21st of December

St Thomas, apostle.

Born. – John Kepler, distinguished astronomer, 1571, Weil, Würtemberg
Died. – Giovanni Boccaccio, celebrated tale-writer, 1375, Certaldo; Maximilien, Duke of Sully, minister of Henri IV., 1641, Villebon; Arnauld de Berquin, author of L’Ami des Enfants, 1791, Paris.


The seven days preceding, and the seven days following the shortest day, or the winter-solstice, were called by the ancients the Halcyon Days. This phrase, so familiar as expressive of a period of tranquillity and happiness, is derived from a fable, that during the period just indicated, while the halcyon bird or king-fisher was breeding, the sea was always calm, and might be navigated in perfect security by the mariner. The name halcyon is derived from two Greek words – αλς, the sea; and 𝜘𝜐𝜔, to conceive; and, according to the poetic fiction, the bird was represented as hatching her eggs on a floating nest, in the midst of the waters. Dryden thus alludes to the notion: 

‘Amidst our arms as quiet you shall be,
As halcyons brooding on a winter’s sea.’

On this Day in Other Sources.

THE 21st of December, this same year, 1513, King James, being a child of one year, 5 months, and 10 days old, is crowned at Stirling, in a convention of the estates. 

– Historical Works, pp.238-275.

In the midst of all those procedures, and protests, charges, and explanations, Elizabeth wrote Mary a letter, on the 21st of December [1568]; expressing her grief, that she had heard such matters of such great moment, to charge, and load her with; and she concluded, by wishing heartily, that she were delivered, by the justification of her innocence. The same charges, and the same documents, Elizabeth had privately, and more than once heard before. Elizabeth concluded her insidious letter, with a high commendation of the Bishop of Ross; and wished, that her good sister “had many such devoted and discreet servants.” This epistle of Elizabeth, artful as it was, to Mary, was intended, at once, to mortify, and stimulate the object of her hate. 

To this ensnaring epistle, the Scotish Queen said, she should have been glad, if her good sister would have brought about a reconciliation between her, and her subjects; but she never had meant, to answer farther, except personally to her good sister; adding, I am not an equal to my subjects; nor, will I be weighed in the same balance with them: She seemed much hurt, that Murray was admitted to Elizabeth’s presence, while she was excluded: And, she even talked of publishing her case to the world, that all princes might be judges between her, and her adversaries.   

– Life of Mary, pp.206-234.

La Motte, the French ambassador, who arrived in London during October, was chiefly instructed, to endeavour to obtain the association of the Scotish Queen, in the government, with her son. He was amused, during several months, while the ministers endeavoured, to obtain the secret of his commission. It was, at length, resolved to allow him to go into Scotland, on condition, that Davison should accompany him, and associate himself with Elizabeth’s minister, Bowes, at Edinburgh. Such were the jealousy, and artifices of the English court. Mons. de la Motte, on the 21st of December, [1582,] wrote to the Scotish Queen; notifying his mission to her son.  

– Life of Mary, pp.274-281.

On the 21st of December, [1601,] the pest was understood to have entered Glasgow. the inhabitants of that city were therefore forbidden to visit Edinburgh. 

– Domestic Annals, pp.124-176.

On 21st December, 1613, King James granted a charter, under the Great Seal, to the magistrates, councillors, and community, of certain lands which had formerly belonged to the subdeans of Glasgow, and which lands were given as a reward for the great expenses and charges disbursed by the inhabitants in repairing and renewing the Metropolitan Church, and daily upholding the bridge and preserving it from the strong current and flooding of the river… 

– Scots Lore, pp.15-29.

   “Is there a Scotchman to be found hardy enough to deny the flagrant injustice of the Treaty of Union between the two countries, in as far as regards popular representation in the Commons’ House of Parliament? Whatever may be said on this side of the Tweed against the necessity of Reform, I should hardly have expected that any Scotchman could so far forget the interests of his native land, as not to accept with gratitude the proffered redress of the injury inflicted by corruption on his country, by those who basely bartered the rights of Scotland for their own selfish interests. This redress comes from the liberal Government of an enlightened King, desirous, as far as possible, of doing this tardy justice to a faithful and loyal people. Is this inestimable boon to be rejected with outrage, as putting to hazard the constitution of the country?”  

Scotsman, Wednesday 21st December, 1831.

– Treaty of Union Articles, 1800-1850.

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