[Rapidly rebuilt following a devastating fire on this day in 1873, the 'Ally Pally' (so dubbed, legend has it, by legendary entertainer Gracie Fields) has served many purposes throughout its long life; in 1936, for instance, the BBC opened a television station on the site, the majority of which is today a museum showcasing vintage broadcasting equipment. The building's iconic radio mast, though, is still in use.]
53 CE - Roman Emperor Nero married his first wife, Claudia Octavia; the only daughter of Roman Emperor Claudius and his wife Valeria Messalina, she was named for her grandmother Octavia Minor, and was the elder sister of Emperor Augustus, half-sister of Claudia Antonia and full sibling to Britannicus. Nero was also technically her stepbrother. All of which must have made for a pretty wild reception...
62 CE - Claudia Octavia was executed, having been divorced from Nero, who went on to marry Poppaea Sabina and had already fathered a child by the freedwoman Claudia Acte. Following her execution, Octavia's head was cut off and sent to Poppaea amid the lamentations of the Romans, amongst whom Octavia had been enormously popular.
68 CE - Arriving at the villa of a freedman on the outskirts of Rome with four servants, all in disguises, Roman Emperor Nero (shown, at left) directed them to dig him a grave, all the while keening 'What an artist the world is losing!' Having quoted Homer's Iliad - Hark, now strikes on my ear the trampling of swift-footed coursers!, only in Latin of course - upon the approach of soldiers intent on arresting him, Nero committed suicide, imploring his secretary Epaphroditos to help him slit his throat to evade a Senate-imposed death by flogging*. The horseman arrived too late to save him, but not too late to hear his last words: 'Too late! This is fidelity!' Rather than the humble grave his servants had dug, the anything but humble disgraced monarch was buried in the Mausoleum of the Domitii Ahenobarbi in Rome's Pincian Hill. Nero's death brought an end to the Julio-Claudian dynasty and sent the Empire into the turmoil known as the Year of the Four Emperors.
*Ah, the good old days, when the Senate could order the execution of a corrupt tyrant; as recently as 2006 they couldn't even get it together long enough to impeach one.
721 CE - Odo of Aquitaine defeated the Moors under Al-Samh ibn Malik al-Khawlani at the Battle of Toulouse.
1310 - Duccio's Maestà Altarpiece - a seminal artwork of the early Italian Renaissance - was unveiled and installed in Siena Cathedral.
1650 - The Harvard Corporation - the more powerful of the two administrative boards of Harvard - was established, making it the first legal corporation in the Americas.
1667 - The Raid on the Medway by the Dutch fleet began; the battle lasted for five days and resulted in a decisive victory by the Dutch over the English in the Second Anglo-Dutch War.
1732 - James Oglethorpe was granted a royal charter for the Province of Georgia by its namesake, England's Hanoverian King George II.
1873 - London's Alexandra Palace - named for Alexandra, Princess of Wales - burned down, just 16 days after being opened by Queen Victoria; three members of the building's staff died in the blaze. Rebuilt and re-opened within two years, the 'Ally Pally' is today the crown jewel of Alexandra Park and dominates the northern boroughs of Wood Green and Muswell Hill.
1909 - Alice Huyler Ramsey, a 22-year-old housewife and mother from Hackensack, New Jersey, became the first woman to drive across the United States; in fifty-nine days, with three female companions - none of whom could drive a car - Ramsey drove her Maxwell 3,800 miles from Manhattan to San Francisco.
1915 - US Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan resigned over a disagreement regarding the United States' handling of the sinking of the RMS Lusitania.
1930 - Chicago Tribune reporter Jake Lingle was killed during rush hour at Chicago's Illinois Central train station - possibly by the Leo Vincent Brothers, and allegedly over a $100,000 gambling debt owed to Al Capone. Initially lionized for his mob-busting journalism, Lingle's death brought the truth of his underworld connections to light, permanently tarnishing his reputation; in 1959, Lingle's murder was dramatized on the popular television show The Untouchables.
1958 - Elizabeth II officially re-opened London Gatwick Airport.
1959 - When the USS George Washington was launched, it became the first submarine to carry ballistic missiles.
1970 - Jordan's King Hussein escaped an assassin's bullet.
1973 - Secretariat won the Triple Crown.
1983 - British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and her Conservative Party were re-elected in a landslide, an event extensively chronicled in such pop culture sources as Sue Townsend's book The Growing Pains of Adrian Mole and Alan Hollinghurst's novel The Line of Beauty.
1985 - American professor Thomas Sutherland was kidnapped from his home in Beirut by Islamic Jihad; he was released in 1991, on the same day as Terry Waite, after 2354 days in captivity.
1995 - Andrew Richards was sent to jail for life in the United Kingdom for his attempted rape of another man, the first conviction of its kind in British history.
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