The International Olympic Committee was founded at the Sorbonne in Paris.
Prior to the ICO’s establishment by Pierre de Coubertin, the British physician Dr William Penny Brookes had established the Wenlock Olympian Games in the English market town of Much Wenlock. Although he always maintained that he had the idea of reviving the ancient Olympic Games for amateur athletes himself, Coubertin entered correspondence with Brookes and benefited from his connections with the Greek government.
Coubertin was the secretary general of the Union of French Sports Associations and first proposed establishing the modern games at its meeting on 25 November 1892. Although his enthusiasm was met with little more than general applause, Coubertin was not deterred and began to lay the groundwork for what was to become the first Olympic Congress at the Sorbonne in Paris in 1894.
Having initially invited participants to a meeting entitled ‘Reflections on and Propagation of the Principles of Amateurism’, Coubertin later changed the name to a ‘Congress on the Revival of the Olympic Games’. 79 delegates from 9 countries subsequently met at the Sorbonne, although Coubertin himself recognised that there still little enthusiasm for reviving the games.
Despite this, a vote was held at the final meeting of the congress on 23 June that established the International Olympic Committee. Coubertin was elected to the role of general secretary with the Greek businessman and writer Demetrios Vikelas as the first president. It was further agreed that the first modern Olympic Games would take place in Athens in 1896 with the second in Paris four years later. The IOC has remained responsible for the Olympic Games ever since.
The 22nd June 1633 saw Galileo Galilei, the famed scientist, was found “vehemently suspect of heresy” by the Papal Inquisition and forced to recant his belief in the heliocentric universe originally put forward by Copernicus ninety years previously. Galileo was sentenced to house arrest where he remained for the final nine years of his life.
Galileo had visited Rome nearly two decades earlier in order to defend his belief that the Earth orbits the Sun rather than the other way round after complaints to the Inquisition had been raised in early 1615. Despite his attempt to prove that heliocentrism didn’t contradict the Bible, an Inquisitorial commission in 1616 unanimously declared it to be “formally heretical since it explicitly contradicts in many places the sense of Holy Scripture.”
At that time Galileo was ordered to “abandon completely… the opinion that the sun stands still at the center of the world and the earth moves”. However, he was permitted to discuss heliocentrism in theory. It was this that caused him problems when, in 1632, he published a new book called Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems. Although written with permission from the Inquisition and the Pope, the book implicitly defended heliocentrism. Therefore, argued the Inquisition, Galileo had broken the sentence passed down 16 years earlier and should be forced to recant and be imprisoned.
Nearly 400 years later, in 1992, Pope John Paul II issued a declaration that recognised and expressed regret at the way the Catholic Church had handled the so-called Galileo affair.
King Louis XVI of France and his family were caught attempting to escape Paris during the Flight to Varennes.
By the summer of 1791 the royal family had been living in the Tuileries in the heart of Paris for almost two years. They had been forced to move there from the lavish Palace of Versailles after the October Days of 1789, and felt as if they were prisoners as a result of their rapidly declining power.
The startling pace of change was viewed with alarm by the other monarchies of Europe, and this led to fear in France that the king himself was conspiring with foreign powers to topple the fledgling revolutionary government. Yet, convinced that he would find support for his rule in the countryside, on the night of the 20-21 June 1791 the king reinforced the people’s lack of trust in him.
In what became known as the Flight to Varennes, Louis and the rest of the immediate royal family fled the Tuileries under cover of darkness. The plan had been largely formulated by the Swedish Count Axel von Fersen, Marie Antoinette’s favourite who was also rumoured to be her lover.
Disguised to avoid being noticed by the palace guards, the family travelled in a large heavy coach pulled by six horses. Their slow progress meant the journey to the eastern frontier took considerably longer than had been anticipated and soon word of their escape had spread. In Sainte-Menehould they were recognised by the local postmaster who checked the king’s likeness against an assignat.
While the royal party continued their slow progress the postmaster rode ahead to the next town, Varennes, which lay just 30 miles from the Austrian border. Here the escapees were arrested and returned to Paris, the royal reputation in tatters.
On the 20th June 1789 at Versailles in France, the National Assembly swore the Tennis Court Oath in which they vowed not to separate until a written constitution had been established for the country.
