1 June

1670: Henrietta, Duchess of Orleans, brokers the Secret Treaty of Dover

Duchess of Orleans, Henrietta Anne Stuart.
Duchess of Orleans, Henrietta Anne Stuart. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Under the terms of the deal that Henrietta arranged at Dover, her rich brother-in-law, Louis XIV, would pay Charles II, her brother, £230,000 a year, while Charles would send 60 ships and 4,000 infantry to help the French in their war against the Dutch.

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Then came an even more shocking detail. Charles, who had long been a Catholic sympathiser but had kept it secret so as not to alienate his Protestant subjects, promised to come out as a Catholic convert. In return, France would pay him an extra £160,000 and intervene if his people rebelled against him.

2 June

1962: The ‘battle of Santiago’

Chile beat Italy 2–0 in an ill-tempered World Cup group match, which saw numerous fights, police intervention and two Italian players sent off. The British referee, Ken Aston, is said to have later observed: “I wasn’t reffing a football match. I was acting as an umpire in military manoeuvres.”

3 June

1937: Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson marry

Six months after Edward VIII had abdicated the British throne in order to marry the woman he loved, he was united, once and for all, with Wallis Simpson. The venue was the Chateau de Candé, near Tours, which was owned by the half-American millionaire Charles Bedaux.

4 June

1989: Hundreds die in Tiananmen Square

A Beijing demonstrator blocks the path of a tank convoy along the Avenue of Eternal Peace near Tiananmen Square.
A Beijing demonstrator blocks the path of a tank convoy along the Avenue of Eternal Peace near Tiananmen Square. (Photo by GettyImages)

In the early hours of 4 June, the army cleared the square by force. Government officials initially claimed the action resulted in no deaths – later revised to about 200; other estimates suggest that as many as 1,000 people lost their lives. Either way, the result was the same: the protesters had been defeated.

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5 June

1832: Angry Parisians man the barricades in a two-day uprising against the Orleanist king Louis-Philippe

The June Rebellion was triggered by the food shortages of the late 1820s, a devastating cholera epidemic and the death of the popular general Jean Lamarque, who had become a hero to the working classes of Paris. At his funeral on 5 June, republican demonstrators rallied the crowds, waving red flags and calling for “liberty or death”. The mood turned ugly, and by the evening rioters had taken control of much of central and eastern Paris, throwing up barricades.

6 June

1513: The Swiss defeats the French at the battle of Novara in Northern Italy

This forced Louis XII of France to abandon his attempt to control Milan.

Famous births in June

7 June 1811

James Young Simpson, Scottish doctor who discovered the anaesthetic qualities of chloroform

8 June 1810

Robert Schumann, German Romantic composer

9 June 1812

Johann Gottfried Galle, German astronomer

10 June 1913

Edward Penley Abraham, English biochemist

11 June 1832

Lucy Holcombe Pickens, socialite and archetypal ‘Southern Belle’

13 June 1831 

James Clerk Maxwell, physicist and mathematician

13 June 1910

Mary Whitehouse, campaigner against what she saw as declining moral standards on TV and radio and founder of the National Viewers and Listeners Association

14 June 1811 

Harriet Beecher Stowe, abolitionist and writer

15 June 1330

Edward the Black Prince, the eldest son of King Edward III and Philippa of Hainault

15 June 1843

Edvard Hagerup Grieg, composer and pianist

18 June 1511

Bartolomeo Ammannati, architect and sculptor

19 June 1623 

Blaise Pascal, scientist, mathematician and philosopher

20 June 1763 

Theobald Wolfe Tone, Irish nationalist and political writer

20 June 1912 

Anthony Malcolm Buckeridge, children’s author

23 June 1763 

Marie Josèphe Rose Tascher de La Pagerie, wife of Napoleon Bonaparte 

23 June 1910 

Jean Anouilh, French dramatist

24 June 1850 

Herbert Kitchener, British soldier

25 June 1799 

David Douglas, Scottish traveller and botanist

27 June 1462

Future Louis XII of France 

27 June 1880

Helen Keller, author, political activist, lecturer, and the first deaf-blind person to be awarded a bachelor of arts degree

28 June 1712

Jean-Jacques Rousseau, philosopher and composer

29 June 1911

Bernard Herrmann, composer and  frequent collaborator with film director Alfred Hitchcock

7 June

1512: The Marquess of Dorset lands in Spain with 10,000 men to join Ferdinand of Aragon in an attack on France

In fact, Ferdinand was more interested in securing Navarre, and the expedition achieved nothing.

