November 10

Published in On this Day listing

  • 1939

    Above: Charlotte Despard addressing a rally in London’s Trafalgar Square c. 1910.

    Charlotte Despard, née French (95), suffragette, socialist and philanthropist, died when she fell down the stairs in her home in Whitehead, Co. Antrim. Considering that they were polar opposites on the political spectrum, it is remarkable how Madame Despard, as she was popularly known, remained on close terms with her younger brother, Sir John French, for most of his life. She was a defiant revolutionary, champion of the poor and the marginalised. He was a career soldier and arch-imperialist, commander-in-chief on the Western Front during the first sixteen months of the First World War and later the hard-line viceroy of Ireland (1918–21). Charlotte ignored his politics, however, and turned a blind eye to his extravagance and his extra-marital affairs. Indeed, he only broke off contact with her in late 1919 because of her friendship with Maud Gonne and her open support for Sinn Féin and the IRA. On her regular visits to Ireland—she settled here for good in 1921—he had her closely monitored. Yet during his final months—he died of cancer in 1925—Charlotte hoped for a reconciliation and wrote several times to ‘my dearest Jack’. On one occasion she went to the hospital where he was being treated but was not allowed to see him. At the subsequent inquest into her own death, it was stated that she was in good health at the time and regularly stayed up late to listen to the war news on the radio. In her anxiety to conform to the blackout regulations she had removed an electric lamp from her top landing and had evidently stumbled down the stairs in the darkness.

  • 1989 Following the announcement in East Berlin that the 858-mile border between East and West Germany was to be opened, the Berlin Wall, which had stood for 27 years, was hacked to pieces as East Germans poured through it.
  • 1917 The 3rd Battle of Ypres (Passchendaele), from 31 July, ended with British and Commonwealth and German casualties of c. 500,000.
  • 1972 In a House of Commons written reply, it was disclosed that in the previous year some 577 women from Ireland had legal abortions in England and Wales, more than twice as many as in 1970.

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