This year offers up some momentous historical anniversaries. Here’s our selection of the New Year’s important dates, plus ideas on how to commemorate them…
1. The Battle of Agincourt, 15 October 1415
This year is the 600th anniversary of England’s defeat of the French at the Battle of Agincourt in 1415. The famous battle appears in William Shakespeare’s Henry V and involved a small army of archers and soldiers who triumphed over the French. The battle was said to have been provoked with an insulting gift of tennis balls given from the French to the king at Kenilworth Castle. The invading army gathered at Portchester Castle in Hampshire, where English Heritage will mark the anniversary in 2015.
2. The Viking Invasion of Britain, summer 1015
When King Cnut, the son of Sweyn Forkbeard, arrived on British shores with 200 longships carrying 10,000 Vikings from all over Scandinavia, his influence was bound to be swift and terrible. Landing at Sandwich and Frome, the Vikings plundered such counties as Dorset, Wiltshire and Somerset, but following this, King Cnut brought prosperity to Britain, after years of fighting between Saxons and Vikings. Head to the Jorvik Viking Centre in York to see some of the nation’s most fascinating Viking relics.
3. King John issues Magna Carta, 15 June 1215
2015 is the 800th anniversary of King John issuing Magna Carta at Runnymede in 1215. The charter afforded citizens protection from illegal imprisonment, the right to justice, the freedom of the church and limits on taxes. It inspired legal systems around the world, including the US constitution, while the first English parliament – a meeting of barons and regional representatives organised by Simon de Montfort – was declared in 20 January 1265. Events to mark the anniversary can be found on the Magna Carta website.
4. Victory in Europe Day, 8 May 1945
This year will be 70 years since the conclusion of the Second World War. On what is known as VE Day, street parties took place across Britain, and in London several war memorials mark this event. In addition, 1940s era re-enactments will be taking place at Dover Castle and Wrest Park while Imperial War Museum Duxford will be hosting a VE Day air show on 23 and 24 May.
5. The Death of Sir Winston Churchill, 24 January 1965
Considered the greatest wartime leader of the 20th century, former Prime Minister Winston Churchill was the only British leader to have won the Nobel Prize in Literature. He died, aged 90, on 24 January 1965. Churchill organisations around the world will be organising commemorative events while a new Churchill exhibition will take place at his birthplace and ancestral home, Blenheim Palace, in February.
6. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland published, 26 November, 1865
It’s 150 years since Lewis Carroll’s book Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, first fired up our imaginations. Published on 26 November, 1865, the story is being commemorated at the Story Museum in Oxford, which holds its annual ‘Alice Day’ on 4 July. It features story-telling, fancy dress and entertainment. Alternatively, why not enjoy a Mad Hatter’s tea at the Sanderson Hotel London and make a toast to Lewis Carroll himself.
7. Agatha Christie born, 15 September 1890
If she was still alive, the Poirot and Miss Marple author Agatha Christie would be celebrating her 125th birthday in September. Commemorations in her native South Devon will include September’s International Agatha Christie Festival in the town of Torquay on the ‘English Riviera’, and visits to her home, Greenway.
8. Cunard launches Britannia on 4 July, 1840
In 1840 Samuel Cunard’s inaugural transatlantic boat service began with the launch of Britannia, the first ship to make the crossing, sailing from Liverpool on 4 July and arriving in Halifax, Canada, 12 days later. For the fare of 34 guineas 115 passengers were offered the luxury of drinking wine on board, as well as such amenities as a ladies-only saloon. In 2015, Cunard Line’s Queen Mary 2 will recreate history sailing from Liverpool on 4 July 2015, following in the route taken by Britannia 175 years earlier to the day.
9. Final Lord of the Rings book published, 20 October 1955
The final instalment of J R R Tolkien’s epic fantasy series Lord of the Rings is 60 in October. The Return of the King was published on 20 October 1955 bringing to an end 12 years of writing and becoming the second-biggest selling novel of all time, with 150 million copies sold around the world. Tolkien fans can enjoy the film version of the final part of the prequel to Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, while for other international Tolkien events visit the Tolkien Society website.
10. Duke of Wellington’s victory at the Battle of Waterloo, 18 June, 1815
This year is the 200th anniversary of Wellington’s defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo in 1815, one of the most famous conflicts in English history. On a Belgian battlefield the armies of the Seventh Coalition led by the Duke of Wellington defeated the French under Napoleon Bonaparte. For those interested in military history, The Wellington Museum at Apsley House in London will showcase the honours given to the Duke, while nearby Wellington Arch will also host an exhibition on the battle.
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