14 April 1322

Former royal councillor Sir Bartholomew de Badlesmere was hanged and beheaded in Canterbury. He was captured by the forces of Edward II after fighting for the rebels at Boroughbridge.


14 April 1471: Warwick the Kingmaker is slain in battle

The royal power broker meets a merciless end at the battle of Barnet

When Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, awoke on 14 April 1471, it was to a landscape obscured by thick fog. The day before, the richest and most powerful magnate in England had arrayed his army along a ridge north of Barnet, ready for battle.

The stakes could not have been higher, but Warwick was a hardened gambler. He had been in his mid-20s when the dynastic feuding known as the Wars of the Roses had broken out in earnest. At the start of the wars he had been a Yorkist, instrumental in placing the young Edward IV on the throne. But after the two fell out, Warwick had switched sides. Now his men fought for the House of Lancaster.

Dawn had not yet broken when the fighting began, and the fog was so thick that it was impossible to work out exactly what was going on. On Warwick’s right, his ally, the Earl of Oxford, overwhelmed his opponents, but on his left, the Yorkists were making bloody headway. Oxford managed to round up his men and lead them back into the fray, but in the heavy fog his badge – a star with rays – looked very similar to Edward IV’s sun in splendour. As a result, the Lancastrian centre, believing them the enemy, poured arrows into Oxford’s men. All was chaos, confusion and panic; some men were shouting about treason, others running from the field. The Yorkist reserves piled in; the Lancastrians broke. What followed was a bloody massacre.

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Waiting with his reserves, peering through the mist, Warwick realised that the game was up. According to the chroniclers, he was trying to get away when the Yorkist soldiers overtook him. There was, of course, no mercy. | Written by Dominic Sandbrook

14 April 1578

James Hepburn, fourth Earl of Bothwell, the third husband of Mary, Queen of Scots, dies a prisoner in Denmark's Dragsholm Castle.

14 April 1759

George Frideric Handel dies in Westminster aged 74. As well as being a prolific composer he had supported the Thomas Coram's Foundling Hospital and gave numerous performances there for its benefit.

14 April 1816

In Barbados, a slave, Bussa, leads a revolt against the island’s British governors. After just two days, he and 400 of his followers are cornered by the colonial militia, who kill dozens of them, including Bussa himself.

14 April 1863

The first US patent for a continuous-roll printing press was issued to William Bullock. In 1867 Bullock died during an operation to amputate his leg after it had got trapped in one of his machines.

14 April 1865: Lincoln is assassinated

American president is targeted after promising the vote to former slaves

It was lunchtime on 14 April 1865. In the lobby of Washington’s National Hotel, actor John Wilkes Booth scribbled a last note to his mother. As he later recalled, he had decided that “our cause being almost lost, something decisive and great must be done”.

Booth had been born in Maryland, but he always saw himself as a Southerner, sympathised with the slave-owning Confederacy and hated the Union president, Abraham Lincoln. But by April 1865 the American Civil War was all but over. Three days earlier, in a crowd outside the White House, Booth had heard Lincoln promise to give the vote to former slaves. For the actor, that was the final straw. “Now, by God, I’ll put him through,” he declared. “That is the last speech he will ever give.”

Just before 10.30 on the evening of the 14th, Booth made his way towards the presidential box at Ford’s Theater, where he knew Lincoln and his wife would be enjoying the comedy Our American Cousin. He knew the play, and timed his move for when the laughter would be loudest. On stage, the actor Harry Hawk said: “Don’t know the manners of good society, eh? Well, I guess I know enough to turn you inside out, old gal; you sockdologizing old man-trap!”

The audience roared. Booth swung open the door of the president’s box, levelled his pistol, and fired. Lincoln fell immediately. In the confusion, Booth stabbed the president’s friend Major Rathbone in the arm and tried to leap from the box onto the stage, but one of his riding spurs caught in the flag decorating the box and he landed awkwardly. Many of the audience still believed he was something to do with the play. But Booth raised his bloody knife over his head. “Sic semper tyrannis!” he yelled – “thus always to tyrants!” | Written by Dominic Sandbrook

14 April 1907

Haitian despot Francois "Papa Doc" Duvalier is born in Port-au-Prince.


14 April 1970

"OK, Houston, we've had a problem here". With these words Apollo 13 astronaut Jack Swigert first informed NASA of technical difficulties that forced the planned lunar landing to be aborted and endangered the lives of the crew.

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