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Births: Casimir III, King of Poland, 1310; William Lilly, astrologer and fortune-teller, 1602; Mary II, Queen, 1662; Jacques-Louis David, painter, 1748; Johann Karl Friedrich Gauss, mathematician and astronomer, 1777; William Mulready, painter, 1786; Richard Redgrave, painter, 1804; Karl Kammerlander, song-writer and composer, 1828; Sir John Lubbock, first Baron Avebury, banker, writer and entomologist, 1834; Jaroslav Hasek, novelist, 1883; Joachim von Ribbentrop, politician, 1893.

Deaths: Pierre du Terrail, Seigneur de Bayard, soldier, killed 1524; James Montgomery, journalist, poet and hymn-writer, 1854; Sarah Josepha Hale (Buell), editor, and poet for children, 1879; Edouard Manet, Impressionist painter, 1883; Carl August Nicolas Rosa, operatic impresario, 1889; Alfred Edward Housman, poet and scholar, 1936; Edwin Stanton Porter, film director, 1941; Beatrice (Potter) Webb, writer and socialist, 1943; Adolf Hitler, dictator, committed suicide 1945; Eva Braun, mistress of Adolf Hitler, committed suicide 1945; George Balanchine, choreographer, 1983; Muddy Waters (McKinley Morganfield), rhythm and blues singer, 1983; Sir John William Max Aitken, newspaper publisher, 1985.

On this day: under an Edict issued by Galerius Valerius Maximianus, Christians were legally recognised by the Roman Empire, 311; General George Washington was inaugurated as first US president, 1789; the New York World's Fair opened, 1939; the Organisation of American States was founded, 1948; the first London performance of the musical My Fair Lady was staged, 1958; four of President Richard Nixon's top aides resigned over Watergate charges, 1973; the South Vietnamese government surrendered unconditionally to the Vietcong, 1975; more than 125,000 people died following a cyclone in the coastal areas of Bangladesh, 1991.

Today is the Feast Day of St Eutropius of Saintes, St Forannan, St Gualfardus or Wolfhard, Saints Marianus, James and Others, St Maximus of Ephesus and St Pius V, pope.


Births: Marshal Sebastien Le Prestre de Vauban, statesman and military engineer, 1633; Joseph Addison, diarist and essayist, 1672; Charles Macklin (McLaughlin), actor, 1690; Arthur Wellesley (Wesley), first Duke of Wellington, field marshal and politician, 1769; Frederick Sandys, painter, 1832; Hilaire, Comte de Chardonnet, inventor of rayon, 1839; Edith Somerville (Anna Oenone), author, 1858; Leo Sowerby, organist and composer, 1895.

Deaths: John Dryden, poet, 1700; Dr John Walker, inventor of the friction match, 1859; David Livingstone, missionary and explorer, 1873; Antonin Leopold Dvorak, composer, 1904; Joseph Goebbels, Nazi leader and propaganda chief, committed suicide 1945; Sir Harold George Nicolson, diplomat and biographer, 1968; Sylvia Townsend Warner, novelist, 1978.

On this day: the Union of Scotland and England was proclaimed, 1707; the first tunnel on a railway in Britain was built, 1800; the London Library, founded by Thomas Carlyle, WE Gladstone, Lord Macaulay and others, was officially opened, 1841; the Great Exhibition was opened by Queen Victoria in Hyde Park, London, 1851; Queen Victoria was proclaimed Empress of India, 1876; work on reclaiming the Zuyder Zee was begun, 1919; Professor Auguste Piccard made the first ascent into the stratosphere, a distance of just over 10 miles, 1931; President Franklin Roosevelt signed the Neutrality Act, 1937; the German army in Italy surrendered, 1945; the gas industry in Britain was nationalised, 1949.

Tomorrow is May Day (Labour Day) and the Feast Day of St Amator or Amatre, St Briocus or Brieuc, St Joseph the Worker, St Peregrine Laziosi, St Sigismund of Burgundy and St Theodard of Narbonne.

Paul Howell

A service of thanksgiving for the life of Paul Philip Howell CMG OBE will be held on Friday 6 May at 11am in the Chapel of the Order of St Michael and St George, St Paul's Cathedral, London EC4. Donations may be sent for Assistance in the Southern Sudan, c/o Barclays Bank, Wymondham, Norfolk.