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22 May: On this day in history

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

Published: May 22, 2011 at 8:39 am

22 May 1455: The Wars of the Roses begin

Yorkist forces triumph at the first battle of St Albans

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The Wars of the Roses began not with a battlefield clash but in bloody urban warfare fought on foot through the streets of St Albans, a modest market town some 20 miles north-west of London.

Unrest had been building in England since Henry VI inherited the throne in 1422, aged about nine months. During his long minority, the country was ruled by a council of nobles between which bitter rivalries arose. Henry’s powerful queen, Margaret of Anjou, was also unpopular – not least with Richard, Duke of York. Like Henry, York was a descendant of Edward III with a strong claim to the throne.

In May 1455, York and his ally Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, mustered a private army in northern England and marched south towards London. Henry’s supporters (now known as Lancastrians) moved north to St Albans, where troops were already stationed.

After brief negotiations on 22 May, Yorkist troops attacked, and brutal fighting spilled onto the streets, narrow lanes and even gardens of St Albans. Henry’s men were soon wilting; arrows rained down on the Lancastrian forces, injuring their leader, Lord Buckingham, as well as the king, who was captured and taken to London in Yorkist custody. Six months later, Richard was made lord protector of England – and so began a power struggle between their houses that continued for the next three decades. | Written by Helen Carr


22 May 1828

Birth in Berlin of pioneering ophthalmologist Albrecht von Gräfe. He will devise a method of treating glaucoma and introduce a new operation – iridectomy – for the treatment of cataracts.


22 May 1859

Arthur Conan Doyle, writer and creator of Sherlock Holmes, is born in Edinburgh. As a child there he heads a gang of boys who later will be the inspiration for Holmes's youthful helpers, the Baker Street Irregulars.


22 May 1860

The steamship Malabar was wrecked at Galle Harbour, Ceylon. Its passengers included Lord Elgin, Baron Gros and Times journalist Thomas William Bowlby, who produced a dramatic account of the sinking.


22 May 1907

Legendary actor, producer and director Laurence Olivier is born in Dorking, Surrey.


22 May 1911

The House of Commons debated a proposal to raise the price charged to an MP for his lunch from a shilling to 1s 3d. A suggestion by MP William Burdett-Coutts that members should be given free lunches was not supported.

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22 May 1912

Birth in London of Herbert C Brown, the son of Ukrainian Jewish immigrants Charles and Pearl Brovarnik. In 1979, with Georg Wittig, he was jointly awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his work on reagents in organic synthesis.

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