It happened today – this day in history – December 31

192: Roman emperor Commodus survives a poisoning attempt by his mistress only to be strangled in the bath.

1491: French explorer Jacques Cartier is born in St Malo.

1688: James II supporter the Earl of Devonshire occupies Nottingham.

1695: A window tax is imposed in England, causing many shopkeepers to brick up their windows to avoid having to pay.

1719: Astronomer Royal John Flamsteed dies aged 73.

1720: Charles Edward Stuart (Bonnie Prince Charlie), leader of the Jacobite rebellion, is born in Rome.

1758: A British expeditionary army occupies Goree (now Dakar) in Senegal.

1857: Queen Victoria chooses Ottawa as the new capital of Canada.

1869: Birth of French impressionist painter Henri Matisse.

1879: Thomas Edison gives the first public demonstration of his incandescent lamp. On the same day, Gilbert & Sullivan’s operetta “The Pirates of Penzance” premieres in New York.

1907: Composer Gustav Mahler conducts the Metropolitan Opera.

1911: Marie Curie wins the Nobel Prize for Chemistry for her work with radioactivity.

1923: The BBC begins using the chimes of Big Ben as its ID.

1924: Benito Mussolini orders the suppression of anti fascist newspapers in Italy.

1935: Charles Darrow patents the board game Monopoly.

1942: The British Navy and the German Kriegsmarine clash off North Cape, Norway, in the Battle of the Barents Sea.

1944: Hungary declares war on Germany.

1946: French troops leave Lebanon.

1948: World land and water speed record holder Malcolm Campbell dies from a stroke aged 63.

1952: Former World Middleweight Boxing Champion Jake La Motta (the subject of Martin Scorsese’s 1980 film Raging Bull) is knocked down for the only time in his career as he is stopped in Round 7 of a non title bout by Danny Nardico.

1958: Cuban dictator Fulgencop Batista tells his cabinet he is fleeing the country as Fidel Castro’s forces push ever closer to Havana.

1962: Katanga becomes part of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

1964: Donald Campbell breaks the world water speed record, becoming the only man to break both land and water speed records in the same year.


1967: Stunt motorcyclist Evel Knievel fails in an attempt to jump the Caesar’s Palace Fountain in Las Vegas, breaking his pelvis, femur, wrist, hip and both ankles.

1970: Paul McCartney files a suit against the rest of The Beatles to dissolve their partnership. According to the court documents, his main reason for wanting to legally break up the group stems from the decision taken by the others to to appoint Allan Klein as their manager. On the same day, Chilean president Salvador Allende nationalises the country’s coal mines.

1972: Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness is arrested and held under new legislation in the Republic of Ireland. On the same day, Margaret Court beats Evonne Goolagong Cawley 6-4, 7-5 to win the Australian Open Ladies tennis singles for a record eleventh time.

1973: Evonne Goolagong Cawley beats Chris Evert 7-6, 4-6, 6-0 for her first Australian Open Ladies tennis singles title.

1974: Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks join Fleetwood Mac after Buckingham tells Mick Fleetwood they come as a package deal.

1977: Cambodia drops diplomatic relations with Vietnam. On the same day, banned anti-apartheid editor Donald Woods flees South Africa. Also, serial killer Ted Bundy escapes from jail in Colorado.

1980: After being struck by an orange thrown from the crowd West Indian fast bowler Sylvester Clarke knocks out a spectator with a brick during the 4th Test against Pakistan.

1983: Brunei gains independence from Britain. On the same day, President Shagari of Nigeria is overthrown in a military coup and Major General Muhammadi Buhari is installed as head of state.

1984: Def Leppard dummer Rick Allen crashes his Corvette Stingray, on the A57 outside Sheffield, amputating his left arm.

1985: Singer-songwriter Rick Nelson is killed along with six others, when the light aircraft he is travelling in crashes in Texas.

1995: Singles chart:

  1. Earth Song – Michael Jackson
  2. Father And Son – Boyzone
  3. Wonderwall – Mike Flowers Pops
  4. It’s Oh So Quiet – Bjork
  5. Missing – Everything But The Girl
  6. Wonderwall – Oasis
  7. Gangsta’s Paradise – Coolio ft LV
  8. I Am Blessed – Eternal
  9. I Believe – Robson & Jerome
  10. If You Wanna Party – Molella ft Outhere Bros
1995: Pulp – Different Class

Album chart:

  1. Robson & Jerome – Robson & Jerome
  2. (What’s The Story) Morning Glory? – Oasis
  3. History: Past Present And Future Book 1 – Michael Jackson
  4. Different Class – Pulp
  5. Maid In Heaven – Queen
  6. Said And Done – Boyzone
  7. Something To Remember – Madonna
  8. Life – Simply Red
  9. The Colour Of My Love – Celine Dion
  10. Power Of A Woman – Eternal

1996: Paul McCartney is awarded a knighthood in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours list.

1997: Microsoft buys the Hotmail email service for $400 million and re-launches it as MSN Hotmail. On the same day, pianist Floyd Cramer dies of cancer aged 64. Also, Will Smith marries actress Jada Pinkett in Baltimore and Helen Mirren marries director Taylor Hackford in Scotland.

1999: Boris Yeltsin resigns as Russian president and is succeeded by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. On the same day, control of the Panama Canal reverts to Panama.

2004: Pete Waterman is awarded an OBE for his services to music.

2006: George Michael is paid a reported £1.5m for an hour’s concert at a Russian billionaire’s New Year party.

2009: Rick Parfitt and Francis Rossi from Status Quo are both awarded OBEs for services to music and charity in the New Year’s Honours List.

2012: Hugh Hefner marries glamour model Crystal Harris at the Playboy Mansion in Los Angeles.

2013: Satirist John Fortune (Wood) dies aged 74.

2015: Singer Natalie Cole dies aged 65 due to congestive heart failure.

2019: Iraqi militiamen and protesters breach the outer wall of the US embassy in Baghdad following US airstrikes against Kataib Hezbollah, an Iranian-backed Iraqi militia.

BIRTHDAYS: Sir Anthony Hopkins, actor, 84; Sir Alex Ferguson, former football manager, 80; Sarah Miles, actress, 80; Andy Summers, guitarist (The Police) 79; Sir Ben Kingsley (Krishna Pandit Bhanji), actor, 78; Taylor Hackford, director, 77; June Tabor, folk singer, 74; Tom Hamilton, bassist (Aerosmith) 70; Trevor Phillips, TV presenter, 68; Alex Salmond, Scottish politician, 67; Bebe Neuwirth, actress, 63; Val Kilmer, actor, 61; Steve Bruce, football manager, 61; Scott Ian (Rosenfeld), guitarist (Anthrax) 58; Lowri Turner, TV presenter, 57; Danny Macnamara, singer/songwriter (Embrace), 51; Joey McIntrye, singer (NKOTB), 49; PSY (Park Jae-sang) singer-songwriter, 44; Bob Bryar, drummer, (My Chemical Romance) 42; Melanie Scrofano, actress, 39; Sam Faiers, reality TV star, 31.