18 July 1213

Eustace de Vesci, Lord of Alnwick, who had just returned from exile in Scotland, received a pledge from King John promising to make restitution for the damage caused to his property during the political upheavals of the previous years. Despite this, the return of his confiscated lands and the urgings of the pope, de Vesci remained suspicious of John and was a leader of the baronial faction that imposed Magna Carta on the king. In 1216 de Vesci was shot in the head by a crossbow bolt while besieging royalist Barnard Castle.


18 July 1290: King Edward I expels the Jews

Jewish homes and property are seized by the crown

There had been Jews in England ever since the Norman Conquest, but by the late 13th century there were still no more than 3,000 of them. Even so, England’s Jews played a crucial economic role as merchants and moneylenders, which earned them considerable resentment from their Christian neighbours. And as the 13th century wore on, the pressure began to increase.

In 1217, following a papal edict, Henry III ordered that all Jews wear distinctive clothes. In 1275 his son, Edward I, issued a Statute of Jewry, which mandated that all Jews over the age of seven should wear a distinguishing yellow badge – a development that now carries deeply sinister overtones.

On 18 July 1290, Edward went even further. Having spent years fighting in Wales, the king was deeply in debt and was now proposing to levy heavier taxes than ever. He had already imposed stiff financial penalties on England’s Jews and had even insisted that all debts to them must be transferred to the crown. Now, in exchange for a parliamentary vote to approve new taxes, Edward issued an Edict of Expulsion.

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To modern eyes, the terms of Edward’s edict seem remarkably savage. He ordered all sheriffs in England to ensure that by 1 November, All Saints’ Day, the Jews were gone from England. Their homes and property were forfeit; they could take only what they could carry. To England’s Jewish community, the news of 18 July must have fallen like a bombshell. But there was nothing to be done; no chance of a reprieve, no hope of a repeal.

By the end of the year, the Jews were gone from England. Most of them probably sailed to France, though we will never know for sure. Not until 1655, when Oliver Cromwell agreed to readmit them, did Jewish settlers return to English shores. | Written by Dominic Sandbrook

18 July 1811

English author William Makepeace Thackeray was born in Calcutta, where his father was an official with the British East India Company. Vanity Fair, his most famous novel, was published in 1847.

18 July 1870

The first Vatican council, which had been convoked by Pope Pius IX two years earlier, formally voted to adopt the dogma of Papal Infallibility. The dogma was then proclaimed by the Papal Bull Pastor Aeternus.

18 July 1942

The first operational jet fighter, Messerschmitt Me 262, made its first flight. It was better- armed and faster than Allied fighters but was introduced too late and in too few numbers to have any real impact on the war.

18 July 1976: Nadia Comăneci scores a perfect 10

The Olympic gymnast makes history with her faultless routine

It was the second day of the Montreal Olympics – a sporting carnival that was to become notorious for massive overspending and a financial disaster that took the city three decades to redress. But as a tiny, elfin figure took to the stage, all talk of dollars and cents was forgotten.

Hailing from the foothills of the Carpathian Mountains in Romania, Nadia Comăneci was only 14 years old, but already she was a star. A year earlier she had won gymnastics gold at the European championships in Norway, and in March 1976 she electrified the crowds at Madison Square Garden, New York.

For the communists, she was a Cold War weapon, a walking advert of their regime – whether she liked it or not. And for western journalists, too, she seemed irresistible. “Her lips are faint and thin, lost beneath dusky, soulful eyes that caused many of those who studied her to imagine that she must be some brooding, mysterious Carpathian princess,” gushed Sports Illustrated.

Even so, few people anticipated what was coming. Before the games began, the official timers, the Swiss firm Omega, had discussed introducing new scoreboards that could show four digits, allowing for a 10.00 perfect score. No point, said the organisers. What human being could achieve perfection?

The answer, of course, was Nadia Comăneci, winning the first ever perfect 10 for her routine on the uneven bars. The scoreboard flashed up “1.00”, the nearest it could get to a 10. Then she did it again – and again, and again, six times in all.

Word spread quickly. “Her precision and daring in gymnastics have never been seen before in an Olympics,” declared Sports Illustrated. “For the rare privilege of witness- ing the birth of a legend, people splurged $100 on a $16 seat.”


Returning home with three gold medals, Comăneci was not just a Romanian national hero. She was now an international superstar. | Written by Dominic Sandbrook

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