Historic May

View our list of historic events that occurred in May, including just eleven days after he had his wife Anne Boleyn beheaded, King Henry VIII marries…

Among many other events, May saw the official opening of the Manchester Ship Canal (pictured above) by Queen Victoria.

1 May 1707 The Union between England and Scotland is proclaimed.
2 May. 1611 The Authorized Version of the Bible (King James Version) was first published, and became the standard English language Bible.
3 May. 1841 New Zealand was declared a British colony.
4 May. 1471 The Battle of Tewkesbury, the last battle in the Wars of the Roses, took place; Edward IV’s Yorkists defeated the Lancastrians.
5 May. 1821 Napoleon Bonaparte “the Little Corporal”, died in exile on the remote British island of St. Helena. He was 51.
6 May. 1954 Roger Bannister was the first man to run a mile in under 4 minutes, at the Iffley Road Sports Ground, Oxford, England.
7 May. 1945 Nazi Germany surrendered to the Allies at Rheims and the war in Europe ended. VE Day is celebrated across Europe and North America on the following day.
8 May. 1429 The French warrior maiden, Joan of Arc, led the Dauphin’s troops to victory over the English laying siege to Orleans.
9 May. 1887 Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show opens in London.
10 May. 1940 Promising his people nothing but “blood, toil, tears and sweat”, Winston Churchill replaces Neville Chamberlain as British Prime Minister. Churchill is to form an all-party war government as German troops storm Europe.
11 May. 973 Edgar the Peaceful was crowned at Bath as King of all England; he then went to Chester, where eight Scottish Kings and Welsh princes rowed him on the River Dee.
12 May. 1926 Britain’s Trades Union Congress called off the General Strike that had brought the nation to a standstill for nine days. Workers across the country had downed tools in support of miners, protesting a wage cut.
13 May. 1607 Riots took place in Northamptonshire and other Midland counties of England in protest at widespread enclosure of common land.
14 May. 1080 Walcher, Bishop of Durham and Earl of Northumberland was murdered; William (the Conqueror) consequently ravaged the area; he also invaded Scotland and built the castle at Newcastle-upon-Tyne.
15 May. 1567 Mary Queen of Scots married Bothwell in Edinburgh.
16 May. 1943 RAF Lancaster bombers caused chaos to Nazi German industry by destroying two huge dams. Dr Barnes Wallis’s bouncing bombs skimmed the surface of the water to reach their targets.
17 May. 1900 The siege of the British garrison at Mafeking by Boer forces was broken. Commander of the garrison, Colonel Robert Baden-Powell and his forces had held firm for 217 days.
18 May. 1803 Bored with nobody to fight for almost a year, Britain abandons the Treaty of Amiens and declares war on France, again!
19 May. 1536 Anne Boleyn, King Henry VIII‘s second wife, was beheaded in London. She was 29. The charges brought against her included incest with her brother and no less than four counts of adultery.
20 May. 1191 English King Richard I ‘the Lion Heart’ conquered Cyprus on his way to join the Crusaders at Acre in north west Israel.
21 May. 1894 The official opening of the Manchester Ship Canal by Queen Victoria.
22 May. 1455 In the first battle of the Wars of the Roses, Richard of York and the Nevilles attacked the court at St Albans, capturing Henry VI and killing Edmund Beaufort, Duke of Somerset.
23 May. 878 The Saxon King Alfred defeated the Danes at Edington, Wiltshire; as part of the peace agreement, the Danish King, Guthrum, accepted Christianity.
24 May. 1809 Dartmoor Prison in Devon is opened to house French prisoners of war.
25 May. 1659 Richard Cromwell resigns as Lord Protector of England.
26 May. 735 The Venerable Bede, English monk, scholar, historian and writer, died having just completed his translation of St. John into Anglo-Saxon.
27 May. 1657 Lord Protector Oliver Cromwell refuses parliament’s offer of the title King of England.
28 May. 1759 Birthday of William Pitt (the Younger), English statesman who became the youngest ever British Prime Minister at the age of 24.
29 May. 1660 Charles Stuart entered London to become King Charles II, restoring England’s monarchy following Oliver Cromwell’s commonwealth.
30 May. 1536 Eleven days after he had his wife Anne Boleyn beheaded, King Henry VIII marries Jane Seymour, former lady-in-waiting to Anne.
31 May. 1902 The Peace of Vereeniging ended the Boer War, in which 450,000 British troops had fought against 80,000 Boers.

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Historic Birthdates in May

By Ben Johnson

Famous people born throughout history in May, including Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Edinburgh born novelist, and...

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