St Valentine’s Day.
c270: St Valentine was martyred by Roman Emperor Claudius II. The tradition of sending love letters on this day is unlikely to be connected with St Valentine but to follow the medieval belief that birds traditionally pair on 14 February.
1797: The naval Battle of Cape St Vincent took place off south-west Portugal. The Spanish fleet was defeated by the British, under Admiral Sir John Jervis, ennobled as Earl St Vincent.
1852: The Children’s Hospital at Great Ormond Street, London, admitted its first patient.
1916: Jimmy Wilde of Wales, known as the “Mighty Atom”, won world flyweight boxing title; he held it for more than seven years.
1922: Marconi began the first regular broadcasting transmissions in Britain.
1929: St Valentine’s Day massacre took place in a Chicago warehouse and seven members of Bugsy Moran’s gang were gunned down.
1933: The world’s first speaking clock began to operate in Paris. It was designed for the French Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications by M Esclangon of the Paris Observatory, who was fed up with people phoning the observatory to ask for the exact time.
1936: The Post Office introduced special greetings telegrams for St Valentine’s Day. One suitor telegraphed: “And now I’ve asked you to be mine, by gosh – it’s cost me eight and nine.”
1946: The Bank of England was nationalised.
1963: Harold Wilson became leader of the Labour Party.
1984: Britain’s Torvill and Dean skated their way to a gold medal at the Winter Olympics in Sarajevo, getting maximum points for artistic expression.
1989: An entomologist from the Ministry of Agriculture said that Britain was battling with the worst infestation of slugs for ten years.
1990: Abbey National increased mortgage rate to 15.4 per cent – its highest-ever rate.
1993: Two-year-old James Bulger, missing after being abducted from a shopping centre in Bootle, was found dead on a nearby railway embankment.
1996: The government decided to send 500 troops to Northern Ireland as security was stepped in the wake of the IRA bombing of London’s Dockland.
1998: An oil tanker train collided with a freight train in Yaoundé, Cameroon, spilling fuel oil. One person scavenging the oil dropped a lit cigarette, creating a massive explosion which killed 120.
2000: The spacecraft NEAR Shoemaker entered orbit around asteroid 433 Eros, the first spacecraft to orbit an asteroid.
2006: MPs voted for a complete ban on smoking in all pubs, clubs and work places in England.
2009: Barack Obama, the president of the United States, welcomed Congress’s approval of his $787 billion (£548bn) economic stimulus package.
2012: Rangers Football Club entered administration.
2013: Three people died and a man was critically injured after being caught in an avalanche in the Highlands of Scotland.
Simon Pegg, actor, 45; Helen Baxendale, actress, 45; Carl Bernstein, Watergate journalist, 71; Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou, founder of EasyJet, 48; Kevin Keegan OBE, football player and coach, 64; Manuela Maleeva-Fragniere, tennis player, 48; Du’aine Ladejo, athlete, 44; Patricia Knatchbull CBE, 2nd Countess Mountbatten of Burma, 91; Sir Alan Parker CBE, film director, chairman, Film Council 1999-2004, 71; Michael Rudman, theatre director and producer, 76; Meg Tilly, actress, 55; Baron Wilson of Tillyorn, Lord High Commissioner to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, and President of the Royal Society of Edinburgh 2008-11, 80.
Births: 1473 Nicolas Copernicus, astronomer; 1602 Francesco Cavalli, Italian operatic composer; 1766 Thomas Malthus, economist; 1819 Christopher Sholes, inventor of modern typewriter and “qwerty” keyboard layout; 1864 Israel Zangwill, Zionist leader, novelist, playwright; 1894 Jack Benny, American comedian and actor; Sir Jocelyn Stevens, publisher and chairman of English Heritage 1992-2000.
Deaths: c270 St Valentine, martyred by Roman Emperor Claudius II; 1400 King Richard II (murdered); 1779 Captain Cook, stabbed to death by natives in the Sandwich Islands, now Hawaii; 1891 William Tecumseh Sherman, American Civil War general; 1945 Sir William Rothenstein, artist; 1969 Kenneth Horne, comedian; 1975 Sir Pelham Grenville (PG) Wodehouse, novelist; 1975 Sir Julian Huxley, biologist and philosopher; 2004 Marco Pantani, cyclist (winner of Tour de France in 1998); 2010 Dick Francis CBE, jockey and thriller writer; 2011 Sir George Shearing OBE, jazz pianist; 2014 Sir Tom Finney OBE, footballer.