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.
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* 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.) Continue reading “John’s Believe It Or Not… June 20th”