The 243rd day of the year in the Gregorian calendar, August 31st is an auspicious date with several interesting events. These events — including the births and deaths of notable people — shaped the future of our world. From the birth of a Roman emperor to the death of a British monarch, August 31st is a day marked by exceptional experiences.
On this day in …
1422: Nine-Month-Old Henry VI becomes King of England
The last of the Lancaster royals, Henry VI became King of England when his father died. He was only nine months old at that time. When he was old enough to take the throne fully, he founded Eton College and King’s College. He is also credited with causing the War of the Roses through his incompetent leadership.
1888: Jack the Ripper’s first victim found
At 3:40 am on this day in 1888, a cart driver named Charles Cross discovered the body of Mary Ann Nichols while on his way to work. Ms. Nichols — also known as Polly — was a prostitute and had become the first victim of London’s notorious serial killer, Jack the Ripper.
1920: 1st radio news program broadcast
On this day in 1920, the Detroit radio station 8MK broadcast the first radio news program. This station also made history as the first station to be owned by a newspaper, The Detroit News. The station was created as an experiment in the use of the medium news publication and had only been in operation for 10 days at the time.
1957: The US performs a nuclear test at Nevada test site
The Nevada Test Site (NTS) saw several nuclear tests throughout the cold war era. On this day in 1957, one such test, designated SMOKY, took place at the NTS. Part of the tests that made up Operation PLUMBBOB, SMOKY became notorious in the 70s due to over 3,000 servicemen being exposed to radiation during exercises conducted at the site shortly after the test. Several were later diagnosed with cancer.
2018: “A Star is Born” premiers at Venice Film Festival
This fourth incarnation of the film stars Bradley Cooper, also his directorial debut, and Lady Gaga, in her first major acting role. This Warner Bros’ version was met with a warm reception at the Venice Film Festival and went on to win several awards. Originally a 1937 film starring Janet Gaynor and Fredric March, other versions of the movie include a 1954 movie starring Judy Garland and James Mason as well as the 1978 adaptation with Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson.
On this day in …
Born Gaius Julius Caesar Germanicus in Antium — known as Anzio today — Caligula was the third emperor of Rome. In the beginning, he was a generous compassionate ruler, freeing political prisoners and recalling political exiles.
After an illness, Caligula changed drastically. He began regarding himself as a god, having alters erected to himself throughout his empire. He became cruel and irrational, murdering is adopted son and others for imagined slights, spending money recklessly and insulting the Roman Senate. In the end, a tribune of Roman guards murdered him.
On this day in …
1997: Princess Diana Spencer
On the night of August 31, 1997, Princess Diana Spencer died in a controversial car crash in Paris, France. The accident occurred overeager press forced her and her companion, Dodi Al-Fayad, to leave their private dinner at The Ritz early.
With Henri Paul driving, they were pursued by paparazzi. After a short high-speed chase through the narrow boulevards of central Paris, Paul crashed the Mercedes S-280 limo into the 13th pillar of the Pont d’Alma Bridge. Al-Fayad and Paul were killed instantly, Princess Diana died in the hospital a few hours later. Only her bodyguard, Trevor Rees-Jones, survived the accident. Princess Diana was 36 years old. She left behind two young sons and thousands of mourners.