10 November: On this day in history

What events happened on 10 November in history? Dominic Sandbrook rounds up the events, births and deaths…

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10 November 1793: Paris echoes to the Festival of Reason

The altar-smashing and looting of the French Revolution gives way to a celebration of the human spirit

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Paris, 10 November 1793. Inside the cathedral of Notre Dame, an astonishing spectacle is about to unfold.

For months, reports from across France had spoken of gangs breaking into churches, demolishing altars and looting the treasuries. Revolution against the monarchy had escalated into revolution against authority itself; to many of the political radicals who had seized power in Paris, Christianity represented the supreme enemy. By mid-1793, many had pledged allegiance to the new Cult of Reason, born of the Enlightenment and devoted to the human spirit. As one radical agitator put it, there was now “one God only – the people”.

On 10 November, the anti-religious movement reached its climax. Under the direction of radical writers Jacques Rene Hébert and Antoine-Francois Momoro, churches across France were stripped of their remaining Christian trappings and rededicated as Temples of Reason. At Notre Dame, the most famous church in the land, activists tore down the altar and replaced it with a mock hill, topped with a round Greek temple. On the top were carved the words ‘To Philosophy’, while inside the temple burned a torch of truth.

Spectators watched in astonishment as two lines of torch-bearing girls proceed- ed down the nave, past hastily erected busts of Voltaire, Rousseau and other Enlightenment thinkers, bowing solemnly before the so-called altar of Liberty. As in cities across France, a scantily clad woman in Roman dress played the part of the Goddess of Reason. The Parisian version, played by Mo- moro’s wife, was generally thought the best – although, as Thomas Carlyle rather ungallantly remarked, “her teeth were a little defective”.

Julian Humphrys rounds up smaller anniversaries…

10 November 1549

Death, aged 81, of Pope Paul III. He was formerly known as Allesandro Farnese. His pontificate saw the introduction of the Inquisition into Italy, the establishment of the Index Librorum Prohibitorum (List of Prohibited Books), the papal approval of the Society of Jesus and, following his summoning of the Council of Trent, the start of the Counter Reformation. While a cardinal he fathered a number of children including Pier Luigi Farnese, first Duke of Parma. In 1527, while serving as a mercenary with the forces of Charles V, Parma was present at the sack of Rome.

10 November 1697 

The birth in London of the English artist William Hogarth.

10 November 1880

Birth in New York of Jacob Epstein, one of the leading British sculptors of the 20th century. Epstein moved to Paris to study art but a trip to the British Museum in 1905 convinced him to settle in Britain. He acquired British citizenship in 1911.

10 November 1908

The Superior Hotel, Iron Mountain, Montana becomes the first hotel to have Gideon Bibles placed in its rooms for its guests to read.

10 November 1871: Livingstone finds salvation in a Welsh reporter

Henry Morton Stanley’s epic quest leads him to missing missionary

By the autumn of 1871, the missionary David Livingstone had been missing for more than five years. He had set out from Zanzibar to find the source of the Nile, believing that it was probably located further south than previous explorers had suggested. A man of obsessive drive and passionate faith, Livingstone believed God had chosen him to convert the African people to Christianity.

But God made life hard. Exhausted, horrified by the spectacle of slave- traders massacring African villagers, and suffering from fever, dysentery, anal bleeding and severe ulcers, Livingstone was at his lowest ebb. Death seemed the likeliest release.

Salvation, however, was at hand, in the form of the Welsh reporter Henry Morton Stanley, who had been sent to Africa by the New York Herald to find the missing missionary. On 10 November, after a nightmarish journey of some 700 miles, Stanley walked into Ujiji on the banks of Lake Tanganyika. And when he saw Livingstone’s pale, bearded face, he knew he had struck gold.

Not surprisingly, Stanley struggled to maintain his composure. He wished, he wrote afterwards, that “I might vent my joy in some mad freak, such as idiotically biting my hand; turning a somersault, or slashing at trees, in order to allay those exciting feelings that were well-nigh uncontrollable”.

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Instead, Stanley simply raised his hat and said the words that have gone down in legend: “Dr Livingstone, I presume?” Some biographers suggest that he invented the phrase afterwards. Perhaps – but given the scale of his achievement, does it really matter?

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