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20 April: On this day in history

What events happened on 20 April in history? We round up the events, births and deaths…

Published: April 20, 2022 at 11:41 am

20 April 1611

Edward Winslow, the future Mayflower pilgrim leader and governor of Plymouth Colony, left the King's School, Worcester, where he had studied for five years.

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20 April 1653: Cromwell forcibly dissolves the Rump Parliament

The angry leader takes an armed force into the House of Commons and drives out all the MPs

On the morning of 20 April 1653, Oliver Cromwell took his seat, as usual, in the House of Commons. The Rump Parliament, as it was known, was supposed to have been only a caretaker legislature, paving the way for godly reform and a permanent political settlement after the execution of King Charles I. But instead of meekly complying with the New Model Army’s demands, MPs showed themselves rather more interested in defending their own privileges. And by 20 April, Cromwell’s patience had run out.

For a little while he listened grimly to his colleagues’ speeches. But then he cracked. “You have sat too long for any good you have been doing lately,” he shouted bitterly. “Depart, I say; and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go!” At that, he went outside and returned with a troop of musketeers, whom he ordered to clear the chamber. According to one account: “He told Sir Henry Vane he was a jugler; Henry Martin and Sir Peter Wentworth, that they were whoremasters; Thomas Chaloner, he was a drunkard; and Allen the Goldsmith that he cheated the publick.” Then he gestured angrily at the mace, the symbol of parliamentary power, and said dismissively: “Take away that Fool’s Bauble”.

When Cromwell’s troops had cleared the room, the doors were shut. The Rump was dissolved. Cromwell, shortly to become lord protector, was now the undisputed master of Britain. Later, a wag posted a notice on the door: “This house is to be let; now unfurnished”.


20 April 1657

Admiral Robert Blake destroys a Spanish fleet at Santa Cruz, Tenerife.


20 April 1808

Birth of Prince Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte. Son of Napoleon I's brother, Louis, and Hortense de Beauharnais daughter of Napoleon's first wife, Josephine, from her first marriage), he becomes Emperor in 1852, styling himself Napoleon III. | Read more about Napoleon Bonaparte


20 April 1820

Patrick Brönte, his wife Maria and their six children moved to Haworth Parsonage in West Yorkshire. Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, and Agnes Grey were all written there. | Read more about the Brönte sisters


20 April 1862

Louis Pasteur and Claude Bernard completed their first test of what became known as the pasteurisation process to preserve food.

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20 April 1889

Adolf Hitler is born in the Austrian town of Branau-am-Inn, near the German border where his 51-year-old father works as a customs official.

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