On the same day in history: Nicholas II, Bram Stoker, 24-Hour Le Mans

Three significant events occurring on May 26.

  • Nicholas II is crowned last Tsar of Imperial Russia.
  • Bram Stoker's gothic horror novel Dracula is published.
  • The first 24 Hours of Le Mans.

1896

Nicholas II is crowned Emperor and Autocrat of all the Russias

On this day in 1896, Nicholas stood before the Russian Patriarch and was anointed with chrism (myrrh) and formally blessed by the Russian Orthodox Church.

Coronations in Russia involved a highly developed religious ceremony. Since medieval times, the anointed Christian ruler was considered "wedded" to his subjects as part priest and part layman.

Coronation of Tsar Nicholas II of Russia by Valentin Alexandrovich Serov, 1899
Coronation of Tsar Nicholas II of Russia by Valentin Alexandrovich Serov, 1899

The coronation ceremony took place in Uspensky Cathedral within the Kremlin.

Church policy held that to have a successful tenure, the monarch must be anointed and crowned according to the Orthodox rite.

Uspensky Cathedral, Kremlin, Moscow. Credit Jummyweee
Uspensky Cathedral, Kremlin, Moscow. Credit Jummyweee

Months or even years could pass between the initial accession of the sovereign and the performance of this ritual.

In Nicholas's case, he acceded to the throne on 1 November 1894—the day his father, Alexander III died—and wouldn't be formally crowned Tsar for another 18 months.

Nicholas was presented with the Silk Imperial Crown Of Russia as an official coronation gift of the Russian Empire.

He was the first, and only, monarch to receive such a monumental coronation gift as private Imperial property—a memento of his Coronation Event.

Coronation of Nicholas II and Alexandra Fyodorovna by Laurits Tuxen, 1898

Nicholas was a passionate advocate of autocratic rule, calling the idea of elected representatives "a senseless dream".

Shortly before his coronation, he said:

I want everyone to know that I will devote all my strength to maintain, for the good of the whole nation, the principle of absolute autocracy, as firmly and as strongly as did my late lamented father.

1897

Dracula, a gothic horror novel by Bram Stoker is published

It was 1816, the year without a summer.

Volcanic activity and a centuries-long period of global cooling had culminated in miserable weather, permanent gray skies, failed harvests, and famine.

Out of this backdrop came unimaginable gothic horror from the minds of literary genius.

As personal physician to the English poet Lord Byron, Dr John Polidori accompanied him on a trip to Lake Geneva, Switzerland, together with Byron's friends, poet Percy Bysshe Shelley and his fiancé Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin (who would become Mary Shelley).

Clouds over Lake Geneva by Gustave Courbet
Clouds over Lake Geneva by Gustave Courbet
Sir Henry Irving, 1878
Sir Henry Irving, 1878

One dark and stormy night in June, when they were reading aloud from German horror stories, Byron suggested they each write a ghost story.
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Out of this one night came Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (currently free on Kindle) and John Polidori's The Vampyre (currently free on Kindle).

It was Polidori's Vampyre—viewed as the progenitor of the romantic vampire genre of fantasy fiction—that was a key influence on Irish author Bram Stoker.

Another influence was Bram Stoker's friend and Shakespearean actor Sir Henry Irving, whose affinity for playing villainous roles with gentlemanly mannerisms matched Stoker's vision of Dracula perfectly.

Bela Lugosi as Dracula
Bela Lugosi as Dracula

Although Bram Stoker didn't invent the vampire, he defined the modern form we see in movies and TV interpretations.

Hungarian actor Bela Lugosi starred in the 1931 Universal Studios film Dracula which set the standard for film and television adaptations of Bram Stoker's novel.

 

 

1923

The first 24 Hours of Le Mans—the world's oldest endurance race

The Grand Prix of Endurance and Efficiency.
24 Hours of LeMans, 1923
24 Hours of LeMans, 1923
Graham Hill in 1969
Graham Hill in 1969

One of the most prestigious automobile races in the world, the 24 Hours of Le Mans is the world's oldest active sports car endurance race.

Along with the Indianapolis 500 and the Monaco Grand Prix, it forms part of the Triple Crown of Motorsport—the winning of which is an achievement so rare that only British driver Graham Hill OBE has ever managed to accomplish the feat.

Balancing speed with the cars' mechanical reliability and the drivers' endurance over a continuous 24 hours, the race uses a mix of closed public roads and a specialist racing circuit.

Almost all teams used two drivers in the early decades, with some Le Mans drivers attempting to run solo hoping to save time on driver changes, but the practice was later banned.

By the end of the 1980s, the rules stipulated at least three drivers must drive each car. And in the 1990s, driver fatigue led to new restrictions, allowing only four consecutive hours per driver and no more than fourteen hours total.

Steve McQueen starred in the 1971 major motion picture titled simply "Le Mans", in which he played Michael Delaney, a driver with the 1970 Gulf Porsche team.

 

 

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