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John’s Believe It Or Not… June 20th

In 1837 – Queen Victoria ascends throne at age 18. In 1895 Caroline Willard Baldwin 1st female PhD from an American University. In 1975 Jaws released. In 1789 Third Estate makes Tennis Court Oath in France. In 1900 Boxer Rebellion begins in China.

John Fioravanti teaching at the blackboard.

It’s Tuesday! Did you know…

* 1837 – Queen Victoria ascends throne at age 18. (On 20 June 1837, King William IV died in his sleep after a reign of seven years. His niece, the 18-year-old Princess Victoria, inherited the throne. Her accession marked the dawn of a new era in Britain’s history, which would come to represent industrial growth, scientific advances, and vast imperial expansion.

On a personal level, Queen Victoria is remembered for her passionate relationship with her husband Prince Albert (the Canadian province of Alberta was named in his honor), the grief that engulfed her after his death, and her longevity, with a reign of over sixty-three years. However, had it not been for the infidelities of her grandfather George III’s offspring and the untimely death of her cousin Princess Charlotte, it is probable that Britain’s second longest-reigning monarch may never have been born.

George III, commonly remembered as the ‘Mad King’, sired fifteen children, including nine sons, yet among their offspring was only one legitimate heir, Princess Charlotte. Charlotte was the daughter of George III’s oldest son, also called George, who would reign as the Prince Regent and later as King George IV. Charlotte was extremely popular with the British public and made a happy marriage with Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld, but she died at a tragically young age following the birth of a stillborn son in 1817.

Edward, Duke of Kent, was the fourth son of George III. Charlotte’s unforeseen death forced him (along with his other brothers) to recognize the necessity of producing an heir since none of them had any surviving legitimate children. In the spring of 1818, he, therefore, wed Princess Victoria of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld, sister of the recently bereaved Leopold. It was a harmonious match and on 24 May 1819, the new Duchess of Kent gave birth to a daughter, who was named Alexandrina Victoria. Edward is reported to have said of the infant, ‘look at her well, for she will be Queen of England’. Alas, he died when she was less than a year old, but he had done his duty and the succession was secure.

George III died in 1820 and George IV ruled for ten years thereafter, after which the crown passed to another of Victoria’s uncles, William IV. It was around the time that William became King that Victoria was made aware of her place in the succession. Although fully conscious that she was mother to a future monarch, the Duchess of Kent persisted in limiting Victoria’s time at court and did little to endear herself to her late husband’s relatives. Conroy’s personal aspirations of power remained tangible, not least in the autumn of 1835 when he and the Duchess tried to force Victoria, who was severely ill at the time, to sign a document that would make Conroy her personal secretary and mean that she came of age at 21 instead of 18. Demonstrating immense strength of character, Victoria refused to sign.

William IVIt appears that William IV (pictured) had some sense of the schemes afoot, for at his birthday celebrations in 1836 he delivered a notorious speech, the gist of which was that he wished to survive another nine months so that a regency could be avoided and that he believed the Duchess of Kent was ‘surrounded by evil advisers’ and acting in an improper manner. It was an embarrassing interlude for both the Duchess and Victoria. The King’s wish that he should live beyond his niece’s 18th birthday was nonetheless realized – but only just. Victoria reached her majority on 24 May 1837. Within a month, William was dead. Victoria was woken early on the morning of his death and informed that she was now the Queen.)

Coronation portrait by George Hayter
Coronation portrait by George Hayter (Wikipedia)

* 1895 Caroline Willard Baldwin  1st female PhD from an American University. (Caroline was born in San Francisco on June 30, 1869. She was the only child of Army vet and miner Alfred Baldwin, one of the pioneering members of Santa Cruz County in California, and Fannie Willard, who was noted for her intellectual pursuits. Fannie must have been quite a woman in her own right because, in addition to public schooling, she rounded out young Caroline’s education with lessons in language and other subjects.

Caroline went on to become the first woman to receive a Bachelor of Science degree from the School of Mechanics at the University of California in 1892. She was so bright, she was one of the student speakers for the commencement ceremony at the University of California and placed third in her graduating class at Cornell University, where she received the famed doctorate in 1895. She wrote “A Photographic Study of the Arc Spectra” for the Physical Review journal of experimental and theoretical physics in 1896, and you can still read and download it today at the Internet Archive.

