P-p-p-p-poker face

Poor Edward II. Not only did he face constant opposition in his 20-year rule, but he was deposed in 1326 when England was invaded – by his wife and her lover. Following a year’s imprisonment, Edward was executed in September 1327, and rumours soon spread that he met his gruesome end with a red-hot poker up his backside.


The long wait for David

The unveiling of the ‘David’ statue – by the great Renaissance artist Michelangelo – on 8 September 1504, was a long time coming. A marble of the Biblical hero had been commissioned to a different sculptor 40 years earlier, but he never got beyond the early chiselling. ‘David’ went neglected for decades until a 20-something Michelangelo asked for the contract. Nearly three years later, ‘David’ was placed at the entrance to the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence, purposely positioned so his stern gaze was fixed towards the neighbouring state of Rome as a warning.

Michelangelo's masterpiece, 'David'. (Getty Images)
Michelangelo's masterpiece, 'David'. (Getty Images)

Creation of the croissant?

The Holy Roman city of Vienna was besieged for months when the invading Ottoman army was defeated on 12 September 1683. Attempts to tunnel into the city had been thwarted by a group of bakers, who heard digging and raised the alarm. To celebrate the victory, those bakers cooked up a special treat. It was a buttery pastry in the shape of the crescent moon of the Ottoman flag – the first croissant. Now, it may sound too good a story to be true, and it almost certainly is, but that didn’t stop the croissant being banned by some Islamic groups in the following centuries.


Tragedy on the tracks

Boasting hundreds of guests and a procession of train carriages, the opening of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway was meant to be a grand event on 15 September 1830. Yet, it became a “lamentable accident” when William Huskisson, MP for Liverpool, ended up on the tracks with Stephenson’s Rocket steaming towards him. Huskisson’s legs were crushed and, despite George Stephenson himself driving the politician to a nearby town for care, he succumbed hours later.

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William Huskisson, MP for Liverpool, became the first to die in a rail accident, on 15 September 1830. © Bridgeman Art Library
William Huskisson, MP for Liverpool, became the first to die in a rail accident, on 15 September 1830. © Bridgeman Art Library

Tipsy Taxi

Just before 1am on 10 September 1897, London taxi driver George Smith was stopped by a policeman when his electric cab was seen swerving across the road at a reckless 8mph. After questioning, he was fined 20 shillings, and so became the first person to be charged with driving while drunk. “Motor-car drivers ought to be very careful”, he was warned, “the police have a very happy knack of stopping a runaway horse, but to stop a motor is a very different thing.”


Before the dystopian futures

Fifteen years before publishing his dystopian magnum opus Brave New World, former student Aldous Huxley was hired as Eton College’s new French tutor. In a bizarre coincidence (or was it serendipity?), he spent that year teaching Eric Blair, who would achieve great fame with another bleak futuristic novel, 1984, under the name George Orwell.

50 years of Thunderbirds

With their rockets, submarines and space stations, the Tracy family has been saving the world, and thrilling generations, for 50 years, from the first time the immortal words, “Thunderbirds are go!” were broadcast on 30 September 1965. The sci-fi series, created by British TV producers Gerry and Sylvia Anderson, used an innovative puppetry technique known as ‘supermarionation’ to bring the missions of Jeff Tracy’s International Rescue to life across 32 episodes and two feature films.

Thunderbirds, c1965. (Getty Images)
Thunderbirds, c1965. (Getty Images)

This article was first published in the September 2015 issue of History Revealed.