5 Ridiculous and Funny Real Events of European History
Even though most of history is dates and boring Latin names and reasons not to repeat history, if you dig deep and wide enough you’ll find some amusing stories and events worth it. So here’s some funny stories you can tell when you want to make small talk with the cute colleague and you don’t know what to say to her.
5. Three Popes were elected at the same time and excommunicated each other
We all know who the Pope is. This is his Twitter. He’s the president of the Vatican, right? And we all know there’s only one pope reigning at any given time since St Peter, right? Wrong. See, in the Middle Ages (the best things happened back there), two, and then three men claimed to be pope at the same time. And they tried to excommunicate each other. So, gather round kids for story time.
From about 1309 to 1377 the popes exercised their papacy from Avignon, France. This trend all started because Pope Clement V, a French guy, was too lazy to move in his office in Rome, therefore he brought the office to him. And so did the next five popes. But in 1377, Pope Gregory XI made a radical move and returned the papacy to Rome. The French, of course, did not like this, and some cardinals supported by France elected their own pope. Now, each side continued to elect their own pope and Europeans got confused over which one to support.
Finally, in 1409 cardinals came to their senses and decided to meet; they put aside their differences, because is there really a difference between Italians and a French? And finally they elected a unified pope, John XXIII. This is where it gets better: neither of the popes agreed to step down. The 3 Popes in power excommunicated each-other thus arriving in a comical deadlock. It took another council in Constance to fully restore order in the Catholic Church. Martin V was elected the new legitimate Pope. The old ones were called Antipopes. The poor, consensual John XXIII pope was imprisoned, the pope in Rome resigned and the pope in Avignon was removed from power. At least, this whole experience gave us a cool superhero villain name: The Antipope.
4. King Henry VII starts religion to divorce his wife
The first wife of Henry VIII was his dead brother’s wife. We’re immediately dwelling into Game of Thrones territory, so you should probably know what happens to medieval royal families. When Henry and Catherine married in 1509, both were Roman Catholics. Everyone in England was at that time. But all of a sudden Henry decided to end the marriage. Not sure why but the fact that Catherine was unlikely to give him a son and the fact that he became infatuated with Anne Boleyn, were two strong reasons.
To marry Anne, he would have to divorce Catherine. But, he couldn’t divorce her without losing his head or, since he was a king, at least losing his ties with the powerful Roman Catholic Church. See, the punishment for heresy was death and divorce was immoral and a great offence to the sanctity of marriage. The only way was to convince the Pope to annul the marriage, a really rare occurrence for the royal families in Europe.
Henry then tried different ways to persuade the Pope. First, he used the old ‘Do you know who I am’ and ‘since I am the King of England and Wales, I can do what I want’ techniques. Neither of them worked. He didn’t stop there though. Secondly, he used his knowledge of the Bible. In the Old Testament it was stated that “It is an impurity for a man to take his brother’s wife”. Henry argued that his marriage to Catherine was doomed since the beginning because it was against God’s law. He was therefore living in sin and the Pope had to annul his marriage to save the innocent King from eternal damnation and of course to save Catherine’s soul too.
Rome was openly challenged by this king who found a goddamn loophole, so they gave this a great deal of theological thought. But in the end, the answer was simple. Henry married his brother’s wife when his brother was dead. The Bible said that you should not marry your brother’s wife while he was still alive. Hence, this was not an issue and certainly did not condemn Henry to eternal damnation.
In the end Henry came up with the genius idea that made a lot of people rich: start his own religion with his own rules. He set up the Church of England and made all Church officials swear that he was its leader so he could arrange his own divorce. Between 1536 and 1540, Henry then ordered the closing down of all Roman Catholic monasteries across his kingdom, was declared “Supreme Head of the Church of England”, divorced Catherine and married the now pregnant Anne, which was totally fine according to his religion.
And they lived happily ever after? Nope. We warned you from the beginning. After she failed to give him a son, he executed her.
3. The Swiss army accidentally invades Lichtenstein… three times
Lichtenstein is a pretty awesome country. One of the smallest in the world, but one of the wealthiest, they mind their own business. They’re a good neighbor to have. In fact they are so chill, they don’t even have an army and there is no border patrol between them and Switzerland.
On the other side, there is the very serious country of Switzerland, famous for their banks of chocolate. Or it might be banks and chocolate, but every country has those, so they probably have banks of chocolate. But, the fact that Lichtenstein is so small and right there at the border has led to some “happy” little accidents.
