8 Famous People That History Got Almost Exactly Wrong
Look, it's not our mission here to prove that history is bullshit. It's just that what you learn in school tends to be boiled down to a few highlights that can be plowed through in one period, and what you learn in movies is the product of some screenwriter pounding it out over a coke-fueled weekend. We turn real human beings into heroes, villains, and crude stereotypes.
The truth is more complicated, as proven by the fact that ...
Mother Teresa Accepted Money From Criminals And Deliberately Neglected Patients
Is there anyone whose reputation is more bulletproof than Mother Teresa? The Catholic nun dedicated her life to helping the impoverished in India, and her work not only won her the Nobel Peace Prize but earned her the fast track to legitimate sainthood. But some people have come out of the woodwork to question Teresa's integrity, including atheist pot-stirrer Christopher Hitchens, who released a documentary about her provocatively entitled Hell's Angel.
For those not familiar with Hitchens, he's that guy you always feel vaguely like
an asshole for agreeing with.
Among the charges against Mother Teresa are that the conditions in her hospital were actually downright appalling, with some medical professionals comparing it to a concentration camp. Since then former members of the religious order she founded have come forward to reveal that the money donated didn't necessarily go toward the poor, and the people lived in horrifying conditions where nurses prepared medicine with their bare hands and reused blunt needles, because apparently you can pray away cross-contamination.
Apparently, Mother Teresa wasn't too concerned about the poor conditions in her hospital because, according to her, suffering brought people closer to Jesus, and she refrained from using anesthesia because relieving people's pain was less important than converting them to Christianity. Apparently that didn't apply to Teresa, because when she fell ill herself, she sought treatment in a modern American hospital. But, hell, she already knew about Jesus.
"So how's about we get a little less prophetic and a little more anesthetic."
But critics also point out that Teresa wasn't too concerned about who she took donations from, and so she became a lightning rod for criminals and tyrants who wanted to make themselves look better by being able to say that they donated to Mother Teresa. Among her top donors were Jean-Claude Duvalier, brutal dictator of Haiti, and banker Charles Keating, who was convicted in the 1990s for fraud and racketeering. On top of everything else, in 1991 it was revealed that only a small amount of the money donated to Mother Teresa's organization could be accounted for. The rest probably went directly into the Vatican's bank vaults, because if there's anyone who needs money more than the poor people of India, it's the pope.
Leonardo Da Vinci Was A Muscular Male Model
If Hollywood made a movie about Leonardo Da Vinci and cast, say, The Rock in the lead role, you'd probably think that was hilarious. After all, when you imagine Leonardo Da Vinci, you're most likely picturing a wizened old bearded guy. While this is the image that has survived through the centuries, the truth is that, in his time, Da Vinci was in fact known for being less Dumbledore and more Dwayne Johnson.
And sometimes wore his suit backwards, apparently.
Multiple accounts from Leonardo's time had people mentioning how taken aback they were by his good looks, with some describing him as "a man of great beauty." In fact, it's thought that his first tutor, Verrocchio, probably initially hired him as a model rather than a student.
But Da Vinci didn't just have incredible cheekbones. His particular obsession with studying the male physique came in part from his own absurd level of fitness. Men in those days had a hard time building large contraptions by hand without the help of machinery, and Da Vinci's reputation for being a master builder starts with the fact that he himself was built like a brick shithouse. It's said that he was able to impress people at parties by bending horseshoes with one hand.
A stunt this walking gym membership ad of a man needs both hands and a fair bit of grunting to pull off.
All this time, we've been doing Leonardo's memory a disservice by picturing him as an eccentric old tinkerer, when in reality he was like someone put the brain of Bruce Banner in the body of The Hulk.
Punk Star Johnny Ramone Was A Staunch Conservative
Johnny Ramone was the guitarist for The Ramones, one of the most influential bands in the history of punk. Punk, of course, has been the genre of choice for left-wing radicals for decades, so it ruffled a few feathers when The Ramones were inaugurated into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame in 2002, and Johnny took to the podium to say, "God bless President Bush, and god bless America." You could just about hear the record scratch echo through the hall.
Not that there's anything scandalous about being a Republican, necessarily -- it's just that you don't see a lot of spiked collars and mohawks at a Ted Cruz rally. There's not much overlap on that particular Venn diagram. Still, it really shouldn't have been too surprising for fans who had followed their career, because although his bandmates leaned to the left politically, Johnny had always been staunchly conservative, a Republican voter, and an NRA member.
