.

The British took approximately 5,000 prisoners and gained a large amount of arms and ammunition. This victory provided the British with a critical foothold in the southern colonies, enabling further military operations in the region and complicating efforts for American forces.

Florence Nightingale

1820 – Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing, is born in Florence, Italy

Florence Nightingale, born on May 12, 1820, in Florence, Italy, is celebrated as the founder of modern nursing. She came to prominence during the Crimean War, where she managed and trained nurses to care for wounded soldiers. Her approaches to sanitation, hospital statistical records, and nursing care transformed medical practices.

Nightingale’s legacy includes her influence on the development of nursing as a profession, her statistical innovations, and the establishment of training for nurses, which formalized nursing education in the late 19th century.

1863 – The Confederate Army wins the Battle of Raymond, part of the Vicksburg Campaign during the American Civil War

The Battle of Raymond took place during the American Civil War as part of the larger Vicksburg Campaign. On May 12, 1863, Confederate forces under General John Gregg engaged Union troops led by General James B. McPherson near Raymond, Mississippi.

Despite being outnumbered, the Confederate forces held their ground for much of the day but eventually retreated due to overwhelming Union numbers. Although a tactical victory for the Union, the fierce resistance at Raymond slowed their advance, impacting the timeline of the campaign.

1864 – American Civil War: The Battle of Spotsylvania Court House begins

The Battle of Spotsylvania Court House, fought from May 8 to 21, 1864, was part of Ulysses S. Grant’s Overland Campaign during the American Civil War. Intense fighting characterized this two-week battle, including some of the war’s most gruesome combat during the “Bloody Angle,” where prolonged hand-to-hand combat occurred.

The battle was inconclusive, with heavy casualties on both sides, but it demonstrated Grant’s strategy of continual engagement with Confederate forces, aimed at depleting Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia.

1870 – Manitoba becomes a province of Canada

Manitoba was established as a province of Canada on May 12, 1870, after negotiations between the Canadian government and representatives of the Métis people, particularly Louis Riel. This followed the Red River Rebellion, a resistance movement against the Canadian government’s initial attempts to annex the area without proper negotiations or recognition of local rights.

The Manitoba Act, which created the province, was a compromise that allowed for protections of Métis land rights and established Manitoba’s entry into the Canadian Confederation. This act also set a precedent for dealing with subsequent issues and expansions in the western territories of Canada.

1926 – The Italian-built airship Norge becomes the first vessel to fly over the North Pole, commanded by Roald Amundsen

The Norge was the first aircraft to fly over the North Pole and the first to fly from Europe to America over the polar ice. On May 12, 1926, led by famed explorer Roald Amundsen along with Umberto Nobile and Lincoln Ellsworth, the Norge took off from Spitsbergen, Norway, and successfully reached Alaska via the North Pole.

This landmark flight proved that there was no substantial landmass at the North Pole and was significant for aerial exploration, demonstrating the feasibility of air travel in Arctic conditions and paving the way for future polar flights.

1932 – Ten weeks after his abduction, the infant son of Charles Lindbergh is found dead in Hopewell, New Jersey

In one of the most publicized crimes of the 20th century, Charles Lindbergh III, the infant son of aviator Charles Lindbergh, was kidnapped from his family home in New Jersey on March 1, 1932.

After an extensive search and numerous ransom demands, the tragic outcome culminated on May 12, 1932, when the child’s body was discovered nearby the Lindbergh home. The event shocked the world and led to the United States Congress passing the “Lindbergh Law”, which made kidnapping a federal felony.

King George VI

1937 – Coronation of King George VI of the United Kingdom, the father of Queen Elizabeth II

King George VI was crowned at Westminster Abbey on May 12, 1937, following the abdication of his brother, King Edward VIII. George VI’s coronation was a significant event as it marked a restoration of stability to the British monarchy after the constitutional crisis caused by the abdication.

George VI, father of Queen Elizabeth II, would go on to lead the UK through the difficult years of World War II, becoming a symbol of British determination and resilience.

