The English writer Daniel Defoe was put in the pillory for seditious libel after publishing a politically satirical pamphlet.

Defoe had authored a number of political pamphlets by the time he published The Shortest Way with the Dissenters, which satirised the increasing hostility towards religious Dissenters after Queen Anne succeeded to the throne. Also known as nonconformists, the term applied to a range of Protestant denominations that had broken away from the Anglican High church over the course of the previous century, and who were often the target for criticism and persecution.

Shortly after Anne came to the throne parliament began to debate a Bill that would make it more difficult for Dissenters to hold public office. In its wake, High church clergymen and the Tory press published numerous sermons and pamphlets warning against Dissenters assuming positions of political power.

Defoe himself was a Presbyterian, who responded with a pamphlet of his own. Written as a satire from the point of view of the High church and Tory arguments, Defoe later explained that he sought to mock them by taking their arguments to the extreme. However, the pamphlet was initially taken seriously by both sides and ultimately led to the Tory ministry of the time coming under scrutiny for their handling of the issue of Dissenters.

Despite publishing the pamphlet anonymously, Defoe was identified and later found guilty of seditious libel. He was sentenced to endure public humiliation in a pillory, and then to be imprisoned until he paid a punitive fine that he was unlikely ever to afford. While in the pillory the public allegedly threw flowers at him instead of the customary unpleasant objects. He was later released from prison after his fine was paid in return for him agreeing to work for the Tories.

The Battle of Gravelines, the decisive battle of the Spanish Armada, took place off the coast of Flanders.

In May 1588, King Philip II of Spain sent a fleet of 130 ships under the command of the Duke of Medina Sidonia to support the invasion of England by 30,000 troops based in the Spanish Netherlands. Their objective, which had the support of Pope Sixtus V, was to overthrow Elizabeth I and reinstate Catholicism.

Elizabeth was expecting an invasion attempt, so had sent Sir Francis Drake to the Bay of Cádiz the previous year to disrupt the Spanish preparations. By the time the Armada set sail in 1588 the English fleet, based in Plymouth, outnumbered the Spanish but had lower overall firepower.

Harried by the English, the Armada sailed along the English south coast and reached Calais on 27 July where the fleet anchored in a defensive crescent formation. At midnight the next day the English sent ships packed with wood and pitch and set alight directly into the middle of the Spanish fleet which resulted in the ships scattering and breaking the crescent formation.

With the Spanish fleet in disarray, the English closed for battle on 29 July. They repeatedly provoked the Spanish, and then used the wind to sail out of range of their guns before closing in again to unleash a broadside. In this manner the Spanish were gradually worn down, losing five ships while sinking none of the English.

Having run dangerously low of ammunition, Medina Sidonia took advantage of a change in the wind and fled north. Chased by the English fleet, the Armada was forced to sail around the north coast of Scotland and return to Spain via Ireland. Less than half the ships that had set out made it back.

Archibald Brown was murdered by his son, who placed an anti-tank grenade under the seat of his bath chair.

47 year old Archibald Brown had required the use of a bath chair, a luxurious type of wheelchair, since a motorcycle accident more than twenty years earlier had caused him to lose the use of both of his legs. After inheriting a large amount of money from his own father, Archibald employed three nurses to provide care for him at home in Rayleigh in Essex. Meanwhile he subjected his wife, Doris, and their sons Eric and Colin to years of torment and abuse.

Eric was called up to the 8th Battalion of the Suffolk Regiment in October 1942, where he was trained to use the Number 75 Hawkins grenade that would detonate when a vehicle drove over the pressure plate on top. While at home on leave he grew increasingly angry at the way his father treated his mother. Deciding that the only way to end the situation was for his father to die, Eric placed an adapted stolen Hawkins grenade under the seat of his father’s bath chair.

When Nurse Doris Mitchell went to collect the bath chair to take Archibald for a walk around the local area, she was surprised to find the door locked. After a few moments a nervous Eric brought the chair out and Archibald was placed on his seat.

About a mile into the walk, Archibald shifted his weight to retrieve a packet of cigarettes. Nurse Mitchell lit one for him before resuming pushing the chair, but after just a few steps there was an enormous explosion. Archibald and most of the chair were blown to pieces and scattered over a wide area by the anti-tank grenade. Mitchell suffered injuries to her legs but survived.

Shortly afterwards Eric was charged with murder. He was found guilty, and was sentenced to a psychiatric hospital where he stayed until 1975.

On the 22nd July 1706, the foundation for the establishment of the Kingdom of Great Britain was laid when commissioners from England and Scotland agreed the Acts of Union. Although both countries had been under the same monarch since King James I and VI, it took over a century for the two countries to be united as Great Britain.

