Death of a modest king

February 6. King George VI died peacefully in his sleep at Sandringham and was immediately succeeded by his elder daughter, Queen Elizabeth II.

King George VIThe king was only 56. He had never aspired to be king and had ruled since being unexpectedly thrust on to the throne by the 1936 Abdication Crisis. He was a quiet, modest man who had led his nation steadfastly through the war years.

As his simple oak coffin lay in St George's Chapel, Windsor, more than 300,000 folk filed silently past to pay their last respects. Elizabeth was on holiday in Kenya with her husband, the Duke of Edinburgh, when she learned that her father had died and she had become Queen. She was back in London within hours.

The state funeral contained a moment frozen in time. Three generations of queens, Elizabeth, her mother, also Elizabeth, and old Queen Mary, in black and veiled, awaited the cortege.

There was worldwide fascination with Britain's beautiful young queen and a revival of interest in the first queen of that name. Britons came to regard themselves as "the New Elizabethans."

July 26. She was to spawn a hit musical years later but it was in the summer of 1952 that Eva Peron (Evita) died at the age of 33 of ovarian cancer. The one-time nightclub hostess has had a mixed press since with the descriptions charismatic and corrupt the ones most often applied.

She championed many worthy causes in Argentina and managed to legalise divorce and get the women of her country the vote. But torture and disappearance were also a feature of the regime the first lady and her husband Juan Peron presided over.

November 25. Nearly 50 years later and on the verge of a new century and millennium, a play which attracted little attention at the time is still going strong in London's West End. Agatha Christie's "The Mousetrap" has become a triumph of longevity in the fickle world of the theatre. At the time it was predicted that the thriller - about a group of people cut off in a snowbound house - would enjoy "a fair degree of success".

A wealth of suspicious characters with guilty secrets are still keeping the audience guessing to this day.vRichard Attenborough played the detective who has to sort it all out in the original production at the Ambassadors Theatre.

Anne FrankJune 15. One of the most poignant of all wartime secrets was revealed with the publication of The Diary of Anne Frank.

The author was just 13 when she started to keep records in 1942 while she and her German Jewish family were living in secret in Amsterdam.

For two years she lived with seven other people in claustrophobic confinement and in constant fear of discovery. Eventually they were betrayed and taken by the Gestapo. Only her father and her diary were to survive the war.

December 11. It was one of the worst miscarriages of justice. A 19-year-old with the IQ of someone half that age was sentenced to hang for a crime committed by an accomplice. Derek Bentley was sentenced to death for the murder of a policeman on a south London rooftop even though it was Christopher Craig who had fired the fatal shot.

Craig, described by the Lord Chief Justice as one of the most dangerous criminals to stand in a court of law, escaped the noose because he was only 16. Bentley went to the gallows because he was heard to shout the words "Let him have it, Chris" to his partner - a reference to the gun rather than the victim, it was claimed in his defence. Bentley won a posthumous pardon two years ago.


In brief

January 1. New GCE exams were introduced amid claims that the standard was far too high.

January 1. Magistrates at Cannock said brawling in pubs in the are must stop after fining two airmen from RAF Hednesford for fighting.

January 3. Wolverhampton South West MP Enoch Powell married Pamela Wilson in London.

February 21. Identity cards were finally abolished in Britain - nearly seven years after the end of the war.

March 11. Jamaicans objected to being the subject of a colour bar at dance halls in Willenhall.

April 9. The new Queen announced that her family would retain the name Windsor.

May 3. Newcastle United became the first team this century to win the FA Cup two years running.

May 16. House of Commons voted for the first time for equal pay for women.

June 20. The government announced the introduction of Zebra crossings marked by blinking orange beacons.

July 5. Maureen Connolly, the much-loved "Little Mo", won the Wimbledon women's singles title at her first attempt aged only 17.

July 14. Jamaican police arrested 700 people in a new crackdown on marijuana trafficking.

August 3. The Olympic Games opened in the Finnish capital Helsinki, an event which was to be dominated by the Czech athlete Emil Zatopek.

September 16. New kindergarten opens in Broadway North, Walsall, to be known as Hydesville Tower School.

October 21. Kenyan president Jomo Kenyatta arrested in Nairobi as troops round up 500 Mau Mau terrorist suspects.

November. Nude shows were declared to be no threat to morality by the manager of Wolverhampton's Hippodrome Theatre.

December 25. The Queen made her first Christmas broadcast to the nation on radio only. It would be another five years before it was first televised.