Born: John Broughton, noted pugilist, 1704, London; Mrs. Sarah Siddons (nee Kemble), tragic actress, 1755; C. A. Stothard, antiquarian draughtsman, 1786, London.
Died: Queen Magdalen of Scotland, 1537; Cardinal Passioney, librarian of the Vatican, 1761; Sir Robert Strange, the 'prince of British line-engravers,' 1792, London; Mrs. Dorothea Jordan (nee Bland), comic actress, 1816, St. Cloud.
Feast Day: St. Modwena, virgin, of Ireland, 9th century; St. Edana or Edaene, virgin, of same country; St. Peter of Luxemburg, confessor, cardinal, and bishop of Metz, 1387.
That regulated system of combat with the closed fists, which bears the name of Boxing, and which may be said to be peculiar to England, dates only from the earlier half of the eighteenth century. The rules, including those notable ones regarding rounds, and the interval of half a minute between each, which give such a marked character to the practice-a sort of humanity relieving its barbarism -were the production of John Broughton, who kept a booth for the exhibition of boxing in the Tottenham Court Road; they are dated the 10th of August 1743. It seems to have been on the decline of sword-combat exhibitions in the reign of George I, that the comparatively harmless amusement of boxing arose. There appears to be no such thing known at an earlier date.
Broughton was the first who stood in the position of Champion-a distinction which he held for eighteen years. It gives a curious idea of the tastes of the English of his day, that his most notable patron was the king's second son, the Duke of Cumberland, so noted for his butcheries after the battle of Culloden. The duke probably attended Broughton's boxing-booth within a week of his going forth upon that famous expedition, in which the fate of a dynasty was decided; probably, it was one of the first places of amusement he went to after his triumphant return. He once took Broughton with him on a journey to the continent, and on shewing him the grenadier guards at Berlin, asked the pugilist what he thought of any of those fellows for a 'set-to;' to which Broughton is said to have answered, that he would have no objection to take up the whole regiment, if he were only allowed a breakfast between each two battles.
Broughton was admitted to have a constant originality, as well as great power, in his style of boxing, and he seems to have been a man of sense and ability, apart from his profession. He was at the very acme of his reputation, when he was so unfortunate as to fall into a quarrel with a butcher named Slack, who consequently challenged him. The champion himself, and the whole circle of his friends and admirers, regarded the challenger with contempt, and when the combat commenced, the betting was ten to one in Broughton's favour. But Slack contrived, at an early period of the contest, to hit Broughton between the eyes, and blinded him. The poor man had undiminished strength, but he was not able to see his antagonist. His royal patron, with characteristic brutality, called out to him: 'Why, Broughton, you can't fight-you are beat!'
['Proud Cumberland prances, insulting the slain.']
It was too true. The fight closed in fourteen minutes, with the defeat of the hitherto unmatched hero. 'The faces in the amphitheatre,' says the historian of the day, 'were of all manner of colours and lengths.' The duke was understood to have lost thousands on the occasion. Slack, by his adroit blow, gained six hundred pounds.
Broughton survived in obscurity, but in comparative affluence, for thirty-nine years, dying on the 8th of January 1789, at a very advanced age. The father, as he may well be called, of this 'truly English art,' lies buried in Lambeth churchyard.
The death of the French princess, Magdalen, consort of James V of Scotland, is a very affecting incident. The young Scottish monarch had voyaged to France in the summer of 1536, to see the daughter of the Due de Vendome, with a view to marriage; but, not affecting her on intimate acquaintance, he turned his thoughts to the royal family as likely to furnish him a better bride. The king, Francis I, received him with great kindness at a place to the south of Lyon, and thence conducted him to a castle where his family was residing. He found the Princess Magdalen unable to ride on horseback, as her mother and other ladies did, but obliged by weakness of health to be carried in a chariot. 'Yet, notwithstanding her sickness' -so the contemporary Scottish historian Lindsay informs us-'fra the time she saw the king of Scotland, and spak with him, she became so enamoured of him, and loved him so weel, that she weld have no man alive to her husband, but he allenarly [only].'
Sage counsellors of both countries discommended the union; but the young princess easily induced her father to consent, and the consent of the king of Scotland followed. On the 1st of January, the pair were united in the church of Notre Dame, in the presence of seven cardinals and a great assemblage of the French nobility, amidst circumstances of great pomp and popular joy. 'Through all France that day, there was jousting and running of horse proclaimed, with all other manly exercise; as also skirmishing of ships through all the coasts; so that in towns, lands, seas, firths, castles, and towers, there was no man that might have heard for the raird [uproar] and noise of cannons, nor scarcely have seen for the vapours thereof. There was also within the town of Paris, cunning carvers and profound necromancers, who by their art caused things appear whilk wes not, as follows: fowls flying in the air spouting fire on others, rivers of water running through the town and ships fechtand therupon.'
With his young bride, and a hundred thousand crowns by way of dowry, gifted moreover with twenty war-horses, as many suits of elegant mail, two great warships, and a vast quantity of jewels and other minor articles, the young Scottish monarch set sail for his own country. Landing at Leith on Whit Sunday, the young queen, full of love for her husband and his country, knelt on the shore, took up a handful of sand, and kissed it, invoking God's blessing upon Scotland. She was received in Edinburgh with triumphs and shows of unexampled grandeur, with, what was far better, the affectionate reverence of the entire people. But the doom had already been passed upon her. She withered like an uprooted flower, and only forty days from her arrival, lay a corpse in her husband's palace. The death of this beautiful young creature in such interesting circumstances, made a deep impression on the national heart, and it is understood to have been the first occasion of a general mourning being assumed in Scotland.