Previous attempts to unite Scotland and England had taken place since James came to the throne, but each had resulted in failure. However by the start of the 18th century each country found itself in a position where political union would be advantageous. Scotland would benefit from the economic security of union, while England hoped to remove Scotland as a ‘backdoor’ for French attacks or a possible Jacobite restoration.

The 31 English and 31 Scottish commissioners chosen to carry out negotiations for union first met at the Cockpit, a government building at Whitehall in London, on 16th April. As well as their demands, each side also had a bargaining card: England would grant Scotland freedom of trade and access to colonial markets, while Scotland would agree to Hanoverian succession after Queen Anne.

The demands and compromises lined up incredibly well with each other, and after just three days the commissioners had agreed on the basic principles of union. However, it took three months in total to draw up the detailed treaty before it could go to the Scottish and English Parliaments to be ratified. Royal assent was given on the 6th March 1707, and on May 1st the Acts went into effect.

The Battle of Castillon, considered to be the last battle of the Hundred Years’ War, was fought between France and England.

After more than a century of conflict, by the end of 1451 the French under King Charles VII had captured almost all the remaining English possessions in France. Charles’ army had driven the English out of the remaining regions of Guyenne and Gascony but the locals, who had been English subjects for almost three centuries, requested liberation by Henry VI. The English king obliged in October 1452 by sending the military commander John Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury, who seized the area around Bordeaux with little difficulty.

Frustrated by the loss of the territory, Charles spent the winter preparing a large army for a counter-attack. When the French forces advanced in the summer of 1453 the 6,000 English troops were outnumbered. The French were also supported by the powerful artillery of Jean Bureau who prepared a heavily fortified camp to besiege the English-held city of Castillon on the Dordogne River.

Keen to relieve Castillon, Shrewsbury left Bordeaux in early July and successfully routed a small detachment of French archers a few miles outside the city. Bolstered by this success, and having heard reports that the French in the main camp were retreating, Talbot ordered his troops to continue without waiting for reinforcements.

The French artillery inflicted huge losses on the ill-prepared English army, repeating the devastation as waves of reinforcements arrived. Shrewsbury himself was killed in the battle, and before long the remaining English troops began a desperate retreat to Bordeaux. Castillon surrendered to the French the next day and, although Bordeaux survived a siege until October, the Battle of Castillon was the last military engagement of the Hundred Years’ War.

July 12th 927 is the closest we have to a foundation date for England, when all the kings of Britain met at Eamont Bridge, near Penrith in Cumbria, to swear an oath of peace under the overlordship of Æthelstan. Having previously been king of the Anglo-Saxons, Æthelstan’s key success in 927 was conquering Viking York which placed the kingdom of Northumbria under his control and secured the submission of the northern kings.

Æthelstan was the son of Edward the Elder, and grandson of Alfred the Great, and his ancestors had already carved large chunks from Viking lands as far north as the River Humber. As such they customarily referred to themselves as ‘king of the Saxons’ or ‘king of the Anglo-Saxons’. However, securing the submission of the other British kings meant that Æthelstan could go further. Coins minted soon after the 927 oath referred to him as rex totius Britanniae or ‘king of all Britain’.

Despite the oath, Æthelstan’s rule over the north of England was still fragile and in 937 he faced the combined forces of Scots, Vikings and Strathclyde Britons under the command of Olaf Guthfrithson, Constantine II, and Owen I respectively. An account of the ensuing Battle of Brunanburh was recorded in a contemporary poem of the same name and was preserved in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. A further 52 other sources mention the battle, although realistically we know little about what happened other than Æthelstan and his army were victorious. This victory secured Anglo-Saxon control, and effectively laid out the map of the British Isles as we know them today.


On the 10th July 1553, Lady Jane Grey was proclaimed queen of England after her first cousin once removed, the 15-year-old King Edward VI, died of an unknown respiratory problem. However, the Privy Council proclaimed Edward’s older sister Mary as queen just nine days later and imprisoned Jane in the Tower of London. She was tried on charges of high treason, found guilty, and beheaded the following February.

The Third Act of Succession was passed by Parliament in July 1543 and restored Henry’s daughters – Mary and Elizabeth – to the line of succession after his son Edward and any children he might have. Jane was the grandniece of Henry VIII through her grandmother, Mary Tudor, Queen of France, who was Henry’s sister. The Third Act of Succession stated that the throne would pass to her line if his own children did not have any descendants.

