Battles, Beatles, Bond and an ancient Egyptian curse... there’s a lot to remember in 2022.
Our anniversary story begins in 1322, when Thomas, Earl of Lancaster was defeated by the unpopular Edward II at the Battle of Boroughbridge in modern-day North Yorkshire. It was 700 to 4,000 in the royal favour and the rebels, hemmed in by the River Ure, didn’t stand a chance. Lancaster was beheaded and later venerated almost as a martyr; Edward was deposed five years later.
Before he had the chance to offend anybody, a nine-month-old baby became Henry VI, 600 years ago. A century later, in 1522, 42 fully-grown men became the first to complete a circumnavigation of the globe aboard Victoria, a Spanish carrack — minus its original captain, Ferdinand Magellan, as well as a horrifying 80% of the original party who’d left Spain three years earlier.
The expedition’s Portuguese skipper — whose name was actually Fernão de Magalhães — was killed half-way through the voyage in a battle in the Philippines, though he had already cemented his fame by making it through the crucial South American straits which have borne his name ever since. Okay, not his name, exactly, but at least the strangely Anglicised version we all learned at school.
When the Palace of Whitehall — built by Henry VIII — burnt down in 1698, the only architectural survivor was Inigo Jones’s Banqueting House, which opened 400 years ago with a performance of Ben Jonson’s The Masque of Augurs. Hoare’s bank was founded by Sir Richard Hoare 350 years ago, now run by 11th-generation descendants. Moll Flanders was published 300 years ago, not attributed to Defoe until after his death; he based the story on the life of a thief he met in Newgate Prison.
We might never feel the weight of ‘an albatross round our necks’ were it not for the birth of Coleridge in 1772, 250 years ago, whose Rime of the Ancient Mariner inspired the metaphor — the lesson being ‘He prayeth best, who loveth best/All things both great and small’. Good behaviour towards animals was further encouraged 50 years on with the Cruel Treatment of Cattle Act 1822, the UK’s first animal-welfare legislation. That same year, Brighton’s Royal Pavilion was completed.
The first FA cup final saw Wanderers beat Royal Engineers at the Oval 150 years ago, the same year the Albert Memorial rose up, a meteor crashed down somewhere near Banbury and Greyfriars Bobby died, after 14 years guarding his master’s grave.
It’s been 100 years since Howard Carter unearthed Tutankhamun, triggering a curse (if you believe in curses) that caused some 10 suspicious deaths including Carter’s canary, eaten by a cobra on the day of discovery, and his patron, Lord Carnarvon, who died five months later from an infected mosquito bite.
A different ruler wed her beloved Duke of Edinburgh 75 years ago — in a year that saw the births of David Bowie, Elton John and The Duchess of Cornwall. Apart from London’s smog and the three-month Big Freeze, 1962 was quite entertaining: The Beatles belted out their first single, Love Me Do; Dr No, the first James Bond film, premiered; Steptoe and Son aired; and the new Coventry Cathedral welcomed worshippers to Britten’s specially composed War Requiem.
Fifty years ago, a state of emergency was declared as the miners’ strike saw every coal mine in the country shut, culminating in a 15,000-strong mob at the Battle of Saltley Gate (the ‘miners’ Agincourt’) and a pay rise. Later in 1972, the Duke of Windsor died, the first gay pride march took place in London, Mastermind first appeared on the BBC and Watership Down was published.
Forty years ago, the Barbican Centre opened, Britain defended its claim to the Falkland Islands, The Smiths got together, new 20p coins jangled in pockets, Channel 4 took to the airwaves and Adrian Mole started keeping a diary. Thirty years ago, the Saatchi Gallery shocked with its first YBA show — including a certain shark in formaldehyde — and women donned cassocks.
This year, Teletubbies and Harry Potter share a 25th anniversary, and it’ll be 20 years since Princess Margaret and the Queen Mother died. Also in 2002, Norman Foster’s bulbous City Hall opened, as did the Baltic on the Tyne, Girls Aloud won a now forgotten television talent show and Schott’s Original Miscellany entertained in loos across the land.
Ten years ago, ash dieback appeared on British shores and oars were crossed at the 158th University Boat Race, resulting in a broken paddle for Oxford, after a rogue swimmer disturbed the waters. April was equally wet, the cruellest on record, the first female Royal Navy warship commander set sail, The Shard prodded a capital sky, unbeaten Frankel retired and we got to hear The Queen say ‘Good evening, Mr Bond’ before jumping out of a helicopter at the London 2012 Olympic Opening Ceremony. One is much amused, but one hopes the Platinum Jubilee celebrations in June will be less daredevil.