My Favourite Historical Myths

I’m currently doing a history project for school where I research an event from the past and write what I think really happened in 2500 words. I chose the French Revolution, and after 9-10 weeks of good solid research I can safely say that Queen Marie Antoinette never said “Let Them Eat Cake”, nor was she the type of queen that the French people made her out to be. The following are a few of my favourite myths that are taken for granted as Historical Fact:

Louis XVI had ‘Phimosis’, a condition which prevented sexual Intercourse

This cannot be proven. There are several letters from Marie Antoinette’s brothers and family members which suggest that Louis was simply not ready and uninterested in sex. Many people feel the need to diagnose his apathy for sex because they cannot relate to him. Louis was 14 when he was married, and his social skills were very poor. Louis was shy, not incapable.

Man in the Iron Mask

He did exist, and was held in the Bastille in France however he was not the king’s twin brother as represented in Alexander Dumas’ novel Man in the Iron Mask. It is possible that the prisoner was part of the royal family as the Bastille was maximum security prison for prisoners from the upper two classes of French Society, but as for being the Kings Twin brother, that’s a myth.

Jesus’ Birth

Kid’s books and Manger scenes at Christmas represent Jesus being born in stables. There is no doubt that Jesus was born in a manger, and he was certainly born with animals in the room, but a closer look at the context and the houses in Bethlehem shows that he was more likely born in a “guestroom”, a room where some animals would sleep that is attached to the house. On top of this, there is not one passage in the bible that suggests Jesus being born in stables. The verse that says there was no room in the ‘Inn’ is also translated to ‘Guestroom’.

Christopher McCandless

This is one of my favourites, but perhaps a lesser known ‘fact’ than the other three. Christopher McCandless was the American idealist who gave up his college money fund to live a life reliant on his survival skills. His journey was made into a movie called ‘Into the Wild’ (definitely worth seeing if you haven’t already) SPOILER ALERT … This movie portrays McCandless’ death resulting from his consumption of a plant which makes it impossible to digest any food. Consequently he died of starvation. McCandless ate no such plant, he was simply too stubborn to admit that he needed help and didn’t make it back to civilisation in time. He died of starvation because he was arrogant, not ignorant.

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