Every weekend Spectator Life brings you doses of topical trivia – facts, figures and anecdotes inspired by the current week’s dates in history …
Louise Brown (born 1978). The first human born after conception by IVF, Brown became known as the ‘test tube baby’ – despite the fact that the conception actually took place in a Petri dish.
Helen Mirren (born 1945). She is the only actor ever to portray both Elizabeth I and Elizabeth II on film. (Elizabeth I, 2005, and The Queen, 2006).
In 1890, Vincent van Gogh shot himself. He died two days later. During his lifetime he only ever sold one painting (The Red Vineyards near Arles).
Shirley Williams (born 1930). In 2001 the politician was present at a speech by Charles Kennedy when a streaker ran onto the stage. The man had a large ‘V’ taped to his left buttock and ‘TE’ taped to his right. Williams turned to the person next to her and asked why the man had omitted the letter ‘O’.
Beatrix Potter (born 1866). The author lived near Brompton Cemetery in London – which is where she got the names for many of her characters. There are gravestones of Peter Rabbett, Mr McGregor, Jeremiah Fisher, Mr Nutkins, Mr Brock and Mr Tod.
In 1836, the Arc de Triomphe was inaugurated. In August 1919, Charles Godefroy flew his plane through the arch to honour the airmen killed in World War I. (You can watch the feat on YouTube.)
In 1981 Prince Charles married Lady Diana Spencer. It was only their 14th meeting.
Arnold Schwarzenegger (born 1947). In The Terminator, Arnie says a total of 74 words.
In 1703, Daniel Defoe was placed in a pillory for committing a seditious libel. The author was born Daniel Foe – he added the ‘De’ to make himself sound grander.
J.K. Rowling (born 1965). She has admitted that when writing the first Harry Potter book she visualised Euston as the station from which the Hogwarts Express departs, and mistakenly called it King’s Cross. ‘I was living in Manchester … I couldn’t check.’