Today in History for 2nd July 2018

Historical Events

706 – Remains of Chinese Emperor Gaozong, his wife Empress Wu Zetian and family members interred in Qianling Mausoleum by Emperor Zhongzong, outside Chang’an on Mount Liangshan
1946 – Dutch Beel government forms
1966 – Wimbledon Women’s Tennis: American Billie Jean King beats Maria Bueno of Brazil 6-3, 3-6, 6-1 for the first of her 12 Grand Slam singles titles
1971 – USSR performs underground nuclear test
1987 – Nilde Iotti is named as the first female President of the Italian Chamber of Deputies.
1988 – Lester Dumakude, commander of an Umkhonto we Sizwe special operations unit, detonate a car bomb by remote control outside Ellis Park Stadium in Johannesburg, South Africa

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Famous Birthdays

1890 – Earl Roy Curry, religious thinker and Kirtland Temple overseer (d. 1980)
1942 – Georgi Ivanov, Bulgaria, cosmonaut (Soyuz 33)
1964 – Joe Magrane, baseball player
1972 – Darren Shan, Irish children’s author
1972 – Towanna Stone, Miss USA-Tennessee (1997, 3rd)
1975 – Daniel Kowalski, Australian swimmer (Olympics-bronze/silver-96), born in Singapore

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Famous Deaths

1663 – Thomas Selle, German composer, dies at 64
1915 – Gen Porfirio [Jose de la Cruz] Diaz, president Mexico, dies
1919 – Anna Howard Shaw, American suffragette, dies at 72
1973 – Ferdinand Schörner, German field marshal (b. 1892)
1999 – Mario Puzo, American author, dies at 78
2010 – Laurent Terzieff, French actor (Head Over Heels, Milky Way), dies at 75

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Today in History for 1st July 2018

Historical Events

1859 – 1st intercollegiate baseball game, Amherst beats Williams 66-32 in Pittsfield, Massachusetts
1932 – NY newspaper Evening Standard goes bankrupt
1953 – KTVH (now KWCH) TV channel 12 in Hutchinson-Wichita, KS (CBS) begins
1972 – “Hair” closes at Biltmore Theater NYC after 1750 performances
1992 – Ali Kafi becomes president of Algeria
2005 – Texas Rangers pitcher Kenny Rogers is suspended for 20 games and fined $50k for shoving a cameraman – sentence later overturned

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Famous Birthdays

1869 – William Strunk Jr., American grammarian (d. 1946)
1872 – Louis Bleriot, 1st man to fly an airplane across English Channel
1888 – Ben Taylor, American Baseball Hall of Fame 1st baseman/manager (Negro Leagues), born in Anderson, South Carolina (d. 1953)
1910 – Glen Hardin, American athlete (Olympic gold 1936 400m hurdles), born in Derma, Mississippi (d. 1975)
1921 – Seretse Khama, 1st President of Botswana (1966-80), born in Serowe, Botswana (d. 1980)
1976 – Ruud van Nistelrooy, Dutch soccer striker (Netherlands 70 caps, Man U), born in Oss, Netherlands

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Famous Deaths

868 – Ali al-Hadi, Shia Imam (b. 828)
1622 – William Parker, 4th Baron Monteagle, English peer and politician (helped stop Gunpowder Plot) (b. 1575)
1991 – Joost Baljeu, painter/founder-editor Structure, dies
1995 – Ronald Farrow, radio producer and priest, dies at 49
2001 – Nicolay G. Basov, Soviet physicist who specialized in quantum electronics (laser, maser) and 1964 Nobel laureate, dies at 78
2013 – John Stanford, American college baseball coach/administrator (Middle Tennessee), dies at 77

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Today in History for 30th June 2018

Historical Events

1596 – English and Dutch fleet reach Cadiz
1607 – Annales Ecclesiastici (Scientific History of Catholicism) published
1758 – Seven Years’ War: The Battle of Domstadtl takes place
1944 – Allies land on Vogelkop, New Guinea
1967 – Phillies Cookie Rojas pitches, plays 9th position since joining Phils
2016 – The Ikea Museum opens in the former very first Ikea store in Älmhult, Sweden

