Eighty years ago last week, in celebration of the event, the Sunday Express published the world’s first newspaper horoscopes and a phenomenon was born.“Little did we know it at the time but we had hit upon an essential ingredient of today’s popular press, the star-sign horoscope,” the Sunday Express’s current editor Martin Townsend observes. Following the 1929 Wall Street Crash, the Princess’s birth gave Britain’s popular press the perfect opportunity for a “good news story”. Being a weekly newspaper though, the Sunday Express needed a new angle and, in a eureka moment, its then editor John Gordon had the inspirational idea of publishing a horoscope foretelling the young royal’s future.
The paper first approached the colourful Cheiro, the undisputed superstar astrologer of the age. Born plain William Warner, he had learned his craft on a trip to India before reinventing himself as Cheiro (the name derives from the word cheiromancy, meaning palmistry).
Attempts to predict the future are as old as mankind: witness Nostradamus’s 1555 book of “predictions”, not to mention the Roman mathematician Ptolemy’s great astrological textbook 1,500 years earlier.Dr Max Blumberg, a research fellow at Goldsmith College, University of London, specialising in psychology says: “In the days of subsistence agriculture, everything you needed to help you survive, be it the sun or the rain, came from the sky so it was a short leap to look to the stars for guidance.”He believes that the reason newspaper horoscopes took off in the Thirties was the straitened economic circumstances following the Wall Street crash. “The desire to know what fate might bring is exacerbated in adverse times, be it in the Thirties or today, when there is so much anxiety among people about losing their jobs,” he says. “You can be sure that the newspaper horoscope hotlines were red hot during the most recent credit crunch.”
Here’s your daily horoscopes – click here!