Skip to comments.No, Lady Godiva wasn't & an apple didn't fall on Newton's head... some historical myths revealed
Posted on 05/30/2008 12:06:37 PM PDT by yankeedame
By Daily Mail Reporter
Last updated at 1:29 AM on 30th May 2008
For decades, visitors to HMS Victory have stood solemnly by a plaque in gold lettering announcing the exact spot on the orlop deck where Nelson met his end.
But this week it was revealed he didn't actually die there after all - it was 25 feet to the fore that he passed away - and the ship's curator Peter Goodwin admitted: 'History is not always what it appears to be.' So what other historical 'facts' are wrong? Here, we uncover a surprising number.
Contrary to popular belief the
Emperor Napoleon I of France, never said,
'Not tonight, Josephine'
The phrase first appeared in a play about Napoleon that was not written until 1835, 14 years after Napoleon's death, and the audience roared with laughter because the Bonapartes' marriage was notoriously lusty.
Nor was Napoleon particularly small, despite his nickname, Le Petit Corporal ('The Little Corporal'). He was in fact 5ft 7in, which was fairly tall for the average European male of the early 19th century.
It is also quite untrue that so-called 'witches' were burned at the stake after the notorious witch trials in Salem, Massachusetts, in 1692.
Of the 150 men and women arrested, 31 were tried and 20 were executed, all by hanging except one who was crushed to death by a door that had heavy stones placed upon it.
Of course they were all terrible ways for innocent people to die, but the burning of witches was not standard practice, as it had been for people convicted of heresy in earlier times.
The story about Sir Isaac Newton discovering gravity when an apple fell on his head as he was sitting under an apple tree is an invention.
Decades after Newton's death in 1727, the French philosopher Voltaire put it in a book, claiming that Newton's niece, Catherine Conduitt, believed it to be true.
If it had been, Newton would probably have made some kind of reference to it during his lifetime.
Jean-Jacques Rousseau, wrote about Marie Antoinette who had ignorantly joked about the starving people of Paris but she was only 11 Volitaire's fellow Enlightenment philosopher, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, wrote about a princess who had ignorantly joked about the starving people of Paris, telling a courtier: 'Let them eat cake.'
That was in 1766, when Marie Antoinette was only 11 years old. Yet 20 years later, the story got around that it had been she who had made this remark, which went some way to creating the atmosphere of hatred that led to her execution in 1793.
Three of the things that everyone knows about the Elizabethan sailor-adventurer Sir Walter Raleigh was that he was responsible for bringing both potatoes and tobacco to England, and that he laid his gorgeous, bejeweled cloak in the mud for Queen Elizabeth I to step on and save her feet from getting dirty.
Yet all three are fictional. Potatoes had been brought to England (from Italy) the year before Raleigh popularized them in 1586 and the Frenchman, Jean Nicot (after whom nicotine is named) introduced tobacco a full 26 years before Raleigh had his first smoke.
The story of the Queen and Raleigh's cloak emerged in 1584 without foundation, but became so connected with him that when he made up his coat of arms, he included a cloak in them, and pretended it was true.
And it wasn't in fact Captain James Cook who discovered Australia when he sailed into Sydney in 1770, because years earlier the Dutchmen Abel Tasman (who gave his name to Tasmania) and Dirk Hartog, and an English pirate, William Dampier, had already got there.
A travel poster for Australia, showing Captain Cook landing
in 1770 but it had actually been discovered by a Dutchman
There were plenty of places Cook did discover on his great travels in the 1770s, but he can't claim the whole continent of Australia, and nor was he strictly speaking a captain, holding the rank of lieutenant when he sailed there for the first time.
Nero could never have ' fiddled while Rome burned'. For all the movies that we see of the lunatic Emperor playing his violin maniacally as Rome burned around him in 64BC, caring nothing for his subjects as they died in the Great Fire that he himself had started, there is not a grain of truth in the story.
Fiddles weren't invented for another millennium, and Nero was 35 miles outside the city at Antium when the fire broke out.
