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.

We Will Remember Them

It seemed that out of battle I escaped thanks to the leaders who led, and no thanks to the leaders who fled. Tonight I lie in a dugout covered in mud while memories of the war flood my mind. The silence of the fields above us is more horrifying than anything I’ve experienced. In the corner sits a young man, hugging his knees and rocking. He was once a fit young soldier with a strong mind and a good humour but now he is a lifeless entity who jumps at every movement. Some despise him, others send him off for a diagnosis, but I envy him. Soon he will be relieved of his duty, sent back home to recover and in ten years time will be married with kids. The rest of us are destined to join those who lay above us, adding to the silence of death.

I do not fear death. I fear what death will make me. Death in this wasteland makes me one man out of thousands who died for freedom, but I won’t be remembered. I don’t remember any one name from any war in history, so why should they. Why should the future generations remember my name? My worst fear is to be stereotyped as a soldier who died for freedom. We are all very different. We had lives, we had families, and we had hopes and dreams, just like they will. I don’t want to be a name on a wall; I want to be a memory in the hearts of many and an inspiration to future generations. I am a patriot and I have no problem dying for my country, as long as my country recognises it as the act that it is.

…To all the soldiers who died for freedom,
we will remember them