23 June 1661

The marriage treaty of King Charles II and Catherine of Braganza, daughter of John IV of Portugal, was signed. The treaty gave England a huge financial dowry, the important strategic and trading posts of Tangier in Africa and Bombay in India, and free trade with Brazil and the East Indies. In return, England promised to help defend Portugal from Spain. In May of the following year Catherine arrived in Portsmouth where the couple were married in a public Anglican ceremony and a secret Catholic one.


23 June 1763

Marie Josèphe Rose Tascher de La Pagerie, (known as Josephine de Beauharnais), was born in les Trois-Îlets, Martinique. Her first husband, Alexandre de Beauharnais, was guillotined during the French Revolution and in 1796 she married Napoleon Bonaparte.

23 June 1839

Death of society hostess Lady Hester Stanhope. The niece of Pitt the Younger, she has spent the last 25 years of her life in the Lebanon.

23 June 1910

French dramatist Jean Anouilh was born near Bordeaux. His best-known play is his 1944 work Antigone, an adaptation of the classical drama by Sophocles but also an allegorical attack on Petain’s collaborationist government.

23 June 1940: Hitler crows over Paris

The Nazi dictator takes a whirlwind tour of the conquered capital

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It was about 5.30 in the morning when Adolf Hitler’s plane landed at the edge of Paris. Three large Mercedes cars were waiting to take the conqueror into town, and the Nazi dictator knew exactly where he wanted to go first – the opera. As he told his minister, Albert Speer, Charles Garnier’s neo-baroque opera house was his favourite building in Paris. And now that the French capital had fallen to Germany’s all-conquering army, Hitler had the chance to live out a dream.

Hitler’s tour of Paris on 23 June 1940 – the only time he visited the city – was one of the greatest days of his life. France lay prostrate at his feet, the shame of 1918 finally avenged. As he toured the city, posing for pictures by the Eiffel Tower, he discussed plans for a victory parade. Yet he concluded that it was a bad idea: “I am not in the mood for a victory parade. We aren’t at the end yet.”

To Speer, the Nazis’ chief architect, Hitler waxed lyrical about the beauties of the French capital. But he was determined that Germany could do better. “Berlin,” he said later, “must be more beautiful. When we are finished in Berlin, Paris will be only a shadow.”

Hitler’s visit was astonishingly brief, and by nine in the morning he was already heading back to Germany. “It was the dream of my life to be permitted to see Paris,” he told Speer as they drove back to the airfield. “I cannot say how happy I am to have that dream fulfilled today.” Speer himself was struck by his master’s mood.

“For a moment,” he wrote later, “I felt something like pity for him: three hours in Paris, the one and only time he was to see it, made him happy when he stood at the height of his triumphs.” | Written by Dominic Sandbrook


23 June 1942

A German Focke-Wulf 190 fighter plane was captured intact when its pilot became disorientated over Devon and landed by mistake at RAF Pembrey. This gave the RAF the opportunity to analyse a plane that had been outperforming the Spitfire.

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