TODAY is the feast day of Saint Bernard of Montjoux , an 11th-century monk who founded two hospices in the Alps on the passes which served the many pilgrims travelling from France and Germany to Rome. These passes were named after him as the Great and Little Saint Bernard passes. In 1923 Pope Pius XI designated St Bernard patron of all Alpinists and mountain climbers. His help to travellers was of a very practical kind; he set up hospices on the summits of the passes, provided shelter and food and his shelters saved many from hunger, death from exposure, and attack by brigands. His shelters received papal blessing some time before his death and the order of Saint Bernard continued after his death on 28 May 1081. This order acquired the reputation for receiving all travellers indiscriminately and bred the dogs which have since themselves become symbols of succour to mountain travellers. He is, naturally, the patron saint of skiers.
28 May 1759: William Pitt the Younger (above) was born at Hayes, near Bromley in Kent. The second son of a great statesman who personally oversaw his education, he proved a prodigy of Mozartian distinction - he became a Cambridge graduate at 17, an MP at 21 and prime minister at 24. Mocked at first in the Commons as a child premier, he weathered crisis after crisis and his ministry eventually lasted a remarkable 17 years. He was a great orator and, in general, a successful and prudent prime minister under whose care the country prospered and its maritime power grew. But the younger Pitt was also lonely, aloof (even towards the King, George III), sickly and over-fond of port. This last, combined with overwork, killed him in 1806 as he struggled with the effects of the war against Napoleon. His final words are variously reported as: "Oh my country! How I leave my country!" or "I think I could eat one of Bellamy's veal pies."Reuse content