6 Historic Events You Didn't Realize Everyone Was Drunk For
It's hard not to imagine history as a fairly dry, boring series of events that shaped our world before humanity invented the concept of "fun." But as we've shown you before, about half of your history textbook should read like the arrest report after a raid at a frat party. If you're ever reading about a historical event and something just doesn't seem to add up, it's because the editors cut the line "and, of course, they were all completely blasted out of their minds the whole time." Like ...
The Tsar's Wine Cellar Puts the Russian Revolution on Hold
The capture of the Winter Palace in 1917 was the Bolshevik equivalent of destroying the Death Star. Winning the deciding battle in the Russian Revolution was a great excuse for the rebellion to celebrate. Luckily for them, the palace came pre-equipped for such a celebration -- while exploring their new home, the revolutionaries stumbled upon the world's largest wine cellar, stocked with $91 million worth of the world's finest wines, cognacs, whiskeys, and vodkas.
And brandys, and vodkas, and rums, and vodkas, and vodkas.
The soldiers immediately started drinking, and because communism is all about sharing, they invited everyone in Saint Petersburg to join them. The then-capital was crippled stupid by weeks of drunken shenanigans so epic, the Bolsheviks had to put the war on hold just to deal with it. It was like a Purge Night at Caligula's house.
After the commissar of the Winter Palace, appointed by Lenin, ended up drunk on the job, they tried to cut the city off by flooding the wine cellar ... only to find people diving in for it. Russians likewise jumped in the frozen Neva River to rescue thrown wine bottles, and when the authorities just started dumping it out on the ground, people dove head first into the gutters to drink and fought one another for precious liquor-stained snow.
Then they'd pee on the ground and get drunk on pee-stained snow.
Saint Petersburg's insatiable craving for booze was so strong it collapsed in upon itself, creating a drunken singularity from which no sobriety could escape until all within the city's orbit had been sucked dry of alcohol. The party ended over a month later when the cellars had dried up, and Saint Petersburg awoke with the Tsar of all headaches. And that's how the Soviet Union was born: by violently and passionately confirming every stereotype ever uttered about Russians.
The Congress of Vienna Was a Drunken, Horny Mess
The fall of Napoleon's first empire in 1814 caused one hell of a power vacuum in Europe, with dozens of nations left without governments or well-defined borders. To prevent a large chunk of civilization from turning into an unsupervised kindergarten class, world leaders gathered in Vienna for nine months to hold a series of conferences to decide Europe's future.
It was like Risk, only shorter.
If you're picturing a bunch of stuffy politicians holding a stoic series of boring meetings, then you underestimate Europe and its leaders circa 1814. The Vienna Congress gathered Europe's richest, most powerful boozehounds and sex fiends together in one place, and then it granted them all diplomatic immunity. They were morally, if not legally, obligated to party like it was 1799.
Over the following weeks of drunken debauchery, Prussian and Russian delegates including Tsar Alexander had several regular drunken run-ins with the police. One British delegate, Robert Stewart, became notorious for antics like riding under the influence through Vienna on his flower-adorned horse and fighting carriage drivers, one of whom cracked Stewart in the face with a whip during an altercation. Stewart also turned every inn he stayed at into what locals aptly described as a "fucking-shop."
And when you shop at Stew-Mart, you buy in bulk.
French Ambassador Talleyrand bedded a mother and daughter, while Tsar Alexander and Prince Metternich regularly slept with each other's courtesans -- ostensibly to "gather political information." Which is a pretty sweet euphemism, we have to admit. Smaller countries like Poland were getting fucked over in a less fun way, by the actual diplomatic results. The Congress became famous mainly for its failed diplomacy and "disreputable practice and intrigue." Though one group did benefit hugely from the event: champagne producers.
The Eggnog Riot of West Point
Founded in 1802, the United States Military Academy at West Point in New York is the oldest military academy in America. In 1826, the head of the Academy was Sylvanus Thayer, the military equivalent of the crusty, old, fun-hating dean from a college comedy. Thayer decided that, to elevate the institution to greatness, he first had to enhance discipline, decorum, and academic achievement, all of which shared a common enemy: alcohol.
"Why am I writing on air? Because of alcohol!"
So he did the unthinkable, and decreed that alcohol was forbidden on academy grounds, even at the cadets' traditional eggnog-fueled Christmas boozefest. Faced with the threat of a safe and sober Christmas, the cadets simply smuggled in four gallons of whiskey and got drunk in their dorms.
Completely unsupervised, the cadets drank with a zeal that would kill an Irish fraternity. Captain Hitchcock, one of the teachers on watch duty, tried to knock down the door of one of the party rooms, only to have a cadet pull out his personal sidearm and try to shoot the teacher. And then the party hit that turning point where everybody stops having fun and the drama starts. Cadets stopped hilariously rolling down the halls, using the walls, furniture, and windows as bayonet practice, and started ripping up banisters and chopped up stairs to defend against a non-existent siege by the authorities.
To tire recruits from ever trying this again, we had to invent perpetual war.
By Christmas morning, the hungover and half-naked cadets were finally ready to retire and anoint their bedroom floors with the eggnog curdling in their stomachs, only to discover that they had pretty much destroyed the entire North Barracks overnight. Thayer was not in the Christmas spirit, and a random selection of 19 of the drunkest offenders were expelled. Students at the time included Confederate figures Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis. By luck of the draw, they were not among the banished and went on to graduate with honors. Which means if one crusty, old dean had been just a little more severe in his punishment, the Civil War might have played out a whole lot differently.
