Born on this day in…
1545 – Elisabeth of Valois (d. 1568) was Queen Consort of Spain and third wife of Philip II of Spain. Her parents were Henry II of France and Catherine de’ Medici. Even though her marriage was the result of the Peace of Cateau Cambrésis, Philip was said to love his fourteen-year-old bride and that he even set aside his mistress. She was known to paint under the tutelage of Sofonisba Anguissola. In her girlhood she was initially betrothed to Carlos, Prince of Asturias (son of Philip II) but as stepmother to the mentally unstable young prince, they had a positive relationship. Elisabeth later died at 23 and it was said that Philip was inconsolable.
1647 – Maria Sibylla Merian (d. 1717) was a German-born naturalist and scientific illustrator. She belonged to the Frankfurt branch of the Swiss Merian family that consequently owned Europe’s largest publishing empire in the 17th century. Ms. Merian received her artistic instruction from her stepfather, Jacob Marrel who was taught by still life painter Georg Flegel. In 1675 at the age of 28, she published her natural illustrations in Neues Blumenbuch. In 1699, she and her daughter were awarded a grant by the city of Amsterdam to travel to South America to undertake a scientific journey. Merian could possibly has been one of the first people to go on a scientific expedition.
1788 – Wilhelmine Reichard (d. 1848) was the first German female balloonist. Her father was the cup-bearer of the Duchy of Brunswick-Lüneburg and she later married chemist and physicist Johann Gottfried Reinhard. In April of 1811, Ms. Reichard made her first flight in Berlin, reaching a height of over 5,000 meters (16,000 feet) although it wasn’t the first flight by a woman in Germany. Her husband was known also to conduct balloon flights.
Died on this day in…
870 – Æbbe the Younger (b. Unknown) was an Abbess of Coldingham Priory in Scotland who is venerated as a saint in the Roman Catholic Church. When the Benedictine priory was attacked by Viking raiders, she mutilated herself by cutting off her nose so that the Vikings wouldn’t take her virginity. Her fellow sisters followed suit and all of them died as the Danes set fire to the priory. It is said that Æbbe could possibly have been the origin of the saying: Cutting off the nose to spite the face.
1930 – Zewditu, Empress of Ethiopia (b. 1876) from 1916 to 1930. She was the first female ruler of an African nation in the 19th and 20th centuries. She was the first Empress Regnant since antiquity, with Makeda, Queen of Sheba being last. She was known to be conservative and to have fervent religious devotion.