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Births: Gerard de Nerval (Gerard Labrunie), poet and writer, 1808; Wilhelm Richard Wagner, composer, 1813; Sir Aston Webb, architect, 1849; Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, novelist, 1859; Daniel Francois Malan, politician, 1874; Sir Ernest Oppenheimer, mining magnate, 1880; Giacomo Matteotti, politician, 1885; Thomas Edward Neil Driberg, Baron Bradwell, politician and journalist, 1905; Laurence Kerr, Baron Olivier, actor and director, 1907.

Deaths: Constantine the Great, Roman Emperor, 337; Maria Edgeworth, novelist, 1849; Alessandro Francesco Manzoni, poet, 1873; Victor-Marie Hugo, author, 1885; Gaetano Bresci, assassin of King Umberto I, committed suicide while in prison 1901; Sir John Denton Pinkstone French, first Earl of Ypres, soldier, 1925; Augusta, Lady Gregory, poet, playwright and theatre director, 1932; Cecil Day Lewis, poet and author, 1972; Rajiv Gandhi, former Indian prime minister, assassinated 1991.

On this day: Louis VIII of France invaded England, landing at Stonor, 1216; the Lancastrians defeated the Yorkists at the Battle of St Albans, 1455; the title 'baronet' was created when James I ennobled 18 men, 1611; 'Great Paul', a new bell for St Paul's Cathedral, arrived in London, 1882; the Blackwall Tunnel under the Thames was officially opened, 1897; the Strand Theatre, London, opened, 1905; Frederick William Pethick-Lawrence, his wife Emmeline and Mrs Emmeline Pankhurst, suffragists, were sentenced to nine months' imprisonment, 1912; Italy joined the Allies, 1915; after a troop train collided with a passenger train at Quintin's Hill, near Gretna Green, 227 people were killed and over 200 injured, 1915; the Battle of Anzio started, 1944; the Organisation of African Unity was formed in Addis Ababa, 1963; fire swept a large department store in Brussels, killing 300 people, 1967; Ceylon changed its named to Sri Lanka and became a republic, 1972; an earthquake lasting 20 seconds destroyed the small town of Bingol, in Turkey, when over 1,000 people died, 1972.

Today is the Feast Day of St Aigulf of Ayoul or Bourges, Saints Castus and Aemilius, St Helen of Caernarvon, St Humility, St Joachima de Mas, St Julia of Corsica, St Quiteria, St Rita (Margarita) of Cascia and St Romanus.


Births: Elias Ashmole, antiquarian, 1617; Carolus Linnaeus, botanist, 1707; William Hunter, obstetrician and medical writer, 1718; Franz Anton Mesmer, physician, 1734; Giovanni Battista Viotti, violinist and composer, 1753; Andrea Appiani, fresco painter, 1754; Sir Charles Barry, architect, 1795; Thomas Hood, poet and humorist, 1799; Manuel John Johnson, astronomer, 1805; Jozef Wieniawski, pianist and composer, 1837; Otto Lilienthal, pioneer aviator, 1848; Leo Baeck, rabbi and theologian, 1873; Douglas Fairbanks (Douglas Elton Thomas Ulman), actor, 1883; Par Fabian Lagerkvist, novelist and poet, 1891; Dr Edmund Rubbra, composer, 1901; John Bardeen, physicist, an inventor of the transistor, 1908.

Deaths: Girolamo Savonarola, priest and reformer, strangled and burnt at the stake 1498; Captain William Kidd, naval officer, pirate and murderer, hanged in London 1701; John Wood, architect and town planner, 1754; James Otis, American lawyer, 1783; William Woollett, engraver, 1785; Albert Richard Smith, author and lecturer, 1860; Kit Carson, frontiersman, 1881; Leopold von Ranke, historian, 1881; Henrik Johan Ibsen, playwright, 1906; Jimmy McHugh, popular composer, 1969.

On this day: Joan of Arc was taken prisoner by the English, 1430; King Henry VIII was divorced from Catherine, 1533; the Defenestration of Prague took place, beginning the Thirty Years' War, 1618; the British Parliament agreed a plan for the independence of Palestine, but this was denounced by both Arabs and Jews, 1939; the decoration of the George Cross was inaugurated, 1939.

Tomorrow is the Feast Day of St Aldhelm, St Desiderius of Vienne, St Euphrosyne of Polotsk, St Guibert, St Ivo of Chartres, St John Baptist dei Rossi, St Leontius of Rostov and St William of Rochester.