Three years after receiving her doctorate in physics, she married Charles Theobald Morrison and had two children, but she didn’t just pack her degrees away and take on the only role of wife and mother as society would expect at the time. Not only did she teach physics at the California School of Mechanical Arts, she also co-created the entire physics course there, authoring it with George Merrill. She was also active in a number of charities, and her favorite hobbies included “mountain trips” and “automobiling,” according to the 1914 Women’s Who’s Who, proving that her quest for adventure involved both mind and body. She left this earth far too soon, and her January passing is noted in the May 1928 issue of the Cornell Alumni News.)

Portrait of Caroline Willard Baldwin

* 1975 Jaws released. (On this day in 1975, Jaws, a film directed by Steven Spielberg that made countless viewers afraid to go into the water, opens in theaters. The story of a great white shark that terrorizes a New England resort town became an instant blockbuster and the highest-grossing film in movie history until it was bested by 1977’s Star Wars. Jaws was nominated for an Academy Award in the Best Picture category and took home three Oscars, for Best Film Editing, Best Original Score, and Best Sound. The film, a breakthrough for director Spielberg, then 27 years old, spawned three sequels.

With a budget of $12 million, Jaws was produced by the team of Richard Zanuck and David Brown, whose later credits include The Verdict (1982), Cocoon (1985) and Driving Miss Daisy (1989). Filming, which took place on Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, was plagued by delays and technical difficulties, including malfunctioning mechanical sharks.

Jaws put now-famed director Steven Spielberg on the Hollywood map. Spielberg, largely self-taught in filmmaking, made his feature-length directorial debut with The Sugarland Express in 1974. The film was critically well-received but a box-office flop. Following the success of Jaws, Spielberg went on to become one of the most influential, iconic people in the film world, with such epics as Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), ET: the Extra-Terrestrial (1982), Jurassic Park (1993), Schindler’s List (1993) and Saving Private Ryan (1998). E.T., Jaws and Jurassic Park rank among the 10 highest-grossing movies of all time. In 1994, Spielberg formed DreamWorks SKG, with Jeffrey Katzenberg and David Geffen. The company has produced such hits as American Beauty (1999), Gladiator (2001) and Shrek (2001).)

The Jaws Banner
The Jaws Banner (Horror Freak News)

* 1789 Third Estate makes Tennis Court Oath in France. (In Versailles, France, the deputies of the Third Estate, which represent commoners and the lower clergy, meet on the Jeu de Paume, an indoor tennis court, in defiance of King Louis XVI’s order to disperse. In these modest surroundings, they took a historic oath not to disband until a new French constitution had been adopted.

Louis XVI, who ascended the French throne in 1774, proved unsuited to deal with the severe financial problems he had inherited from his grandfather, King Louis XV. In 1789, in a desperate attempt to address France’s economic crisis, Louis XVI assembled the Estates-General, a national assembly that represented the three “estates” of the French people–the nobles, the clergy, and the commons. The Estates-General had not been assembled since 1614, and its deputies drew up long lists of grievances and called for sweeping political and social reforms.

The Third Estate, which had the most representatives, declared itself the National Assembly and took an oath to force a new constitution on the king. Initially seeming to yield, Louis legalized the National Assembly under the Third Estate but then surrounded Versailles with troops and dismissed Jacques Necker, a popular minister of state who had supported reforms. In response, Parisians mobilized and on July 14 stormed the Bastille–a state prison where they believed ammunition was stored–and the French Revolution began.)

Signed on June 20, 1789, the Tennis Court Oath was a pledge which precipitated the single greatest shift in Europe’s social order.
Signed on June 20, 1789, the Tennis Court Oath was a pledge which precipitated the single greatest shift in Europe’s social order. (

* 1900 Boxer Rebellion begins in China. (In response to widespread foreign encroachment upon China’s national affairs, Chinese nationalists launch the so-called Boxer Rebellion in Peking. Calling themselves I Ho Ch’uan, or “the Righteous and Harmonious Fists,” the nationalists occupied Peking, killed several Westerners, including German ambassador Baron von Ketteler, and besieged the foreign legations in the diplomatic quarter of the city.