Despite looking like someone they would hunt for sport
when big game got too boring.
According to band members Joey and Marky Ramone (the surname is fake; none of the musicians were actually related), Johnny thought that Ronald Reagan was the greatest president in American history and was even right-wing enough that he was one of the dozen or so people in the country who thought Richard Nixon got a raw deal.
Johnny died from cancer shortly after his Hall Of Fame appearance, but it had the effect of inspiring other conservative punk fans to come out to the world. Because, really, what could be more rebellious than standing in that crowd, raising a fist in the air, and screaming for lower capital gains taxes?
"HEY! HO! LET'S GO-P!"
Karl Marx Mooched Off His Wealthy Friends
Karl Marx is perhaps the most influential political thinker of all time, if you consider communism to be a big deal. For someone with such a legendary grudge against capitalism, you'd probably assume he had some terrible bosses in his time, enough to make Dilbert and Office Space combined look like a celebration of the free market. In reality, Marx never held down a job. But that didn't mean he lived the humble, impoverished life of the proletariat, either -- he actually enjoyed an extravagant lifestyle, mooching off his aristocratic wife, whose upper-class background he often bragged about, and sending his kids to expensive private schools.
Maintenance on that beard alone cost more than
most working proles made in a month.
But his wife's old money wasn't his biggest source of income. A full-time lifestyle of philosophizing about economics was expensive to maintain, along with the vintage wines and bathtubs full of cocaine it presumably entailed, so his enormous welfare checks were cut by his significantly richer friend, Friedrich Engels, who you might recognize as the lesser co-author of The Communist Manifesto, even though he did most of the work.
Marx did eventually get a job as a journalist for the New York Daily Tribune, but he couldn't actually speak much English, which was OK because he never actually intended to write for them -- what happened was Engels wrote articles for the paper under Marx's name, with the checks going to Marx. It was a win-win arrangement, because Marx got paid for doing nothing, while Engels ... got to practice his English grammar, we guess?
"I can't help but feel I've identified a flaw in your theories, Karl."
That wasn't the only scam that Marx and Engels ran together with 100 percent of the benefit going to Marx. Engels also embezzled money from his father's company to give to Marx, at great risk to his own career and family. Maybe Engels' biggest one-sided favor was after Marx knocked up his housemaid and Engels claimed himself the father to avoid his friend suffering embarrassment. All things considered, Engels was probably the world's best friend that the world's worst friend could ever have.
Charles Dickens Was Kind Of A Dick
For a writer who is best known for novels about assholes seeing the error of their ways and turning their lives around to serve the best interests of humanity, man was Charles Dickens himself a bigger shit than any character he ever wrote.
According to one biography, Dickens liked to entertain himself by irritating the hell out of people, like your worst friend in college. He would walk up to people in the street and annoy them with nonsense jokes, and would obnoxiously hit on women in ways that would have gotten him pepper-sprayed nowadays. On one occasion, he picked a woman up without her consent and carried her down the beach, insinuating that he was going to kill her. This was all great fun for Dickens, but less fun for his wife.
The woman who believed she was about to be abducted and murdered
probably wasn't laughing either.
Oh yes, he was married at the time. And his wife suffered from his assholery more than anyone. From referring to her as a "donkey," to hitting on teenage girls in plain sight, he was emotionally abusive enough that he'd be right at home in a Charles Dickens novel. But, like they say, the best writers write what they know.
Presumably this meant he made her sweep chimneys
and live on strictly portioned gruel.
The worst episode in their nightmare marriage was when Dickens, aged 45 and with nine kids, started having an affair with 18-year-old actress Ellen Ternan. Dickens kept the affair secret for fear that it would destroy his reputation. This became more difficult as time went on, due to complications such as them conceiving a child together.
Eventually, the deceit became too exhausting for him, but rather than end the affair, he divorced his wife, leaving her with a generous alimony but forbidding her access to their nine children. He then spent the rest of his life talking to anyone who would listen about what a crappy mother she had been and how she was possibly insane, just so he could keep the truth about his infidelity under wraps. All this really takes the punch out of the moral to A Christmas Carol.
