1789 — Marie Antionette (allegedly) says “Let them eat cake”

The French phrase “Qu’ils mangent de la brioche” is usually translated as “Let them eat cake”, and is widely attributed to Marie Antionette.

However, in the original – Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s Confessions, which he finished writing in 1769, when Marie Antoinette was 13 – the remark is attributed only to “a great princess”. The phrase was attributed to Marie Antionette only after the Revolution began, and many citations for it exist prior to this, and not referencing her. In fact, the emerging consensus among historians at this time is that the Rousseau was referring to Marie-Thérèse, the wife of Louis XIV, and pre-dates Marie Antionette by at least a century.

August 4, 1892 — Lizzie Borden murders her parents

They say she done all of ’em in.

They say she done it with an axe.

They are, in this case, probably right. Certainly someone murdered Andrew and Abby Borden with an axe, in their own home, when Lizzie was the only other person who could have been in the house at the time. But was she?

At her trial, she was acquitted, largely due to lack of evidence (although her father’s unpopularity in the community may also have been a factor). And there were other reasonably credible suspects (such as the family maid). At this late date, we’ll probably never know.

December 19, 1963 — Jennifer Beals born

Forever to be associated with her best known role, that of the dancer Alex Owens in the 1980 film “Flashdance”, Beals never thought of herself as a dancer (she famously turned down “Dancing with the Stars”), but as an actor. And despite often being criticised (particularly in the Eighties) for being cast more for her sex appeal than her acting, she is undeniably a talented actor.

Other than “Flashdance”, career highlights include the film “Vampire’s Kiss”, and roles in the long-running “The L-Word” and the unfortunately cut short (but excellent) “The Chicago Code”. Despite her inclusion in the song by Sandler, Beals is not Jewish – her (now deceased) father was African American, and her mother is Irish American.

December 31, 1999 — The Twentieth Century ends

Technically, the Twentieth Century did not end for another year, at the end of the year 2000. But in the popular imagination, the last day of 1999 was the last day of the millennium. A day when many a religious – and one big secular – apocalypse was counted down to, to hit at the stroke of midnight. But neither the Second Coming nor the Y2K bug proved to be that big a threat.

The Twentieth Century was over with, and now, the 21st Century – the future – could begin. Only it turned out that if apocalypse wasn’t just around the corner, neither was utopia. And only 21 months into the new century, we’d all be dragged into a brand new endless Cold War when we’d just finally shaken off the last one.