1 April

He was captured by the Turks after landing at Mocha but later escaped after hiding in an empty barrel.


2 April

1977: 21-year-old Charlotte Brew becomes the first woman to ride in the Grand National

Her horse, Barony Fort, refuses four fences from home.

Charlotte Brew. (Photo by Evening Standard/Getty Images)
Charlotte Brew. (Photo by Evening Standard/Getty Images)

3 April

1860: Pony Express hits the road

The first rider for America’s legendary mail service departed. Advertisements for their riders had requested “Young, skinny, wiry fellows not over 18,” read one advert. “Must be expert riders, willing to risk death daily. Orphans preferred.”

4 April

1968: American civil rights leader Martin Luther King is assassinated while standing on the balcony of his motel room in Memphis, Tennessee

5 April

1906: Restless Vesuvius blows its top, spreading panic and misery

Service eruption of Vesuvius on April 4, 1906.
Eruption of Vesuvius in 1906. (Photo by Touring Club Italiano/Marka/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

Although the final death toll is uncertain, there is no doubt the eruption of 1906 wrought horrific damage. The explosion was so fierce that the tip of the volcano was reportedly blown clean off, while ash poured down on the neighbouring villages. And in the city of Naples, crowded with tens of thousands of refugees, there was total panic. “The scene was one of misery and terror,” wrote another witness. “Smoke and ashes made breathing difficult. Slight tremblings of the earth were felt, and frequent flashes of lightning cut through the smoke.”

6 April

1199: Richard the Lionheart roars his last

Richard I died of gangrene after chance crossbow shot during castle siege. One version of the legend has it that when Richard’s men dragged the crossbowman before him, he turned out to be a boy called Bertram de Gourdon, who said he wanted revenge for his dead father and brothers. Richard supposedly ordered him set free with 100 shillings. Meanwhile the gangrene did its work. On 6 April, Richard died in the arms of his mother, Eleanor. His heart was buried in Rouen, his entrails in Châlus. His brother John succeeded as king, and after that it was downhill all the way.

More like this

Famous births in April

1 April 1779

Robert Surtees, Northumbrian historian 

2 April 1618

Francesco Grimaldi, astronomer 

2 April 1840

Emile Zola, writer

4 April 1732

Jean-Honoré Fragonard, French rococo painter and printmaker 

5 April 1769

Thomas Masterman Hardy, captain of HMS Victory, Nelson's flagship at Trafalgar in 1805

5 April 1827 

Sir Joseph Lister, pioneering surgeon 

5 April 1900

Spencer Tracy, US actor

7 April 1770

William Wordsworth, Romantic poet

7 April 1891

Ole Kirk Christiansen, founder of the LEGO ® construction toy company

8 April 1692

Giuseppe Tartini, Italian composer, violinist and musical theorist 

12 April 1853

James Mackenzie, cardiologist

13 April 1743

Thomas Jefferson, third president of the United States 

13 April 1771

Richard Trevithick, inventor, mining engineer and constructor of the world's first full-scale working railway steam locomotive

15 April 1469

Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism

20 April 1808

Prince Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte, son of Napoleon I's brother, Louis

22 April 1830

Emily Davies, suffragist and advocate of women's education 

23 April 1858

Max Planck, German physicist 

24 April 1882

Hugh Dowding, commander of Fighter Command during the Battle of Britain

27 April 1759

Mary Wollstonecraft, writer and feminist 

28 April 1908

Oskar Schindler, German industrialist he will save hundreds of Jews from being murdered by the Nazis by employing them in his factories.

30 April 1651

Jean-Baptiste de la Salle, priest and educational reformer 

7 April

1739: Notorious highwayman Dick Turpin is hanged in York

Dick Turpin in a 19th century colour-printed wood engraving.
Dick Turpin in a 19th century colour-printed wood engraving. (Photo by Universal History Archive/Getty Images)

On the day of his execution, Turpin becomes a celebrity: members of the public visit his cell to speak with him, apparently buying drinks from his gaoler. He hires five professional mourners to follow him to the gallows.

