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22 July: On this day in history

What events happened on 22 July in history? We round up the events, births and deaths…

Published: July 22, 2022 at 5:05 am
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22 July 1209: French crusaders slay thousands in the name of God

Catholics and Cathars alike are cut down in the city of Béziers

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The Albigensian Crusade, which began in 1209, was one of the most blood- stained pages in medieval European history. At its heart was Pope Innocent III’s desire to stamp out the Cathar heresy – a form of Christianity condemned by the Catholic church – as well as the French king Philip II’s eagerness to crush the semi-detached County of Toulouse. But the victims, whose voices have largely been lost to history, were the people of the Languedoc, southern France, who found themselves facing a French royal army determined to take no prisoners.

In July 1209 the crusaders arrived outside the first major Cathar stronghold: the city of Béziers. Both sides expected a lengthy siege, but on 22 July, before the struggle had really got under way, some of the defenders launched a disorganised sortie from the city walls. In the chaos that followed, a group of mercenaries managed to break into the city. What followed was utter carnage.

“Within the space of two or three hours they crossed the ditches and the walls, and Béziers was taken,” reported the papal legate, Abbot Arnaud Amalric, in a letter to the pope. Even townsfolk who sought refuge in the churches fell before the crusaders’ swords. “Our men spared no one, irrespective of rank, sex or age, and put to the sword almost 20,000 people,” Amalric wrote. “After this great slaughter the whole city was despoiled and burnt.”

What the abbot did not record, however, was his own role in the massacre. According to a later chronicler, when the abbot was asked by a crusader how they should distinguish between Cathar heretics and good Catholics, who lived side by side within the walls of Béziers, Amalric replied dismissively: “Kill them all. God will know his own.” | Written by Dominic Sandbrook


22 July 1210

Birth of Joan, the eldest daughter of King John. In 1221 she was married to Alexander II of Scotland at York. He was 23, she was ten.


22 July 1812

Wellington decisively defeated a French army under Marshal Auguste Marmont at Salamanca in western Spain. The battle was marked by a brilliant attack by the British 3rd Division under Wellington’s brother-in-law Edward Pakenham, supported by Portuguese dragoons, and a devastating charge by the British heavy cavalry under John le Marchant. The French lost 13,000 killed, wounded and captured; the allies 5,000. Following the victory, Wellington entered Madrid on 6 August and went on to besiege Burgos, before retreating to Portugal when the French concentrated their forces and threatened to trap him.


22 July 1871

The foundation stone of Thomas Bouch’s Tay Bridge was laid. The bridge was officially opened in 1878 but on 28 December 1879 it collapsed in a storm while a train was passing over it. There were no survivors.

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22 July 1933

American aviator Wiley Post landed at Floyd Bennett Field, New York City to become the first person to fly solo around the world.

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