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Famous Birthdays

1901 – Willie Sutton, American bank robber, born in Brooklyn, New York
1912 – Dan Reeves, NFL team owner (Cleveland/LA Rams)
1954 – Pierre Charles, Prime Minister of Dominica (d. 2004)
1958 – Esa-Pekka Salonen, Helsinki Finland, conductor (Giro)
1968 – Peter Miller, CFL linebacker (BC Lions)
1972 – Tyrone Davis, NFL tight end (NY Jets, Green Bay Packers-Super Bowl 31)

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Famous Deaths

1919 – John William Strutt, 3rd Baron Rayleigh, English physicist and discoverer of argon (Nobel Prize 1904), dies at 76
1965 – Bessie Barriscale, actress (Plain Jane, Show Folks), dies
1974 – Vannevar Bush, American engineer and politician (b. 1890)
1976 – Firpo Marberry, baseball player (b. 1898)
1983 – Bo Gentry, songwriter/producer, dies
1993 – George “Spanky” McFarland, child actor (Our Gang), dies at age 65

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Today in History for 29th June 2018

Historical Events

1867 – Pope Pius IX declares Gorcumse holy martyrs
1913 – The attack by Bulgarian General Michael Savov on Greek and Serbian positions leads to beginning of the second Balkan War
1922 – France grants 1 km² at Vimy Ridge “freely, and for all time, to the Government of Canada, the free use of the land exempt from all taxes.”
2002 – Naval clashes between South Korea and North Korea lead to the death of six South Korean sailors and sinking of a North Korean vessel.
2009 – Financier Bernard Madoff sentenced to 150 years in prison, US maximum, for conducting massive Ponzi scheme
2014 – Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi announces establishment of worldwide “caliphate” at the Great Mosque of al-Nuri in Mosul, Iraq

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Famous Birthdays

1901 – Frieda Inescort, Scottish actress (Pride and Prejudice), born in Edinburgh, Scotland (d. 1976)
1902 – Ellen Clara Pollock, British-German actress (Wicked Lady, Horror Hospital), born in Heidelberg, Germany (d. 1997)
1919 – Lloyd Richards, American director (d. 2006)
1926 – Rex Hunt, British diplomat and Governor of the Falkland Islands (1982-1985), born in Redcar, North Yorkshire, England (d. 2012)
1956 – Pedro Guerrero, baseball player
1972 – Nawal Al Zoghbi, Lebanese singer

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Famous Deaths

1293 – Hendrik van Gent, Flemish neo-Augustian philosopher/theologist, dies
1798 – Kaat Mussel [Catharina Mulder], exerciser, dies
1855 – John Gorrie, American scientist (b. 1802)
1875 – Ferdinand I, Emperor of Austria (1835-48), dies at 82
1967 – Oskar Maria Graf, German writer, dies at 72
2007 – Joel Siegel, American film critic (b. 1943)

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Today in History for 28th June 2018

Historical Events

1928 – Alfred E Smith (NY-Governor) nominated for US President at Democratic Convention
1957 – Reds’ fans stuff ballot box, electing 8 Reds as All Star starters
1973 – Black Sports Hall of Fame forms: Paul Robeson, Elgin Baylor, Jesse Owens, Jim Brown, Wilma Rudolph, Joe Louis and Althea Gibson elected
1973 – Lawsuit in Detroit challenges Little League’s “no girls” rule
2000 – Cuban exile Elián González returns to Cuba following a Supreme Court order.
2017 – China’s president, Xi Jinping begins 3 day trip to Hong Kong to mark 20 years since the territory handed back to China

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Famous Birthdays

1806 – Napoleon Coste, composer
1867 – Luigi Pirandello, Italian writer (6 Characters-Nobel 1934)
1885 – Berthold Viertel, writer
1935 – John Inman, English actor (d. 2007)
1964 – Stephanie Maynor, Chester England, golfer (1995 PING Welch’s-13th)
1966 – Mary Stuart Masterson, American actress (Some Kind of Wonderful), born in Houston, Texas

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Famous Deaths

1916 – Ştefan Luchian, Romanian painter (b. 1868)
1957 – Ede Poldini, Hungarian composer (La poupée valsante), dies at 88
1971 – Joseph Colombo, mobster, shot dead at 48
1982 – Gerard[us M] Rutten, director (Sterren stralen overal), dies
2006 – Lennie “Len” Weinrib, American comedian and actor (H.R. Pufnstuf, Bedknobs and Broomsticks), dies from a stroke at 71
2006 – Jim Baen, American sci-fi publisher and editor (b. 1943)

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You Say Ragner, I Say Ragnar

You Say Ragner, I Say Ragnar

Eleanor Parker

The unlikely links between an obscure English saint and a Viking warrior.

