On the 17th November 1558, Elizabeth I succeeded her half-sister Mary to become queen of England. The last of the Tudor dynasty, Elizabeth’s reign is seen by many as a ‘golden age’ in English history. A period of relative political and religious stability, her reign saw unprecedented foreign exploration and expansion, while at home the English Renaissance brought about enormous cultural developments and the rise of one of the greatest playwrights ever to have lived – William Shakespeare.
Elizabeth was the daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn and, despite being declared illegitimate following the annulment of her parents’ marriage, came to the throne as the next in line behind her Catholic half-sister under the terms of the Third Succession Act. Having become queen when she was 25 years old, Elizabeth relied heavily on a group of advisers led by Robert Cecil and is generally seen as providing stability through her long reign, in comparison to her two siblings.
Soon after assuming power she introduced the Elizabethan Religious Settlement consisting of two Acts of Parliament which resolved much of the Protestant/Catholic divide that had characterised the years before and after her reign. However, this did little to appease the Catholic Philip II of Spain who famously launched the Spanish Armada against England in 1588 but was defeated.
Elizabeth never married nor had any heirs, leading to her becoming known as the Virgin Queen. When she died, the lack of an heir led to the end of the Tudor dynasty and the beginning of the Stuarts after James VI of Scotland became James I of England.
On the 22nd August 1485, King Richard III was killed at the Battle of Bosworth and the forces of Henry Tudor brought the Plantagenet dynasty to an end. Henry secured his reign soon afterwards by later marrying Elizabeth of York, the niece of Richard III and daughter of Edward IV, and united the two warring houses through the symbolism of the Tudor rose.
Wishing to capitalise on Richard’s diminishing support following the disappearance of the Princes in the Tower and the death of his wife, Henry Tudor prepared to invade England from his base in Brittany and fight Richard for the throne. Funded by Charles VIII of France, and supported by three times as many French mercenary soldiers as his own troops, Henry set sail on the 1st August with 2,000 men. Landing at the Welsh port of Milford Haven, Henry secured the support of the influential Welsh landowner Rhys ap Thomas, on his march to England.
Richard’s army gathered in Leicester from the 16th August and, on the night of the 21st, camped on Ambion Hill near the town of Market Bosworth with 10,000 men. The next morning, facing Henry and his force of around 5,000 soldiers, the Yorkists were defeated when the Stanley family switched sides and surrounded and killed Richard after the king chose to break ranks and target Henry himself. Henry was crowned under an oak tree near the site.
Richard’s body was taken to Leicester by the Lancastrians where it was buried in an unmarked grave in Greyfriars church. The body was only found again in 2012.
On the 10th August 1792, French revolutionary troops stormed the Tuileries Palace in Paris. Referred to by some historians as ‘the Second Revolution’ the events of the 10th August suspended the monarchy under King Louis XVI.
The royal family had lived in the Tuileries since the October Days of 1789 saw them brought back to Paris from Versailles. Louis and his family were virtually imprisoned, as proved when crowds barred them from moving to their summer residence in April 1791. This may have influenced Louis to carry out the failed Flight to Varennes two months later, after which the family were more officially held under house arrest in the Tuileries Palace.
The relationship between the royal family and the people of Paris continued to decline throughout 1792. The king did himself no favours by vetoing a range of decrees passed by the Legislative Assembly, but the situation grew worse with the threat of invasion from foreign armies. By the time of the Brunswick Manifesto on 1st August that lent foreign support to the royal family, the crowds of Paris held Louis and the concept of monarchy in absolute contempt.
On the morning of the 10th August, crowds massed outside the Tuileries. With Louis opting to take shelter in the Legislative Assembly building, his Swiss Guard who were left to defend the palace were eventually overrun after they ran out of ammunition. Approximately 800 people on the king’s side were killed, and Paris was put in the hands of the revolutionaries while the royal family were sent to the Temple prison.
On the 29th July 1567, James VI was crowned king of Scotland when he was just 13 months old. As the great-great-grandson of Henry VII, King of England and Lord of Ireland, he succeeded Elizabeth I and became the first monarch to rule all three countries almost 36 years later.
James was the only son of Mary, Queen of Scots, and as such immediately became heir to the Scottish throne when he was born. However, his mother’s Roman Catholic faith caused her reign to be constantly under threat from the largely Protestant nobility, and was one of many reasons for her arrest and imprisonment in June 1567. She was forced to abdicate in favour of her young son a month later, and never saw him again as he was quickly taken away to be raised in Stirling Castle as a God-fearing Protestant king.
