May 19 Events in History

This article provides a detailed exploration of significant historical events that occurred on May 19th, arranged chronologically.

From the execution of Anne Boleyn in 1536 to the union of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle in 2018, this journey through time offers insights into the forces that have driven change across centuries.

May 19th – On this Day in History

1536 – Anne Boleyn, the second wife of King Henry VIII of England, is beheaded at the Tower of London on charges of treason, adultery, and incest

Anne Boleyn, the second wife of King Henry VIII of England, was executed on May 19, 1536. She was arrested on charges of treason, adultery, and incest, which were likely fabricated by her political enemies and possibly sanctioned by the King himself who was eager to remarry.

Also Read: May 18 Events in History

Anne was tried and found guilty, and her execution marked a pivotal moment in English history, leading to significant religious and political upheavals as Henry continued his pursuit of a male heir, which influenced the English Reformation and the subsequent establishment of the Church of England.

Mary Queen of Scots

1568 – Queen Elizabeth I of England orders the arrest of Mary, Queen of Scots

On May 19, 1568, Mary, Queen of Scots was arrested and imprisoned by Queen Elizabeth I of England.

This event escalated from Mary’s tumultuous reign in Scotland, which ended with her forced abdication and flight to England seeking Elizabeth’s protection.

Also Read: May 20th – On this Day in History

Instead of aid, she found imprisonment, as Elizabeth viewed her as a political threat and a rallying point for Catholic opposition.

Mary’s imprisonment in England lasted for 19 years, culminating in her execution in 1587, following her involvement in plots to assassinate Elizabeth and restore Catholic rule.

1643 – The French army defeats a Spanish army at the Battle of Rocroi, marking the symbolic end of Spanish military greatness

The Battle of Rocroi, fought on May 19, 1643, was a significant conflict during the Thirty Years’ War. The French forces, led by the 21-year-old Duke of Enghien (later known as the Great Condé), defeated the Spanish army, signaling the decline of Spanish military power.

The battle was noteworthy for the French use of tactical innovation and the valor of its troops, which marked the rise of France as a dominant military power in Europe. This victory also bolstered French morale and prestige, underpinning their role in the later stages of the war.

1649 – England is declared a Commonwealth by an act of the Rump Parliament, making it a republic for the next eleven years

After the execution of King Charles I in January 1649, the monarchy and the House of Lords were abolished, and England was declared a Commonwealth on May 19, 1649. This act established England as a republic under the de facto control of Oliver Cromwell, who later became Lord Protector.

The Commonwealth period was marked by a variety of radical political experiments and was characterized by military rule and the dominance of Puritan moral strictures. It lasted until 1660, when the monarchy was restored under Charles II.

1743 – Jean-Pierre Christin developed the centigrade temperature scale, which later became known as Celsius

Jean-Pierre Christin, a French physicist, mathematician, and astronomer, developed the centigrade temperature scale on May 19, 1743.

His scale, which later became known as Celsius (named after Swedish astronomer Anders Celsius who had independently developed a similar scale), featured 100 degrees between the freezing and boiling points of water, making it much easier to use than other scales available at the time.

This innovation was a significant advancement in the field of thermometry and is still one of the primary temperature scales used worldwide today.

1780 – New England’s Dark Day, where an unusual darkening of the day sky was observed over the New England states and parts of Canada

May 19, 1780, is known as “New England’s Dark Day” because of an unusual natural phenomenon where an unexpected darkness fell over parts of New England and parts of Canada. Starting in the morning and continuing into the night, the sky was so dark that candles were needed to see at noon.

The cause of the darkness is believed to have been a combination of smoke from forest fires, a thick fog, and cloud cover. The event had a significant impact on the religious and cultural climate of the time, with many viewing it as a supernatural omen or a manifestation of divine wrath.

HMS Terror

1845 – Captain Sir John Franklin and his ill-fated Arctic expedition depart from England; the entire crew would later vanish without a trace

On May 19, 1845, Captain Sir John Franklin departed England with two ships, HMS Erebus and HMS Terror, on an ill-fated expedition to chart and navigate the Northwest Passage in the Arctic. The expedition included 134 men, and both ships were equipped with advanced technology for the time.

