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Births: Marcus Tullius Cicero, orator and statesman, 106 BC; Pietro Antonio Metastasio, poet, 1698; Jean-Baptiste Madou, painter and lithographer, 1796; Henriette Gertrud Walpurgis Sontag, soprano, 1806; Robert Whitehead, inventor of the naval torpedo, 1823; George Manville Fenn, novelist, 1831; Father Damien (Joseph de Veuster), missionary, 1840; Sir James Jebusa Shannon, painter, 1862; Henry Handel Richardson (Ethel Florence Richardson), novelist, 1870; Clement Richard Attlee, statesman, 1883; James Bridie (Osborne Henry Mavor), playwright and physician, 1888; Herbert Stanley Morrison, Baron Morrison of Lambeth, statesman, 1888; John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, academic and novelist, 1892; Ray Milland (Reginald Truscott-Jones), actor, 1907.

Deaths: Beatrice d'Este, Duchess of Milan, diplomat and arts patron, 1497; Jeremiah Horrocks, astronomer, 1641; Luca Giordano, painter, 1705; Josiah Wedgwood, potter, 1795; Bartholomew Elliot Warburton, novelist, 1852; Rachel (Elisa Felix), actress, 1858; Pierre-Athanase Larousse, editor and encyclopaedist, 1875; Elizabeth Palmer Peabody, educationist and pioneer of kindergartens, 1894; James Elroy Flecker, poet, 1915; Jaroslav Hasek, novelist, 1923; Marshal Joseph-Jacques-Cesaire Joffre, soldier, 1931; William Joyce ('Lord Haw-Haw'), British traitor, executed 1946; Dick Powell (Richard Ewing Powell), actor and singer, 1963; Conrad Nicholson Hilton, hotel magnate, 1979; Princess Alice Mary, Countess of Athlone, 1981.

On this day: Martin Luther was excommunicated, 1521; George Washington defeated the British army at the Battle of Princeton, 1777; a secret treaty was concluded between Austria and Russia, making the third partition of Poland, 1795; work on the Brooklyn-New York bridge began, 1870; Marshal Francisco Serrano became dictator of Spain, 1874; the Siege of Sidney Street took place, when anarchists led by 'Peter the Painter' were besieged by the police in the East End of London, 1911; the price of bread in London was raised to 9d for a 4lb loaf, 1916; Howard Carter discovered the sarcophagus in the tomb of Tutankhamun, 1924; Sir Edmund Hillary reached the South Pole, 1958; the Federation of the West Indies was formed, 1958; Alaska became the 49th of the United States, 1959.

Today is the Feast Day of St Antherus, pope, St Bertilia of Mareuil, St Genevieve or Genovefa and St Peter Balsam.