24 April 1558

Mary, Queen of Scots marries the 14-year-old French dauphin, the future Francis II, in a theatrical wedding at Notre Dame in Paris. The pair had been engaged for ten years and had grown up together. In Edinburgh the great bombard Mons Meg is fired in celebration of the marriage. The following year Francis's father, Henry II, is mortally wounded in a jousting accident and the young married couple are crowned king and queen of France. Eighteen months later the sickly Francis dies of an ear infection and Mary returns to Scotland.


24 April 1559

Robert Dudley, favourite of Queen Elizabeth I and Master of the Queens Horse, is elected to the Order of the Garter. Five years later he will be created Earl of Leicester.

24 April 1567

Mary, Queen of Scots is abducted by the Earl of Bothwell.

24 April 1913

The Woolworth Building opened in New York. The neo-gothic skyscraper was designed by american architect Cass gilbert. On completion, it overtook the Metropolitan life Insurance Company Tower as the world’s tallest building.

24 April 1915: Armenian killings begin

The Ottoman government takes the first step leading to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of its Armenian subjects

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At eight o’clock on 24 April 1915, the Ottoman empire’s interior minister, Talaat Pasha, handed down one of the most infamous orders in history. The empire was at war, and for months there had been a swirl of propaganda warning that Constantinople’s Armenian ethnic minority would inevitably betray the Ottomans to their British, French and Russian enemies.

As Talaat’s order explained, it was time to move against the Armenians, who were a danger to “the future of the country”. All Armenian political organisations were now banned, and Talaat instructed police to arrest “the leaders and the members of the committees”, and all “the Armenians who are well known by the police forces”.

By the following day, about 250 prominent Armenians – intellectuals, journalists, teachers, politicians, priests and even doctors – had been rounded up, with hundreds more arrested over the next few weeks. A month later, they were deported to Ottoman-occupied Syria.

So began the horrific process that many historians describe as the Armenian genocide. By summer 1915, hundreds of thousands of deportees had effectively been abandoned to die in the Syrian desert. “The roads and the Euphrates,” reported the New York Times that August, “are strewn with corpses of exiles, and those who survive are doomed to certain death. It is a plan to exterminate the whole Armenian people.” Many Turks (Turkey is the successor state of the Ottoman empire) vigorously contest that sentence; what is beyond doubt is that this was one of the darkest moments of the 20th century. | Written by Dominic Sandbrook

24 April 1792: War-torn France is spurred by song

The 'Marseillaise' inspires the revolutionary nation to fight another day

In the late spring of 1792, revolutionary France had declared war on Austria. A coalition of enemies would soon be at the country’s frontiers, and thousands of men were marching to battle.

In Strasbourg, two men were having dinner at the local Masonic lodge, a magnet for reformers and free thinkers. One was the city’s mayor, Baron de Dietrich. The other was an officer in the local corps of military engineers, one Claude-Joseph Rouget de Lisle. Their talk turned to the best way to inspire the troops in France’s hour of need, and the mayor had an idea. “Mr de Lisle, write us a song that will rally our soldiers to defend their homeland,” he said, “and you will have won the nation.”

That night, Rouget de Lisle set to work. The result was the “War Song for the Army of the Rhine”, better known today as the “Marseillaise”. And given the circumstances, the words are understandably pretty bloodthirsty: “Arise, children of the Fatherland, / The day of glory has arrived /... Let’s march, let’s march! / Let an impure blood / Water our furrows...”

It was, of course, a triumph. As the writer Stefan Zweig later put it: “For one night, it was granted to... Rouget de Lisle to be a brother of the immortals. Out of the opening of the song, taken from the street and the newspapers, creative words form at his command and rise into a verse that, in its poetic expression, is as abiding as the melody is immortal.” | Written by Dominic Sandbrook

24 April 1882

Birth in Moffat, Scotland, of Hugh Dowding, commander of Fighter Command during the Battle of Britain. Interviewed by the BBC in 1968 he said that his overriding memory of the battle was one of "intolerable stress… mingled with anxiety".

24 April 1961

The Swedish warship Vasa was salvaged from the waters off Stockholm where she had lain since capsizing on her maiden voyage 333 years earlier.


24 April 1970

The Gambia, which had gained independence in 1965, became a republic within the Commonwealth with prime minister, Sir Dawda Jawara, becoming president.

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