Having been crowned king when he was barely one year old, James obviously didn’t rule Scotland himself. Instead power lay with a series of four regents who handled the affairs of government until his minority ended in 1578 when he was 12 years old. However, he didn’t gain complete control over the government for another 5 years.
James ruled Scotland on its own until the 24th March 1603, when Elizabeth I of England – James’ first cousin twice removed – died and James was proclaimed king in a surprisingly smooth and peaceful succession. As such he was the first monarch to rule Scotland, England and Ireland in what is referred to as the Union of the Crowns.
In the early hours of the 17th July 1918 the Russian Imperial Romanov family were shot dead in the basement of the Ipatiev House in the Russian city of Ekaterinburg. Their death took place during the ongoing Russian Civil War, at a time when White Russian forces were approaching the house where the family were held captive. The execution was led by Yakov Yurovsky, a member of the Bolshevik secret police known as the Checka, and commandant of the house which had become known as The House of Special Purpose.
The Romanov family – Nicholas and his wife, and their four daughters and son, had first arrived in Ekaterinburg at intervals from the 30th April onwards. They were accompanied by a small number of servants. Their time inside the house was heavily regulated by the guards, who blocked all contact with the outside world.
As the White Army advanced on Ekaterinburg, the Bolsheviks became concerned that the royal family might fall into their hands and act as a rallying point for the White cause. Similarly, their release could encourage other European nations to view them as the legitimate rulers of Russia, and thus undermine the revolutionary Bolshevik government.
Shortly after midnight on the 17th July therefore, the family were woken and led to a small basement room in the house. A group of Bolshevik secret police then entered the room and read out the order for the deaths. All were shot or stabbed by bayonets, their bodies taken away in a truck and disposed of in a forest 12 miles north of the city.
The Battle of Naseby, a decisive engagement of the English Civil War, was fought between the Royalist army of King Charles I and the Parliamentarian New Model Army.
The New Model Army was formed as a result of concerns over the effectiveness of the existing Parliamentarian army that was based on local volunteers, many of whom were reluctant to fight away from home. The new army would be made up of full-time professional soldiers whose loyalty would be national rather than regional. The introduction of the Self-denying Ordinance further strengthened the new force, since it resulted in a more effective military leadership.
The New Model Army, under the command of Sir Thomas Fairfax, was besieging the King’s former capital in Oxford when news arrived that the Royalist army had captured the Parliamentarian town of Leicester. Fairfax abandoned the siege on Oxford and marched north to engage the Royalists, whom he found on the border between Northamptonshire and Leicestershire. Fairfax’s army was joined by Oliver Cromwell’s cavalry on 13 June. Faced with the choice of either fighting or retreating, the King accepted battle.
Fairfax had positioned the Parliamentarian army on a ridge, but was persuaded by Cromwell to move it to a weaker position to encourage the Royalists to attack. Prince Rupert of the Rhine soon broke through the Parliamentary left flank, but rode on to pursue fleeing Parliamentarians rather than turn and outflank the infantry. This weakened the Royalists, and Cromwell’s cavalry were able to break the remaining cavalry before turning against the infantry in the centre. Before long the Royalists began to surrender, while Charles fled. The Royalist army was virtually destroyed in the battle, with around 6,000 of its 8,000 men either killed or captured.
The 22nd May 1455 marked the start of the Wars of the Roses, when the First Battle of St Albans was fought between Richard, Duke of York, and King Henry VI.
The Wars of the Roses were fought between the Houses of Lancaster and York, both of whom had claims to the English throne. Although the Lancastrians had ruled England since 1399, Henry VI had come to the throne in 1422 when he was just 9 months old. England had therefore been ruled by regents for 15 years, during which time the monarchy was weakened.
The situation didn’t improve after Henry took full control of the country in 1437, since he experienced periods of mental illness that affected his behaviour and decisions. Having experienced a long period of mental instability from August 1453, the “kingmaker” Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, made Richard, Duke of York, protector of the realm.
When Henry recovered 18 months later, Richard was excluded from the royal court. In response he led an army to London, but was met by the King’s forces 22 miles north of the city in St Albans. After many hours of failed negotiations, Richard ordered his troops to attack. The battle was fought in the streets, and lasted for less than an hour before the Lancastrians were outflanked, key Lancastrian nobles were killed, and Henry was taken prisoner.
