18 October: On this day in history

What events happened on 18 October in history? Dominic Sandbrook rounds up the events, births and deaths…

On this day_Numbers_orange18

18 October 1009

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem was totally destroyed on the orders of al-Hakim, the Fatimid Caliph of Egypt.

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18 October 1216: An attack of dysentery proves the death of ‘Bad King John’

Monarch’s demise is caused by “violent fever” and “anguish of mind” – exacerbated by a surfeit of peaches and cider

King John has never had a good press – and it’s easy to see why. Despite levying heavy taxes and scutage (a feudal relief paid by barons in place of military service), John failed to defend his lands overseas. He was known for mistreatment of prisoners and the reputed seduction of the wives and daughters of his barons.

By 1216 John had been on the throne for 17 years. Not only had he fallen out with his barons and lost almost all of England’s empire in France, he had also been excommunicated by the pope during a row over the appointment of a new archbishop of Canterbury.

John managed to patch up relations with the Vatican but the problems with his rebellious barons were a different story. Disaster was piled on disaster: that autumn, after relieving a rebel siege of Lincoln, he learned that the Scots had invaded the north of England.

Crossing the great tidal estuary of the Wash, John contrived to lose part of his baggage train in quicksand – including, some chroniclers claimed, his crown jewels. And by the time he reached Newark he was badly ill with dysentery, a common curse of military campaigns in the Middle Ages.

What happened next has become part of John’s legend, though many historians doubt its veracity. According to the chronicler Roger of Wendover, John now had a “violent fever”, made worse by his “anguish of mind” about the loss of his baggage in the Wash.

Sunk in misery, the king consoled himself by stuffing himself with peaches and sinking vast amounts of new cider – not, perhaps, the ideal diet for somebody suffering from dysentery. His stomach cramps worsened and, on the evening of 18 October, he died. At that time, dysentery was often a death sentence, so the famous “surfeit of peaches” probably had nothing to do with his demise. Still, it makes a good story. | Read more: Was King John really that bad?


18 October 1748

The War of the Austrian Succession is brought to an end by the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle. Most European powers are dissatisfied by its terms and in eight years hostilities will recommence with the Seven Years’ War.


18 October 1770

British soldier and politician John Manners, Marquess of Granby, died aged 49. In 1760 Granby, who had lost most of his hair in his twenties but never wore a wig, commanded the British cavalry at the battle of Warburg in the Seven Years’ War. While he was leading a cavalry charge his hat fell off, giving rise to the expression ‘to go bald-headed’ at something. Granby was well-known for his generosity to the soldiers who served under him and the large number of ‘Marquis of Granby’ pubs in Britain is evidence of the affection with which he was held.


18 October 1867

Alaska is formally transferred from Russia to the United States.


18 October 1931

Chicago gangster Alphonse Gabriel ‘Al’ Capone was found guilty on a number of counts of income tax evasion. He was later sentenced to 11 years in prison and fined heavily.

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18 October 1922

The British Broadcasting Company was founded by a group of leading wireless manufacturers. It was funded by a 10-shilling licence fee and made its first broadcast in November from the Marconi studio in The Strand, London.

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