It happened today – this day in history – May 21

120BC: Aurelia Cotta, mother of Julius Caesar is born in Rome.

1216: French crown prince Louis enters England, having been invited by barons at war with King John.

1281: Kublai Khan’s second invasion of Japan begins with an attack on Tsushima Island but meets fierce resistance and his troops are forced to withdraw.

1471: Edward IV enters London.

1502: Portuguese admiral Da Nova discovers the island of St Helena.

1688: Birth of poet Alexander Pope in London.

1792: Mount Unzen on Japan’s Shimabara Peninsula, erupts creating a tsunami which kills about 15,000.

1904: FIFA forms in Paris.

1922: Eugene O’Neill wins the Pulitzer Prize for his play “Anna Christie”.

1927: Aviator Charles Lindbergh lands in Paris after the first solo air crossing of Atlantic.

1929: Sergei Prokoviev’s ballet “Prodigal Son” premieres in Paris.

1932: Amelia Earhart lands near Londonderry, Northern Ireland, completing the first transatlantic solo flight by a woman.

1945: Nazi SS-Reichsfuhrer Heinrich Himmler is captured.

1950: A tornado devastates the Home Counties, killing two men in Kempston, Beds, who are struck by lightning. On the same day, Ho Chi-Minh’s troops attack Cambodia.

1955: Chuck Berry records Maybellene at Universal Recording Studios, Chicago.

1961: Martial law is imposed in the town of Montgomery, Alabama, after violent racial clashes.

1966: In their second meeting, Cassius Clay beats Britain’s Henry Cooper in the sixth round of their World Heavyweight bout at Highbury football stadium in north London. The fight is stopped due to a cut above Cooper’s left eye. On the same day, in Northern Ireland, a “loyalist” group calling itself the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) issues a statement declaring war on the IRA.

1967: Goalkeeping brothers Ron and Peter Springett swap clubs with Peter moving from QPR to Sheffield Wednesday and vice versa.

1968: Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones appears at Great Marlborough Street Magistrates court, charged with possession of marijuana. He is released on £200 bail.

1969: Senator Robert Kennedy’s assassin Sirhan Sirhan is sentenced to death, later commuted to life imprisonment.

1970: The National Guard mobilizes to quell disturbances at Ohio State University.

1971: Chelsea defeat Real Madrid 2-1 in Athens to win the European Cup Winner’s Cup.


1972: Pietà by Michelangelo in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome is damaged by a vandal. On the same day, the IRA kidnaps and shoots dead William Best,19, a soldier in the Royal Irish Rangers stationed in Germany, whilst on leave at home.

1975: The trial of the terrorist Baader-Meinhof group begins in Stuttgart.

1978: Singles chart:

  1. Rivers Of Babylon – Boney M
  2. Night Fever – The Bee Gees
  3. The Boy From New York City – Darts
  4. If I Can’t Hav You – Yvonne Elliman
  5. Because The Night – Patti Smith
  6. To Much Too Little Too Late – Johnny Mathis and Deniece Williams
  7. More Than A Woman – Tavares
  8. Love Is In The Air – John Paul Young
  9. Do it Do It Again – Rafaella Carra
  10. (I’m Always Touched By Your) Presence Dear – Blondie
1978: ABBA – The Album

Album chart:

  1. Saturday Night Fever – Original Soundtrack
  2. The Stud – Original Soundtrack
  3. You Light Up My Life – Johnny Mathis
  4. 20 Golden Greats – Frank Sinatra
  5. The Album – ABBA
  6. 20 Golden Greats – Nat King Cole
  7. Anytime, Anywhere – Rita Coolidge
  8. And Then There Were Three = Genesis
  9. London Town – Wings
  10. Pennies From Heaven – Various Artists

1979: Elton John, with percussionist Ray Cooper, becomes the first western artist to play in Russia.

1980: Joe Strummer of The Clash is arrested at a gig in Hamburg after smashing his guitar over the head of a member of the audience.

1981: Francois Mitterand becomes president of France. On the same day, Bob Marley is given a Jamaican state funeral.

1982: The Hacienda Club opens in Manchester.

1990: “Wild at Heart” directed by David Lynch wins the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival.

1991: Former Indian prime minister, Rajiv Gandhi, is assassinated in a bomb attack in Tamil Nadu.

1998: Indonesian President Suharto resigns after 31 years in power.

2005: Arsenal beat Manchester United, 5-4 on penalties following a 0–0 draw after extra time to win the FA Cup at the Millennium Stadium, Cardiff.

2007: The Cutty Sark, the last surviving tea clipper, is badly damaged by fire in Greenwich.

2008: Lou Pearlman, the music mogul who created the Backstreet Boys and *NSYNC, is sentenced to 25 years in federal prison over a decades-long scam that swindled thousands of investors out of their life savings. On the same day, Manchester United win the European Cup, beating Chelsea on penalties in Moscow.

2010: Bono has emergency spinal surgery in Munich after suffering an injury while preparing for a U2 tour.

2013: Trevor Bolder, bassist with David Bowie’s early seventies backing band The Spiders From Mars, dies from cancer aged 62.

2014: The Thai army declares martial law and closes down several news stations.

2016: Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansour, leader of the Afghan Taliban is reportedly killed by a US drone in Pakistan. On the same day, Manchester United beat Crystal Palace, 2-1 after extra time to win the FA Cup at Wembley Stadium.

2019: Nepalese Sherpa Kami Rita sets a new record for the number of climbs of Mt Everest – 24. On the same day, Washington becomes the first US state to legalize human composting.

2022: The Australian coalition government is defeated in the general election after nine years in power.

2023: The first female Arab astronaut Rayyanah Barnawi, from Saudi Arabia goes into space on a private mission. On the same day, the volcano Popocatépetl erupts in Mexico.

Andrew Neil (Photo: FT)

BIRTHDAYS: Ronald Isley, singer-songwriter (The Isley Brothers) 83; Martin Carthy, singer/guitarist, 83; John Dalton, bassist (The Kinks) 81; Mary Robinson, former Irish President, 80; Leo (Gerard) Sayer, singer-songwriter, 76; Andrew Neil, journalist/broadcaster, 75; Mr T (Lawrence Tureaud), actor, 72; Marc Ribot, guitarist, 70; Nadine Dorries MP, politician, 67; Judge (Edward) Reinhold, actor, 67; Kevin Shields, guitarist/singer-songwriter (My Bloody Valentine) 61; Lisa Edelstein, actress/playwright, 58; Noel Fielding, comedian/writer/actor, 51; Sally Lindsay, actress, 51; Quinton Fortune, footballer, 46; Gotye (Wouter De Backer) singer-songwriter/multi-instrumentalist, 44; Mutya Buena, singer (Sugarbabes), 39; Hal Robson-Kanu, footballer, 35; Tom Daley, Olympic diver 30.