The Sunday Section: This Week in History - April 19-25

Apologies for the different image sizes; for reasons unknown to me, they seem to have re-sized themselves and I haven't got the time or inclination to upload the images again.

April 19

1689 – Death of Queen Christina of Sweden, aged 62.  She abdicated in 1654, and having decided not to marry, spent the rest of her life in Rome, becoming a leader of the theatrical and musical life.  As a guest of 5 consecutive popes, and a symbol of the Counter Revolution, she is one of the few women buried in the Vatican grotto.

Christina of Sweden ~ Jacob Ferdinand Voet

1770 – Lt. James Cook discovers Terra Australis.  The date of the discovery is recorded as 6am April 19 in the ship’s log.  The nautical date as used in the 18th century assigned the same date to all ship’s events from noon to noon.  As the south-east coast of Australia is now regarded as being 10 hours ahead of Britain, the date for the discovery is now recorded as April 20.

1775 – Start of the Battles of Lexington and Concord, the first military engagements of the Revolutionary War, which marked the start of conflict between Britain and 13 of its colonies in America.

1824 – Death of George Gordon Byron, more commonly known as Lord Byron, aged 26, after contracting fever at Missolonghi.  He was fighting alongside Greek nationalists against the Turks.

Lord Byron ~ Richard Westall

1882 – Death of Charles Darwin, aged 73, at his home in Kent.  He had been suffering ill health for 50 years.

Charles Darwin

1956 – Wedding of Prince Rainier of Monaco, and Grace Kelly.

Prince Rainier and Grace Kelly ~ Getty Images

1989 – An explosion on the USS Iowa, one of the oldest ships in the US Navy, has resulted in the deaths of 47 sailors.

USS Iowa turret explosion - no.2 turret (foreground) being cooled with sea water shortly after exploding

1989 – Death of Daphne du Maurier, aged 81.

Dame Daphne du Maurier


1861 – Robert E Lee resigns his commission in the US Army to command the forces of the state of Virginia.

Robert E Lee

1912 – Death of Abraham ‘Bram’ Stoker, aged 65, at his home in London.

Bram Stoker

1939 – Billie Holiday records ‘Strange Fruit’, the first civil rights song.

1968 – Pierre Trudeau is sworn in as Prime Minister of Canada.

Pierre Trudeau


1500 – Pedro Alvarez Cabral, the Portuguese explorer, discovers Brazil.

1509 – Henry VIII accedes to the throne.

1898 – The US declares war on Spain after the battleship ‘Maine’ was sunk in Havana Harbour.  Cuba, a Spanish colony, had been rebelling against the Spanish, and the US had sent the ship to protect American interests in Cuba.  Spain was suspected of placing a mine beneath the ship.  The war lasted 3 months, marking America’s emergence as a world power; the victorious US gained the Philippines, Puerto Rico and Guam.  Cuba gained independence from Spain, which suffered a humiliating defeat – both her Atlantic and Pacific fleets had been destroyed.

1910 – Death of Mark Twain, aged 74.  In 1909, he had said, “I came in with Halley’s Comet in 1835.  It is coming again next year, and I expect to go out with it.  It will be the greatest disappointment of my life if I don’t go out with Halley’s Comet.  The Almighty has said, no doubt: ‘Now here are these two unaccountable freaks; they came in together, they must go out together.’”  As he’d predicted, Mark Twain died one day after the comet’s closest approach to Earth.

Mark Twain

1916 – Roger Casement, an Irish diplomat and nationalist, and a former British consular official, arrives in Ireland, taken by a German submarine to take part in the Irish uprising, but is arrested by the British for treason, sabotage and espionage.  He is taken to the Tower of London.

Roger Casement

1918 – Death of Baron Manfred von Richthofen, aged 25, shot by a single bullet.  The most feared fighter pilot of World War 1, and top ace of the war, he was known as the Red Baron, and was officially credited with 80 air combat victories.  Although dying, he managed to make a controlled landing.  The identity of the person who shot him has never been confirmed, with a number of competing claims having been made.

Baron von Richthofen

1946 – Death of John Maynard Keynes, aged 62.

1989 – More than 10,000 people, mainly students, marched on Tiananmen Square in Beijing, for the funeral of former General Secretary Hu Yaobang.  Having been forced to resign for taking a soft approach and mishandling protests calling for political reform, he had died of a heart attack on April 15th.

Protesters and policemen in Tianenmen Square, April 22 ~ Catherine Henriette/Getty Images


1616 – Death of Miguel de Cervantes, author of ‘Don Quixote’.