However, the ships became icebound in Victoria Strait near King William Island in the Canadian Arctic, and eventually, the entire crew perished from starvation, hypothermia, tuberculosis, lead poisoning, and other causes.

The fate of Franklin’s expedition remained a mystery until significant findings were made in later years, influencing the mythology of Victorian exploration.

1897 – Oscar Wilde is released from Reading Gaol prison

On May 19, 1897, the renowned playwright and poet Oscar Wilde was released from Reading Gaol, where he had served almost two years of hard labor after being convicted for “gross indecency” with other men, due to his homosexual relationships.

His imprisonment severely affected his health and financial stability, and upon release, he spent his last years in exile in France under an assumed name. Wilde’s arrest, trial, and imprisonment highlighted the severe legal and social penalties faced by gay men in Victorian England.

1921 – The United States Congress passes the Emergency Quota Act, establishing national quotas on immigration

The Emergency Quota Act was passed by the United States Congress on May 19, 1921. This federal law established national quotas that limited the number of immigrants allowed entry into the United States based on their nationality.

The quotas were heavily biased towards immigrants from Western and Northern Europe, while significantly limiting those from Eastern and Southern Europe and virtually banning Asians.

This Act reflected the nativist and anti-immigrant sentiments prevalent in the U.S. at the time and significantly shaped the demographic composition of future immigration.

1935 – T. E. Lawrence, more popularly known as Lawrence of Arabia, dies as a result of injuries sustained in a motorcycle accident

T. E. Lawrence, also known as Lawrence of Arabia, died on May 19, 1935, as a result of injuries sustained in a motorcycle accident in Dorset, England, at the age of 46.

Lawrence gained fame for his role during the Arab Revolt against Ottoman Turkish rule during World War I and was renowned for his tactical genius, which played a pivotal role in the revolt’s success.

His death came just a few years after his return to a quieter life, seeking solace from his wartime experiences and celebrity status. Lawrence’s life and work had a lasting impact on the Middle East and has been the subject of numerous books and a highly acclaimed film.

1958 – The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) agreement is signed between the United States and Canada

On May 19, 1958, the North American Aerospace Defense Command, commonly known as NORAD, was created through an agreement between the United States and Canada.

This bi-national military organization was established to monitor and defend the airspace of North America. It was a direct response to the increasing threat of Soviet missile attacks during the Cold War.

NORAD’s responsibilities include providing aerospace warning, air sovereignty, and protection for both countries. The organization uses a network of satellites, ground-based radars, and fighter jets to detect, intercept, and, if necessary, engage any air threats to the continent.

1962 – Marilyn Monroe famously sings “Happy Birthday, Mr. President” to President John F. Kennedy at a birthday celebration in Madison Square Garden

At a fundraising event held at Madison Square Garden on May 19, 1962, American icon Marilyn Monroe famously sang “Happy Birthday, Mr. President” to President John F. Kennedy in celebration of his upcoming 45th birthday.

Wearing a provocative dress, her sultry rendition of the song became a memorable moment in popular culture, further fueling rumors of an affair between Monroe and Kennedy. This event is often noted for its significant media impact and remains a highlight in the storied legacies of both Monroe and Kennedy.

1971 – Mars probe program: Mars 2 is launched by the Soviet Union

On May 19, 1971, the Soviet Union launched Mars 2, part of their Mars probe program aimed at exploring Mars. It was one of the first two spacecraft (along with Mars 3) to be sent to Mars by the Soviet Union on a Proton-K heavy booster rocket.

Mars 2 reached Mars in November 1971 but unfortunately, its landing module crashed onto the Martian surface.

Despite this, the orbiter successfully deployed and became the first human-made object to reach the surface of Mars, gathering valuable data about Mars’ atmosphere and surface, which contributed to the understanding of the Red Planet.