Although the Americans love their Fourth of July celebrations, with fireworks and parties, the signing of the Declaration did not actually take place then, but on July 2, 1776.
The 4th was merely the day that the document itself went to the printers. Nor did America legally become independent until much later, after the American War of Independence ended on September 3, 1783, with what was called the Definitive Treaty of Peace.
America's greatest inventor,Thomas Edison,came up with the ideas for many great and world- changing things, but the electric lightbulb was not in fact one of them.
Thomas Edison and the electric lightbulb which he invented
ich is one from a box of 23 bulbs that were found in an attic
used in his 1890 patent court case
That was invented by the Englishman Sir Humphry Davy who thought up the concept of a carbon filament arc light.
What Edison, or at least his many engineers, managed to do was discover a better filament that would glow for long enough for the light to be worthwhile. Edison did however, take out over a thousand patents in his lifetime, for inventions connected with telegraphy, megaphones, gramaphones, the kinetoscope, and metallurgy.
Godiva riding through the streets naked sadly
not ring true
Although everyone loves the tale of the Tenth century Anglo-Saxon noblewoman Lady Godiva, who was supposed to have ridden naked through Coventry to pressure her husband Leofric into treating his tenants better, very little about it actually rings true.
Leofric was famously generous, endowing a Benedictine monastery in Coventry in 1043 under no apparent compulsion from Godiva, clothed or naked.
Some have claimed that the story originates from a custom in which penitents were forced to make a public procession in only their shift, a sleeveless white garment considered underwear, or that Lady Godiva's nakedness refers to her riding through the streets stripped of her jewellery, the trademark of her upper-class rank.
But neither of these accounts accord with the plain fact of her husband Leofric's legendary generosity.
The great Dutch artist Vincent Van Gogh did not actually cut off his own ear, as the most powerful legend in the history of art states - or at least not much of it.
The popular myth about Van
Gogh is exactly that - it was in
fact Paul Gauguin who cut off a
portion of his left lobe
In fact, after a great quarrel with fellow post-impressionist painter Paul Gauguin in 1890, Van Gogh cut off a portion of his left lobe. He did later commit suicide, however, taking two days to die from a gunshot wound.
George Washington was not the first of America's 43 presidents. During the American War of Independence, the Continental Congress sitting in Pennsylvania chose Peyton Randolph as their first President.
He then appointed General Washington as commander of the Revolutionary army, called the Continental Army.
In 1781, John Hancock became president, and Washington wrote to him addressing the letter to 'The President of the United States'. Washington only became the first popularly elected President of the United States.
The story is also told that George Washington as a young boy chopped down a cherry tree, but such was his honesty that when asked by his father who had done it, said: 'Father, I cannot lie: it was me'. He was then beaten soundly. This too, is a complete fabrication.
As imperator he should have mobilized a few legions to restore order, set up temporary quarters, dig latrines and open the granaries for dole purposes.
Actually show up and behave like he might give a rat's ass about his people.
Sure, but I was thinking of the phrase “WHILE Rome burned” so I was focusing just on the fire-fighting aspect that was pretty hopeless in those days. But you are right of course, there is an enormous set of relief challenges beginning even while such a castrophe is underway and continuing long after.
“...However, it is true that Trix are for kids....”
And the walrus WAS Paul.
Excuse me, but there is no such thing as a practical carbon filament arc light. A filament could not sustain an arc for even a fraction of a second.
We all have probably seen a "filament" arc light... it is the extremely bright light you see when a lightbulb burns out. That light is the arc across the two broken ends of the filament as it falls away from where it broke.
Electric light was not a new thing when Edison invented his vacuum filled carbon filament bulb. What Sir Humphrey Davy invented was the Carbon Arc lamp... which was used up until the 1970s in movie projectors (I was a projectionist in college), stage follow spot lights ... and are still being used in the large ballyhoo lights, which are essentially surplus WWII Siege/air-raid lights, used at theater openings and store grand-openings.
