29 April 711

The Moorish invasion of the Iberian peninsula began as an army under the command of Tariq ibn Ziyad landed near Gibraltar (which derives its name from the Arabic Jabal Tariq, meaning the Mountain of Tariq).


29 April 1429: Joan of Arc enters Orléans

A peasant girl takes on the might of the English army

Orléans, April 1429: a city under siege, exhausted after months of pressure. The Hundred Years’ War was in full swing, the English were in the ascendancy, and France seemed almost past hope.

The English army had arrived outside Orléans the previous autumn, and the siege had dragged on through the winter. The city’s defenders offered to turn it over to England’s ally Burgundy, but the English commanders said no. They wanted the city for themselves, and were confident that its fall was only weeks away. And although they had heard rumours of a legendary armoured maiden riding to its rescue, those were just peasants’ folk tales – weren’t they?

And then the miracle happened. The English commanders had received a bizarre message from a teenage girl, calling herself “the Maiden”, ordering them to “be gone, in the name of God, or I will make you go”. And on 28 April, rumours spread through the English camp that the girl had appeared, leading a relief convoy from the south, and that supplies were even now being shipped to the city.

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At eight the following evening, Joan of Arc entered Orléans in triumph. “She entered fully armed, mounted on a white horse,” wrote one chronicler, “and before her was borne her standard, which was likewise white, and which had two angels holding each a lily flower in her hand; and on the pennon was painted the Annunciation.” To the townsfolk, who had gathered with torches to greet their saviour, it seemed a blessing from heaven. “They felt wholly comforted, and as if freed from siege by the divine virtue which they had been told was in the simple Maid, whom they regarded most affectionately; men, women, and little children,” continued the chronicler.

A week later, Joan led her troops in a bloody rout of the English attackers, holding her banner aloft even after being wounded by an arrow. At that moment, her reputation as a national heroine was assured. | Written by Dominic Sandbrook

29 April 1559

After much debate and amendment the Act of Supremacy is passed by the English Parliament and Queen Elizabeth I is declared the supreme governor of the Church of England.

29 April 1658

Death of Royalist poet John Cleveland. In 1645 he served the king as judge-advocate at Newark. Briefly imprisoned during the Interregnum, he was released on Cromwell's orders, moving to London where he later died.

29 April 1707

Irish dramatist George Farquhar dies a few weeks after the first performance of The Beaux Stratagem, his most successful play.

29 April 1762

Birth in Limoges, France, of Jean-Baptiste Jourdan. He enlisted as a private in the French royal army and rose to become a marshal under Napoleon.

29 April 1770: Captain Cook lands in Australia

The explorer makes landfall in a sheltered bay on the eastern coast – and then deliberates over what to call it

In April 1770, the 41-year-old explorer Captain James Cook had been at sea for almost two years.

On the instructions of the Royal Society, Cook had sailed south-east to Tahiti to record the transit of Venus across the sun, before opening sealed orders from the Admiralty, which instructed him to search the Pacific for signs of the mysterious southern continent of Terra Australis.

By the end of April, Cook’s ship, the Endeavour, had not only sailed around New Zealand, diligently mapping its coastline, but had now reached the eastern coast of Australia. On Saturday 28 April he spotted “a bay which appeared to be tolerably well sheltered from all winds”, and the following day he made landfall. When he and his men went ashore, they found “several of the natives and a few huts”, but the inhabitants scattered when Cook fired his musket. In woods beyond the beach, he wrote, they came across “small huts made of the bark of trees in one of which were four or five small children with whom we left some strings of beads &c”.

At first, Cook called the bay Stingray Bay, after “the great quantity of these sort of fish” that he and his men had caught there. But when he thought about it, he was equally impressed by the enormous variety of plants that the Endeavour’s naturalists Joseph Banks and Daniel Solander had found on land. So when he wrote his journal, he called it Botanist Bay. Then he had another thought, struck a line through the word Botanist, and wrote instead the word ‘Botany’. And that, of course, is the name that has endured. | Written by Dominic Sandbrook

29 April 1863

Birth in San Francisco of American newspaper proprietor and Democrat politician William Randolph Hearst. The lead character in Orson Welles’s Citizen Kane was partially based on him.


29 April 1944

British special agent Nancy Wake parachutes into the Auvergne to act as a go-between with the Resistance. Finding her tangled in a tree, a local man hopes “all the trees in France bear such beautiful fruit this year”. “Don’t give me that French shit,” replies Wake.

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