Princess Alexandra of Bavaria was a noted author and translator in the mid-19th century. She also firmly believed that as a young child she had swallowed a grand piano made of glass.
Elementals are a common feature of modern bestiaries, video games, and RPGs. We have the 16th century alchemist Paracelsus to thank for thinking them up.
If the eyes are the windows to the soul, why would you paint anything else? The eye miniature was one of the oddest trends in late 1700s art.
Before television, people had to make their own fun. So they trained pigs to read.
Mary and William Brewster, passengers on the Mayflower, had five children: Jonathan, Patience, Fear, Love, and Wrestling. Their descendants included Julia Child, Bing Crosby, Richard Gere, Katharine Hepburn, and Thomas Pynchon.
Europe has a long tradition of puzzle and prank cups and jugs: to drink out of these vessels you must first solve a mechanical challenge.
Peter the Great founded a drinking club when he was a young man. Because he was tsar, he took it too far.
King Gustav III of Sweden was so convinced that coffee was bad for you that he enlisted two criminal twins to prove his case scientifically.
In 1573 the Renaissance artist Paolo Veronese painted a Last Supper that included drunken Germans, dogs, parrots, and dwarfs. He liked it, but the Inquisition had other ideas.
“Stuck a feather in his hat and called it macaroni.” What does that even mean? As it turns out, a macaroni was an 18th century hipster.
In the long history of war, there are almost no conflicts between cavalry and navy. But in 1795, there was. And the cavalry won.
Is modern thought more advanced than the Greeks and Romans? Most people fall on the side of “duh, of course,” but in 16th century France the debate between the Ancients and the Moderns was fierce.
In the early 17th century, the German artillery master Franz Helm suggested attaching a bomb to the back of a cat, in the hope that it would run into a fortified town and set it on fire. This sounds like a terrible idea.
Vampire folklore goes back a long way, but who was the first real person to be described as a vampire? That honour goes to Jure Grando, who died in 1656, and who was decapitated sixteen years later.
Poggio Bracciolini was a key instigator of the Italian Renaissance: he recovered or rediscovered many of the Latin texts that would inspire that storied revival. Also, he loved a good fart joke.