8 April

1318: The Scots capture Berwick-upon-Tweed

Robert the Bruce appeared unstoppable after his decisive Scottish victory at Bannockburn in 1314. However, he was not personally responsible for Berwick’s capture. Rather, it was spearheaded by a Scottish noble called Sir James Douglas, Lord of Douglas, who led a raiding party over Berwick’s walls on 8 April 1318. Fighting broke out inside the town, but Douglas and his men persevered, stoking anarchy among the townspeople and garrisoned soldiers, and ultimately capturing the town for the Scots.

9 April

It is designed by Norfolk architect William Wilkins to house the national collection which had previously been on display in a town house in Pall Mall.

10 April

1912: RMS Titanic sailed from Southampton at midday

The first class deck of the White Star liner 'Titanic', from an advertising poster.
The first class deck of the White Star liner 'Titanic', from an advertising poster. (Photo by Roger Viollet via Getty Images)

Her first port of call was Cherbourg where more passengers joined the ship, though 24 disembarked.

11 April

1713: The Treaty of Utrecht ended the War of the Spanish Succession

Britain and her allies achieved their aim of ensuring that the crowns of France and Spain would not be unified. British territorial gains included Gibraltar, Minorca and Newfoundland.

12 April

1606: Britain is united under one flag

On 12 April, then, James issued a proclamation, “declaring what Flags South and North Britons shall bear at Sea”. It was evident, he said, that “some difference has arisen between our Subjects of South and North Britain, Travelling by Sea, about the bearing of their flags”. So “henceforth all our subjects of this Isle and Kingdom of Great Britain” should fly from the maintop “the Red Cross, commonly called St George’s Cross, and the White Cross, commonly called St Andrew’s Cross, joined together”.

The exact original design is now lost, but it was probably very similar to the flag generally flown before 1801, when it was adapted to include the cross of St Patrick. And to settle a hoary old question: was it the union flag, or the union jack? The answer is simple. For the first few years, at least, nobody called it either.

13 April

1204: Crusaders devastate Constantinople

For three days, having scaled the walls and fought their way into the centre, the crusaders ran riot. The altars were shattered, the nuns violated, the townsfolk slaughtered without mercy. Many priceless artworks were destroyed; others were taken, like the bronze horses which stand in Venice today.

“No one was without a share in the grief,” wrote the Byzantine official Nicetas Choniates, recalling the sound of “weeping, lamentations, grief, the groaning of men, the shrieks of women, wounds, rape, captivity... All places everywhere were filled full of all kinds of crime.”
The city – and indeed the empire – never recovered.

14 April

1471: Warwick the Kingmaker is slain in battle

Illustration of the death of Warwick the Kingmaker by artist James William Edmund Doyle.
Illustration of the death of Warwick the Kingmaker by artist James William Edmund Doyle. (Photo by Historica Graphica Collection/Heritage Images/Getty Images)

All was chaos, confusion and panic; some men were shouting about treason, others running from the field. The Yorkist reserves piled in; the Lancastrians broke. What followed was a bloody massacre. Waiting with his reserves, peering through the mist, Warwick realised that the game was up. According to the chroniclers, he was trying to get away when the Yorkist soldiers overtook him. There was, of course, no mercy.

15 April

1793: Faced with a shortage of gold coin, the Bank of England issued its first five-pound notes

Their black-on-white design was to remain essentially unchanged until 1957.

16 April

1912: At the age of 37, Michigan-born aviator and writer Harriet Quimby became the first woman to pilot an aeroplane across the English Channel

She made the flight in just under an hour. However, her achievement received comparatively little attention at the time, being overshadowed by the news of the sinking of Titanic on the previous day. Eleven weeks later, back in America, Quimby was killed when she and her passenger fell from the Bleriot two-seater monoplane she was piloting at the Third Annual Boston Aviation Meet.

