22 January 1561

Birth in London of statesman and philosopher Francis Bacon, later 1st Viscount St Alban. He died in 1626, some say after catching a chill while trying to preserve the flesh of a chicken by stuffing its carcass with snow.


22 January 1788

Birth in London of poet George Gordon Byron, the son of Captain John "Mad Jack" Byron, a philandering spendthrift and Catherine Gordon, a rich Scottish heiress.

22 January 1792

William Carnegie succeeded to the earldom of Northesk on the death of his father. In 1805, as a rear-admiral, he was third in command at the battle of Trafalgar. He is buried alongside Nelson in the crypt of St Paul's Cathedral.

22 January 1879

In the first major encounter of the Zulu War, a British invasion force is overwhelmed and wiped out at Isandlwana near the Buffalo River by a Zulu army under Ntshingwayo kaMahole.

22 January 1901: Queen Victoria dies after 63 years on the throne

The monarch’s death sends shock waves across the British empire

By the beginning of 1901, the 81-year-old Queen Victoria was visibly ailing. Lonely, lame and stricken with cataracts, the Empress of India had spent Christmas at Osborne House on the Isle of Wight, but her family recognised that the end was near. She would “like to live a little longer”, she told her doctor, “as I still have a few things to settle”.

Although on the morning of 21 January Victoria briefly rallied, even calling for her Pomeranian dog, Turi, to come and play on her bed, she was now drifting towards death. Before she closed her eyes for the last time, she spotted her wayward son Bertie – now poised to become Edward VII – and asked him to kiss her. The dean of Winchester recited her favourite hymn, and Victoria slipped into unconsciousness.

The queen breathed her last at about 6.30pm on 22 January, with almost all her family gathered around her bed. At the top were her doctor, Sir James Reid, and – of all people – her bombastic grandson Kaiser Wilhelm II, who was typically determined to hog the limelight. When she died, Turi was placed on her deathbed to honour her last request.

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As night fell, scores of journalists were camped outside Osborne’s gates. When the news came, there was a headlong rush to the telegraph office. One observer remembered seeing the mob of “runners bawling ‘Queen dead’ at the top of their voices”, like a “babel of voices at a fox-hunt”. It was not exactly what she would have wanted. | Written by Dominic Sandbrook


22 January 1953

The first performance of Arthur Miller’s The Crucible was staged at the Martin Beck Theatre, New York. Miller wrote the play, which tells the story of the Salem witch trials of 1692–93, as an allegory of McCarthyism.

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