Faced with enormous financial difficulties, Louis XVI had called a meeting of the Estates General that first convened in early May. This involved representatives of the three Estates – the clergy, the nobility and the non-privileged common people known as the Third Estate – meeting with the king at Versailles in an attempt to solve the economic crisis. However, the allocation of votes was unfair so the representatives of the Third Estate separated themselves from the main group and met separately. On the 13th June, by which time they had been joined by some nobles and the majority of the clergy, they declared themselves the National Assembly.
However, when the king ordered their usual meeting room to be closed and guarded by soldiers, the National Assembly feared that the king was about to force them to disband. The National Assembly instead relocated to a nearby building used for playing jeu de paume, a forerunner of modern tennis, where they swore the oath. The Tennis Court Oath therefore didn’t really happen in a tennis court, but the name has stuck.
The Oath was significant for being a collective action by French citizens against their king. Faced with such opposition Louis finally relented and, on June 27th, he ordered the remaining nobles to join the National Assembly and ended the Estates General.
The first NASCAR race took place at the Charlotte Speedway in North Carolina.
Stock car racing had its origins in the era of Prohibition, when illegal alcohol was distributed by fast cars across the United States. In order to outrun the police, many bootleggers modified their otherwise ordinary or ‘stock’ cars and over time began to organise events and compete against one another.
Mechanic Bill France Sr. moved to the spiritual home of automobile racing at Daytona Beach in Florida in 1935. He later began to organise his own events but, by the late 1940s, had become frustrated with inconsistent rules and unscrupulous promoters. In response he called a meeting of influential members of the racing community at the Streamline Hotel and, on 21 February 1948, the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing was formed.
Forced to delay the inaugural season due to a shortage of new cars following a rise in demand after the war, the first Strictly Stock race took place on 19 June 1949. Around 13,000 spectators turned up to the Charlotte Speedway to see 33 drivers, one of whom was female driver Sara Christian, complete 200 laps of the 3/4 mile circuit.
Glenn Dunnaway finished the race three laps ahead of his nearest rival, Jim Roper. However, a post-race inspection found that the rear springs of Dunnaway’s car had been illegally modified. Since this broke the fundamental rule of only racing ‘strictly stock’ cars, he was disqualified and the $2,000 prize was handed to Roper.
The season featured a further seven races as well as two exhibition races. Red Byron, who had finished third in the first race, went on to win the Drivers’ Championship. Jim Roper only started one other NASCAR race.
On the 18th June 1815, Napoleon was defeated at the Battle of Waterloo. Having escaped from exile on the island of Elba, he landed on the mainland on the 1st March and successfully secured support of a small army whom he marched to Paris. His arrival on 20th March led to Louis XVIII fleeing the city. This signaled the start of a period of Napoleonic government we now call the Hundred Days.
Napoleon’s return from exile was met with enormous hostility from the other European powers. Having already been defeated in 1814, Napoleon was declared an ‘outlaw’ by the Great Powers at the Congress of Vienna, who soon committed troops to remove him from power.
By early June, Napoleon had built an army of approximately 200,000 men. Determined to stop the separate allied armies from combining, he marched into modern-day Belgium in an attempt to defeat each army one by one. On the 16th June, his army defeated and drove back the Prussians, although they were able to retreat and regroup. This Prussian recovery was to prove decisive in the Battle of Waterloo two days later.
At Waterloo the British troops led by Arthur Wellesley, Duke of Wellington, were outnumbered by French but managed to hold them off until the Prussians arrived to break through Napoleon’s right flank. The combined British and Prussian defeated the French, but Wellington himself said that the battle was “the nearest-run thing you ever saw in your life”. Napoleon abdicated soon afterwards and was exiled to St Helena, where he died six years later.
The death of Mumtaz Mahal, the chief consort of the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan, prompted her husband to construct the Taj Mahal.
Mumtaz Mahal, whose name means ‘the Exalted One of the palace’, was originally known as Arjumand Banu Begum. Born into a prominent Persian noble family, she married the future Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in 1612. She is widely recorded as being the favourite of his three wives with whom he shared a genuine love, and who was a valued confidant and trusted advisor.
The birth of couple’s fourteenth child resulted in Mumtaz Mahal’s death on 17 June 1631 from postpartum haemorrhage as a result of excessive blood-loss during a thirty hour labour. The couple were supervising a military campaign in the Deccan Plateau, and so the empress’ remains were temporarily buried at Burhanpur. Her husband entered a long period of mourning, after which he commissioned the construction of the magnificent Taj Mahal as a mausoleum.
