10 August 991

Ealdorman Brihtnoth was defeated by a force of Viking raiders at the battle of Maldon in Essex. The Vikings, who were probably led by Olaf Tryggvason, had been camped on Northey Island which was joined to the mainland by a narrow tidal causeway. Seeking to bring the Vikings to battle before they sailed off to raid elsewhere, Brihtnoth allowed them to cross the causeway unopposed. Both sides suffered heavy casualties but the Vikings prevailed and Brihtnoth was slain.


10 August 1512

An English fleet under Sir Edward Howard defeated a Franco-Breton fleet under Rene de Clermont in a fierce naval action off Brest. During the fighting the Breton flagship Marie de la Cordelière became separated from the main French fleet and was surrounded by English ships. The Cordelière caught alight and soon the flames spread to the Regent, one of the largest ships in the Tudor navy, which was alongside and attempting to board her. Both ships were destroyed in the ensuing inferno and most of their crews lost.

10 August 1675

Responding to Charles II’s enthusiasm for “the perfecting of the art of navigation”, the foundation stone of the Royal Observatory was laid at Greenwich in London.

10 August 1792: The French monarchy topples

Louis XVI flees for his life as republican revolutionaries rampage through Paris

In the summer of 1792, Paris seethed with tension. Since the revolution had begun three years earlier, the momentum towards violence had become unstoppable, and as one defeat followed another in the Austrian Netherlands, the mood in the capital darkened. For many people, there was an obvious scapegoat: the king, Louis XVI, with his foreign friends and Austrian-born wife, Marie Antoinette.

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“It is in the name of the king,” said one revolutionary leader, “that liberty is being attacked.” For the first time, many politicians began to talk openly about the abolition of the monarchy.

On the night of 9/10 August, the storm broke. In the early hours of the morning, a revolutionary mob marched on the royal palace, the Tuileries. Reviewing his troops, “with his sword at his side, but with the powder falling out of his hair”, Louis was shocked to hear some of them shouting: “Long live the nation!” and “Down with the [royal] veto!” The queen begged her husband to stand and fight. But Louis could not abide the thought of bloodshed. Instead of standing firm, he and his family fled to the sanctuary of the National Assembly.

In the meantime, the revolutionaries rampaged through the abandoned palace, massacring Louis’s Swiss Guards, as well as his male servants and courtiers. In all, perhaps 1,000 people died. The monarchy was finished; a new mood of republican idealism seized the capital. Abroad, the reaction was utter horror.

“The French,” said one British newspaper, “by their own madness and folly, have thereby prepared for themselves that ruin and destruction, which the combined power of all the despots in the universe could not otherwise have effected.” | Written by Dominic Sandbrook

10 August 1809

The Ecuadorian city of Quito declared its independence from Spain. The rebellion was crushed but Quito won its freedom after the battle of Pinchincha in 1822.


10 August 1810

The birth in Turin of Camillo Benso, Count of Cavour. Cavour was a leading supporter of Italian unification and served as the Kingdom of Italy’s first prime minister.

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