Egbert of Wessex made Wessex such a powerful kingdom that England was eventually unified around it. Although not technically "King", he was proclaimed "Bretwalda" or sole ruler of Britain in 829 and is sometimes referred to as "the first king of all England".
Catherine II, also known as Catherine the Great, was born Sophie Augusta Fredericka on April 21, 1729. Born a German Princess, Sophie was selected by Tsarina Elizabeth of Russia to marry her nephew and chosen successor, Peter. When she accepted the Russian Orthodox faith, Sophie changed her name to "Catherine". Her marriage, however, was a failure -- possibly due to her reported infidelities -- and she became popular with several political groups that opposed her husband. When Peter III succeeded to the Russian throne in 1762, his policies almost immediately alienated these same groups that had formed around Catherine. Less than six months after taking the throne, Peter was assassinated, and Catherine was handed the throne. As the ruler of Russia, Catherine became a patron of the arts, literature, and education. She also made Russia the dominant power in the Middle East and added about 200,000 square miles to Russian territory. She was succeeded on the throne by her son, Paul I, whom she did not particularly like.
According to legend, Nebuchadnezzar II had the Hanging Gardens of Babylon built to cheer up his homesick wife, Amyitis, daughter of the King of Medes, who had married Nebuchadnezzar to create an alliance between the two nations. Her homeland was mountainous and had an abundant and rich variety of flora. Not surprisingly, she found the flat, barren terrain of Mesopotamia somewhat depressing. Nebuchadnezzar, wishing her to be happy, decided to build an artificial mountain with rooftop gardens. The Hanging Gardens of Babylon were so magnificent that they came to be considered one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
Charles II, King of France, was saddled with the unflattering nickname "Charles the Fat". Crowned Holy Roman Emperor in 881, he succeeded to the title of Emperor Charles III of the Holy Roman Empire. However, he was a weak ruler and was unable to protect his lands from invasion. In 1886, when he went to relieve Paris which was besieged by the Norsemen, he actually ransomed the city instead of fighting and allowed the invaders to ravage Burgundy. He was deposed as Holy Roman Emperor in 887.
In 1492, Christopher Columbus convinced Queen Isabella I of Spain to sponsor his voyage of discovery. At the time, merchants were seeking an easier route to Asia and Columbus believed it would be easier to sail directly west. Although he did not discover an easier route to Asia, he did discover the America's. Isabella took a special interest in the Native Americans of the new continent, and when some of them were brought back to Spain as slaves, she ordered that they be immediately freed and returned to their homeland. In her will she expressed the desire that the "Indians" of the America's be treated with justice and fairness. Unfortunately, others, including Columbus, did not share this desire.
In the Old Testament, in the Book of Esther, Xerxes I chooses Esther from all the virgins of Persia to be his bride. As queen, Esther is able to protect her people from the plotting of Haman, one of the king's royal officials who wished to destroy all of the Jews. In some translations of the Bible, Xerxes is referred to as Ahasuerus.
Richard I, the son of King Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine, was considered a great hero even in his own day and earned the name "the Lionheart". However, being the third of Henry II's legitimate sons, Richard was never intended to accede to the throne. When he learned that his father planned to concede Aquitaine to his brother John in 1188, Richard allied himself with King Philip II of France. In exchange for Philip's support against his father, Richard made a promise to concede his rights to Normandy and Anjou. In 1189, Richard and Philip led an expedition against Henry II. Emerging victorious from the battle, they forced Henry to make Richard his heir. When Henry died on July 6, 1189, Richard I succeeded him as King of England.
On March 25, 1975, King Faisal (Faisal bin Abdul Aziz) of Saudi Arabia was assassinated by his nephew, Faisali bin Musad. In 1979, the city of Lyallpur in Pakistan was renamed "Faisalabad" in his honor. He was succeeded by his brother Khalid.