Work on the Taj Mahal began in 1632 and, although the majority of the mausoleum’s construction was completed by 1643, the rest of the elaborate complex was not finished for another decade. The mausoleum itself is built of white marble that is inlaid with 28 different types of precious and semi-precious stones brought from all over India and Asia.
In 1658 Shah Jahan was deposed by his third son, Aurangzeb, who put him under house arrest in Agra Fort from where he could see the Taj Mahal in the distance. When he died eight years later, Shah Jahan’s body was taken there by river and laid to rest next to his beloved Mumtaz Mahal.
On June 16th 1958, Hungarian Communist politician Imre Nagy was executed. Arrested after Soviet forces brought the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 to an end, Nagy was found guilty of treason in a secret trial and executed by hanging.
Nagy had been sacked from his position as Chairman of the Council of Ministers in April 1955 due to his independent attitude that favoured a “New Course” in Socialism. Although his moderate reforms were met with hostility from the USSR, they garnered significant support within Hungary where opposition to the hard-line government of Mátyás Rákosi had grown since the death of Stalin in 1953. Nagy’s popular support led to him being appointed Prime Minister on October 24th 1956, the day after the Revolution began.
After a week of violence, Nagy recognised the crowd’s desire for political change. Despite being an ardent Marxist he began moves towards introducing a multiparty political system and, on November 1st, announced Hungary’s withdrawal from the Warsaw Pact and its status as a neutral country. This proved too much for Khrushchev in the USSR, who moved his troops into Budapest and seized control of most of the city by the 8th November. Nagy took refuge in the Yugoslavian embassy, but was arrested when he was given false promises of safe passage to leave Hungary on the 22nd November. He, and other leading members of the deposed government, were imprisoned in Romania until 1958 when they were returned to Hungary for trial.
News of Nagy’s trial and execution were only made public after the sentence had been carried out.
The Pig War border confrontation began when Lyman Cutlar shot a British-owned pig on San Juan Island.
The archipelago of which San Juan Island is part lies between Washington State on the United States mainland and Vancouver, in what was then British North America. The 1846 Oregon Treaty had established a boundary along the 49th parallel along ‘the middle of the channel which separates the continent from Vancouver’s Island’. The problem was that San Juan Island itself lies in the middle of the channel, leading both countries to claim sovereignty over it.
By 1859 the British Hudson’s Bay Company had established a sheep ranch on the island. A small number of American settlers had also arrived under the terms of the Donation Land Claim Act, even though the ownership of the land was disputed.
On 15 June 1859 a free-roaming black pig owned by the Hudson Bay employee Charles Griffin began rooting through American settler Lyman Cutlar’s potato patch. Cutlar shot the pig. Although the exact details of what happened next are unclear, a number of sources claim that Cutlar offered $10 compensation while Griffin demanded $100. Whatever the truth, Griffin reported Cutlar to the British authorities who threatened to arrest him. In response the US General William S. Harney sent 66 soldiers from the 9th Infantry, which the British governor responded to by sending three British warships.
By 10 August a force of 461 Americans and five British ships with over 2,000 men were caught in a tense standoff. However, the arrival of British Rear Admiral Robert L. Baynes heralded a de-escalation of tensions after he refused to ‘involve two great nations in a war over a squabble about a pig.’ An international commission eventually ruled in 1872 that America should control the island.
On the 14th June 1777, the Second Continental Congress passed the so-called Flag Resolution and adopted the stars and stripes as the flag of the United States. The day is now celebrated as Flag Day, which first proclaimed by President Woodrow Wilson in 1916 although it is not an official federal holiday.
The Flag Resolution stated some general parameters for the appearance of the flag. Specifically it said that there should be thirteen alternate red and white stripes and a group of white stars against a blue background. However, it didn’t specify a precise arrangement. Consequently a range of different designs, all of which met the definition, were produced. Of these, the so-called Betsy Ross flag which has the stars arranged in a circle is probably the most famous.
The design of the flag has changed numerous times during its history to reflect the admission of more states into the Union. However, in 1818 Congress approved the Flag Act that specified there should always be thirteen stripes to represent the original thirteen colonies that broke away from British rule, and the same number of stars as states. Consequently the 50 stars on the current flag first appeared after Hawaii joined the United States in 1959.
Therefore the flag about which the national anthem, The Star Spangled Banner, was written is not the same design as the one in use today. That was instead a 15-star, 15-stripe flag flown at Fort McHenry in Baltimore Harbour during a bombardment by British Royal Navy ships in the War of 1812.