1 August 1589: Henry III suffers a fatal knife attack

A religious fanatic assassinates the last Valois king of France


The Wars of Religion raged in France throughout King Henry III’s reign, dividing the people between Catholics and Huguenots (Protestants), threatening royal authority – and leading to a brutal attack on Henry on 1 August 1589.

In 1576, a year after his coronation, Henry had signed the Edict of Beaulieu, granting concessions to the Huguenots – such as the right to worship freely in public – and, in the process, making many Catholic enemies. In response, the powerful Henry I, Duke of Guise formed the Catholic League to drive Protestantism out of France. Civil war raged for years, and Henry was forced to flee Paris and join forces with the Calvinist Henry of Navarre.

It was at the small town of Saint-Cloud, while planning to besiege the capital, that the king received a messenger claiming to carry important documents. In fact, it was a Dominican friar named Jacques Clément, who had long planned to assassinate the mon- arch. After handing over various papers, Clément said he had another, confidential message to deliver.

Leaning forward as if to whisper in the king’s ear, Clément drew a dagger from his cloak and stabbed Henry in the abdomen, before himself being killed by the king’s guards. The following morning – the day that the king planned to launch his attack on Paris – Henry succumbed to his injuries. | Written by Helen Carr

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1 August 1714: Queen Anne suffers a fatal stroke

The monarch’s death marks the end of the House of Stuart

By the summer of 1714, Queen Anne was in dreadful health. She was only 49 but seemed older, swollen by dropsy and half-crippled by gout. To cap it all, she took political stresses personally – and this was a summer of intense political turmoil.

In recent years Anne had relied heavily on Robert Harley, who is sometimes described as the first prime minister in all but name. But their relations had long since broken down, and in July she told the cabinet that he had come to work drunk and late, and treated her with “ill manner, indecency and disrespect”. On 27 July she sacked him as Lord Treasurer, and attended a late-night meeting to discuss a successor. But the strain was too much for her, and three days later she suffered a massive stroke.

Anne had been struck down with illness many times before, but this was different. For the best part of two days she lingered, but at breakfast on 1 August the queen breathed her last. One of her doctors told his friend, the writer Jonathan Swift, that the end had come as a great release. “I believe sleep was never more welcome to a weary traveller,” he wrote, “than death was to her.”

In the next few days, while politicians scrambled to secure the smooth succession of George, Elector of Hanover, Anne’s body was prepared for burial. In a rather undignified final touch, she was so bloated that she had to have a square coffin | Written by Dominic Sandbrook

1 August 1740

The first public performance of Rule Britannia took place at Cliveden in Buckinghamshire where it formed part of a masque to celebrate the third birthday of Augusta, daughter of Frederick, Prince of Wales.

1 August 1800

In London, George III gives the royal assent to a new Act of Union, bringing together the realms of Great Britain and Ireland in a single United Kingdom. The act comes into effect on the first day of the following year.

1 August 1831

John Rennie’s new London Bridge was officially opened by King William IV and Queen Adelaide, who attended a banquet in a pavilion erected on the bridge. The City of London Council decided to sell the bridge in 1967 after its foundations had been struggling to cope with the weight of traffic passing over it for decades. The following year the bridge was bought by American entrepreneur Robert McCulloch and re-erected at Lake Havasu City, Arizona. Its replacement was opened by Queen Elizabeth II in March 1973.

1 August 1842

An African-American parade commemorating the abolition of slavery in the British West Indies was attacked by Irish Catholics in lombard Street, Philadelphia. The ensuing rioting lasted for three days.

1 August 1907: Baden-Powell holds world’s first Scout camp

The war hero seeks to rescue Britain’s “degenerate” youth

Today, when the Scouting movement commands the allegiance of more than 32 million members, it is hard to imagine a world without it. But in August 1907, when Lieutenant-General Robert Baden-Powell, the hero of Mafeking during the Second Boer War, invited a group of youngsters to the first Scout camp on Brownsea Island, Dorset, it was by no means certain that Scouting would catch on.

But Baden-Powell had a dream. Only his blend of unashamed patriotism, outdoor woodcraft and African storytelling, he believed, could rescue Britain’s degenerate youngsters from the corruption of the cities. He had almost finished his famous manual Scouting for Boys; now he wanted to test its ideas in the open air.

Some 22 boys attended that first Scout camp – 11 from Eton and Harrow, seven from the Bournemouth Boys’ Brigade, three from Poole, plus Baden-Powell’s own nephew. This was Baden-Powell’s dream in microcosm: boys from all backgrounds, paying an entrance fee according to their means.


They wore khaki scarves and fleur-de-lis badges; they said prayers, practised their knots and listened to Baden-Pow- ell’s war stories. They were divided into four patrols – Wolves, Bulls, Curlews and Ravens – in which they learned to track animals through the woods. At six every morning, Baden-Powell roused them with a blast on his kudu horn – a relic of the Second Matebele War. More than two decades later, when Baden-Powell opened the gigantic jamboree to mark the 21st birthday of the Scouting movement, he blew the same kudu horn he had first used at Brownsea. | Written by Dominic Sandbrook

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