8 June

1929: Margaret Bondfield becomes Britain’s first female cabinet minister

Former shop worker Margaret Bondfield is appointed minister of labour in Ramsay MacDonald’s new government.

Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald in the garden of No. 10 Downing Street with Margaret Bondfield.
Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald in the garden of No. 10 Downing Street with Margaret Bondfield. (Photo by Central Press/Getty Images)

9 June

1865: Charles Dickens survives a deadly train crash

At 3.13pm, as Dickens’ train sped across a viaduct at Staplehurst, it hit a missing section of the track, which had been removed by workmen. The train was thrown into the air, plunging seven carriages into the quagmire below. Dickens’s carriage was dragged partially off the bridge.

Luckily, the author was able to clamber free. He then rushed to the carcass of the crushed train to offer his help. He must have been greeted by a shocking scene: 10 passengers had died in the crash and 40 more were injured.

10 June

1190: One of medieval Europe’s most powerful crusaders, Barbarossa, drowns, leaving his army in disarray

On 10 June, Frederick Barbarossa’s army was just outside Silifke, in southern Turkey, and attempting to cross the river Saleph, when something went terribly wrong. Medieval chroniclers told different stories: some said the emperor had decided to go for a dip to cool off on a sweltering day, but others said that he had been leading his troops across the ford when his horse slipped and threw him into the cold water. Some claimed that Barbarossa drowned, others that he died from a heart attack brought on by the shock.

11 June

323 BC: Alexander the Great dies

Accounts of Alexander’s death differ widely. The most popular, told by the historian Plutarch, holds that he was taken ill after a drinking session with his friend Medius of Larissa. In the next few days, Alexander developed a fever. Although he managed to put in an appearance before his worried troops, his condition worsened until he could no longer speak. At last, some time in the night between 10 and 11 June, he died.

12 June

1942: Anne Frank is given a diary by her parents

Anne had seen the red-and-white autograph book in a shop a few days earlier and had pointed it out to her father. Like so many teenagers, she loved the thought of having a diary. “I hope I will be able to confide everything to you, as I have never been able to confide in anyone,” she wrote in her very first entry, “and I hope you will be a great source of comfort and support.”

So it proved. A month later, Anne’s family, who were Jewish, went into hiding. She kept up her diary until August 1944, when the family were arrested by the Nazis and sent to the camps. The following spring, she died of typhus in Bergen-Belsen.

13 June

1917: German bombs smash into a Poplar school

When the German bomber appeared overhead, there was no time to react. The bomb punched through the roof, killing a 13-year-old girl. It ploughed through the floor to the next level, mortally wounding a 12-year-old boy. Finally, it crashed into the infants’ classroom, where it exploded.

Sixteen infants were killed and several dozen injured. The survivors huddled sobbing in the playground, while the teachers went to search the building. It was a horrific scene, breaking the hearts of all who saw it.

14 June

1381: The archbishop of Canterbury loses his head

Rebels discovered Simon Sudbury, Archbishop of Canterbury (whom they regarded as one of their chief oppressors), cowering in the chapel of the White Tower.

Unfortunately for Sudbury, his captors weren’t in a merciful mood, and he was soon dragged away to Tower Hill to meet his maker. It allegedly took eight clumsy blows to remove his head, which was then paraded through the streets before being impaled on London Bridge.

15 June

1648: Margaret Jones is executed in Massachusetts for witchcraft

“At this court,” begins the 15 June 1648 entry in the journal of John Winthrop, governor of Massachusetts, “one Margaret Jones, of Charlestown, was indicted and found guilty of witchcraft, and hanged for it.”

Jones’s death marked the beginning of a witch-hunt craze that would claim the lives of around 80 New England colonists over the next century.

