May 1, 1851: The Great Exhibition opens.
Officially called the Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of all Nations, this exposition was held in Hyde Park between May and October of 1851. As far as world’s fairs went, the Great Exhibition was fairly frank in its purpose - which was for “Great Britain [to make] clear to the world its role as industrial leader”. With the Industrial Revolution now in full swing across Western Europe, Great Britain used the opportunity to flaunt its technological and cultural achievements, not to mention the riches of its growing colonies.
The exhibitions were held in the Crystal Palace, a 990,000 square foot structure of cast-iron and glass, itself a product of the Industrial Revolution - made possible by the recent development of efficient methods of plate glass production. Some notable attractions included various mechanical wonders (an early fax machine, an American reaping machine), as well as the Koh-i-Noor diamond (once the largest in the world), daguerreotypes, revolvers, furniture, art from all over the world, a recreation of a medieval court, and countless other novelties. The official catalog, which can be looked through here, is over 300 pages long.
April 23, 1775: J.M.W. Turner is born.
This Romantic-era Impressionist forefather, called the “painter of light”, was controversial during his life - he was admittedly talented, yet heavily criticized for what was perceived to be an excessive use of color and haze. Today, he is regarded one of the greatest landscape painters of all time, using pure paint and passion to depict the beauty - and sometimes destructive power - of nature. Turner’s technique and style apparently later influenced many Impressionists, including Claude Monet himself.
(pictured above: a self-portrait of the artist.)
April 16, 1746: The Battle of Culloden is fought.
This momentous battle brought to an end the second and last of the Jacobites’ efforts to restore the British crown to the Scottish House of Stuart. It was fought between British forces under Prince William Augustus, son of George II, and the Jacobites under “the Young Pretender” Charles Edward Stuart, whose own grandfather was the deposed King James II.
“The ‘Forty-five”, or the Jacobite Rebellion of 1745, took place at the same time as a larger pan-European conflict - the War of the Austrian Succession; as Great Britain concentrated its forces across Europe and in India and North America, the Young Pretender took this opportunity to launch an invasion of England, with limited support from France. By late 1745, however, Charles had been pushed back to Scotland, and, on April 16, his army met the superior British forces at the village of Culloden for one final clash.
The untrained Jacobite army, made up largely of (unwilling) clansmen from the Scottish highlands, suffered around 2,000 casualties to William’s 300, and they quickly dispersed after their defeat. With the Stuart cause crushed, Charles fled to France, never to return to Scotland. Following the battle, William made efforts to stamp out Jacobitism and rebellion (his tactics in doing so earned him the sobriquet “Butcher”), while around the same time, Parliament passed two acts that were designed to dismantle the clan system and suppress Gaelic culture and dress.
April 10, 1912: RMS Titanic sets sail from Southampton on her maiden voyage.
Titanic was built as part of a trio, one of three Olympic-class ocean liners - at the time, it, along with its sister ships Olympic and Britannic, were the largest, most luxurious ships in the world. Titanic herself measured nearly 900 feet long and 100 feet tall, and the Southampton dock from which it launched had been specially built to accommodate the huge dimensions of these enormous Olympic liners.
Of the over 2,000 people aboard, 885 were crew members, including Captain Edward Smith, who had been working at the White Star Line for thirty years. In terms of passengers, over half of the 1,317 aboard were travelling third class; ironically, the ship was actually under capacity, capable of carrying some 2,500 passengers, even though its lifeboats could only carry a thousand. Some of the first-class luminaries aboard included Macy’s owner Isidor Straus, John Jacob Astor (the fourth), Sir Cosmo-Duff Gordon, Benjamin Guggenheim, plus other millionaires and celebrities who could afford First Class tickets - which could go for up to £60,000 in today’s money.
Leaving Southampton at around noon, the RMS Titanic would sail for less than five days before it began receiving reports of the worst ice conditions in the North Atlantic in decades.
April 2, 1982: The Falklands War begins.
This war over the sovereignty of the Falkland Islands, an archipelago off the east coast of South America, began when Argentine forces invaded and subsequently occupied the islands. The United Kingdom responded with their own forces within days, and the entire conflict lasted a little over two months, ending in June of 1982. The British prevailed, losing 258 men to an Argentinean loss of 649, but to this day, Argentina claims the islands as its own territory.
Pictured above are two pro-war, propagandistic headlines from both the Argentinean and British sides (the Spanish headline reads “We are Winning”). Plus, BBC reflects upon the 30th anniversary of the conflict.
March 27, 1625: Charles I ascends the throne.
… and thus, the Cavalier Years began. These were the years of plumed hats, Van Dyke beards, the Three Musketeers, the cavalry, swashbuckling, and religious strife. ‘Twas a great time for hair and fashion… but not a great time for the English government’s treasury, which was heavily suffering from a large deficit, or Parliament, which had been dissolved by the king several times during his reign. After eleven years of “Personal Rule” (“Eleven Years’ Tyranny”, to some), Charles I fled London to raise an army, beginning the English Civil War.
In 1649, his son, Charles II, would return with a vengeance, bringing to England an even more frivolous monarchy than the one Oliver Cromwell had crushed.