Despite all Henry’s planning, Edward VI chose to restrict the succession further. As he lay on his death bed, he nominated the Protestant Jane Grey as his successor rather than his older Catholic sister Mary. Historians disagree over how much influence Edward’s chief minister, John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland and the father of Jane’s husband Lord Guildford Dudley, had on this decision.

Whatever the role of Northumberland in the succession, when he left London after Edward’s death to intercept his sister Mary the Privy Council switched their allegiance and proclaimed Mary as queen on 19th July. Parliament later declared Jane a usurper, and she was found guilty of treason for having signed documents as “Jane the Queen”.

On the 6th July 1957, John Lennon and Paul McCartney of The Beatles met for the first time at the St. Peter’s Church garden fête in Woolton, Liverpool. Lennon was playing guitar with his skiffle band, The Quarrymen, who were performing on a bill beneath the Liverpool police dogs display team and the Band of the Cheshire Yeomanry.

McCartney arrived at the fair in the late afternoon, where the band had already begun playing. According to McCartney’s own recollection of the day they were halfway through the song Come Go With Me by American doo-wop group The Del-Vikings that had been released the previous year.

Following their afternoon performance, the Quarrymen went inside the church hall opposite the fête to set up for an evening ‘Grand Dance’ at which they had also been booked to play. It was here that the band’s sometime tea-chest bass player Ivan Vaughan introduced McCartney, with whom he was at school.

McCartney showed the band how to tune a guitar to standard tuning instead of the open G banjo tuning they used, and then sang some rock n roll including Twenty Flight Rock, Be-Bop-A-Lula and a medley of Little Richard songs. Lennon was apparently impressed with McCartney’s musicianship and later that night agreed with the Quarrymen’s washboard player, Pete Shotton, that they should invite him to join the band.  After a Scout camp in the Derbyshire Peak District, he accepted.

Lennon and McCartney both stayed in touch with Ivan Vaughan. His wife – a languages teacher – later helped McCartney to write the French lyrics for the Rubber Soul song Michelle.

The Globe Theatre in London burned to the ground during a performance of Henry VIII.

The Globe Theatre was situated on the southern side of the River Thames near today’s Southwark Bridge. It was owned by shareholders who were actors in the Lord Chamberlain’s Men whose lease had expired on their previous venue. On 28th December 1598, while the landowner was celebrating Christmas, they dismantled the old building and transported its timbers across the river to construct the Globe. Completed in 1599, the three-storey amphitheatre had an open-air standing space at its centre while the surrounding galleries were roofed with inexpensive but highly flammable thatch.

The play All is True, which was later referred to as Henry VIII was staged at the Globe in 1613. In the play the king attends a ball at Cardinal Wolsey’s house, and his arrival was heralded on stage with the firing of a cannon. A number of contemporary accounts record that during a performance on 29 June the cannon situated close to the roof misfired and set fire to the thatching.

Sir Henry Wotton recorded how the blaze ‘kindled inwardly, and ran round like a train, consuming within less than an hour the whole house to the very ground.’ The account goes on to describe how one man whose breeches were set on fire extinguished the flames by pouring a bottle of ale over himself.

The Globe was rebuilt with a tile roof, and it continued operating until 1642 when it closed as a casualty of Parliament’s ban on theatrical plays. The entire structure was demolished a few years later to make way for tenement housing yet, despite the Restoration overturning the theatrical ban in 1660, the Globe was never rebuilt. A modern reconstruction opened in 1997 near the original site.

In 1518 the English Cardinal Wolsey had negotiated the Treaty of London, a non-aggression pact that was signed by the twenty major European powers of the time. However, peace held for barely a year before two of the signatories went to war and Wolsey began to arrange meetings between Henry VIII and the other monarchs to salvage the agreement.

Francis I of France was barely three years younger than Henry and, like his English counterpart, was keen to display the grandeur of his court. Consequently both men approached their forthcoming meeting as an opportunity to outshine the other, resulting in a more than two week long festival of riches and entertainment.

The meeting took place between the communes of Ardres in France and Guîne, which at the time was under English rule. Both rulers erected lavish temporary palaces and pavilions due to the castles in the nearby communes being in a poor state of repair. The extensive use of cloth of gold, which was woven with real gold thread and silk, would later give the site of the meeting its name. The extravagance of the two kings knew no bounds, with Henry’s encampment featuring a gilt fountain that ran with wine and claret.

The event also featured such competitions as jousting and wrestling, with Henry being defeated by Francis in the latter. Yet despite the joviality provided by these games and other entertainment including banquets and exotic animals, the meeting ended on 24 June with little political progress. Less than three weeks later Henry signed an alliance with the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, Francis’ main rival on the continent.