1986 – The Firearm Owners Protection Act is signed into law by President Ronald Reagan

The Firearm Owners Protection Act was signed into law by President Ronald Reagan on May 19, 1986. This United States federal law revised many provisions of the Gun Control Act of 1968.

While it was aimed at protecting the rights of gun owners—by, for example, banning a national registry of dealer records and easing restrictions on interstate sales of firearms—it also enacted new limitations on gun ownership.

Notably, the Act prohibited the sale to and possession of firearms by convicted felons, drug users, and the mentally ill. It also introduced stricter penalties for the use of firearms in drug trafficking or violent crimes.

1991 – Croatians vote for independence in a referendum

On May 19, 1991, Croatia held a referendum on independence from Yugoslavia, which was a crucial step towards its separation from the federal state.

An overwhelming majority of Croatians, over 93%, voted in favor of independence. This vote came amid rising ethnic tensions and the beginning of the Yugoslav Wars.

The referendum led to the declaration of Croatia’s independence on June 25, 1991, which was followed by a period of intense conflict as the Serbian-dominated Yugoslav Army tried to prevent the breakup, leading to the Croatian War of Independence.

1997 – The Sierra Gorda Biosphere, the most ecologically diverse region in Mexico, is declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site

On May 19, 1997, the Sierra Gorda Biosphere in Mexico was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to its exceptional biodiversity and cultural importance. This area, located in the northern part of the state of Querétaro, encompasses the largest protected area of the Mexican Huasteca.

It features a rich variety of ecosystems, ranging from low-lying tropical areas to high-altitude cloud forests, and is home to hundreds of species of birds, mammals, and plants, many of which are endemic or at risk of extinction.

The declaration has helped focus international efforts on conserving its unique environments and promoting sustainable development among the local communities.

2000 – The Tate Modern art museum is opened in London

The Tate Modern, London’s landmark museum for modern and contemporary art, opened its doors on May 19, 2000. Housed in the former Bankside Power Station on the banks of the River Thames, the museum was designed by architects Herzog & de Meuron.

Since its opening, it has become one of the most-visited attractions in the United Kingdom, renowned for its vast collection of modern art, including works by artists such as Picasso, Rothko, Dalí, and Warhol. The Tate Modern has played a crucial role in revitalizing the South Bank area of London and influencing contemporary art globally.

2008 – The civil war in Sri Lanka ends with the total military defeat of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam

May 19, 2008, marks the official end of the 26-year-long Sri Lankan Civil War, culminating in the defeat of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) by the Sri Lankan government forces. This conflict, rooted in ethnic tensions between the majority Sinhalese and the Tamil minority, led to significant loss of life and displacement.

The final stages of the war were particularly brutal, with accusations of human rights violations from both sides. The end of the war left deep scars on the country, and efforts to achieve reconciliation and address the grievances of the Tamil population have been ongoing.

2010 – The Thai military cracks down on Red Shirt anti-government protesters in Bangkok, killing 91 people and wounding more than 2,000

On May 19, 2010, the Thai military launched a crackdown on Red Shirt (United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship) protesters in Bangkok, who had been demonstrating against the government for several months. The crackdown culminated in violent clashes, resulting in 91 deaths and more than 2,000 injuries.

The Red Shirts, largely supporting former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and advocating for more democratic governance, were met with significant force, which brought global attention to Thailand’s political instability. The events led to widespread criticism of the government’s handling of the protests and marked a significant moment in Thailand’s contemporary political history.

2018 – Prince Harry marries Meghan Markle at St George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle were married on May 19, 2018, at St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle. The event was watched by millions around the world and was notable for its blend of traditional British royal customs with elements that reflected Meghan Markle’s heritage.

The ceremony featured a sermon by American bishop Michael Curry and a gospel choir, among other highlights. Their marriage marked a contemporary turning point in the British royal family, reflecting more modern and diverse cultural values.

The couple, now known as the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, have since stepped back from senior royal duties and are focusing on various philanthropic and media projects.