1941 – Konrad Zuse presents the Z3, the world’s first working programmable, fully automatic computer, in Berlin

The Z3, invented by German engineer Konrad Zuse in 1941, was the world’s first working programmable, fully automatic digital computer. Presented on May 12, 1941, in Berlin, the Z3 was based on binary arithmetic and Boolean logic and used telephone switching equipment for its operations.

Although its existence was largely ignored by the wider world at the time, largely due to the ongoing World War II, Zuse’s work laid important foundations for the development of modern computing.

1949 – The Soviet Union lifts its blockade of Berlin

The Berlin Blockade was one of the first major international crises of the Cold War. In June 1948, the Soviet Union blocked the Western Allies’ railway, road, and canal access to the sectors of Berlin under Western control.

The blockade was lifted by the Soviets on May 12, 1949, after the Western Allies organized the Berlin Airlift, supplying food and fuel to Berliners via air routes over the course of almost a year. The blockade’s end was a significant Cold War victory for the West, demonstrating the effectiveness of allied solidarity and the resolve not to abandon Berlin to Soviet control.

1965 – The Soviet spacecraft Luna 5 crashes on the Moon

Luna 5, part of the Soviet Union’s Luna program, was an unmanned space mission aimed at exploring the Moon. Launched on May 9, 1965, its objective was to perform a soft landing on the lunar surface. However, due to a failure in its guidance system, Luna 5 crashed into the Moon on May 12, 1965.

Despite the failure to land softly, the mission provided valuable data about the Moon’s gravitational field and was part of a series of Soviet attempts that culminated in successful soft landings in subsequent missions.

1975 – Mayaguez incident: The Cambodian navy seizes the American merchant ship SS Mayaguez in international waters

The Mayaguez incident was the last official battle of the Vietnam War. The Khmer Rouge, the ruling party in Cambodia, captured the American container ship SS Mayaguez in international waters on May 12, 1975. This led to a prompt military response by the U.S., fearing another Pueblo incident.

The ensuing conflict resulted in the release of the ship and its crew but at the cost of 41 American lives lost during the rescue operation. The incident highlighted the dangers still present in Southeast Asia even after the U.S. had withdrawn from Vietnam.

2002 – Former US President Jimmy Carter arrives in Cuba for a five-day visit with Fidel Castro, becoming the first President of the United States, in or out of office, to visit the island since Castro’s 1959 revolution

Former President Jimmy Carter visited Cuba from May 12 to 17, 2002, making him the first President of the United States, in or out of office, to visit the island since Fidel Castro’s 1959 revolution.

During his visit, Carter met with Fidel Castro and gave a notable speech at the University of Havana, where he advocated for improved human rights and the lifting of the U.S. embargo against Cuba. His visit aimed to foster dialogue and encourage reforms in Cuba, as well as to ease tensions between the two nations.

2008 – A devastating 7.9 magnitude earthquake strikes Sichuan, China, killing an estimated 87,000 people

On May 12, 2008, a massive 7.9 magnitude earthquake hit Sichuan province in China, one of the deadliest earthquakes in recent history. It resulted in the deaths of approximately 87,000 people, with thousands missing and millions left homeless.

The earthquake caused extensive structural damage to buildings and infrastructure, leading to significant humanitarian and economic impacts. The disaster also sparked widespread national and international aid efforts to assist in recovery and rebuilding.

2017 – Ransomware cyberattack WannaCry begins affecting computers worldwide, with more than 200,000 computers in 150 countries affected by the end of the attack

The WannaCry ransomware attack, which started on May 12, 2017, affected over 200,000 computers across 150 countries, causing billions of dollars in damages. The malware targeted computers running the Microsoft Windows operating system by encrypting data and demanding ransom payments in the Bitcoin cryptocurrency.

The attack highlighted significant vulnerabilities in cybersecurity practices and prompted governments and organizations worldwide to rethink their approach to cybersecurity and the importance of regular system updates and patches.