25 October: On this day in history

What events happened on 25 October in history? Dominic Sandbrook rounds up the events, births and deaths…

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25 October 1760

Amid general rejoicing, George III succeeds his grandfather, George II, to become king of Great Britain.

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25 October 1924: ‘Zinoviev letter’ story derails Labour’s election hopes

Britain shocked by ‘revolution plot’ revealed in the Mail

The mid-1920s was a febrile time in politics. After the fall of the Lloyd George coalition, a short-lived Tory government had given way to Ramsay MacDonald’s similarly fleeting Labour administration, the first in Britain’s history. By October, voters were once more poised to go to the polls. Beneath the surface simmered the fear of war and chaos, Bolshevism and revolution.

It was in this atmosphere that, on 25 October 1924, the fiercely conservative Daily Mail broke an extraordinary story. “CIVIL WAR PLOT BY SOCIALISTS’ MASTERS” screamed the headline. “Moscow Orders to Our Reds – Great Plot Disclosed Yesterday – ‘Paralyse the Army and Navy’ – And Mr MacDonald Would Lend Russia Our Money!” The Mail explained that it had obtained a letter, allegedly written by the head of the Comintern (the international communist organisation), Grigory Zinoviev, to a British contact. Just months earlier MacDonald had officially recognised the Soviet government, to the fury of his more conservative critics. The letter seemed to cast his decision in a new and damning light.

“A settlement of relations between the two countries,” the letter ran, “will assist in the revolutionising of the international and British proletariat not less than a successful rising in any of the working districts of England, as the establishment of close contact between the British and Russian proletariat… will make it possible for us to extend and develop the propaganda of ideas of Leninism in England.”

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The letter was, in fact, a forgery. But who knew that at the time? Four days later, Britain went to the polls, Labour was defeated – and for decades supporters blamed the ‘Zinoviev letter’. | Read more about the history of the Labour party

Julian Humphrys rounds up smaller anniversaries…

25 October 1349

In the presence of Edward III the bones of Saint Thomas Cantilupe, bishop of Hereford from 1275 to 1282, were reinterred in a new shrine at the east end of Hereford Cathedral.

25 October 1557 

Death of Sir William Cavendish, second husband of Bess of Hardwick.

25 October 1558

Death of John Bird, former Bishop of Chester. A supporter of Henry VIII’s divorce from Catherine of Aragon, he was involved in the negotiations over Henry’s marriage to Anne of Cleves and was one of those sent by Thomas Cromwell to Germany to obtain her picture for the King. In 1541 he became the first bishop of the newly formed diocese of Chester but when Mary became queen he was ejected for having married. Setting aside his wife, he spent his remaining years as vicar of Great Dunmow in Essex.

25 October 1810

An ailing George III made his last public appearance at a reception held at Windsor Castle to mark the 50th anniversary of his accession to the throne. He was described as appearing “flustered and excited” and within days was once again confined in a straitjacket.

25 October 1951

The Conservative party won the general election by a narrow majority making Winston Churchill prime minister for the second time and sending the Labour party into opposition for 13 years.

25 October 1962

Nelson Mandela was sentenced to five years imprisonment for inciting workers to strike and for leaving South Africa illegally. Two years later he was jailed for life for sabotage.


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