25 June 1561

After being summoned before the Privy Council on a charge of sorcery, astrologer and physician Francis Coxe made a public confession at the pillory in Cheapside of his "employment of certayne sinistral and divelysh artes".


25 June 1533

Mary Tudor, widow of Louis XII of France and wife of Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk, died at Westhorpe in Suffolk and was buried in Bury St Edmunds Abbey. She was moved at the abbey’s dissolution to the nearby St Mary’s Church.

25 June 1799

Birth in Scone of Scottish traveller and botanist David Douglas. The Douglas-fir is named after him. He will die in Hawaii in 1834 after accidentally falling into a pit trap with a wild bull in it.

25 June 1876: General Custer meets his match at Little Bighorn

US federal troops are cut down by Sioux warriors

As the clock struck midnight on 3 July 1876, the United States celebrated its centenary. In Philadelphia, almost 500,000 people crowded the streets around Independence Hall, where the newly cast Centennial Bell rang out 13 times, once for each of the original colonies.

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And yet, although none of the revellers knew it, a shadow was falling over the birthday celebrations. Hundreds of miles to the west, a steamer was chugging down the Yellowstone river with the survivors of the most famous military disaster in American history.

A week earlier, on 25 June, Lieutenant General George Custer’s Seventh Cavalry had charged into battle against Sitting Bull’s Sioux near the Little Bighorn river, in what is now the state of Montana. Contrary to the swashbuck- ling legend, Custer was a man on the slide, a promising officer who had turned into a jaded failure. He needed a victory. And if he had not divided his forces, he might have got one.

What exactly happened at Little Bighorn will never be known. Confident that he had found Sitting Bull’s camp, Custer divided his troops into three, hoping to cut his opponents off. But the initial assault went wrong and after less than an hour, Custer found himself trapped on the hill above the river, at the mercy of a vast force of war-whooping Sioux fighters. Because there were few survivors, we do not even know exactly how he died. Some say he was cut down by an enemy bullet; others that he was wounded and then shot by his brother to spare him from agonising torture. Either way, the battle brought the end of Custer’s life – and the beginning of his legend.

The irony, though, is that despite Little Bighorn’s fabled place in American history, it changed nothing. The railroads did more damage to the Sioux way of life than Custer ever could. But the battle’s name will last forever, as one of the supreme symbols of a vanished age. | Written by Dominic Sandbrook

25 June 1912

Dutch-born classical painter Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema died in Germany. His sumptuous paintings of life in ancient Rome were popular in Victorian Britain and influenced the set design of a number of Hollywood epics.

25 June 1950

In what was the first major conflict of the Cold War, North Korean forces invaded South Korea.


25 June 1978

In San Francisco, the artist Gilbert Baker designs a hippie- influenced rainbow flag with eight stripes, to be flown during the city’s Gay Freedom Day Parade.

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