25 March 1563

English composer William Byrd was appointed organist and choirmaster at Lincoln Cathedral with an annual salary of £13 6s 8d for the two posts and a rent-free house.


25 March 1650

John Williams, Archbishop of York, died at Gloddaith near Llandegai in Gwynned. King James VI and I's lord chancellor from 1621 to 1625, he held Conwy Castle for the king during the Civil War.

25 March 1657

Parliament votes to offer Cromwell the crown.

25 March 1782

Birth of Napoleon Bonaparte's younger sister Caroline. In 1800 Caroline married Joachim Murat, one of her brother's fellow generals. The pair reigned as king and queen of Naples from 1808 to 1815, until Murat was defeated and executed during the Hundred Days.

25 March 1807: The slave trade is abolished in the British empire

After years of campaigning, the abolitionist movement celebrates a landmark win

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The Abolition of the Slave Trade Act entered the statute books on 25 March 1807, making it illegal to trade enslaved people within the British colonies. The act – culmination of a decades-long struggle by abolitionists in Britain – ruled that, from 1 May 1807, “dealing and reading in the purchase, sale, barter, or transfer of slaves or of persons intending to be sold, transferred, used, or dealt with as slaves, practiced or carried in, at, or from any part of the coast or countries of Africa shall be abolished, prohibited and declared to be unlawful”.

The movement to abolish slavery had gained significant momentum over the previous 20 years. William Wilberforce, a philanthropist and politician from Yorkshire, led the clarion call to educate people across the nation about the inhumanity of the slave trade and its connection to sugar, produced in Caribbean plantations worked by enslaved peoples. George III was also opposed to the trade, writing that it was “equaly [sic] repugnant to the Civil Law as to the Law of Nature”.

On 23 February 1807 the House of Commons debated the bill to abolish the trade, and voted it in with a majority of 283 votes to 16. Just over a month later, on 25 March, the king gave his assent for the act to be made law. This victory helped to end centuries of injustice and cruelty. | Written by Dominic Sandbrook

25 March 1809

Death at the age of 66 of Anna Seward, the poetess known as 'the Swan of Lichfield'. Her work included an elegy on Captain Cook, a 'poetical novel' Louisa, which ran to five editions, and a biography of the early life of Erasmus Darwin.

25 March 1811

Poet Percy Bysshe Shelley was expelled from University College, Oxford, after co-writing a pamphlet entitled The Necessity of Atheism. Thomas Jefferson Hogg, his friend and collaborator, shared the same fate.

25 March 1969: John and Yoko stage a ‘bed-in’

Honeymoon stunt aims to bring an end to the Vietnam War

In the spring of 1969, Vietnam had been at war for almost a quarter of a century. Millions of people had been killed, and more than 500,000 American troops were still bogged down in the Indochinese jungles. But was an end coming into view? The date was 25 March 1969, and John Lennon and Yoko Ono thought they had the solution to the ongoing crisis.

Having married five days earlier, the couple were convinced that they could use their fame to bring peace to south-east Asia. Since Lennon was still a member of the Beatles, the world’s most successful pop group, everything they did fascinated the media. So before the newlyweds arrived at the Hilton, Amsterdam, they sent invitations to the press: “Come to John and Yoko’s honeymoon: a bed-in, Amsterdam Hotel.”

When the reporters duly appeared, they were shown up to room 902, the presidential suite. There they found Lennon and Ono in pyjamas “like two angels in bed, with flowers all around us, and peace and love on our heads”, as the former remembered. Above them were handwritten signs, reading “Hair Peace” and “Bed Peace”. Lennon and Ono talked about how much they liked peace. Other people, they said earnestly, ought to recognise how nice peace was, too.

Unfortunately, some of the reporters were too cynical to grasp how profound this was. So Ono disclosed her plan to bring conflict to an end. Soldiers, she said, should “let their pants down. They would not feel like making war then – they would look ridiculous”. But as Britain's bestselling paper, the Daily Mirror acknowledged, the pair were fully prepared for ridicule. The papers thought they looked even more ridiculous the next day, when the hotel maid, Maria de Soledade Alves, awkward and embarrassed in front of the cameras, had to turf them out of bed to change the sheets.

As it turned out, the war in Vietnam would last for another six years. | Written by Dominic Sandbrook


25 March 1978

Oxford wins the 124th University Boat Race, rowing home alone after the Cambridge boat sinks a mile from the finishing line.

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