October 13

54, 1307, 1582

The Emperor Claudius died today, in 54 CE, poisoned by his wife Aggripina, not by toxin-spraying the fig tree in the garden from which he liked to pluck ripe fruit - that was how the Emperor Augustus' wife Livia poisoned him - but with an omelette using mushrooms of a type not generally approved by greengrocers. There is also some dispute as to whether he was a stuttering simpleton, or actually the most lucidly intelligent Emperor that Rome ever produced, but managed to fool everyone by disguising himself for decades, until he no longer needed to (and believe me, living through the emperorships of Augustus - albeit just the last four years - and then Tiberius, and then Caligula, he most definitely needed to). And if that was so, was he perhaps Shakespeare's model for Hamlet, whose king, by odd coincidence, was also named Claudius?

In France, today in 1307, the entire conspiracy of Templar Knights was arrested between dawn and dusk, bringing to an end the so-called Cathar "heresy" (an essay on what history now remembers as "The Albigensian Crusade" will be published very soon in my "Travels In Unfamiliar Lands").

While this day in 1582 failed to occur in most of Europe, blotted out like the moon in an eclipse, by the introduction of the Gregorian calendar. October 4, as I noted on that page, was followed immediately by October 15, the intervening days quite simply expurgated from eternity - rather like Claudius and the Cathars, if you think about it.

Amber pages

And what else, on this illustrious non-day? Unsurprisingly, a list of really very non-iillustrious people and events:

Lillie Langtry, actress, born today in 1853

Yves Montand (Ivo Livi), actor and singer, born today in 1921

Margaret Hilda Roberts, aka Thatcher, former British Prime Minister, born today in 1925; but this needs to go, if anywhere, on November 28, the date in 1990 when she finally got something right, by resigning. That piece will need to include my conversation with Liam Fox in 1997, at the count that brought him to Parliament, and Blair (but not my wife, who was beaten by the Fox): "Did you know," he told me, "that her Cabinet colleagues referred to her, behind her back of course where such a term belongs, as 'Daggers'. Nothing to do with knives in fact. Daggers is Dagenham. On the Picadilly line. One stop on from Barking." He didn't stop laughing until they anounced his majority.

Arthur Garfunkel, counter-tenor of folk-rock, born today in 1942

Saint Edward the Confessor's remains were transported, today in 1163 - only one of several times, and who really cares anyway (click here if you do)?

Roger Williams, founder of Rhode Island, banned in Boston, for the crime of preaching religious tolerance, today in 1635. And in addition, there is a plaque in honour of Roger Williams, at the recently re-opened Charterhouse in the City of London; the plaque was donated by one Oscar Straus, for whom see December 23 and July 12, but especially October 23

The cornerstone was laid, today in 1792, for what was intended to be 
named "President's Palace", but fortunately the wise men thought better, and named it the "White House" instead (apparently it was briefly renamed the "Black House", between 2008 and 2016, but the former name has now been restored.

B'nai B'rith International founded, today in 1843 (a "by-default" member of the International Zionist Conspiracy, so anti-Semites who are also anti-Zionists should boycott this page, while anti-Semites who are not anti-Zionists, and anti-Zionists who do not regard this as being a form of anti-Semitism, are free to overlook this paragraph but read the remainder of the page [unless they are also anti-Manicheans and anti-Cathars, in which case they should refuse to read the second entry either; and obviously idolators of Thatcher should sue to have that paragraph banned entirely], but please note that both Art Garfunkel and Oscar Straus were Jewish, so you may wish to skip those paragraphs as well, or simply scrawl graffiti over them, or even blot them out, like Gregorian days. Jews who have a problem with people who refused to fight against Hitler may wish to boycott the final entry on this page. Members of the Argentine Navy who wish to exhume Thatcher's bones and transport them to the Belgrano Museum on Las Malvinas...)

And today in 1943, that great voice of free verse, that libertarian of poetry, Robert Lowell, was locked up again; not, for once, in a psychiatric hospital (see November 17), but in a common jail, sentenced for draft evasion. In 1943!

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