Elections, executions and excavations: this week in history

George Washington, Mary, Queen of Scots, and the Welcome Stranger all feature in this week in history


Yalta Conference begins (4 February 1945)


With the end of World War II in sight, the leaders of the United Kingdom, United States of America and Soviet Union meet to discuss postwar policies. The Big Three gather at the Livadia Palace in the resort town Yalta, in the Crimea.

Winston Churchill, Franklin D Roosevelt and Joseph Stalin discuss issues including the war in the Pacific, and the reorganisation and rebuilding of war-torn Europe.

United States of America elects first president (4 February 1789)

George Washington is elected President of the United States, the first man to hold the position after the War of Independence with Britain.

As former leader of the Continental Army, he is popular among the 69 members of Congress. But he is reluctant to take on the presidency, as the young country is divided and members of Congress are constantly arguing.

Despite his reservations, he serves four years as president and is re-elected in 1793. He is now an American icon.

The world’s largest gold nugget discovered (5 February 1869)

The Welcome Stranger is the largest nugget of gold ever discovered. So big in fact, there are no scales big enough to weigh it, so it has to be broken into three pieces.

The mammoth nugget is discovered in Victoria, Australia, by Cornish miner John Deason and his partner Richard Oates. Deason finds it only 3cm below the surface, among the roots of a nearby tree.

Before being broken on an anvil, it is 60cm long and thought to weigh almost 72kg. It is given an value of an estimated £10,000, approximately $3.5m (US) today.

Beatlemania hits America (7 February 1964)

The Beatles make their first visit to the United States in 1964, landing at New York’s newly renamed Kennedy Airport on 7 February.

The Liverpudlian quartet are met by 3,000 screaming fans, but that was nothing compared to the estimated 73 million people who watch them on the Ed Sullivan Show two days later.

The previous week, the single ‘I Want to Hold Your Hand’ topped the US charts. The British invasion had begun.

Mary, Queen of Scots, executed (8 February 1587)

After nearly 19 years of imprisonment, Mary, Queen of Scots, is beheaded on the orders of her cousin, Elizabeth I of England.

The Catholic Mary had been imprisoned in 1568, seen as a threat to Elizabeth’s Protestant throne. She was declared Queen of the Scots when just six days old, following the death of her father, James V.


But when she is forced to abdicate by the Scottish nobles as a result of her unpopular marriage to Lord Darnley, she flees to England seeking refuge. Elizabeth imprisons her instead.