Births: James Crichton ('The Admirable Crichton'), scholar, 1560; Johannes Fyt, painter, 1609; Gerbrand van den Eeckhout, painter, 1621; John Dryden, poet, 1631; John Flamsteed, first Astronomer Royal, 1646; Samuel Richardson, novelist, baptised 1689; Comtesse du Barry (Marie- Jeanne Becu), French royal mistress, 1743; James Hall, author, judge, editor and historian, 1793; James Nasmyth, inventor of the steam hammer, 1808; Charles Montagu Doughty, explorer and author, 1843; Orville Wright, pioneer aviator, 1871; Georges Enesco (Gheorghe Enescu), composer and violinist, 1881; Gabrielle (Coco) Chanel, fashion designer, 1883; Sir Arthur David Waley, scholar, 1889; Frederic Ogden Nash, humorist, 1902.

Deaths: Augustus, first Roman emperor, 14; Frans Snyders, painter, 1657; Blaise Pascal, theologian and mathematician, 1662; James Watt, engineer, 1819; Robert Bloomfield, poet, 1823; George Smith, Assyriologist, decipherer of cuneiform scripts, 1876; Richard Burdon Haldane, first Viscount Haldane, statesman, 1928; Sergei Pavlovich Diaghilev, ballet director and choreographer, 1929; Federico Garcia Lorca, poet and playwright, 1936; Sir Henry Joseph Wood, conductor, 1944; Subhas Chandra Bose, Indian nationalist, 1945; Frederick Philip Grove (Felix Paul Berthold Friedrich Grove), novelist, 1948; Frances Crofts Cornford, poet, 1960; Julius ('Groucho') Marx, comedian, 1977; Alastair Sim, actor, 1976; Hermione Baddeley, actress, 1986; Sir Frederick Ashton, choreographer, 1988.

On this day: Mary Queen of Scots returned to Scotland from France, 1561; France and Spain formed an alliance against Britain, 1796; a mass meeting was held in New York to protest against the war with Britain, 1812; the Berlin Opera House was destroyed by fire, 1843; over 200 people were killed when a whirlwind in Rouen destroyed three factories, 1845; James Mollison completed the first westbound transatlantic solo flight, 1932; a plebiscite held in Germany gave sole power to the Fuhrer, Adolf Hitler, 1934; the export of arms to Spain was forbidden by the British government, 1936; British forces were driven out of Somaliland, 1940; the raid on Dieppe by British and Canadian commandos took place, 1942; General Alexander replaced General Auchinleck as Commander- in-Chief, Middle East, 1942; Lt- Gen Bernard Montgomery became commander of the British Eighth Army in North Africa, 1942; the first London performance of the musical show Camelot was presented, 1964; over 2,000 people were killed in an earthquake in Turkey, 1966; the US ambassador, Rodger Paul Davies, and his secretary were shot dead by Greek-Cypriot demonstrators, Cyrpus 1974; Michael Ryan, a 27- year-old marksman, went on a rampage, killing 14 people, and finally himself, in Hungerford, 1987; a state of emergency was declared in the Soviet Union when the Vice-President, Gennady Yanayev, took over the presidency from Mikhail Gorbachev because of his 'ill-health', 1991.

Today is the Feast Day of Saints Agapius and Timothy, St Andrew the Tribune, St Bertulf of Bobbio, St Credan of Evesham, St John Eudes, St Louis of Anjou, St Mocha, St Sebald, St Sixtus III and St Thecla.

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