The Daily Express Today and Yesterday

Welcome to the latest chapter in our comprehensive history of The Daily Express. Today, we will look back on how our finest newspaper reported on some of the things that happened between 1600 and the English Civil War.

As The Daily Express hauled itself into its current home of the 17th Century, there was no shortage of news.

Or was there?

Gunpowder, Treason and Plotlessness

In 1605, Guy Fawkes and his cohorts attempted to blow up the Houses of Parliament. Catesby’s plot has become the stuff of legend. Every year, children all over Britain terrorise small, furry animals and set fire to effigies in honour of this momentous event. The Daily Express, however, was too busy blaming immigrants to pick up on the true nature of the incident.

The Daily Express Today and Yesterday - Gunpowder Plot

Hearing that explosives had been found in the basements of Westminster, The Express decided to blame Indian immigrants. Quite why they chose not to implicate Muslims, the EU or Bill Gates is entirely unknown.

This edition of Britain’s gutter-rag-of-hearts, however, is best remembered for reasons beyond The Crusader’s erroneous reporting. Whilst it was widely accepted that the paper’s texts were occasionally a little prone to exaggeration, its pictures had always been assumed to be genuine. The lead image for this story, however, is clearly faked. As any schoolboy knows, Elizabeth Tower wasn’t built until 1843, making this the first recorded use of Photoshop by a national newspaper.

Milton is believed to have remarked “Blimey! This takes the whole fake news thing to a new level.”

Times were, of course, very different. The Daily Express today would not dream of doing such a thing.

The Word of God (in the Daily Express today!)

In 1611, The Daily Express got terribly excited at the appearance of the King James version of The Bible. The KJV was not, of course, the first English translation of the text, as Tyndale and Caxton were only too eager to point out in the letters page, but the paper was keen to take this as an affirmation of God’s English heritage.

The Daily Express Today and Yesterday - King James Bible
Title page image courtesy of the Church of England

As ever, we are somewhat baffled by the logical gymnastics of the editors but their patriotism cannot be faulted.

Out, Out, Brief Candle …

In 1616, The Daily Express could barely contain its glee as William Shakespeare, Britain’s greatest ever writer, popped his clogs. The reasons for the rag’s hatred of The Bard, were numerous. They had never been able to forgive for the protagonist’s skin-tone in Othello and they were deeply suspicious of the homoerotic undertones of the 20th sonnet. They were also somewhat jealous of the great man’s ability to string together a coherent sentence.

The Daily Express Today and Yesterday - Shakespeare Dies

The 22-page character assassination of The Bard has rarely been equalled for either length or bile. It wasn’t until Graham Taylor lost a football match in the 1990s, that The Daily Express once more devoted an entire edition to throwing mud at an individual, rather than a group of people.

The Daily Express Draws a Blank

Newsrooms around the world live in fear of quiet news days. Normally this is handled via a stock of minor stories about an orangutan doing something mildly interesting at London Zoo, or somebody in the north growing an unusually large marrow.

Or Princess Diana.

When absolutely nothing at all happened on the 17th of November 1627, the editor was woefully prepared and compelled to release a largely blank Saturday issue.

The Daily Express Today and Yesterday - Nothing Happened Today

Had the editor’s news-gathering team been a little sharper though, they would have realised that the Duke of Buckingham had returned from la Rochelle with a handful of ships and 3000 men. He had gone there with a hundred ships and 7000 men in order to foment revolt in July, at the behest of the king. His early retreat clearly came as a surprise to the eagle-eyed reporters of Fleet Street.

Charlie is our Darling

The Express was in Heaven in 1629 when its pin-up boy King Charles I got a little snitty with Parliament after they dared to question his expense claims. He duly closed down Parliament in order to silence opposing voices. In a rare moment of prescience, the editor promised his readers eleven years of glorious tyranny and Charles duly delivered.

Charles’ constant spaffing and his refusal to work with his neighbours would lead the nation inexorably towards a civil war.

The Daily Express Today and Yesterday - Prorogation

The 10th March 1629 edition holds a special place in the history of The Daily Express as “prorogation” remains the most obscure word ever to be used in the publication. It was, appropriately, reused in 2019 as they lavished praise on someone doing something rather similar.

Calm Down, Eileen!

In October 1641, the Irish revolted. This was largely due to a combination of the fear of English Puritanism and hope that the Irish could achieve some of the concessions granted to Scotland after its recent rebellion.

Whether or not this famous front-page from the beginning of the month did anything to aid the process is unknown. Careful research suggests that the headline was simply inspired by a pub fight between a steaming Express hack and a passing Irishman.

The Daily Express Today and Yesterday - The Irish are Revolting

According to Countdown‘s Susie Dent, this is the first recorded use of the highly irritating phrase “that’s it – that’s the Tweet.” For that reason alone, this particular issue of The Express will forever live in infamy.

If you missed our first two histories of The Daily Express …

Join us next time in The Daily Express Today and Yesterday as we join the newspaper and its readers in their happy place – The English Civil War.