Culture & Literature



Some events shock the world, others have irrevocably changed the course of human history. Delve into the murky world of coups, conspiracies and devious plots behind the most infamous murders. Whether the victims were powerful leaders, enemies of the state, outspoken activists or high-profile celebrities, the violent, sudden, and often very public nature of their deaths leaves a mark on our collective consciousness. Read on to examine the accounts, evidence and lasting impacts of over 25 notorious assassinations, and discover the failed attempts that would set history on a completely different path.

United Kingdom
Future Publishing Ltd
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R 132,20

in this issue

4 min.
assassinations across history

ET TU, BRUTE? ROME 44 BCE After Julius Caesar’s rise to power as the dictator of Rome, he continued to accrue influence and privilege, sculpting the city and its institutions to his will and gaining control over the previously mighty Senate. However, his rule in Rome would be short-lived, as on the Ides of March, he was the victim of the world’s most famous assassination. Due to appear in a session of the Senate, Caesar arrived and was presented by Tillius Cimber with a petition to recall his exiled brother, with other conspirators gathering around to offer support. When Caesar tried to wave away and dismiss the senators, Cimber grabbed Caesar and pulled down his tunic while fellow assassin Servilius Casca produced a dagger and lunged at the dictator. Caesar reportedly shouted “Casca, you…

12 min.
beware the ides of march

What do you do when you’re worried about the state of your homeland? When you think it’s being run into the ground by one man with too much power? Decimus Junius Brutus Albinus was in that precarious situation and, in the summer of 45 BCE, he decided what had to be done. After getting his brother-in-law Marcus Brutus to join, things began to gather pace. Their plan? To kill Julius Caesar. There were several reasons for people to dislike Caesar. One of the prevailing factors was that the senators – particularly those in the conservative optimates faction – were becoming increasingly concerned about Caesar turning his family into a ruling dynasty. There were rumours swirling around the city that he was going to govern with Cleopatra as his queen and Caesarion…

2 min.
caesar’s final hours

WHEN IT HAPPENED In 44 BCE Caesar planned a major expedition against Parthia to avenge Crassus, and would be away for several years. Three days before he was due to leave, the assassins struck. It was 15 March – or the Ides, one of the three named days in each Roman month. THE NOBLEST ROMAN Brutus was the son of Caesar’s long-time mistress, Servilia, and her first husband. He was seen as an up-and-coming man in the Senate, although so far he had achieved little. A follower of the stern stoic philosophy, he was determined to the point of obsession. Caesar said: “Whatever Brutus wants, he wants badly.” Brutus insisted that only Caesar be killed, and naively seems to have assumed that a pristine republic would somehow spring back to life once the…

4 min.
the archbishop made a martyr

Thomas Becket hadn’t known it would be his last day – he didn’t think that the argument with four knights would lead to murder. But that evening, as dusk fell on 29 December 1170, the knights followed the archbishop into Canterbury Cathedral and as he knelt at the altar, they struck. It was a violent end for a holy man, but it was the result of a misunderstanding. Becket came from a lowly background as the son of a merchant, but his star was in the ascendant. One of his closest friends was a prince and in 1154, the prince became King Henry II of England. Becket became chancellor and together they ruled the country, bring law and order to their subjects. It seemed like a match made in heaven. The only…

3 min.
william silenced

The Dutch national hero was born in Germany as the oldest son of the Count of Nassau, and raised as a Lutheran Protestant. At 12 he had to convert to Catholicism to receive an inheritance from his uncle René of Chalons – including land in the Netherlands and the principality of Orange – thus becoming William of Orange-Nassau, and a prince by blood. At the time William inherited these lands, the Netherlands was a collection of provinces governed by Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, but still retained a degree of individual rule with Stadtholders – political leaders who represented provinces and maintained relationships between them. Emperor Charles V summoned the young William to the Netherlands to become a page at the imperial court, which led to a shining military career…

5 min.
death of the good king

Henry IV was the king of France from 2 August 1589 until he was murdered by a fanatical monk nearly 21 years later. Born on 13 December 1553, Henry was the first ruler from the House of Bourbon, which extended across Europe into Spain, Italy and Luxembourg. But his assassination brought to an end a popular reign that had endeared him to the French public while easing many of the country’s woes. Son to Antoine de Bourbon, Henry’s reign began following conflict between Catholic and Protestant forces. He became king of Navarre, a province of Spain, in 1572 following the death of his mother. He then became heir to the throne of France upon the death of Henry III’s brother in 1584, but this was strongly opposed by the Roman Catholics…