17 April

1961: Bay of Pigs fiasco fails to oust Castro

Rumours of the invasion had already spread to the island from Miami, and the Cuban militia were quickly on the scene. Within hours the invaders had come under heavy fire, two of their ships had been sunk and the sky was thick with fighter planes. Far from storming inland to a huge popular welcome, the exiles were bogged down on the beaches. As Castro’s troops raced to the scene, where was the promised US support?

Within two days it was all over. The Americans managed to rescue a handful of the exiles by sea, but the rest were killed or captured. Kennedy had been humiliated. And Castro? He stayed in power for the next 47 years.

18 April

1949: The Republic of Ireland Act comes into force

Ireland ceases to be a member of the commonwealth and King George VI ceases to act as Irish head of state in international relations.

19 April

1897: An alien being crash-lands in Texas. Or does it?

When the people of Dallas, Texas opened the local Morning News on 19 April 1897, they were in for a shock. “A Windmill Demolishes it”, read the headline on a story by one SE Haydon. Two days before, at six in the morning, an airship had fallen onto the little town of Aurora. “It sailed over the public square,” Haydon explained, “and when it reached the north part of town collided with the tower of Judge Proctor’s windmill and went to pieces with a terrific explosion.”

But the real surprise came in the wreckage. The dead pilot was badly burned, but it was clear “that he was not an inhabitant of this world”. Indeed, “Mr TJ Weems, the US signal service officer at this place, and an authority on astronomy, gives it as his opinion that he was a native of the planet Mars”.

20 April

1862: Louis Pasteur and Claude Bernard completed their first test of what became known as the pasteurisation process to preserve food

21 April

1934: The Daily Mail ‘proves’ the existence of the Loch Ness Monster with a sensational front page photograph

The photograph of the Loch Ness Monster that was shared by the 'Mail'.
The photograph of the Loch Ness Monster that was shared by the 'Daily Mail'. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)

Although the legend of a monster dates back to the sixth century, the Loch Ness Monster was really an invention of the 1930s, when a series of witnesses claimed to have seen a creature in the loch. So in December 1933, the Mail sent a big-game hunter, Marmaduke Wetherell, to locate the creature. He duly found some huge footprints on the shore. ‘Monster of Loch Ness is Not Legend But a Fact’ screamed the headline. But when the Mail asked experts from the Natural History Museum to examine the prints, they reported that they had probably been created by the foot of a dead hippopotamus that had been converted into an umbrella stand.

22 April

1838: The steamship Sirius arrives in New York after an 18-day journey to become the first steamer to cross the Atlantic non-stop

Brunel's Great Western arrives the next day having beaten Sirius's crossing time by more than three days.

Famous deaths in April

3 April 1897 

Johannes Brahms, German composer

6 April 1528

Albrecht Dürer, German painter, engraver, printer and mathematician 

c 1823

Jacques Alexandre Cesar Charles, French inventor, physicist and balloonist 

7 April 1947

Henry Ford, car manufacturer 

9 April 1553

Francois Rabelais, French doctor and satirical writer 

10 April 1909

Algernon Charles Swinburne, poet

11 April 1240

Llywelyn ab Iorwerth, Prince of Gwynedd

12 April 1912

Clarissa 'Clara' Barton, founder and first president of the American Red Cross

16 April 1958

Rosalind Franklin, British chemist and crystallographer 

18 April 1161

Theobald of Bec, Archishop of Canterbury

18 April 1552

John Leland, English poet and antiquary 

18 April 1882

Sir Henry Cole, organiser of the 1851 Great Exhibition

19 April 1390

Robert II, King of Scots

19 April 1768

Giovanni Antonio Canal –'Canaletto' – famous for his landscapes of Venice

22 April 1833

Richard Trevithick, Cornish inventor, mining engineer and builder of the first full-scale working railway steam locomotive

27 April 1810

John Metcalf, pioneering road builder 

30 April 1943

Beatrice Webb, economist, socialist and reformer 

23 April

1661: The coronation of Charles II took place in Westminster Abbey

Samuel Pepys recorded in his diary that despite having arrived seven hours early in order to secure a good spot from which to watch the proceedings, he found to his "very great grief" that he was unable to see the ceremony, could hear little of the music due to the noise, and had to leave early in order to relieve himself. The day ended with a tremendous thunderstorm; contemporaries were divided over whether this was a good or bad omen.

