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Births: Martin van Buren, eighth US president, 1782; Christina Georgina Rossetti, poet, 1830; George Armstrong Custer, US cavalry commander, 1839; Admiral John Rushworth Jellicoe, first Earl Jellicoe, commander of the Fleet at Jutland, 1859; Fritz Lang, film director, 1890; Walter (Walt) Elias Disney, creator of Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck, 1901; Otto Preminger, film director, 1906.

Deaths: Francis II, king of France, 1560; Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, composer, 1791; Sir Henry Tate, sugar refiner and philanthropist, 1899; Claude-Oscar Monet, painter, 1926; Princess Andrew of Greece, mother of the Duke of Edinburgh, 1969; Jimmy Nervo (James Holloway), comedian, 1975; Ethel Edith Mannin, novelist and travel writer, 1984.

On this day: James Christie, London auctioneer, held his first sale, 1766; the brig Mary Celeste was found abandoned in the Atlantic, 1872; German and Russian delegates at Brest-Litovsk signed an armistice for seven days to take effect on 7 December, 1917; under the 21st Amendment, prohibition was repealed in the United States, 1933; Britain declared war on Finland, Hungary and Romania after they refused to withdraw from the war against the USSR, 1941; Britain's first motorway, a bypass around Preston, opened, 1958; the United Kingdom withdrew from membership of Unesco, 1985.

Today is the Feast Day of St Birinus, St Christian, St Crispina, St John Almond, St Justinian or Iestin, St Nicetius of Trier, St Sabas and St Sigiramnus or Cyran.


Births: Henry VI, King, 1421; George Monck, first Duke of Albemarle, admiral and general, 1608; Sir Edmund Andros, diplomat and governor of Virginia, 1637; Warren Hastings, first Governor-General of India, 1732; Louis-Joseph Gay-Lussac, chemist and physicist, 1778; Sir Francis Osbert Sacheverel Sitwell, writer, 1892; Sylvia Townsend Warner, novelist, 1893; Ira Gershwin (Israel Gershvin), lyricist, 1896.

Deaths: Afonso I Henriques of Portugal, after a reign of 73 years, 220 days, 1185; Pope Clement VI, 1352; Anthony Trollope,

novelist and Post Office official, 1882; Jefferson Davis, former President of the Confederate States of America, 1889; Stella Benson, novelist, 1933; Roy Orbison (Kelton), popular singer and composer, 1988; Tunku Abdul Rahman, first prime minister of Malaya, 1990; Don Ameche (Dominic Felix Amici), actor, 1993.

On this day: Christopher Columbus discovered Hispaniola (now Haiti and Dominican Republic), 1492; self-government was granted to the Transvaal and Orange River colonies, 1906; the independence of Finland from Russia was proclaimed, 1917; in Halifax harbour, Nova Scotia, the ship Mont Blanc, loaded with 3,000 tons of TNT, collided and exploded, killing 1,654 people, 1917; the Irish Free State was established, 1922; India recognised Bangladesh (East Pakistan) as an independent republic, 1971; war broke out between India and Pakistan, 1971; Gerald Ford was sworn in as Vice- President of the US, 1973; in East Germany, Egon Krenz was ousted as head of state, 1989.

Today is the Feast Day of St Abraham of Kratia, St Asella, Saints Dionysia, Majoricus and their Companions, St Gertrude the Elder and St Nicholas of Bari.