8 September 1131

The magnates of England renewed their homage to Henry I's daughter, Matilda, recognising her as his heir. However, when Henry died four years later, the majority supported his nephew, Stephen of Blois, in his bid for the throne.


8 September 1442

Birth of John de Vere, 13th Earl of Oxford. A diehard Lancastrian, he spent a decade in prison at Hammes Castle, Calais but escaped to join Henry Tudor in exile and commanded the vanguard of his army both at Bosworth in 1485 and at Stoke two years later.

8 September 1504

Michelangelo’s masterpiece divides opinion in Florence

In the summer of 1501, the authorities at Florence Cathedral decided to do something about the Giant. This great block of marble had been sitting in their workshop for decades. Now they approached a young man called Michelangelo, who had reportedly been doing great things in Rome.

It was not until three years later, on 8 September 1504, that the public set eyes on Michelangelo’s magnificent David. The statue was so big that, according to the writer Giorgio Vasari, two brothers had to make a special contraption to carry it to the Piazza della Signoria, “a very strong framework of wood”, with the statue dangling inside. “On the rope which held the figure suspended,” added Vasari, they “made a slip-knot which was very easy to undo but tightened as the weight increased, which is a most beautiful and ingenious thing”.

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Amazing as it may seem, Michelangelo’s masterpiece had its critics; indeed, some Florentines even threw stones at it. It was, they thought, a symbol of the city’s controversial republican government, which had replaced the local Medici dynasty.

Meanwhile, Florence’s governor Piero Soderini thought that the nose was too big. So Michelangelo climbed up and pretended to knock a bit off, and Soderini proclaimed himself satisfied.


But more astute observers saw the statue as a supreme symbol of humanist values. As Vasari put it: “Whoever has seen this work need not trouble to see any other work executed in sculpture, either in our own or in other times, by no matter what craftsman.”

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