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GIRLS ARE BEST: Eve got first bite of the tree of knowledge; Jack fell down and broke his crown; there are no black widower spiders or king bees; Catherine the Great became Empress of Russia having married Peter III, heir to the throne, who was neither Great nor Emperor for very long; Branwell Bronte didn't write Jane Eyre or Wuthering Heights or The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, or very much at all; Marie Curie was awarded two Nobel prizes, Pierre only one; Feroze Gandhi, journalist and parliamentarian, didn't become prime minister; Kenneth Branagh hasn't made a film called Percy Bysshe Shelley's Skylark; Kenneth Branagh hasn't got an Oscar; girls are striding ahead of boys in academic performance at all levels, according to Panorama last week.

TODAY is the feast day of Saint Marcellus the Centurion, a third-century martyr, condemned to death for breach of military discipline in the Roman army. A regular centurion in Tangier under Fortunatus, Marcellus chose the occasion of the emperor's birthday feast to announce his uncompromising pacificism. Throwing away his soldier's belt he stood up and announced, to the astonishment of his fellows: 'I serve Jesus Christ the eternal king. I will no longer serve your emperors'. Brought to trial, he said that it was not right for a Christian 'to serve in the armies of the world'. He was sentenced to death by the sword.

30 October, 1580: Sir Francis Drake arrived in Plymouth after circumnavigating the world in the Golden Hind.

1922: Benito Mussolini formed a Fascist government.

1923: Andrew Bonar Law (above), British Prime Minister from October 1922 to May 1923, died. Asquith said of him at his funeral service: 'It is fitting that we should have buried the Unknown Prime Minister by the side of the Unknown Soldier.' Born in Canada in 1858, he was educated in Glasgow and became an MP in 1900. In 1915 he was asked to form a government by George V but refused, and the Liberal leader, Lloyd George, assumed office, forming a coalition with the Tories. The coalition collapsed in 1922 when key Conservatives withdrew. Bonar Law then led a Conservative government, confirmed in office by a general election in November 1922, but retired six months later when he realised he was terminally ill.

1938: Orson Welles's radio play The War of the Worlds caused panic in the United States.

(Photograph omitted)

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