Fun and Fascinating Facts About Famous Figures You Won't Find in History Books
While you may think you know some of history's most famous historical figures, the typical textbook leaves much to be desired. In an attempt to cram as much knowledge as possible into the average education, few courses take the time to really delve into the lives of some of history's most famous figures.
Here you'll discover a collection of fascinating, fun and occasionally hilarious facts about historical figures that you didn't learn in school.
Cleopatra and Mark Antony Loved to Party
While many picture Cleopatra as a model of elegance, it seems that Egypt's most famous queen wasn't afraid to let her hair down. One of the reasons that her renowned love affair with Mark Antony worked out so well was that the two were notorious pranksters.
Albert Einstein Was Once Asked to Become the President of Israel
Albert Einstein was one of the most brilliant men of the 20th century, but he wasn't always great when it came to social interaction. At the height of his fame, he often claimed he was merely some guy who looked like Einstein when he wanted to avoid dealing with admiring strangers.
Leo Tolstoy Had a Zany Side
Nineteenth-century "War and Peace" author Leo Tolstoy is still regarded as one of the greatest fiction authors. As seriously as he took his work, Tolstoy also had a quirky side. When he got on a particular bandwagon, he was known for going all out.
Martin Luther King Jr. Was a Huge Trekkie
While many of Martin Luther King Jr.'s most famous feats have gone down in history, few people know how much the civil rights leader loved Star Trek. When King heard that African-American actress Nichelle Nichols was considering retiring from the show, he set out to change her mind.
Charles Dickens Was Fascinated by the Supernatural
Charles Dickens, the Victorian author of classics such as "Oliver Twist" and "A Christmas Carol," had a mysterious side. Given that "A Christmas Carol" was essentially a holiday-themed ghost story, it makes sense that he was a member of London's "ghost club."
Marie Antoinette Had Her Own Literal Fantasy World
Even royal life can get a little boring sometimes. That's why Marie Antoinette decided to use her riches to build her own fantasy world. It was called Hameau de la Reine (The Queen’s Hamlet) and was the queen's own village where she could pretend to be whomever she wanted.
Winston Churchill Accidentally Inspired His Daughter to Join the Army
Winston Churchill once jokingly quipped, "No, I can’t spare any men; you’ll have to use women." The comment ended up inspiring his daughter, Mary, to join the Auxiliary Territorial Service. By the age of 21, she rose to the rank of Junior Commander, which was equivalent to the rank of Captain.
Charlie Chaplin Once Lost a Charlie Chaplin Lookalike Contest
In the early part of the 20th century, comedian Charlie Chaplin became one of the world's first movie stars. So it's no surprise that, at the height of his popularity, a massive number of Charlie Chaplin imitators started springing up all over the world.
Michelangelo Got His Start in Art Forgery
When Michelangelo was 19 years old, he created a sculpture that he passed off as an antique from ancient Greece. So dedicated was he to the forgery that he buried it and dug it back up so that it would have that old, timeworn look.
Galileo's Middle Finger Is on Display in a Museum
One hundred years after famed Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei died, his remains were reburied in the Santa Croce Basilica. During the move, however, several of Galileo's admirers decided to take a few ghoulish souvenirs. By the time he was reburied, he was missing three fingers, a vertebra and a tooth.
Charles Lindbergh Secretly Had Multiple Families
Though the famous aviator Charles Lindbergh was known for several things, he managed to keep some huge personal secrets. It turns out that during his marriage to his American wife, Anne Morrow Lindbergh, he also managed to father children with at least three other secret mistresses.
Fidel Castro Thwarted Hundreds of Assassination Attempts
Fidel Castro will go down in history as a Cuban communist revolutionary and president, but it's not because the United States didn't try to stop him. During the Cold War, the CIA was adamant about finding new and exciting ways to bring Castro down by any means.
Hitler, Mussolini and Stalin Were All Nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize
Though thankfully none of them won, it's incredible that Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin and Benito Mussolini were all nominees for the Nobel Peace Prize. Hitler was nominated as a sarcastic joke by an antifascist member of the Swedish parliament in 1939.
No One Has Any Idea How Voltaire Created His Pen Name
While the 18th-century French writer and philosopher known as Voltaire is still famous for his work today, Voltaire wasn't his real name. His legal name was actually François-Marie Arouet, and Voltaire was a pen name that no one is quite sure how he came up with.
