1 July 1569

In Poland, a joint assembly of Polish and Lithuanian notables agrees the Union of Lublin, creating the largest state in early modern Europe: the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.


1 July 1690: James II flees from the battle of the Boyne

The deposed monarch fails to put up much of a fight against William of Orange in an iconic clash of kings and religion

On the first day of July 1690, two royal armies faced each other across the river Boyne, north of Dublin. On the southern bank was James II (and VII), until recently king of England, Scotland and Ireland, who had been deposed two years earlier in the Glorious Revolution. On the other side stood William III (and II), Prince of Orange, who had taken the crown at the request of England’s Whig political elite. This was a clash not merely of kings but of religions: James was a Catholic, William a Protestant. Thanks to his cousin Louis XIV, James had some 6,000 French cavalry, but most of his infantrymen were ill-trained Irish peasants, many armed only with scythes.

William’s most reliable troops, meanwhile, were his Dutch and Danish veterans. He had little faith in his English and Scottish soldiers, but his most colourful recruits were his Ulster Protestant ‘skirmishers’. They were “half-naked with sabre and pistols hanging from their belts,” an army chaplain wrote, “like a horde of Tartars”.

Ironically, given its reputation, the battle was something of a damp squib. William’s chief objective was the ford at Oldbridge, where he hoped to get his men across, but for four hours the Jacobites held them up.

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Casualties were surprisingly light; out of perhaps 50,000 men, only 2,000 died. The end came when James ordered his army to fall back towards Dublin, handing his opponent a moral victory. Many Jacobites promptly deserted, William took Dublin just two days later, and James, who never had much appetite for the fight, retired to France. Neither could have known how important the battle would become in the collective imaginations of Ireland’s Protestant and Catholic communities. | Written by Dominic Sandbrook

1 July 1863

The first shots were fired in the battle of Gettysburg, the bloodiest clash of the American Civil War and a decisive victory for General George Meade’s Union forces over Robert E Lee’s Confederates.

1 July 1912

The first Royal Command Variety Performance was staged at London’s Palace Theatre in the presence of King George V and Queen Mary. Performers included Harry Lauder and Anna Pavlova – but not the racy and controversial Marie Lloyd.


1 July 1961

Birth in Park House, Sandringham, Norfolk of the Honourable Diana Frances Spencer, the youngest daughter of the future 8th Earl Spencer and his first wife, Frances.

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