On this day, April 17

Rodney King, whose brutal beating by the police caused massive unrest. Picture: Reuters

Rodney King, whose brutal beating by the police caused massive unrest. Picture: Reuters

Published Apr 17, 2024


A racy mediaeval story influences modern English, peace overtures, the Bay of Pigs fiasco, Game of Thrones premières and John Coltrane honoured

1397 Geoffrey Chaucer tells the story of the bawdy The Canterbury Tales, which would become enormously popular in mediaeval Europe, for the first time at the court of Richard II. The greatest contribution of The Canterbury Tales to English literature was the popularisation of the English vernacular in mainstream literature.

1662 The first two apples are picked in the Company’s Garden in Cape Town. They are said to be small and rather tart.

1838 The ‘Grand Army of Natal’, led by Robert Bigger, John Cane and John Stubbs, reaches the Tugela River and runs into Zulu warriors who overwhelm the 18 Englishmen, 400 auxiliaries and 3 000 men, killing most of them.

1902 A British delegation proposes that Boer republic representatives meet at Vereeniging to decide on their future.

1946 Syria declares independence from France.

1949 At midnight, 26 Irish counties become the Republic of Ireland.

1961 CIA-backed Cuban exiles land in Cuba’s Bay of Pigs to overthrow Fidel Castro.

1969 Sirhan Sirhan is convicted assassinating of Robert Kenney, which is believed to be the first major incident of political violence in the US stemming from the Arab–Israeli conflict.

1970 The crippled Apollo 13 moon mission module limps to Earth and successfully splashes down in the Pacific Ocean, much to the relief of many around the world. There had been fears the astronauts would die in space.

1980 For the last time in Africa, the Union Jack is lowered as Rhodesia becomes Zimbabwe.

1984 Police officer Yvonne Fletcher is killed outside the Libyan Embassy in London.

1986 The Netherlands and the tiny Scilly Islands (off Cornwall, England) sign a peace treaty, ending a 335-year war, which began in 1651.

1986 The Pulitzer Prize is awarded to Larry McMurtry for Lonesome Dove.

1993 Two Los Angeles police officers are convicted of violating the civil rights of Rodney King“, whose beating sparks violent riots which only end when the Marines were brought in.

2011 The hugely popular TV series, Game of Thrones, based on the books by George RR Martin, premières

2015 Jazz composer and musician John Coltrane is awarded a posthumous Special Citation by the Pulitzer Prize board.

2023 New Research shows the Great Pacific Garbage Patch now has coast creatures living and breeding in it, including jellyfish, sponges and worms, raising concerns about the spread of invasive species.

April 14, 2024, Graphics show birthdays and anniversaries on each day for the week. This week features the world’s first cloned camel, the first Ford Mustang, the first album of the Rolling Stones, Tiananmen Square in Beijing, Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt, English romantic potent Lord Byron and SpaceX’s Starship