What happened on this day in history: Oscar Wilde is released from prison, Pol Pot is born, T.E. Lawrence dies, and more from May 19th.
1536: Anne Boleyn Is Beheaded
Anne Boleyn is executed at the Tower of London. Though she had risen to power through her marriage to King Henry VIII, Anne and Henry failed to produce a male heir. The king, desperate for a son, charged her with adultery and witchcraft and had her beheaded.
1884: Ringling Brothers Circus Opens
The Ringling Brothers Circus opens in Baraboo, Wisconsin. Consisting of five brothers, Albert, Otto, Alfred, Charles, and John, the Ringling Brothers eventually set up operations in Chicago to avoid directly competing with the Barnum and Bailey Circus in New York. The two circuses eventually combined and continued on until 2017.
1897: Oscar Wilde Is Released From Prison
Oscar Wilde is released from Reading Gaol prison in Berkshire, England. Two years earlier, Wilde had been found guilty of “gross indecency” and sodomy, then sentenced to hard labor. His time in prison inspired him to write The Ballad of Reading Gaol, but Wilde never recovered and died in 1900 at the age of just 46.
1925: Pol Pot Is Born
Pol Pot is born in the Cambodian village of Prek Sbauv. Born Saloth Sar, he rose through the ranks of the Cambodian communist party and eventually took control of the country, which he sought to transform into an agrarian utopia. Roughly 2 million people died under his brutal reign in what’s known as the Cambodian genocide. Following a Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia in 1978, Pol Pot’s regime was toppled and forced into the jungles along the border with Thailand for much of the rest of his life before his death at age 72 in 1998.
1935: Lawrence Of Arabia Dies
Thomas Edward Lawrence, best known as “Lawrence of Arabia” dies at the age of 46 in Dorset, England, following a motorcycle accident. An archaeologist, soldier, and author, Lawrence wrote extensively about his time in the Middle East, where he helped lead the Arab Revolt as well as the Sinai and Palestine Campaign against the Ottoman Empire during World War I. His life — and his book Seven Pillars of Wisdom — inspired the 1962 film Lawrence of Arabia.
1983: Diane Downs Attempts to Murder Her Three Children
Diane Downs attempts to murder her three young children, eight-year-old Christie, seven-year-old Cheryl, and three-year-old Danny, by faking a carjacking. Though she shot all three children, only Cheryl died — Christie and Danny survived with life-altering injuries. Downs was later sentenced to life in prison plus 50 years.