[At its apex the Palace of Whitehall was both the largest royal residence in Europe and indeed the largest building in the world, comprising more than 1500 rooms in a hodge-podge of styles; following a fire on this day in 1698 it was reduced to this single structure, the exquisite Banqueting House, built in a revolutionary style inspired by Andrea Palladio. King Charles I commissioned it, at a cost of £15,618; 27 years later he was executed in front of it.]
46 BCE – Titus Labienus defeated Julius Caesar at the Battle of Ruspina.
871 CE - At the Battle of Reading Ethelred of Wessex and his brother Alfred the Great attacked and were defeated by a Danish invasion army.
1698 - Most of the Palace of Whitehall in London, the main residence of the English monarchs through the previous 2 centuries, was destroyed by fire; only Inigo Jones' Banqueting House of 1622 survived.
1854 - The McDonald Islands were discovered by Captain William McDonald aboard the Samarang.
1878 - Sofia was emancipated from Ottoman rule by the Imperial Russian Army during the Russo-Turkish War; it was later made capital of the Principality of Bulgaria.
1884 - The Fabian Society - itself an offshoot of The Fellowship of the New Life - was founded in London to advance the socialist cause by gradualist and reformist, rather than revolutionary means; while it is considered the forerunner of the Labour Party it is still in existence today as its own entity.
1896 - Utah became the 45th US state.
1903 - Topsy the Elephant was electrocuted by Thomas Edison during the War of Currents campaign.
1912 - The Scout Association was incorporated throughout the British Commonwealth by a Royal Charter granted by King George V.
1936 - Billboard magazine published its first pop music charts.
1948 - Burma regained its independence from the United Kingdom.
1958 - The Soviet-built Sputnik 1 - launched in October 1957 - fell to Earth.
1972 - Rose Heilbron became the first woman to preside over a courtroom at the Old Bailey in London.
1973 - The world's longest running sitcom (in terms of consecutive years on the air) Roy Clarke's Last of the Summer Wine was first broadcast on the BBC's Comedy Playhouse and is still running on this, its 37th anniversary; at nearly 290 episodes it is minor league compared to American sitcoms, but in British terms has set a record never likely to be beaten.
1974 - Serial killer Ted Bundy attacked his first known victim when he entered the basement bedroom of 18-year-old 'Joni Lenz' through an unlocked window before viciously raping her; although she survived the attack, because of it she suffered horrific internal injuries and brain damage.
1989 - The so-called Second Gulf of Sidra incident occurred when a pair of Libyan MiG-23 'Floggers' were shot down by a pair of US Navy F-14 Tomcats during an air-to-air confrontation.
1999 - Former professional wrestler Jesse Ventura was sworn in as governor of Minnesota.
2006 - Israel's Prime Minister Ariel Sharon suffered a second, apparently more serious, stroke - whereupon his authority was transferred to acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.
2007 - The 110th United States Congress convened, electing Nancy Pelosi its first female Speaker of the House.
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