We continue our exhaustive history of the Daily Express with a look at some of their notable coverage of events between the fourteenth century and the start of the first Elizabethan age. Having put the middle-aged into the Middle Ages and the evil into Medieval, the Daily Express continued to blaze a trail that few would dare to follow.
Oops! A Rare Mistake from The Daily Express
In 1346, things took a dark turn in the British Isles. The population was ravaged by a pandemic of the bubonic plague, widely known as the Black Death. Millions were to die of the deadly and highly contagious infection over the next four years and the Express’s coverage of the outbreak now appears to be somewhat cavalier.
Having exhorted its readership to laugh in the face of the “Chinese ‘flu” by licking rats and drinking bleach, the paper saw the largest circulation drop of its history as 99% of its readers died after following its ill-considered advice.
Wat Tyler gets the hump
In the April of 1381 The Daily Express decided to flex its editorial muscle with a vicious attack on the lower orders. Serfs and peasants, it declared, were a scourge upon the civilised people of the world, and called for them to be routinely hung and flogged. In a guest column, Lady Priti de Ville even went so far as to say that the only humane way to deal with the peasant issue was to “deporteth them all to landes from which they never came.” She did, in fairness, qualify this by stating a strong preference for the inhumane option.
Having read this frankly outrageous attack on the workers of England and already a little miffed about the latest poll-tax, Wat Tyler was inspired to gather an army of peasants to march on London from Canterbury. The Peasant’s Revolt raged from May to November and led to the sacking of the Tower of London.
It is widely believed that Julia Hartley-Brewer describes the infamous April 14th issue as “the single greatest newspaper ever published” and cultivates her bunions in honour of its searing front-page diatribe. The Daily Distress is unable to confirm this and suspects that it may just be an urban legend of the sort that Ms Hartley-Brewer is so fond of spreading.
The Daily Express Rewrites History
As every schoolboy knows, in fourteen-hundred and ninety-two, Columbus sailed the ocean blue and become the first European set foot in the Americas since the Vikings. The Express, however, was quick to find an English angle to the story. Claiming that the Santa Maria’s cat was in fact a short-haired English tabby by the name of Tibbles, it went on to claim that the cat had coolly guided Columbus to the new world by dint of its innate superiority.
There is no evidence whatsoever to back the paper’s claims but it did effectively deflect from a non-Englishman’s achievements.
Bloody Hell! It’s Mary!
Recent research suggests that the woman who became known as Bloody Mary wasn’t always a religiously intolerant, homicidal maniac. It seems that she was renowned for her warmth, kindness and generosity until the Daily Express published a no-holds-barred character assassination in honour of her coronation. The previously mild-mannered monarch was so incensed that she not only beheaded the rag’s entire staff, she went on to butcher anyone that she remotely suspected of ever having read it.
It is hardly surprising that the arrival of Queen Elizabeth I was greeted with the rather more upbeat, and somewhat less sexist, “God Speed Ye, Fair Empress!”
The Daily Express does Science
The first ever special edition of the Daily Express came in sometimes around 1557 when the editors decided to commemorate Sir Francis Drake’s circumnavigation of the world with a one off science issue.
Never fond of being shown to be wrong, however, The Crusader came up with its own ingenious take on the event by treating Drake’s journey as confirmation of the flatness of the Earth. This stands in rather sharp contrast to the headline in that week’s New Alchemist which simply read “Aristotle Proved Right.”
Even the publication’s most ardent readers found it hard to keep a straight face and the Express made a solemn vow to never address the subject of science again. Nearly 500 years on, the paper is yet to break this promise.
It’s a Tragedy
If there’s one subject that the Daily Express avoids more fervently than science, it’s art. In 1604, however, it was unable to contain its bile when popular writer, William Shakespeare, wrote a play about somebody who wasn’t white. The paper’s owner, Sir Oswald Moseley-Rothermere was so outraged that he summoned his entire journalistic team for an all-night brainstorming session. It was at this meeting that The Express’s all-time favourite headline was born.
Since its conception, the headline has appeared in over 27,000 editions of the Express and has been applied to all manner of things including the abolition of slavery; the introduction of universal suffrage and the first appearance of a woman on Coronation Street.
Join us next time as The Daily Express paves the way for the Age of Enlightenment.