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13 April: On this day in history

What events happened on 13 April in history? We round up the events, births and deaths…

Published: April 13, 2022 at 6:05 am

13 April 1204: Crusaders devastate Constantinople

Christian armies smash, steal and slaughter

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Have the wounds from the Fourth Crusade’s sack of Constantinople ever healed? It might sound a strange question, but ever since the crusaders burst into the Byzantine capital, relations between the Latin and Orthodox worlds have never been the same.

It was, from start to finish, a ghastly story. Called by Pope Innocent III, the Fourth Crusade was supposed to capture Jerusalem. Before the crusaders had even left Europe, however, they were unable to pay for the extravagant Venetian fleet they had ordered. The Venetian doge, Enrico Dandolo, promised to suspend their debts and offer them funds – if they would help take the city of Zara (Zadar). This diversion eventually led the crusaders to Constantinople, one of Venice’s chief commercial rivals.

Here, after a series of immensely complicated machinations, the crusaders agreed to install the future Alexios IV on the throne, in return for thousands of soldiers and 200,000 silver marks. Alexios duly took power but was eventually toppled by a rival, Alexios V. The crusaders demanded their money anyway. The second Alexios said no – and so they decided to seize the city, with all its treasures, for themselves.

For three days, having scaled the walls and fought their way into the centre, the crusaders ran riot. The altars were shattered, the nuns violated, the townsfolk slaughtered without mercy. Many priceless artworks were destroyed; others were taken, like the bronze horses which stand in Venice today.

“No one was without a share in the grief,” wrote the Byzantine official Nicetas Choniates, recalling the sound of “weeping, lamentations, grief, the groaning of men, the shrieks of women, wounds, rape, captivity... All places everywhere were filled full of all kinds of crime.”

The city – and indeed the empire – never recovered. | Written by Dominic Sandbrook


13 April 1598

Henry IV of France promulgates the Edict of Nantes, granting civil rights and considerable religious liberty to his Huguenot subjects. The Edict helps bring an end to the French Wars of Religion. It will be revoked by Louis XIV in 1685.


13 April 1612

Sasaki Kojiro, a noted Japanese swordsman known as 'The Demon of the Western Provinces', was slain in a duel on Ganryu Island by Miyamoto Musashi.


13 April 1640

The Short Parliament assembles at Westminster, the first parliament to be called by Charles I for 11 years. However the king, alarmed by its criticism of his policies, dissolved the parliament three weeks later.


13 April 1732

Lord North, British prime minister during the American Revolution, is born in Piccadilly.


13 April 1743

Thomas Jefferson, third president of the United States and principal author of the Declaration of Independence, was born at Shadwell, Virginia.


13 April 1771

Birth in the parish of Illogan in Cornwall of Richard Trevithick, inventor, mining engineer and constructor of the world's first full-scale working railway steam locomotive.

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13 April 1919

Ninety Indian Army soldiers under the command of Brigadier-General Reginald Dyer open fire on a large crowd in the Jallianwallah Bagh in Amritsar. | Read more about the Amritsar massacre

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