16 June

1487: Henry VII decisively wins the last clash in the Wars of the Roses at the battle of Stokes Field

Henry VII.
Henry VII. (Photo by The Print Collector/Getty Images)

Although Lincoln’s mercenaries carried the latest continental firearms, the king’s archers proved decisive, their arrows raining mercilessly down onto the Yorkist ranks, with one chronicler likening the stricken men to hedgehogs. By the end of the battle, the Yorkists had turned and fled, many of them butchered in a gully known afterwards as the Bloody Gutter. The death toll may have been higher than 4,000. Now the civil wars really were over.

17 June

1462: Vlad the Impaler massacres 15,000

In the early hours of 17 June, Vlad attacked, accompanied by several thousand of his best men. As one Wallachian veteran later recalled: “During the entire night he sped like lightning in every direction and caused great slaughter.” The fighting went on until four in the morning, leaving the Ottoman army in utter consternation. And then, according to the Wallachian veteran, Vlad “returned to the same mountain from which he had come. No one dared pursue him, since he had caused such terror and turmoil”.

In Romania, the Night Attack of Târgoviste is remembered as a national triumph. But it also cemented Vlad’s reputation as one of the most fearsome warriors of the age.

18 June

1178: Monks witness an extraordinary lunar event

Some time after sunset, the monks had noticed something extraordinary in the sky. “Now,” Gervase of Canterbury wrote, “there was a bright new moon... its horns were tilted toward the east; and suddenly the upper horn split in two. From the midpoint of the division a flaming torch sprang up, spewing out, over a considerable distance, fire, hot coals, and sparks. Meanwhile the body of the moon which was below writhed, as it were, in anxiety, and to put it in the words of those who reported it to me and saw it with their own eyes, the moon throbbed like a wounded snake.”

Today, many lunar experts believe the monks had been watching the formation of the moon’s enormous Giordano Bruno crater, named after an Italian philosopher. It was probably created by the impact of an asteroid or comet, which would explain the burst of molten matter seen by the monks – though they, of course, had no way of understanding what it was they had witnessed.

19 June

1829: Establishment of the Metropolitan Police

Parliament passes Home Secretary Robert Peel’s ‘Act for improving the Police in and near the Metropolis’.

Famous deaths in June

4 June 1941

Wilhelm II, former German kaiser

9 June 1870

Charles Dickens, writer

11 June 1183

Henry ‘the Young King’, son and heir of King Henry II

11 June 1970

Alexander Kerensky, leader of the Russian provisional government in 1917

14 June 1883 

Edward FitzGerald, poet, student of the battle of Naseby and translator 

16 June 1929 

Bramwell Booth, eldest son of William Booth, the founder of the Salvation Army

17 June 1862

Charles, 1st Earl Canning, governor-general of India during the mutiny of the Bengal army in 1857

23 June 1839 

Lady Hester Stanhope, society hostess and niece of Pitt the Younger

25 June 1533 

Mary Tudor, widow of Louis XII of France and wife of Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk

25 June 1912 

Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, Dutch-born classical painter

27 June 1831

Sophie Germain, French mathematician

29 June 1509

Lady Margaret Beaufort, widow of Edmund Tudor and mother of Henry VII

30 June 1660 

William Oughtred, English mathematician

20 June

1837: Victoria becomes queen

Vintage print of Queen Victoria wearing the George IV State Diadem after her coronation in 1838.
Vintage print of Queen Victoria wearing the George IV State Diadem after her coronation in 1838. (Photo by GraphicaArtis/Getty Images)

Victoria recorded in her diary: “The archbishop of Canterbury and Lord Conyngham were here and wished to see me. I got out of bed and went into my sitting-room (only in my dressing gown) and alone, and saw them. Lord Conyngham then acquainted me that my poor uncle, the king, was no more, and had expired at 12 minutes past two this morning, and consequently that I am queen.”

21 June

1529: Catherine of Aragon causes a courtroom sensation

“Sir,” she implored, “I beseech you for all the loves there hath been between us, and for the love of God, let me have justice. Take of me some pity and compassion.” The spectators sat in silence, listening to the queen pleading on her knees in her deep Spanish accent. “I take God and all the world,” she said, “to witness that I have been to you a true, humble and obedient wife, ever comfortable to your will and pleasure.”