Queen Victoria Was Just A Gigantic Person
It's no secret that Queen Victoria was a little on the chubby side. But while nobody was ever under the illusion that she could be mistaken for an Olsen twin, facts have recently come to light about just how large she was. Those facts involve the 2014 auction of her 52-inch-waist underwear, which reportedly can fit three people comfortably.
We don't know what kind of people were willing to shell out cold, hard cash -- over $4,000, in fact -- for Queen Victoria's underthings. The buyers opted to remain anonymous, but let's just say that they're now in possession of a very large conversation piece or a comfortable silk bed sheet.
Nothing like paying the price of a used car for trapped farts from the 1860s.
The auctioneer delicately explained that, by this point in her life, the queen "had eaten a lot more than most people could afford to." Apparently, the underwear was donated to her servants in her will, which is the least she could do to thank the team of people who likely had to help her into them every morning. Now your boss' crappy Christmas cards don't look so bad. Or they look worse; we're not sure.
And while we're grossly body-shaming the giants of history ...
Napoleon Was A Normal-Sized Person, But He Had A Tiny Penis
We've already revealed that the idea of French dictator Napoleon being really short is a demonstrably untrue myth. He was actually slightly above average in height and just took a bunch of photos alongside freakishly tall guards that gave rise to the illusion. However, there may be another reason why Napoleon could have had a so-called "Napoleon complex."
The artifact delicately named "Napoleon's Item" was removed during his autopsy back in 1821 and kept preserved by a priest until it was placed on display by the Museum Of French Art in 1927. In case you don't know what we're talking about, it's his dick. This entry is about Napoleon's dick.
"My forward artillery is none of your business."
His tiny dick, as it turns out. The British TV series Dead Famous DNA went in search of the treasured artifact in 2014 and found it in New Jersey of all places, in the home of a private collector who is apparently unwilling to show it to just anyone, for reasons most people can probably understand.
Analysis of the item reveals that it is just under two inches in length. The owner admits that it is "very small" but also says that it is "perfect structurally," as if that's any consolation. The takeaway is that the dude was barely packing plural inches. No wonder he was angry all the time.
Who would've guessed he was trying to compensate for something.
To be fair to Mr. Bonaparte, most dicks get pretty underwhelming on a cold day, so we can only imagine what happens after you lop them off and store them in a jar for nearly two centuries.
King Tut Was Highly Deformed Due To Inbreeding
Tutankhamun, affectionately nicknamed King Tut, is probably the only Egyptian pharaoh other than Cleopatra that you could name on a pop quiz. Even so, you probably only think of him as a guy with a snake on his hat who did The Bangles' Egyptian walk. Tut wasn't actually that important a figure in ancient Egyptian history, and there are really only two things we know about his life -- he died young, probably a teenager, and he was incredibly deformed. These two facts are probably related.
Upon the discovery of Tutankhamun's tomb and mummy in 1922, it was noticed that all the paintings of the pharaoh showed him carrying a stick. Although some portrayed him using it as a weapon, so it was theorized at the time that he just liked hitting people with sticks. Maybe he was just a dick that way.
Seems to fit with our experiences with dudes who
wander around exposing their abs all day.
But further analysis of his corpse showed that he probably needed a walking stick to get around at all, because he suffered just about every physical deformity you can imagine.
Still doing better than ol' Bonaparte, at least.
See, the Egyptian royal family had kind of a predilection toward marrying their own siblings in order to keep the bloodline pure. This habit led to genetic deformities, and in Tutankhamun's unfortunate case, he fell out of the incest tree and hit every branch on the way down. Studies show that he had: an extreme overbite, a club foot, a skeletal deformity called Kohler disease, and unusually wide hips. On top of that, he suffered a broken leg at some point and contracted malaria.
No wonder his tomb contained an unusual number of statues intended as servants to help the pharaoh in the afterlife. He probably needed a dozen people to help him get out of bed in the morning, and that was when his legs were still alive.
Manna's tweets will hopefully not be archived by future people.
Honestly, school and Hollywood has screwed up our vision of everything. Like did you know dinosaurs had feathers? See that and more in 6 Things From History Everyone Pictures Incorrectly. And did you know that pretty much everyone knew the world was round when Columbus set sail? Learn more in The 5 Most Ridiculous Lies You Were Taught In History Class.
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