In the 1500s, 'The Minions' Were Murderous Swordsmen With Great Hats

Get ready for a tale of intrigue, swordplay, and a blademaster with one heck of a name.
In the 1500s, 'The Minions' Were Murderous Swordsmen With Great Hats

Welcome back to Cracked's Wikipedia Deep Dive. We recently visited Blockula, or the devil's island in Sweden; today we shall discuss The Minions versus the fatal Bussy. Yes, you read that right.

The year was 1578 and, as always, Europe was having a normal one. Hats were tinier than ever, scientists were making incredible advances in the field of drinking arsenic, and France was being terrorized by the notorious Minions. These weren’t the goggle-loving hobgoblins so common in our own society, but a team of elite duelists loyal to King Henri III. If anyone was heard to criticize the king, the Minions (or “Mignons” in French) would instantly challenge them to an epic sword fight through the streets of Paris, before inevitably cutting them down. 

tiny European hat from history

Jean de Court/Conde Museum

And you thought we were kidding about the tiny hats.

Not that these Minions would ever be caught dead in dungarees. Instead, they were known as the hottest dressers of the age (the term “mignons” can be roughly translated as “cuties”). They even competed in bloody tournaments while wearing fancy dress in front of a crowd of shrieking ladies. Basically, imagine getting eviscerated on stage by a member of BTS and you’ll have an idea of how devastating this combination was. 

In fact, the Minions sheer style was outdone only by the king himself, who was known for appearing at public events in full drag. Unsurprisingly, this led certain jealous contemporaries to suggest the Minions were a little too fond of, uh, bananas, claiming that their leader Quelus had achieved greatness through the brave deeds of “his ass.” Modern writers are divided as to how true this was (the “they were just good friends” school of history remains extremely strong). Of course, 16th century writers were also divided, in the sense that they tended to be sliced in half by the nearest Minion as soon as they brought up any homophobic crap. 

16th century fashion

Via Wikimedia Commons 

We’re starting one of those “reject modernity embrace tradition” movements, but only for this specific sexy clown look. 

Either way, the sexy cabal soon monopolized access to the king, while all Paris lived in fear of being fileted by a Mignon. It seemed the only thing that could stop them was France’s deadliest Bussy. Specifically we mean Bussy d'Amboise, renowned as the finest swordsman in Europe, who openly mocked the Minions and the king every chance he got. Clashes between them soon became a regular feature, with the king’s sister noting in her journal that the court couldn’t get through a single day “without a new quarrel between them and Bussi whose courage is without equal.” 

In 1578, for instance, a new fight broke out while the king was partying with the “Queen of the Bean” (a courtly tradition where a bean was hidden inside a random cake and whoever found it got to pretend to be queen for the day). The Minions were planning to battle Bussy, but he surprised them by showing up with 300 of his closest friends. Outnumbered, they were forced to retreat, but summoned reinforcements and returned later that night, when they tried to kick down the door of Bussy’s bedchamber. Fortunately, he was able to hold them off in a high-stakes battle in the doorway until the king showed up and made a tearful plea for five goddamn minutes of peace and quiet.

Via Google Books 

The pre-duel banter was a little less witty than you’d ideally want.

Not only was Bussy a famous swordsman -- he once jumped from his sickbed to defeat a guy -- he was also a legendary lover, who could kill you with one hand and steal your girl with the other. Now 16th century adultery was high stakes stuff -- one of the Minions once killed his wife's boyfriend, then prosecuted the corpse in court and had it beheaded in the town square. But he was undeterred and soon every noblewoman in France was queuing up for a piece of that Bussy.

But Bussy went too far when he seduced the wife of a prominent local nobleman. Her furious husband forced her to invite Bussy over for a romantic “jester and chill” evening. Bussy arrived unarmed, only to be surprised by twenty swordsmen. According to contemporary chroniclers, this led to a Jackie Chan-style duel where Bussy improvised weapons out of whatever was to hand, defending himself with chair legs, a table and an old broken sword from the wall. He was eventually cut down while trying to leap for freedom from a high window. Most of his old enemies died later that year fighting against some of Bussy’s old friends in the famous “Duel of the Minions.” Which is probably a more romantic end than the modern Minions will get, although admittedly we haven’t seen the new movie yet. 

minions in napoleons army

Universal Pictures

Technically these guys were around for all of recorded history, so you can’t say for sure they weren’t involved in any of this.

Top image: National Museum in Poznan


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