22 June

1948: The Windrush arrives at Tilbury

On a grey, misty day in June 1948, a former German passenger liner arrived at Tilbury docks on the Thames Estuary – to a storm of media attention.

23 June

1940: Hitler tours Paris

To Speer, the Nazis’ chief architect, Hitler waxed lyrical about the beauties of the French capital. But he was determined that Germany could do better. “Berlin,” he said later, “must be more beautiful. When we are finished in Berlin, Paris will be only a shadow.”

24 June

1981: The Humber Bridge opens for traffic

Linking Yorkshire and Lincolnshire it was, at the time of its opening, the world’s longest single span suspension bridge.

25 June

1876: General Custer meets his match at Little Bighorn

Custer's Last Stand at the Battle of Little Bighorn.
Custer's Last Stand at the Battle of Little Bighorn. (Photo by GraphicaArtis/Getty Images)

What exactly happened at Little Bighorn will never be known. Confident that he had found Sitting Bull’s camp, General Custer divided his troops into three, hoping to cut his opponents off. But the initial assault went wrong and after less than an hour, Custer found himself trapped on the hill above the river, at the mercy of a vast force of war-whooping Sioux fighters.

Because there were few survivors, we do not even know exactly how he died. Some say he was cut down by an enemy bullet; others that he was wounded and then shot by his brother to spare him from agonising torture. Either way, the battle brought the end of Custer’s life – and the beginning of his legend.

26 June

AD 363: A Persian spear fells Roman Emperor Julian

On 26 June, Julian had thrown himself into a fray after marching on the Persian capital of Ctesiphon, wrote Ammianus Marcellinus, a historian on the emperor’s military staff, “when suddenly a cavalry spear, grazing the skin of his arm, pierced his side and fixed itself in the bottom of his liver”.

27 June

1954: Brazil and Hungary’s World Cup quarter-final descends into an all-out brawl

“Never in my life have I seen such cruel tackling, the cutting down of opponents as if with a scythe, followed by threatening attitudes and sly jabs when officialdom was engaged elsewhere,” reported The Times correspondent.

At the final whistle, the Brazilians once again invaded the pitch, and the fighting in the dressing room was so intense that Hungary’s manager needed four stitches in his face. For the referee, Arthur Ellis from Halifax, the events that day were a terrible disappointment: “I thought it was going to be the greatest game I’d ever see. I was on top of the world,” he said later. “Whether politics and religion had something to do with it I don’t know, but they behaved like animals.”

28 June

1846: The saxophone is invented

Having devised instruments such as the saxhorn and the saxotromba, Belgian inventor Adolphe Sax hits the jackpot with his patent for a single-reed instrument made of brass. Once again he names it after himself – the saxophone.

29 June

1613: The Globe theatre burns to the ground

The production company clearly wanted the play All Is True – which centres on Henry’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon – to go off with a bang. And so, at a climactic moment in the performance, a cannon was fired towards the theatre’s famous open roof.

The explosion certainly made an impact, but for all the wrong reasons. Sparks set the thick thatched roof smouldering and, before long, smoke was creeping through the rafters. At first, nobody in the crowd seemed to notice – according to one onlooker, “their eyes [were] more attentive to the show” – but soon the fire had become impossible to ignore.

Remarkably, nobody was hurt in the blaze, though one man’s breeches caught alight (his skin was literally saved when someone soaked him in beer).

The Globe itself wasn’t so lucky and the inferno quickly swept through the building. The theatre that had been built by Shakespeare’s playing company in 1599, and had puton some of his most famous plays, was burned to cinders.

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30 June

1934: Hitler tightens his grip on power through a spate of ruthless killings

In a brutal purge known as the Night of the Long Knives, dozens, possibly hundreds of people were killed. The victims included not just the SA leadership, but old Nazi comrades who had fallen out with Hitler, senior figures in the Catholic Centre Party and, most famously, Hitler’s predecessor as Germany’s chancellor, General Kurt von Schleicher. Röhm himself was shot after refusing to commit suicide. Now Hitler’s power was unchecked. For as he boasted to the Reichstag, the Night of the Long Knives had confirmed his status as “the supreme judge of the German people”.

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