29 July 238

After a joint reign lasting just three months, the elderly Roman emperors Pupienus and Balbinus are cornered in the imperial palace by mutinous Praetorian Guards, who drag them to their barracks before hacking them to death.


29 July 1612

Jennet Preston was hanged for witchcraft. She had met with the ‘Lancashire witches’ at Malkin Tower but as she lived in Craven in Yorkshire, Preston was taken to York for her trial and subsequent execution.

29 July 1763

Birth at Largo in Fife of future Scottish admiral Philip Charles Durham. One of the few survivors of the sinking of the Royal George off Portsmouth in 1782, Durham commanded HMS Defiance at the battle of Trafalgar.

29 July 1890

The Dutch post- impressionist painter Vincent Van Gogh died at Auvers-sur- Oise near Paris after shooting himself in the chest with a revolver two days earlier. He was 37 years old.

29 July 1921

Adolf Hitler was named leader of the National Socialist German Workers' Party. The occasion was to be the first time Hitler's title, Der Führer, was used in public.

29 July 1981: Royal nuptials lift Britain’s flagging spirits

Millions celebrate as Prince Charles weds Lady Diana in a fairy-tale wedding that was to end in tears

The wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer could hardly have been better timed. The summer of 1981 had been one of the grimmest in modern British history, with unemployment figures soaring, the inner cities ablaze and Margaret Thatcher’s popularity sinking to unprecedented levels. The nation was in the mood for a party. On 29 July, more than half a million people gathered on the streets of London to cheer the couple, while an estimated 750 million people worldwide watched the service on television.

Not everyone, of course, enjoyed the spectacle. At City Hall, the Greater London Council leader, Ken Livingstone, ostentatiously spent some of the day working, while a small group of leftwing activists, among them the future Labour deputy leader Harriet Harman, went on a much-publicised day trip to France. From across the country, however, came reports of street parties, barbecues and village knees-ups, though on a smaller scale than during the Queen’s silver jubilee four years earlier.

The ceremony itself, meanwhile, was an orgy of pageantry – not least the bride’s dress, which had a train some 25ft long. Both bride and groom were obviously nervous, and both muffed their lines: perhaps ominously, Diana even got her husband’s name wrong, calling him Philip Charles instead of Charles Philip. All in all, though, it seemed to confirm that Britain’s love affair with its monarchy was still going strong.


“Here,” said the archbishop of Canterbury, “is the stuff of which fairy tales are made.” Sadly, fairy tales don’t always end well. | Written by Dominic Sandbrook

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