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Births: Anna Comnena, Byzantine princess and historian, 1083; John Keill, philosopher and mathematician, 1671; Madame Marie Tussaud (Grosholz), waxwork exhibitor, 1761; Queen Alexandra, consort of Edward VII, 1844; Ray Henderson, composer and producer, 1896; Helen de Guerry Simpson, novelist, 1897; Mary Martin, actress and singer, 1913.

Deaths: Henry I, King, 1135; Blanche of Castile, wife of King Louis VIII of France, 1252; Lorenzo Ghiberti, sculptor, 1455; Pope Leo X, 1521; St Edmund Campion, St Alexander Briant and St Ralph Sherwin, Jesuit martyrs, executed 1581; Thomas Weelkes, composer, buried 1623; Susannah Centlivre (Freeman), playwright and actress, 1723; Alexander I, Tsar of Russia, 1825; Dr George Birkbeck, founder of Birkbeck College, 1841; Ebenezer Elliott, poet and "anti-Corn Law rhymester", 1849; Henry William Banks Davis, painter, 1914; Leopold, Count von Kalckreuth, painter, 1928; Paul- Marie Theodore-Vincent d'Indy, composer, 1931; Samuel Courtauld, industrialist, 1947; Ernest John Moeran, composer, 1950; Sir Peter Henry Buck (Te Rangi Hiroa), Maori anthropologist and statesman, 1951; John Burton Sanderson Haldane, scientist, 1964; David Ben Gurion, Israeli statesman, 1973; Stephane Grappelli, musician and jazz violinist, 1997.

On this day: Portugal became independent of Spain, 1640; the Royal Academy of Arts was founded, 1768; Jacques-Alexandre Cesar Charles made the first ascent in a hydrogen-filled balloon, France, 1783; Iceland became a sovereign state, but with the same monarch as Denmark, 1918; Lady Nancy Astor became the first woman to take her seat in the House of Commons as an MP, 1919; the Beveridge Report on social security was published, 1942; hurricane force winds swept across Britain and caused widespread damage, 1966; Britain issued its first set of special Christmas stamps, 1966; the Isaac Newton telescope, largest in Western Europe, was inaugurated at the Royal Greenwich Observatory, 1967; Mikhail Gorbachev, leader of the Soviet Union, met the pope, John Paul II in the Vatican, 1989; the two pilot tunnels for the Channel Tunnel were joined, thus linking the two coasts for the first time, 1990.

Today is the Feast Day of St Agericus or Airy, St Alexander Briant, St Anasanus, St Edmund Campion, St Eligius or Eloy, St Ralph Sherwin and St Tudwal.