By the end of the 19th century, the Western powers and Japan had forced China’s ruling Qing dynasty to accept wide foreign control over the country’s economic affairs. In the Opium Wars, popular rebellions, and the Sino-Japanese War, China had fought to resist the foreigners, but it lacked a modernized military and suffered millions of casualties. In 1898, Tzu’u Hzi, the dowager empress and an anti-imperialist, began supporting the I Ho Ch’uan, who were known as the “Boxers” by the British because of their martial arts fighting style. The Boxers soon grew powerful, and in late 1899 regular attacks on foreigners and Chinese Christians began.

On June 20, 1900, the Boxers, now more than 100,000 strong and led by the court of Tzu’u Hzi, besieged the foreigners in Peking’s diplomatic quarter, burned Christian churches in the city, and destroyed the Peking-Tientsin railway line. As the Western powers and Japan organized a multinational force to crush the rebellion, the siege of the Peking legations stretched into weeks, and the diplomats, their families, and guards suffered through hunger and degrading conditions as they fought to keep the Boxers at bay. On August 14, the international force, featuring British, Russian, American, Japanese, French, and German troops, relieved Peking after fighting its way through much of northern China.

Due to mutual jealousies between the powers, it was agreed that China would not be partitioned further, and in September 1901, the Peking Protocol was signed, formally ending the Boxer Rebellion. By the terms of the agreement, the foreign nations received extremely favorable commercial treaties with China, foreign troops were permanently stationed in Peking, and China was forced to pay $333 million dollars as the penalty for its rebellion. China was effectively a subject nation.)

A French political cartoon depicting China as a pie about to be carved up by Queen Victoria (Britain), Kaiser Wilhelm II (Germany), Tsar Nicholas II
A French political cartoon depicting China as a pie about to be carved up by Queen Victoria (Britain), Kaiser Wilhelm II (Germany), Tsar Nicholas II (Wikipedia)

Today’s Sources:

* Canadian History Timeline – Canada’s Historical Chronology

* On This Day – History, Film, Music and Sport

* This Day In History – What Happened Today

* History In An Hour                                

* Geek Girl Universe                                        


Author: John Fioravanti

I'm a retired History teacher (35 years), husband, father of three, grandfather of three. My wife, Anne, and I became business partners in December 2013 and launched our own publishing company, Fiora Books (, to publish my books. We have been married since 1973 and hope our joint business venture will be as successful as our marriage.

11 thoughts on “John’s Believe It Or Not… June 20th”

  1. Thanks, Kim – isn’t it amazing that our two longest reigning monarchs have been the greatest too! (Also, her birthday on May 24th gives us our first long weekend of the summer season!


  2. Your posts always bring me back to the classroom – a favorite place to reside. Thank you for this enlightening post. The French Revolution, the Boxer Rebellion, Queen Victoria, Dr. Baldwin….and JAWS…. wow, what a journey today! Loved it!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Gwen, I would have loved to have you in my classroom! Glad you enjoyed today’s trek. I appreciate your comments!


  3. I remember seeing Jaws when it was originally released and how EVERYONE was talking about it. And yes, it made me constantly look over my shoulder when in the water at the beach, LOL.
    My husband and I have an anniversary edition of the DVD and usually watch it once each summer. Still a classic!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I have an aversion to horror flicks, Mae – I don’t enjoy being scared or shocked, so one viewing of Jaws was more than enough for me! Thanks for sharing your thoughts today!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Kim – isn’t it amazing that our two longest reigning monarchs have been the greatest too! Who says women are too weak to govern? As I exclaimed rather loudly in my classroom: “BALDERDASH!” I appreciate your thoughts today.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, John. Victoria holds a special place in the hearts of Canadians because she signed the BNA Act 1867 into law – our first constitution for the newly minted Dominion of Canada. (Also, her birthday on May 24th gives us our first long weekend of the summer season!) She was Britain’s longest-serving monarch until Queen Elizabeth’s reign surpassed hers just recently.


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