24 April

1558: Mary, Queen of Scots marries the 14-year-old French dauphin, the future Francis II, in a theatrical wedding at Notre Dame in Paris

Print from 1890-1900 depicting Mary Queen of Scots.
Print from 1890-1900 depicting Mary Queen of Scots. (Photo by VCG Wilson/Corbis via Getty Images)

The pair had been engaged for ten years and had grown up together. In Edinburgh the great bombard Mons Meg is fired in celebration of the marriage. The following year Francis's father, Henry II, is mortally wounded in a jousting accident and the young married couple are crowned king and queen of France. Eighteen months later the sickly Francis dies of an ear infection and Mary returns to Scotland.

25 April

404 BC: Athens surrenders to Sparta

According to the biographer Plutarch, Lysander then “sent for a number of flute-women out of the city, and collected together all that were in the camp, and pulled down the walls, and burnt the ships to the sound of the flute, the Spartans’ allies being crowned with garlands, and making merry together”. At long last, it was over.

26 April

1986: Chernobyl reactor explodes

The Chernobyl disaster, which began on 26 April 1986, was the worst nuclear accident in history. Even now, its legacy continues to blight Belarus, Russia and Ukraine, the countries worst affected by the fallout. And although the Soviet authorities initially tried to cover it up, the accident dealt a hammer blow to their manicured image of socialist modernity.

27 April

1865: The worst waterway disaster in US history claims 1,700 lives

On a late April day in 1865, the steamship Sultana was puffing up the Mississippi river.

As the overladen vessel juddered out of Vicksburg towards Memphis, Tennessee, it battled strong currents. Seven miles after reaching Memphis, in the middle of the night, three of the ship’s boilers exploded, killing some sleeping soldiers instantly and sending burning debris crashing through the vessel. The mostly wooden Sultana rapidly went up in flames as its screaming passengers leapt from its deck into the chilly river.

Most of the men on board were killed. Of the survivors, one floated on the carcass of a mule while others clung to trees and roots. Several died of hypothermia. The final death toll has been estimated at more than 1,700.

28 April

1192: In spite of his renowned vigour and intelligence, Conrad was murdered just four days after becoming king

It was lunchtime, and Conrad was returning home from the house of his friend Philip, Bishop of Beauvais when he was accosted by two men, who plunged their daggers into his body. Death almost certainly came very swiftly. One of the murderers was killed on the spot; the other, wounded, was put to torture. It turned out that he was a member of the infamous Assassins, a Nizari Shia sect led by the ‘Old Man of the Mountain’, who supposedly encouraged them to gear themselves up for murder with copious amounts of hashish.

In reality, many of the lurid stories associated with the Assassins were probably invented. The real author of the plot to kill Conrad was almost certainly somebody much closer to home: Richard the Lionheart. Indeed, when Richard was later imprisoned by Leopold of Austria, Conrad’s murder featured heavily on the charge sheet.

29 April

1770: Captain Cook lands in Australia

A travel poster for Australia, showing Captain Cook landing with his soldiers at Botany Bay in 1770.
A travel poster for Australia, showing Captain Cook landing with his soldiers at Botany Bay in 1770. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

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.

30 April

1948: The Land Rover is launched at the Amsterdam motor show. Initially designed by the Wilks brothers as a stop-gap measure for the Rover Company – with aluminium bodywork instead of rationed steel – it is an immediate success

Find out about anniversaries in previous months...