On the sixth day of Christmas…

…five changed countries, four years forgone, three space men, two battles won and the crowning of a great king.

Six willful killings

1. Crucifixion — Joseph ibn Naghrela

On December 30, 1066, a Muslim mob stormed the royal palace in Granada and crucified the Jewish vizier Joseph ibn Naghrela. A massacre of the Jewish population of the city ensued.

Granada is in present-day Spain, but it was ruled by Islamic dynasties from 711 to 1492. In the 1000s, Granada was a Muslim polity but de facto Jewish-ruled. Joseph ibn Naghrela’s influence on the Muslim ruler was resented by the Berber majority of Granada, and rumors of Joseph’s attempt to install a new ruler led to his crucifixion and this massacre.

It seems odd for Muslims to crucify a Jew. Crucifixion is a humiliating and horrifying way to kill someone that was practiced in the Ancient Near East long before Muslims or Christians existed — even before the Romans were around. A Jew named Jesus was crucified by the Romans in 30 or 33, and his purported resurrection incited the growth of Christianity. And it’s not like Christians had a cultural monopoly on crucifixion in 1066, but for no Christians to be involved in this incident seems like sloppy execution of irony. This following analogy is a gross imposition of 21st-century Western cultural symbols onto 11th-century Al-Andalus, but Muslims crucifying a Jew seems akin to Canadians killing a Mexican by impaling him with an American flag.

2. Battle — Richard, 3rd Duke of York

On December 30, 1460, Lancastrians killed Richard, 3rd Duke of York, and won the Battle of Wakefield.

The Battle of Wakefield was part of the War of the Roses, in which Lancastrians (red roses) and Yorkists (white roses) fought for the crown of England. Richard started this particular battle, leaving the safety of his castle to fight in the plains. This was dumb, and he died in battle along with his son Edmund and many Yorkist troops.

*Mr. Robot spoiler alert!*

In Henry VI, Part 3, Shakespeare gives a colorful account of Richard’s death that almost certainly didn’t happen but is far more exciting than the probable reality of Richard merely dying in battle.

In the play, Lancastrians capture Richard and made him stand on a molehill. They give him a handkerchief covered in his son’s blood for him to wipe his face with, and then they put a paper crown on his head and stab him to death. Richard’s dying words:

Open Thy gate of mercy, gracious God!
My soul flies through these wounds to seek out Thee.

Henry VI, Part 3, Act I, Scene 4, lines 177–78

3. Execution (firing squad) — José Rizal

On December 30, 1896, Filipino national hero José Rizal was executed by a Spanish firing squad in Manila.

Rizal’s writings inspired Filipino revolutionaries to fight against Spanish rule. His 1887 novel Noli Me Tángere (which translates to “touch me not”) illustrated the injustices of Spanish rule in the Philippines and was deeply influential in the drive for independence. It’s still required reading in the Philippines today.

Kate McKinnon as Glenn Close as José Rizal rebuking the Spanish

Rizal wasn’t directly involved in the planning of any rebellion, but the Spanish arrested him for connections to members of a militant revolutionary group. (It’s kinda like if the British had executed Thomas Paine to try to quell the American Revolution.) His execution did nothing to diminish popular support for Philippine independence, which was won on June 12, 1898. (This independence was not internationally recognized, however. Spain ceded the Philippines to the US in that same year, and the US occupied the islands until granting them independence on July 4, 1946.)

4. Assassination (bomb explosion) — Frank Steunenberg

On December 30, 1905, former Idaho Governor Frank Steunenberg was killed at the front gate of his home by the explosion of a bomb planted by Albert Horsley.

Steunenberg’s home burned down in 1913. This is a Google Maps street view of the home that now occupies that plot of land. I hope they took out gubernatorial explosion insurance.

Steunenberg had been a staunch opponent of unions during his time as governor, and Horsley confessed to a pro-union detective that he had been acting on orders from the Western Federation of Miners to kill Steunenberg. Accordingly, three leaders of the WFM were arraigned in what became known as the Haywood Trial. This trial was a big to-do — Horsley was defended by none other than Clarence Darrow! — and all three union leaders were eventually acquitted. Turns out that Horsley had made a false confession and was a chaotic individual with a violent past.

Horsley was convicted and sentenced to death, but he had his sentence commuted to life in prison. He holds the record for longest prison term ever served at the Old Idaho State Penitentiary, 46 years, where he died in 1954. If you’re a chaotic individual with a violent past and want to try to break that record by murdering any one of the four living former governors of Idaho — you can’t; the prison closed in 1973.

5. Murder/assassination (shot in head) — Rasputin

On December 30, 1916, Russian doctor/priest/dancer/alcoholic/sex icon/tsarist advisor Grigori Rasputin was murdered.


Here’s an account of Rasputin’s life and death culled from the 1979 text, “Russia’s Greatest Love Machine,” by West German historian Boney M.:

There lived a certain man in Russia long ago
He was big and strong, in his eyes a flaming glow
Most people looked at him with terror and with fear
But to Moscow chicks he was such a lovely dear
He could preach the Bible like a preacher
Full of ecstasy and fire
But he also was the kind of teacher
Women would desire

He ruled the Russian land and never mind the Czar
But the kazachok he danced really wunderbar
In all affairs of state he was the man to please
But he was real great when he had a girl to squeeze
For the queen he was no wheeler dealer
Though she’d heard the things he’d done
She believed he was a holy healer
Who would heal her son

But when his drinking and lusting
And his hunger for power
Became known to more and more people
The demands to do something
About this outrageous man
Became louder and louder

“This man’s just got to go”, declared his enemies
But the ladies begged, “don’t you try to do it, please”
No doubt this Rasputin had lots of hidden charms
Though he was a brute, they just fell into his arms
Then one night some men of higher standing
Set a trap, they’re not to blame
“Come to visit us”, they kept demanding
And he really came

They put some poison into his wine
He drank it all and said, “I feel fine”

They didn’t quit, they wanted his head
And so they shot him ’til he was dead

6. Execution (hanging) — Saddam Hussein

On December 30, 2006, former president of Iraq Saddam Hussein was hanged in Baghdad for crimes against humanity.

Saddam was the de facto leader of Iraq by the mid-1970s and formally began his leadership as president in 1979. He was responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths during his tenure, killing his own people and waging war against Iran and Kuwait. He was deposed and captured by US and coalition forces in 2003 and tried by the Iraqi interim government from 2005–06. He was convicted of the 1982 killing of 148 Shi’as in retaliation for a failed assassination attempt on his life and sentenced to death.

This is the only sixth-day-of-Christmas willful killing that you can watch online, but I won’t share a link. Instead, enjoy this beautiful depiction of Saddam that I found on Tumblr:

I promise tomorrow will be less morbid. See you then!




I like writing history, poetry and nonsense. Check out my book: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08HS5K34Y/

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Nathan O. Stringer

Nathan O. Stringer

I like writing history, poetry and nonsense. Check out my book: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08HS5K34Y/

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