2 February 1461

Yorkist forces led by 18-year-old Edward of March (the future King Edward IV) defeated a Lancastrian army under the earls of Pembroke and Wiltshire at the battle of Mortimer's Cross near Wigmore in Herefordshire. The battle was noted for the appearance of a parhelion, an optical illusion in icy weather that made it appear as if there were three suns in the sky at once. Edward is said to have convinced his soldiers that this was proof that the Holy Trinity supported his cause and subsequently adopted a sun as his personal badge.


2 February 1647

Parliament orders that Holdenby House in Northants be redecorated to house their prisoner, Charles I.

2 February 1709

Scottish castaway Alexander Selkirk is discovered living on the island of Aguas Buenas, 470 miles off the Chilean coast. He had been marooned there at his own request four years earlier following arguments about the seaworthiness of the ship in which he was sailing. Selkirk, almost certainly the inspiration for Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe, had survived by hunting goats for food and taming cats, both for company and to keep the island's voracious rat population at bay. A recent archaeological expedition to the island has identified the probable location of his camp. | Read more about famous castaways

2 February 1848

The US-Mexican War is brought to an end by the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. Victory in the war allows the United States to virtually dictate the terms of the treaty which sees Mexico lose over a third of its territory.

2 February 1852

The first public toilets to appear on Britain's streets opened at 95 Fleet Street, London. The toilets were for men; others for women opened a few days later at 51 Bedford Street, Strand. Described as 'public waiting rooms', they were equipped with flushable water closets with wooden surrounds. The entrance fee was two pence. Although they were advertised in The Times three times a week for a month – and 50,000 promotional handbills were distributed – the toilets were not a success: only 58 men and 24 women used the rooms during the first month they were open. | Read more about the history of the toilet

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2 February 1913

After 10 years of construction, costing $80m, New York’s Grand Central Terminal opened to the public. Grand Central has 44 platforms – more than any other station in the world – and 67 train tracks on two levels.


2 February 1970

Nobel Prize winning philosopher and political campaigner Bertrand Russell died, aged 97, at his home in Penrhyndeudraeth, Merioneth, Wales.

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