A Royal Cruise Ship Ends in Drunken Disaster
In 1120, 17-year-old William Adelin, sole legitimate heir of King Henry I, was about to sail home to England with his father after a diplomatic mission. In an ill-advised attempt to be the cool dad, Henry allowed William and his personal entourage to take a separate boat, the White Ship. Now, remember what you did as a 17-year-old with the house all to yourself? Multiply that by a factor of boat.
And when this douche screamed, "I'm the king of the world," he fucking meant it.
The prince and his party crew were already drunk before they boarded the ship. The story goes that they threw the priests off the vessel as the holy men tried to bless it for a safe voyage, which is some real fine foreshadowing. In their party-minded generosity, Adelin and his friends sent wine to the crew, who also started getting plastered -- if this was a movie, here's where the ominous music begins to swell. At some point, the drunken passengers urged the drunken crew to pick up the pace to catch the rest of the fleet.
"This dangerous and unnecessary race sounds like a great idea!" said every drunk person ever.
"It'll be fine! The Breathalyzer hasn't even been invented yet!"
The sails were unfurled and the White Ship blasted ahead in an attempt to overtake the leading vessels, at which point we assume everyone planned to drop their pants and moon the king. Unfortunately, this took them off course from their planned safer route and into dangerous waters full of shallows and rocks. The White Ship ran aground, and everyone on board was lost except a butcher, who was the only one left to report the story.
"Still, bitchin' party," we assume the butcher said.
The Ball of the Burning Men
King Charles VI of France went down in history with the nickname "Charles the Mad," and in case you're wondering, it's not because he loved the magazine. Due to regular, inconvenient bouts of psychosis, the court physicians ordered Charles to keep himself entertained, which is why in 1393 he threw a costumed ball. Man, that's a doctor-prescribed party -- you know it has to be good.
So much better than parties prescribed by Lucius, the voice in his head.
The entertainment for the night was a "wild man" parade -- which was basically a group of knights chained together in crude animal costumes dancing about. (Times were different before television.) The king was having so much fun that he decided to join in on the parade, ordered his own wild man costume be brought to him, and fell into line. At this point, it's worth mentioning that these costumes were made out of grease-soaked linen covered in flax, resin, and feathers, and the only available lighting in those days came in the form of flaming torches, which tend to cause problems if they come into contact with grease-soaked linen, flax, resin, or feathers.
Do you see where this is going?
Greasy feather orgy?
The king's brother, the Duke of Orleans, arrived at the party late and as drunk as only a duke can be. He stumbled over to the procession carrying a lit candelabra in order to get a better look at the dancing idiots, held it a little too close to the incredibly flammable suits, and earned the party a historical name: "The Ball of the Burning Men."
In an instant, the horrifically still-chained-together wild men turned into a napalm conga-line. According to medieval historians, all the men were burned to death except two -- one who managed to leap into a vat of water, and the king, whose aunt Jeanne saved him by throwing her dress over his burning body.
The sight of aunty's crotch scarred more deeply than any flame.
The incident didn't do much for the king's mental health, and the duke was pretty bummed out after he sobered up, but at least it did alert the palace to the importance of fire safety. The event was fictionalized in Edgar Allan Poe's short story "Hop Frog," in which a vengeful dwarf executes the royal family in the same way, and if you're thinking that's the kind of story that should be adapted to film starring Peter Dinklage, Hollywood is way ahead of you.
A Drunken Argument Over Flowers Results in a Topless Duel
In 1892, at a grand musical gala in Vienna held by Princess Pauline of Liechtenstein, the Countess Kielmannsegg had the gaucheness to diss the princess' choice of flower arrangements. The two women bickered for hours over angry glasses of champagne and a few lines of snuff, until finally the princess threw Victorian social niceties out the window -- she wanted blood.
The women ditched passive-aggressive digs and instead opted to fetch Pauline's dueling swords. Two other noble ladies were selected as their seconds. Baroness Lubinska was appointed the doctor/MC, and we're assuming she was actually a man in drag, since she recommended that the princess and countess strip above the waist, to avoid infection from the swords pushing sweaty and possibly lead-soaked clothes into their wounds. The ladies disrobed, and thus followed a fancy Victorian topless girl-on-girl swordfight. You didn't even know you were into that, but now you totally are.
Even some of you that aren't into women at all.
Neither woman had ever actually used swords before, so for a few awkward minutes they just flailed about, bosoms and weapons heaving through the air. Finally, the princess opened a cut on the countess' face, and the countess in turn stabbed the princess through her arm. As if by some magical sixth sense, gentlemen heard the commotion, started gathering to watch, and totally ruined the whole vibe. The ladies were done fighting, the princess was declared the winner, and the Baroness Lubinska chased off the men with an umbrella.
And now you're hot for Victorian umbrella ladies.
This was considered to be the first "emancipated duel" in which both participants were women. It inspired copycat lady-duels as well as a very niche genre of art. So there you go: don't say we never gave you nothing; we just gifted you a new fetish and a head-start on the accompanying porn.
For more drunk ragers from our ancestors, check out The 5 Most Inspiring Things Ever Accomplished (While Drunk) and The 7 Most Unexpectedly Awesome Parties in History.
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