Richard was declared Protector of England just a few months later, but the Wars of Roses raged for another three decades.
The Stone of Scone was found on the site of the High Altar at Arbroath Abbey, nearly four months after it disappeared from Westminster Abbey.
The Stone of Scone is a block of red sandstone that was used in the coronation of the monarchs of Scotland and, later, the monarchs of England and the Kingdom of Great Britain. It was captured by King Edward I of England in 1296 and taken from Scone Abbey in Scotland to Westminster Abbey in London.
Since it was a powerful symbol of Scottish nationhood, a plot to remove the Stone from Westminster Abbey and return it to Scotland was hatched by University of Glasgow student Ian Hamilton and a number of accomplices. Having secured funding from Scottish businessman Robert Gray, Hamilton and three other students drove to London on Christmas Eve 1950 and put their plan into action.
The three men from the group entered the Abbey through a side door that night, and made their way to the Coronation Chair. They managed to remove the Stone, but damaged the chair itself in the process. The Stone also fell to the floor and broke into two unequal parts. The smaller was quickly taken to a waiting car driven by the one female accomplice, Kay Matheson, while Hamilton returned to load the larger half into a second car.
The two halves were reunited in Scotland a few weeks later, and the Stone was repaired by a stonemason. The conspirators met two Arbroath councillors at the ruined Abbey on 11 April, and laid the Stone on the site of the High Altar. The councillors later informed the police, and the Stone was recovered and returned to Westminster Abbey. It now resides in Edinburgh Castle, having been formally returned to Scotland by the British government in 1996.
On the 24th March 1721, German composer Johann Sebastian Bach dedicated what were to become known as the Brandenburg Concertos to Margrave Christian Ludwig of Brandenburg-Schwedt, the younger brother of King Frederick I of Prussia. The six works now rank among the world’s most famous pieces of orchestral music, and are widely considered to be some of the best compositions of the Baroque period.
Bach was born into a family of musicians and, from 1708, began to quickly earn a reputation as a talented organist and composer. It was while employed as the Kapellmeister, or director of music, for Leopold, Prince of Anhalt-Köthen that he sent the bound manuscript of six concertos to Margrave Christian Ludwig. Two years previously, in 1719, Bach had performed for him during a visit to Berlin after which he commissioned Bach to write him some music.
It’s unclear why Bach waited until 1721 to send the manuscript to the Margrave, especially as it’s generally accepted that the six pieces were drawn from compositions possibly dating back as far as 1708. What is clear, however, is that Bach never received any acknowledgement or pay from the Margrave. In fact the concertos may never have even been performed since Christian Ludwig didn’t have good enough musicians to perform the complex pieces.
The manuscript therefore languished in the Margrave’s library until his death in 1734 when it once again disappeared. It was finally rediscovered over a century later, in 1849. However, the pieces only became known as the ‘Brandenburg Concertos’ after the term was coined by Philipp Spitta in his later 19th Century biography of the composer.
On the 24th February 1848, amidst the revolutions that were beginning to sweep across the continent, King Louis Philippe of France abdicated the throne. Having come to power following the July Revolution in 1830 he was known as the “Citizen King” and the “Bourgeois Monarch”, but his rule saw conditions deteriorate for many French people.
Louis Philippe came from the more liberal Orléans branch of the House of Bourbon, and had even been a member of the Jacobin Club in the early years of the French Revolution. Having fled the country during the Reign of Terror he returned to France during the Bourbon Restoration. Following the abdication of Charles X in 1830 he was proclaimed King of the French by the popularly elected Chamber of Deputies.
Louis Philippe’s reign began positively, but over time he faced mounting opposition due to favouring land owners over bourgeois industrialists, and reducing the electoral franchise to only about 1 percent of the population. This led to a largely middle class Reform Movement who, by the summer of 1847, had begun to hold ‘banquets’ at which they began to form an organised opposition. A banquet to mark the birthday of George Washington on the 22nd February 1848 was prohibited by the government, and provided the spark for civil unrest.
On the 23rd the Prime Minister, François Pierre Guillaume Guizot, resigned. Following this, a crowd marched on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and 52 people died. The next day, Louis Philippe abdicated and fled across the Channel to Britain where he died two years later. Meanwhile, back in France, the opposition proclaimed the Second Republic.