If you are a politician with an eye for the highest office in the land, you might want to put a ring around 10 May on your calendar as that seems to be the day that ultimate power is bestowed upon those lucky few.
1291 – Following the death of Margaret, Maid of Norway, in 1290, Scotland had no rightful heir to its throne. In order to prevent all-out civil war the bishop of St Andrews contacted Edward I of England for his help. Partly in order to gain the authority to march into Scotland and take charge and partly to finally get control of the country that continually defied him, Edward agreed on the condition that his authority be recognised by Scottish nobles. This was finally achieved on 10 May.
1774 – Probably most famous for being the ruler at the time of the French Revolution, Louis XVI and his wife of four years Marie Antoinette were crowned on 10 May. His 19 years in power was not a happy period in French history, with the country nearly becoming bankrupt and the clergy, nobles and commoners forming the Third Estate and claiming parliamentary control over the country in protest against the king. Despite making a raft of concessions, France’s military defeats raised the issue of revolution again and he was finally executed on 21 January 1793.
1940 – 10 May 1940 was a busy day in Europe. As well as German aircraft beginning an assault on British shipping convoys and ground troops invading Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands, Winston Churchill was elected Prime Minister of the UK, replacing the discredited Neville Chamberlain. Churchill has since gone down in history as one of the greatest Britons of all time, having helped the Allies to a second World War victory over the Axis.
1981 – On this day in 1981, Francois Mitterrand became President of France, defeating incumbent Giscard d’Estaing. His victory meant that he gained the distinction of becoming the first ever Socialist leader of the country and led a period of reformation in the job market. He was also responsible for abolishing the death penalty in France before resigning at the end of his second term as leader, being succeeded by Jacques Chirac.
1994 – Nelson Mandela’s rise to power is a story of fairytales. A fiercely political student, he was an active part in many student protests against apartheid. A number of successful and unsuccessful stints at a range of universities led him to set up a law firm before becoming a member of the African National Congress (ANC) in 1944. Having been imprisoned for life at Robben Island in 1963 for sabotage, he was finally released in 1990. Within a year he became leader of the ANC and three years after that won South Africa’s first democratic election and also became its first black president, helping to end apartheid rule. He served a single term and continued a wealth of charity work until his death in 2013.