15 June 1330
Birth in Woodstock of Edward the Black Prince, the eldest son of King Edward III and Philippa of Hainault. He fought at Crecy and Poitiers, and died in 1376, a year before his father. The throne eventually passed to his son, who reigned as Richard II.
15 June 1381: Peasants’ Revolt loses its head
Rebel leader Wat Tyler disrespects the king at Smithfield – and pays dearly
Wat Tyler’s name may be one of the most famous in English history, but remarkably little is known about him. In the spring of 1381 he was an obscure Kentish man, unlikely to trouble later historians. But then, amid growing discontent at efforts to enforce a highly regressive poll tax, the Peasants’ Revolt broke out in Essex, soon spreading to neighbouring counties.
By early June the rebels had elected Tyler as their leader, and on the 13th they swept into the capital. The next day, they stormed the Tower of London. With Richard II just a 14-year-old boy, authority seemed about to collapse completely.
Then, late on the afternoon of 15 June, came the dramatic turning point. At Smithfield, Richard and his officials rode out to meet the rebels. According to one medieval chronicler, “Tyler, in the presence of the king, sent for a flagon of water to rinse his mouth, because of the great heat that he was in,” and proceeded to drink it “in a very rude and disgusting fashion before the king’s face.”
Harsh words were exchanged, and Tyler struck at one of Richard’s men with his dagger. Then, as the lord mayor of London, William Walworth, intervened, a scuffle broke out. Swords flashed, and Tyler, wounded in his chest, neck and head, spurred his horse to ride back to his men. He made it only halfway before toppling to the ground. He was taken to hospital, but Walworth tracked him down, dragged him back to Smithfield and cut off his head. | Written by Dominic Sandbrook
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15 June 1648: Margaret Jones is executed in Massachusetts for witchcraft
New England’s witch-hunting mania claims its first victim
“At this court,” begins the 15 June 1648 entry in the journal of John Winthrop, governor of Massachusetts, “one Margaret Jones, of Charlestown, was indicted and found guilty of witchcraft, and hanged for it.”
According to Winthrop, Jones was a midwife whose “malignant touch” had caused “deafness, or vomiting, or other violent pains or sickness” in her patients. She had the gift of foresight; her body had rogue “teats”, one fresh, one withered. Worse, when she was arrested, a strange child appeared in her arms, ran into another room and disappeared.
All of this seemed pretty conclusive and, despite her angry protestations, the court duly found her guilty. “The same day and hour she was executed,” wrote Winthrop ominously, “there was a very great tempest at Connecticut, which blew down many trees.”
Puritan minister John Hale, who was 12 at the time, later told a different story. Jones was accused, Hale thought, “partly because after some angry words passing between her and her neighbours, some mischief befell such neighbours” and their livestock. On the day of Jones’s execution, Hale accompanied a group of people who urged her to confess. Not surprisingly, she refused. In the past, she admitted, she had been guilty of theft. “But it was long since, and she had repented of it... but as for witchcraft she was wholly free from it, and so she said unto her death.”
Jones’s death marked the beginning of a witch-hunt craze that would claim the lives of around 80 New England colonists over the next century. | Written by Dominic Sandbrook
15 June 1843
Composer and pianist Edvard Hagerup Grieg was born in Bergen, Norway. He is best known for the music he composed for Ibsen’s allegorical drama Peer Gynt.
15 June 1862
A gang of bushrangers led by Frank Gardiner and Ben Hall ambushed a gold escort coach near Eugowra, New South Wales, and stole about 80kg of gold. It was Australia’s biggest gold robbery.
15 June 1878: The world’s first moving pictures are caught on camera
Eadweard Muybridge’s dynamic images of a galloping horse propel photography into a new age
Eadweard Muybridge led, by any standards, a very strange life. Born in Surrey in 1830, he emigrated to the United States, suffered brain damage in a Texas stagecoach accident and murdered a drama critic whom he had accused of sleeping with his wife, only to be acquitted on the grounds of justifiable homicide.
Yet in the middle of all this, Muybridge created what are often described as the world’s first moving pictures. In the late 1860s he had become well known for his stunning images of Yosemite Valley, and the former California governor Leland Stanford commissioned him to find out whether a horse’s feet did – as some people claimed – leave the ground all at once when it was racing.
Muybridge duly began taking pictures, but the real breakthrough came on 15 June 1878 at Stanford’s farm in Palo Alto, before an audience of invited journalists. Hoping to capture Stanford’s mare Sallie Gardner at the gallop, Muybridge had stationed 12 cameras along the track, some 27 inches apart. The shutters were controlled by tripwires, which would be triggered as the horse passed.
Sallie duly set off, galloping at a planned speed of 36 miles per hour. The shutters clicked; the photos were taken. Muybridge developed the prints there and then. When the reporters examined them, they saw that all four of Sallie’s feet had indeed left the ground. And when, two years later, Muybridge projected the pictures on to a big screen, it seemed as if Sallie was genuinely galloping before the audience’s astonished eyes. In effect, he had created the world’s first silent film. | Written by Dominic Sandbrook
15 June 1919
After a 16-hour flight from Newfoundland, British aviators John Alcock and Arthur Whitten Brown land their Vickers Vimy twin engine plane in a bog near Clifden in Ireland to become the first men to fly non-stop across the Atlantic.