16 June 1332
Isabella, the eldest daughter of King Edward III and Philippa of Hainault, was born in Woodstock. In 1365, at the comparatively late age of 33, she married Enguerrand de Coucy, a young French nobleman who was a hostage in England.
16 June 1487: The battle of Stoke Field crushes the Yorkist claim
Henry VII decisively wins the last clash in the Wars of the Roses
Two years after Bosworth, Henry’s position was far from secure. After decades of turmoil, few people believed the fighting was quite over, and their suspicions were confirmed when Yorkist forces set sail from Dublin in May, led by a boy purporting to be Edward, Earl of Warwick, who was then in the Tower of London. In reality, the boy was an obscure youth called Lambert Simnel. But the threat was real enough, since Simnel’s troops, many of them German and Swiss mercenaries, were led by the former Yorkist commander John de la Pole, Earl of Lincoln.
It was not until June that Henry caught up with Lincoln’s army. The date was the 16th; the place was East Stoke, near Newark in Nottinghamshire. The armies were probably even bigger than at Bosworth and the stakes were arguably higher too. If Henry had lost, the Tudor era would have been strangled at birth.
But Henry did not lose. Although Lincoln’s mercenaries carried the latest continental firearms, the king’s archers proved decisive, their arrows raining mercilessly down onto the Yorkist ranks, with one chronicler likening the stricken men to hedgehogs. By the end of the battle, the Yorkists had turned and fled, many of them butchered in a gully known afterwards as the Bloody Gutter. The death toll may have been higher than 4,000. Now the civil wars really were over. | Written by Dominic Sandbrook
16 June 1600
Sir John Carmichael, warden of the Scottish West March, was ambushed and murdered by a branch of the Armstrong clan while riding to attend a warden court at Langholm.
16 June 1871
The University Tests Act abolished the requirement for fellows and students of Oxford, Cambridge, and Durham, who were not studying divinity, to be practising members of the Anglican church.
16 June 1883: 183 children crushed to death in concert tragedy
“Greatest treat” turns to tragedy as children stampede for prizes
The poster for Sunderland’s Victoria Hall seemed wonderfully enticing. “On Saturday Afternoon at 3 o’clock,” it said, “the Fays from the Tynemouth Aquarium Will Give a Grand Day Performance for Children – The Greatest Treat for Children Ever Given.” There would, it added, be prizes, “a handsome Present, Books, Toys, &c”. When Mr and Mrs Fay took the stage on 16 June 1883, an estimated 2,000 children were packed into the concert hall.
What followed was a tragedy of heartbreaking proportions. At the end of the show, an announcer declared that children with specially numbered tickets would get a prize on the way out. Meanwhile, performers began handing out treats to children in the front row. Many of the 1,100 children in the gallery rushed towards the stairs, worried they were going to miss out.
At the bottom, however, they found a narrow door, bolted to allow only one child through at a time. As more children stampeded down the stairs, a crush began to develop. Parents rushed to help, but could not get near the door.
Children started falling, bodies piling up near the door. By now it was obvious that a terrible disaster was under way.
In all, 183 children died that day, some as young as three. In the aftermath, legislation provided for better emergency exits, with doors opening outwards, not inwards. Queen Victoria sent a heartfelt letter of condolence quoting the words of Jesus: “Suffer little children to come unto me... for such is the Kingdom of God.” | Written by Dominic Sandbrook
16 June 1903
In Detroit, the engineer Henry Ford and 11 investors incorporate the Ford Motor Company, which soon becomes the largest and most profitable car company in the world.
16 June 1929
Death of Bramwell Booth, eldest son of William Booth, the founder of the Salvation Army. He had become its second general on William Booth’s death in 1912.
16 June 1963: Soviet Union puts first woman into space
Valentina Tereshkova goes into orbit two years after Gagarin
It was dawn on 16 June 1963, and at the Baikonur Cosmodrome, the giant Soviet space complex in a desert area of Kazakhstan, Valentina Tereshkova put on her spacesuit and stepped into the bus taking her to the launch pad. As was traditional, she relieved herself on a bus tyre for luck, just as Yuri Gagarin had done two years earlier. Then, after completing her final checks, she allowed herself to be sealed into her Vostok 6 capsule. At exactly 9.29am, her rocket roared into the sky. Moments later, Valentina Tereshkova – call sign ‘Seagull’ – became the first woman in space.
How she had come to be at Baikonur that day is almost as interesting as the details of her flight. She was born in 1937, the daughter of a working-class tractor driver and a textile worker, who had moved to a central Russian village from their native Belarus. Her father, who served in a tank regiment, was killed in the Winter War against the Finns when she was only two. Raised by her mother, she did not go to school until the age of eight and left six years later to work in a local factory. But then she discovered an unusual hobby: parachuting. She made her first jump in 1959, and never looked back.
- Read more about the Space Race
Two years later, after Yuri Gagarin had become the first man in space, the Soviet authorities began looking for candidates to become the first woman to follow suit. With relatively few female pilots to choose from, they actively sought skydivers, and Tereshkova duly applied. As the daughter of a dead war hero, with impeccable proletarian credentials and a record of keen service in the Young Communist League, she was perfect, and in late 1962 she got the nod.
Tereshkova’s historic flight was a triumph. After 48 orbits lasting more than two days, she landed back on Earth with nothing more than a bump on the head. She was now not just a national hero, but an international superstar. | Written by Dominic Sandbrook