Carbon arc lamps work by using two carbon rods connected to a high voltage source. They are touched together and then backed away from contact after a very bright arc of electricity is started. The rods are consumed by the high heat over a fairly short period of time. As the rods are consumed, the operator or an automatic mechanism keeps moving the points of consumption so that the arc is maintained. IIRC, 2 - 10" by 1/4" carbon rods will last about a half hour... or two reels time of a movie... before having to be replaced.
Edison invented the first successful electric lightbulb after trying and testing over 1500 different filament materials.
Captain James Cook did not discover Australia . . . nor was he strictly speaking a captain, holding the rank of lieutenant when he sailed there for the first time.
Yes, he was. He was the master of the ship which makes him, very strictly speaking, a Captain, regardless of any official rank. Another such case was Lieutenant William Bligh, the infamous master of the Bounty, who was also a Captain when his some of his crew mutinied against him. Lieutenant Bligh was exonerated of any wrong doing in the mutiny and was commended for his seamanship. He eventually reached the rank of Vice-Admiral... but when he mastered a ship, as Vice-Admiral, he was still a Captain.
To this day, if a military Captain is aboard a US Navy ship, he is addressed as Commodore, not Captain, to avoid confusion with the real master of the ship, who may have an official rank far below the "Commodore's." Captain James Cook had been hired by the Royal Society, a non-military organization, to make the journey to the Pacific to make observations of the Transit of Venus across the face of the Sun. He and his ship were on loan from the Royal Navy to the Royal Society. His rank aboard ship absolutely was Captain... and he was also the expedition Commander. I do not believe it has ever been claimed that Cook "discovered" Australia. That honor actually does go to Abel Tasman. Cook was the first European to circumnavigate New Zealand and map the South Eastern Australia coast.
Actually the Roman fire department (the watch) was pretty good for that day and time. They had to be as Rome caught fire on a regular basis.
A couple of contemporary sources attest that while the fire was raging he was acting in a play and playing the lyre in safety and luxury.
And some others report that he was active in directing the effort against the fire and assisting with the evacuation.
It is entirely possible that he WAS acting in a play, or playing a lyre, when the first reports were brought to him of the conflagration's start. It is also possible that he delegated authority to handle the problem and remained safely out of harms way.
It is also possible that he had a bad reputation that was imputed to him as propaganda in later years because of his treatment of the Christian martyrs of Rome.
Can you imagine what history/myth in 2000 years will report about G.W. Bush and what he was doing at the time of 9-11?
I thought the same about the allegation that Sir Walter Raleigh did not spread his cloak for the Queen and he merely "pretended" it was true. Would not he be a contemporaneous sourceespecially since he included it in his family coat of arm? This comment is based on a LACK of contemporary commentary.
The "pretended" comment is particularly egregious given the lack of facts to back it up. There were no "newspapers" with gossip columns or anything like them that would have published such gossipat the time. The closest thing was the posting of Broadsheets with announcements and some news that would be read by someone literate to whoever would listen. Word of mouth would have spread the story of the gallant Raleigh and such "gossip" may not or may not have been written down by any of the diarists of the day.
Do you suppose he might be metaphorically related to a certain Pastor Wright who never let the truth get in the way of a bad story?
Remember WWII? Well according to some the Holocaust didn't happen and the bombing of Nagasaki and Hiroshima were war crimes and done due to the violent racism of America and not actually to save lives on both sides.
from May, an amusement.
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......And Capn Crunch was only a Lieutenant
Since Apr 21, 1999
Actually, Cap'n Crunch is a well known FReeper and has been at FR for a long time.
Hiya Cap'n! How's things?
And John Dillinger’s...ahem...Johnson was normal size, not bodacious as often reported. I have read an eyewitness report from a physician present at Dillinger’s autopsy.
I had read once that the riding unclothed was in protest of taxes.
It was. I don’t think that type of protest would do much good today.
The thought crossed my mind that we should somehow get a million nekkid wimmins to ride Arabian horses in protest of the gas prices, but I suspect the ride would have better results if we did it in front of the oil companies’ corporate offices. Mebbe.
Protest of taxes, fiddlesticks. She exhausted her clothing budget on the horse.
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