Elvis' Death May Have Been Partially Due to Severe Constipation
When Elvis Presley's girlfriend discovered him dead in his bathroom, it was announced that a sudden heart attack had killed the rock ‘n' roll legend at 42 years old. Over the years, doctors who took part in his autopsy have admitted that that was far from the whole story.
Robert E. Lee Opposed War Monuments
Tensions have escalated over whether or not Confederate Civil War monuments should be taken down. Back in 2017, the announcement of the pending removal of a statue of General Robert E. Lee was met with protests and violence.
Abraham Lincoln Was Honored by the National Wrestling Hall of Fame
President Abraham Lincoln was famously known for his ability to mesmerize an audience. In 1856, it's said that he gave a speech in Bloomington, IL, that was so moving that all the reporters present forgot to take notes. Consequently, no transcript actually exists, and it's still referred to as "Lincoln's lost speech."
Rousseau Enjoyed a Full Moon
While famous philosopher, composer and writer Jean-Jacques Rousseau may seem like the model of an 18th-century gentleman, he also had a pretty bizarre habit. He liked going around mooning random women, and in his autobiography he explained why.
Napoleon Wrote a Romance Novel You Can Still Buy on Amazon
Some people are lovers, while others are fighters, but Napoleon Bonaparte was a bit of both. The famed French general and emperor had a soft side, which led him to write his own romance novel called "Clisson et Eugénie."
Sir Walter Raleigh's Wife Kept His Head for Years After He Was Executed
As a renowned soldier, explorer and poet, Sir Walter Raleigh was among the most famous figures of Elizabethan England. Ultimately, he succumbed to a charge of treason under King James I and was beheaded in 1618. While his body is believed to be buried in Westminster, what happened to his head is uncertain.
Nikola Tesla Once Loved a Pigeon Like "One Might Love a Human"
Nikola Tesla made revolutionary contributions to the modern world with his work on the AC electrical supply system, but his romantic side was complicated. He insisted on remaining celibate throughout his life and allegedly died a virgin, though he was known to have entertained an intense love for pigeons.
Mark Twain Based Huck Finn on a Real Kid He Grew Up With
One of the most prolific writers in American history, Samuel Clemens, went through several ill-fated pen names before he settled on Mark Twain. Among those that lost out were Thomas Jefferson Snodgrass and W. Epaminondas Adrastus Blab.
Amelia Earhart's Prenup Insisted on an Open Marriage
Famous aviator Amelia Earhart was an independent woman, and the prenup she drew up for her husband made sure that he knew what he was getting into. George Palmer Putnam proposed to Earhart six times before she agreed to marry him, with a few conditions.
Stonewall Jackson's Arm Has Its Own Grave
Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson was one of the most famous Confederate generals of the American Civil War. Ironically, he was accidentally shot in the arm three times by friendly fire during a reconnaissance mission on May 2, 1863.
Eleanor Roosevelt Used to Hold Women-Only Press Conferences
Though there are many celebrated female journalists today, things weren't always easy for women reporters in the 1930s. That's why First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt decided to hold a White House press conference in 1933 that was exclusively for female reporters.
Thomas Edison's "Last Breath" Is on Display in a Museum
In the annals of fandom, Henry Ford went above and beyond in his devotion to his idol, Thomas Edison. Ford even had the good fortune of having a friendship with Edison throughout his life. Some say that Ford asked Charles Edison, Henry's son, to collect his father's last breath when he died.
John Quincy Adams Was a Skinny-dipping Eccentric
Not only was John Quincy Adams the only U.S. president who was elected despite losing both the popular and electoral votes, but he was also quite a character. He was a massive fan of a good skinny dip and rose each morning to swim in the Potomac River completely naked.
King Henry VIII Had a Personal Toilet Team
If you think your job is rough, then imagine being one of King Henry VIII of England's "Grooms of the Stool." These guys were responsible for all the king's toiletry needs, including wiping his bum after he deposited various royal excretions.
Benjamin Franklin Only Had Two Years of Formal Education
Benjamin Franklin is still known as one of the most brilliant men in American history, and by 1785 he was the wealthiest person in the United States. Despite earning honorary degrees from schools such as Yale and Harvard, he only had two years’ worth of formal education before dropping out.
Walt Disney Made His Housekeeper a Multimillionaire
Walt Disney is synonymous with everyone's favorite cartoon characters, but the truth that he was terrified of mice was a secret closely guarded from Mickey's enormous ears. After being fired from a newspaper job for "lack of imagination," he went on to enjoy the last laugh.