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Europe’s Most Historical Anniversaries to Commemorate This Year

April 2, 2014 Chris Relton No Comments
As highlighted recently in my previous blog post, there are many ‘big ticket’ anniversaries throughout the year, each with the capacity to add additional context to any travels you may be making.

At a more local level, there are a number of further ‘notables’, which you might find of interest:

United Kingdom


[photos: centre: Queen Anne & St Paul’s Cathedral (Theobird); right: BBC]

  • The year marks 300 years since the death of Queen Anne. Queen who? Look at the statue outside St Paul’s Cathedral in London. Her death would usher in the Georgian era of the remainder of the 1700s with the search for a Protestant heir, in the form of George I. Two Georges down the road would bring George III and certain troublesome lands across the water… (you have to feel for Anne – remembered in history for multiple pregnancies, 17!, and no surviving heir)
  • It will be 150 years since the birth of Queen Victoria’s son, the Duke of Clarence. Who?  Next time you’re on a ‘Jack the Ripper’ walk, remember his name. By all accounts, he didn’t have the best public profile and in some quarters was a contender for ‘Jack’ himself.


[photos: left: Robert the Bruce centre: Bannockburn plaque  right: Saltire & Union flags]

  • Here’s one for the Scottish travellers: June marks the 700th anniversary of theBattle of Bannockburn. A notable date for Scots as it was on a muddy field outside Stirling that the forces of Scotland under Robert the Bruce trashed the English forces of Edward II and so, with much folklore and national pride across the centuries since, made a statement of Scottish nationhood (and to this day is part of the friendly banter between Scots and English).
  • Still in Scotland and very much to the fore in 2014, the autumn will see Scotland hold a referendum on whether or not to cede from the United Kingdom and become independent. As the date gets nearer, expect public debate and press coverage, particularly if you’re visiting Scotland. Interesting times.


  • If you’re wanting to dust off the annals of your Irish history, the year marks the 1000th anniversary of the Battle of Clontarf. The native Irish vs. those Viking types.  All good blood-curdling stuff but a notable ‘hinge-moment’ in Irish history. Ireland 1 – Vikings 0  so to speak. But unfortunately in victory a certainBrian Boru, High King of Ireland was killed. And in such moment, maybe the pages of Irish history (as they forever seem to have done) turned in ways that sowed seeds for the future.

UK & France

  • SFor the eager European train traveller: the Channel Tunnel is 20 years old this year. How this amazing feat of engineering has changed travel for us all! (and how we now take it for granted ). Central London to central Paris by high-speed rail in 2hrs 20mins and no more the need to bounce across the waters of the Channel by ferry (unless you want to).

France (but also European implications)

  • The 200th anniversary of the fall of Napoleon. 1814 saw him brought down from power and exiled to the island of Elba in the Mediterranean Sea. A big moment for France, yes, but also for Europe: the end of war across Europe (the Napoleonic Wars); the reshaping of boundaries and bit of colony swapping overseas amongst nations of Europe. For France, this marked the end of Republic and Empire and the return of the Monarchy: Louis XVIII  (brother of the executed Louis XVI).  Needless to say, it wasn’t the end of the story…
  • Happy Birthday Eiffel Tower:  You’ve climbed it or it’s on the wish list of things to do on a visit to Paris. 125th birthday this year! Inaugurated in 1889 for the Paris World Fair, revolutionary in its design, and very much an iconic symbol of Paris across the years since. So, if you’re visiting through the year, don’t forget to sing it ‘joyeux anniversaire’ as you gaze out from it and across Paris.


  • If you’re down Bavaria way and en route to Neuschwanstein Schloss, it’s 150 years this year since its Patron, Ludwig II became King of Bavaria. In the same year, he would meet Richard Wagner for the first time and, from there, would lead a story of its own…

A European context

  • OK so it is so far away in the mists of time (1200 years of mist to be precise) that it is easily forgotten, but the year marks the death of a certainCharlemagne, Holy Roman Emperor. If you’re talking impact on the making of a continent, its nations and peoples, plenty can be traced back to this moment – language fault-lines, nascent national boundaries that remain to this day. So, spare him a thought and, if visiting Notre Dame in Paris, give a glance to the large statue of a man on a horse just in front of the Cathedral and read his name…


[photos: top left: Napoleon  top right: Charlemagne at Notre Dame  bottom: Neuschwanstein]

I could also mention that it’s 50 years since ‘The Beatles’ made it big in the US for the first time with ‘I want to hold your hand’ (just in case you wanted to celebrate that piece of music history on Abbey Road in London).

But maybe the last mention needs to go to an event that took place more than a few years ago. Forget the event and its importance (Vikings and the English – say no more), but simply note the name. With a name like this, it should be remembered.

Swein Forkbeard. You’ve got to hand it to those Vikings for their names.

A note from the editor: Chris has provided us with so many anniversaries, events and commemorations being honored this year. As a bonus and free download, we’ve compiled his list together into a neatly packed 1-page PDF. Download, print and share it with your students. It’s a great way to be “in the know” before you travel abroad.


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Chris Relton

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