28 October: On this day in history

What events happened on 28 October in history? Dominic Sandbrook rounds up the events, births and deaths…

On this day_Numbers_orange28

28 October 312

Fleeing after defeat by his rival Constantine at the battle of Milvian Bridge, the Roman emperor Maxentius falls into the river Tiber and drowns. His body is then fished out of the river and ceremonially beheaded.

Advertisement

28 October 1922: Mussolini marches to power in Italy

The rise of the Blackshirts intimidates the king into inviting a Fascist government

The March on Rome, which assumed mythical significance in the Fascist imagination, was a chaotic affair. Italy in the autumn of 1922 was a turbulent, unhappy place, seething with industrial unrest and political discontent. By the final weeks of October, the Fascists’ paramilitary ‘Blackshirts’ were itching to strike. On the 24th, with thousands of Blackshirts heading for the capital, their leader, Benito Mussolini, told an audience in Naples: “Our programme is simple: we want to rule Italy.” Tellingly, though, Mussolini himself held back from joining the march. A self-interested opportunist rather than a fanatic, he wanted to stay out of trouble if the elected government regained control.

As it happened, the authorities lost their nerve. With much of the liberal regime paralysed by indecision, on 26 October the cabinet resigned, though the prime minister, Luigi Facta, agreed to remain in post to maintain order. Two days later, early on the 28th, Facta decided to strike back. He prepared to declare a state of siege, sending troops to defend Rome’s gates and bridges, and ordering the army to arrest the Fascist leaders. By the time he took the draft declaration of martial law to the king, Victor Emmanuel III, news of the state of siege was already being broadcast on agency wires – but the king refused to sign the declaration.

Victor Emmanuel’s decision changed the course of Italian history. By lunch-time, the state of siege had been officially suspended. Facta was finished; Fascist supporters were openly celebrating in the streets of Rome. Two days later, the king invited Mussolini to form a government.

Why had he done it? Fear of civil war, some said, while others suggested that the king had deluded himself into thinking he could control Mussolini. If that was true, as events were to prove, he could hardly have been more mistaken.

Advertisement

Julian Humphrys rounds up smaller anniversaries…

28 October 1562

Forces loyal to Mary, Queen of Scots under the Earl of Moray defeated a rebellion by George Gordon, Fourth Earl of Huntly at the battle of Corrichie, near Aberdeen. Huntly is said to have died of apoplexy after being captured

28 October 1628

After a 14-month siege, the French Huguenot sea port of La Rochelle surrenders to Royalist forces under Cardinal Richelieu. To prevent La Rochelle from receiving supplies by sea Richelieu had constructed a mile-long wall across the bay.

28 October 1649 

Royalist Lady Blanche Arundell died aged 65. In 1643 with 25 men and a few servants, she had defended Wardour Castle for six days against a force of 1,300 Roundheads.

28 October 1697 

Giovanni Antonio Canaletto is born in Venice.

28 October 1940

Italian forces invaded Greece; within weeks they had been driven back and pursued into Albania. When an Italian counter-attack failed in the following March, Germany was forced to send troops to aid its ally.

28 October 1971

The House of Commons voted by 356 to 244 in favour of the UK’s accession to the European Economic Community. Sixty nine Labour MPs voted against the party whip in favour of the motion and 39 Conservatives opposed it.

28 October 2007

After victory in the opening round of the presidential election, the Peronist politician Cristina Fernández de Kirchner (right) becomes Argentina’s first elected woman president.

Browse more On this day in history

Screenshot 2021-09-09 at 17.22.22