1838 – The British steamer, ‘Sirius’, becomes the first steamer to complete the transatlantic crossing to New York, one day ahead of  ‘Great Western’. 

Paddel steamer 'Sirius' ~ Samuel Walters

1860 – Scottish explorer John Stuart reaches the centre of Australia.

1876 – The National League of Professional Baseball Clubs is formed in the hopes of saving the reputation of baseball.

1889 – 200,000 people have lined up for the noonday start of a land run in Oklahoma.

Land rush

1915 – The German Army uses poison gas for the first time on the Western Front.

1933 – Death of Frederick Henry Royce, the motor car manufacturer, aged 70.

Frederick Henry Royce

1969 – Robin Knox-Johnston completes his solo non-stop round-the-world trip in 312 days aboard his 32ft yacht, ‘Suhaili’.

Robin Knox-Johnston in Falmouth after completing his solo voyage

1972 – John Fairfax and Sylvia Cook become the first people to row 8,000 miles across the Pacific.  They’d left San Francisco on April 26 1971, and arrived in Australia almost one year later.  They had been given up for lost when Cyclone Emily had hit a few weeks previously.  Their achievement is all the more remarkable given that they could only top up their stock of fresh water by stopping at islands along the way, they had no solar batteries, which would have added unwanted weight, and they only had a compass and a sextant to guide them.  Added to that, John almost lost his life when he was severely bitten by a shark.  Sylvia dragged him back into the boat, “sewed him up”, and then rowed the rest of the way, single-handedly, becoming the first woman to row an ocean.

John Fairfax and Sylvia Cook


1616 – Death of William Shakespeare, aged 52, at his home in Stratford-upon-Avon.

1661 – Charles II is crowned.

1850 – Death of William Wordsworth, aged 80.

1915 – Death of the poet, Rupert Brooke, on his way to the landing at Gallipoli.  He had developed sepsis, or blood poisoning, from an infected mosquito bite.

Rupert Brooke

1968 – The first decimal coins appear in Britain.

1969 – Sirhan B. Sirhan, on trial for the murder of Senator Robert Kennedy, has been sentenced to death.

Sirhan B Sirhan

1984 – A virus which may cause AIDS has been discovered by a team of scientists in America.  The virus is a variant of a known human cancer virus called HTLV-3, which is similar to one discovered by French scientists, which they call LAV.  The discovery has raised hopes of finding an anti-AIDS vaccine.

1986 – Death of Otto Preminger, aged 80.

Otto Preminger

1990 – Release of Professor Robert Polhill in Beirut after 39 months in captivity.


1731 – Death of Daniel Defoe, aged about 70.

Daniel Defoe

1916 – The Easter Rising, or Easter Rebellion, an armed insurrection in Ireland during Easter Week.  The aim of the bloody uprising was to end British rule in Ireland, and set up an independent Irish Republic while Britain was engaged in the First World War.

Easter Rising aftermath - buildings in Dublin destroyed mainly by British artillery and machine-gun fire

1964 – The head of the ‘Little Mermaid’ statue in Copenhagen has been stolen.

1967 – The ‘Soyuz 1’ spacecraft has crashed, killing astronaut Vladimir Komarov.

Soyuz 1 crash ~ Roscosmos

Vladimir Komarov

1980 – Operation Eagle Claw, a US Armed Forces operation intended to rescue 52 diplomats held captive at the US Embassy in Tehran, has met with disaster.  Ordered by President Jimmy Carter, the operation was aborted after facing mounting obstacles.  As the force prepared to leave, one of the helicopters crashed into a transport aircraft, engulfing the two in flames.  8 servicemen were killed, and both aircraft destroyed.

Operation Eagle Claw wreckage

1986 – Death of Wallis Simpson, aged 89, in Paris.

Wallis Simpson

1990 – The ‘Hubble’ space telescope is launched from ‘Discovery’.

'Hubble' space telescope

'Discovery' with 'Hubble' on board ~ Nasa


1719 – ‘Robinson Crusoe’ is published.

1774 – Death of Anders Celsius, the Swedish astronomer who devised the centigrade temperature scale.

Anders Celsius

1859 – The building of the Suez Canal begins.

1915 – Allied troops storm ashore at Gallipoli.

1953 – Publication of a paper by British scientist, Francis Crick, and American biologist, James Watson, establishing the structure and function of DNA, the molecules which store an individual’s genetic code.

James Watson (left) and Francis Crick