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On this day, 31 May

Joseph Grimaldi

Today, we’re highlighting one of many events that have occurred over the years on 31 May. On 31 May 1837, the Clown Laureate of the Regency era, Joseph ‘Joey’ Grimaldi, died. Read the entire obituary Grimaldi was considered the best clown of the nineteenth century. His work was influential in the role and appearance of clowns — he expanded the clown’s role in pantomimes and the harlequinade. He worked on several famous stages, including Drury Lane, Sadler’s Wells, and Covent Garden. Over

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On this day, 18 May

Today, we’re looking at two events that occurred on 18 May: the Khodynka Tragedy in 1896 and Jacqueline Cochran’s breaking of the sound barrier in 1953. Khodynka Tragedy The first took place in 1896 in the Khodynka Field, Moscow. The field was the site of festivities honouring the recent coronation of Emperor Nicholas II. Thousands gathered to celebrate and to, hopefully, receive rumoured gifts of food and a commemorative cup. With growing and increasingly frenzied crowds, the police force on

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The Obscenity Trial of Miss Radclyffe Hall’s novel, ‘The Well of Loneliness’ – 16 November 1928

‘Give us also the right to our existence’ At Bow Street in London on 16 November 1928, Miss Radclyffe Hall’s novel, ‘The Well of Loneliness’, found itself in the dock on a charge of obscenity. The powers-that-be had decided that they did not like the novel’s ‘unnatural offences’ – hence the decision to prosecute. The magistrate eventually decided that the book was obscene and ordered that it be destroyed. Here is a newspaper story that reports on this famous literary

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‘Charge of the Light Cavalry Brigade’ – the Battle of Balaclava, 25 October 1854

On 25 October 1854, Lord Cardigan led the charge of the Light Brigade againt the Russians in the Battle of Balaclava in the Crimea. The insane order to attack the gun positions arose due to a miscommunicated message somewhere along the chain of command. 156 men of the Light Brigade were killed in the charge and 122 were wounded – 335 horses were also killed during the attack. Included below is a newspaper article from November 1854 that reports on the

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The Start of the Battle of the Somme – 1 July 1916

The Somme Offensive commenced on 1 July 1916, as Allied forces attacked German positions by the River Somme on the Western Front in France. On the opening day of the battle, the British suffered 60,000 casualties – making it the worst day in the history of the British army. Here is an upbeat newspaper report of the battle, which was published on the first day of the battle – also included is a map of the area where the battle took

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‘Operation Barbarossa’: the Invasion of the Soviet Union by Nazi Germany – 22 June 1941

‘When Barbarossa commences, the world will hold its breath and make no comment’ – Adolf Hitler On 22 June 1941, Hitler ordered the start of ‘Operation Barbarossa’ – the campaign to conquer the Soviet Union. To mark the day, here are some contemporary newspaper stories (published the day after the invasion started) that report on the start of the war between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. Image © Northcliffe Media Limited. Image created courtesy of THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD.

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The Duel Fought by the Duke of Wellington and the Earl of Winchelsea – 23 March 1829

On 23 March 1829, the Duke of Wellington and Earl of Winchelsea fought a duel at Battersea Fields in South London. At this time, the Duke of Wellington was Prime Minster of Great Britain and Ireland, and his Tory Government had passed the Catholic Relief Bill. This act was represented the legislative move towards Catholic emancipation, and a section of the legislation would allow catholics to take a seat in parliament. Wellington (who had been born in Dublin) had not

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The Strange Deaths of Archduke Rudolf, Crown Prince of Austria, and Baroness Mary Vetsera – 30 January 1889

On 30 January 1889, the bodies of Archduke Rudolf and his mistress, Baroness Mary Vetsera, were discovered in the royal hunting lodge at Mayerling. The official verdict is that the star-crossed lovers died in a suicide pact after Rudolf’s father, Franz Joseph I of Austria, demanded that he end the relationship. However, there are theories that Rudolf was murdered (Mary’s body was smuggled out of Mayerling in the middle of the night and Rudolf was described as being ‘mentally unbalanced’)

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