The first time, in 1985, during an artillery exercise, several rockets fired by the Swiss army changed trajectory and landed in a forest in Lichtenstein. The magnificent forest, a protected area, caught fire. Even though the Liechtensteiner people are so cool, nobody fucks with their forests. This caused a diplomatic incident which ended with Switzerland paying several million francs in damages.
Next time it was in 1992. Due to a simple mistake, like forgetting that the city of Triesenberg was not on Swiss territory, Swiss military crossed the border to set up an observation post there. This time, of course, no harm was done, but the Swiss had to apologize and promise never to do that again. Which they did, 15 years later. Again, the army marched into the foreign country and was a mile into Lichtenstein before they realized that the grass was totally greener on this side. The awesome part is that Swiss authorities informed Lichtenstein that their border had been breached and apologized, again. After being notified of this, a Lichtenstein government spokesperson responded harshly: “It has happened before… Nobody really realized it… It’s not like they stormed over here with attack helicopters or something.” Some down to earth people.
We would be a little more perplexed if we lived in Liechtenstein. Either the Swiss army gets really bored at being neutral or this is the slowest country invasion in history.
2. Austrian fleet surrenders after a kettle of soup is shot
Twas the year 1784. The Netherlands was split in two parts: the south, which was controlled by Austria and the north which was free and had formed their own republic. But the northern Netherlands had closed off two important trading ports, Ghent and Antwerp. While the north prospered economically, the south was angry at this. The Austrian emperor grew tired of this shit gave them an ultimatum: “Either give us access to the ports or we’ll kick your ass so high, you won’t be called The Low Countries anymore.”
But the Dutch basically said “fuck you and your neck bolo tie”. Nobody makes fun of the Emperor’s neck bolo tie, so he sent out three warships. Since the northern Netherlands were neutral in any conflict, the emperor expected to seize the ports easily. But a small Dutch anchored ship, called Den Dolphyn, fired a shot towards the Austrians. The ship that was fired upon, Le Louis, was unharmed but not the kettle on deck which was full with soup. After this, they fired a warning cannon.
The soup-covered Austrians were scared shitless and immediately surrendered to the Dutch. Let us say that again: Immediately. This was the only casualty of this brutal war, “1 soup kettle and presumably all the soup held within”. To add insult to injury, the Dutch also captured one of Austria’s nearby fortress. The Emperor, now furious with his army, declared war on the northern Netherland, but nothing important really happened. His fleet had just surrendered after one shot. They were not intimidating anymore; they were to be taunted by the Dutch for years to come. Anyway, the countries signed a treaty the following year and something economically good happened to both of them. We don’t care anymore.
- Prussian Emperor is super obsessed with tall soldiers
Being a little nuts has always been a requirement to be a King in medieval Europe. So was Frederick William I of Prussia. He reigned from 1713 to 1740. From his birth, he had already the titles of His Serene Highness, His Royal Highness and His Majesty, so based on the requirement we just created, he was predestined to have some royal quirks. Little prince Frederick hated everything his father loved.
While there’s nothing wrong with some teenage rebellion, he took those whims to the extreme when he got the throne. He hated French and their language so much that just mentioning it in his court could make him lose his temper. He went so far as to hang the criminals only in French clothes. That is some next level detestation there.
But that is not why he got the nickname The Soldier-King. See, the king had an unusual hobby: collecting tall men for his army. It was more than a hobby, it was a weakness. Let us cite the king himself as he confided to the French ambassador: “The most beautiful girl or woman in the world would be a matter of indifference to me, but tall soldiers — they are my weakness”
Frederick decreased the expenses of the court and increased the expenses for the military. He dedicated one of his regiments to tall soldiers, called The Potsdam Giants. Now the problem was recruiting them and the king spared no expense in recruiting them. Agents of the crown were dispersed everywhere on the lookout for giants. Whenever they found one, the King would offer large sums of money to the parents for permission to recruit him. When they didn’t come voluntarily, the King would order his kidnapping, even risking a war. Things went too far when his agents tried to kidnap a tall Austrian getting on a cab but the tall Austrian fought back. Later they learned that the failed victim was not just a tall Austrian guy but a tall Austrian diplomat. When other kings started protesting his failed kidnapping attempts of their citizens, the king turned to an in-house solution: The mating of tall women with tall men. A special program that would ensure tall kids, hopefully boys, for his regiment. No need to say that this didn’t quite work out.
Even though Frederick went through all of these problems to raise The Army of the Talls, he never risked them in battle. The giants were more of a collection. He painted their portraits, and would have them marching on his bedroom to cheer him up.
Thankfully for tall people, this regiment was dissolved in 1806 by his son Frederick the Great. He allowed them to return to their homes, which is why at that time so many people were wondering: why are so many wandering giants in the streets these days?