History has many byways: paths which lead, by winding routes, to unexpected destinations. One such trail I followed while researching my recent book was the story of St Ragner of Northampton, an obscure, almost forgotten, saint who may, nonetheless, be linked to one of the most famous Vikings of medieval legend.Almost all we know about St Ragner comes from a short Latin text, surviving in two late-medieval manuscripts, which describes how his relics were supposedly discovered at St Peter’s Church in Northampton in the 11th century. The only information this text provides about Ragner’s identity is the claim that he was the nephew of the more famous St Edmund of East Anglia, who was killed by a Viking army in 869. It says that Ragner died alongside him and was therefore a martyr and saint, though no other source mentions this or gives Edmund a relation of this name.The text has much less to say about Ragner himself than about the discovery of his relics. This rather touching story involves a series of visions revealed to a simple but devout Norwegian man living in Northampton, who is miraculously shown where the martyr, unknown to anyone else, is buried in the church. He persuades the priest of St Peter’s to excavate the spot, where they find the relics and an inscription explaining the saint’s connection to St Edmund. It is a reward for the patient devotion of the unnamed Norwegian man, whom no one had taken seriously until his visions were thus proved true.In medieval hagiography these kinds of discovery stories are often linked to moments when churches were being remodelled, so this story (though the text sets it just before the Norman Conquest) may perhaps have emerged in the middle of the 12th century, when St Peter’s was rebuilt in splendid Romanesque style. The church has some of the finest Norman carvings in England, including a beautiful grave-cover which may be associated with St Ragner’s shrine.As well as this one short account, there is a reference to Ragner in a 12th-century text from Peterborough; otherwise he seems to be entirely unknown. There is no evidence that this saint was venerated anywhere other than Northampton, but his shrine endured there: in the 15th century the feast of St Ragner was being celebrated at St Peter’s on 21 November, the day after St Edmund’s.Who was this mysterious St Ragner? Since St Edmund was so popular, medieval hagiographers provided him with a number of saintly relations for whom there is no historical basis. But in Ragner’s case, his name and the connection to St Edmund hint at something more interesting: a possible link with medieval legends about the Viking hero Ragnar Lothbrok.The Ragnar of Old Norse sagas was certainly no saint, nor a relative of St Edmund. However, two men whom medieval legend called ‘the sons of Ragnar’, Ivar and Ubbe, were said in Scandinavian and English tradition to be responsible for St Edmund’s death and legend explained their relationship with him in various ways. Ragnar Lothbrok in medieval English sources, especially ones linked to the cult of St Edmund, is very different from the equivalent figure in Norse tradition, famous today from the TV series Vikings. In East Anglian stories Lothbrok sometimes appears not as a fearsome Viking but as Edmund’s friend and protégé, who turns up at his court by accident and is cruelly murdered by one of Edmund’s men. His murder leads his sons Ivar and Ubbe to avenge his death by killing Edmund and invading East Anglia in retribution.These stories about the ninth-century Viking invasions belong to a complex web of legendary history which circulated in the Middle Ages between England and Scandinavia and so it does not seem like a coincidence that it was a Norwegian man who was the impetus behind the cult of St Ragner in Northampton. Did this man know a Norwegian version of the story of Ragnar Lothbrok, which he combined with local traditions about St Edmund? It is a fascinating idea – the pagan Ragnar Lothbrok, scourge of churches, celebrated as a Christian martyr. We cannot know if there really is a link, but what I like about this story is that we have a glimpse here of a very local tradition – perhaps one man’s particular interest, a story he told to his neighbours in Northampton. We do not even know this man’s name, but this text has preserved his story for us to wonder about.Eleanor Parker is Lecturer in Medieval English Literature at Brasenose College, Oxford and writes a blog at aclerkofoxford.blogspot.co.uk.

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