8 Times Historical Leaders Threw Their Opponents Out Windows
By Courtney Iseman, Mental Floss, 29 February 2016.
By Courtney Iseman, Mental Floss, 29 February 2016.
In the histories of medieval governments, pre-20th century monarchies, and political assassinations, the tales with fancy weapons and torture instruments seem to get all of the attention. There were times, however, when a person’s two hands were all it took to bring down an opponent, and quite often spark an entire revolution. When rage or mob mentality took over, there was no time to wait for a guillotine or a noose: those who threatened someone’s chances at the throne or the religious tolerance of a nation got lobbed out of the nearest window. The Defenestrations of Prague (plural! These events happened twice!) weren’t the first occasions of public figures being killed or punished with a swift pitch, but they became the most notorious due to their drama factor and their ramifications (war in both cases). Their impact was so great that the word defenestration was coined to describe them. There are several other instances, though, that further shine a light on the practice of disposing of one’s enemy out a window.
1. and 2. The defenestrations of Prague (1419 and 1618)
Image credit: Johann Philipp Abelinus/Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain
Revolution had been brewing in Prague among the Hussites leading up to 1419. The religious group had called for reform of the Catholic church and equality between church officials, nobility and peasants. On July 30, radical Hussites marched to the New Town Hall and demanded the release of Hussite prisoners, but when that demand was denied, a riot broke out. The group stormed the hall and threw seven city councilors out of a window to an armed crowd below. This act led to the Hussite Wars, which would last until 1436.
Religious turmoil led to the Second Defenestration of Prague as well. In 1618, Roman Catholic officials demanded Protestants (the ideological descendants of the Hussites) stop building churches on the land the Catholic church claimed to own. Protestants argued this violated the right of freedom of religion and met to try governors Vilém Slavata of Chlum and Košumberk and Jaroslav Bořita of Martinice on that charge. Both were found guilty and promptly tossed out of the window, but luckily both men landed on a pile of horse manure and survived. This helped spark the Thirty Years’ War, and also led to decades of debate - Catholics believed angels saved the lives of Slavata and Bořita. Protestants said it was probably the horse manure.
3. King James II of Scotland tosses the 8th Earl of Douglas (1452)
Image credit: Anonymous/Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain
James II was just 6 when he ascended to the throne after his father, James I, was assassinated in 1437. Every noble family wanted to control young James in order to exert their power in Scotland, but none were more aggressive in their endeavours than the Douglas family. In 1440, James’s advisors organized a meeting with the Douglases, and murdered the 6th Earl of Douglas and his brother in what would become known as “The Black Dinner” (one of the real-life events that inspired Games of Thrones's Red Wedding). Twelve years later, suspicions still flew that the Douglas clan was conspiring to take the crown, and James heard rumblings of a pact between the 8th Earl of Douglas and other nobles that would threaten his rule. He invited the 8th Earl, William, to dinner, and - surprisingly, considering the track record of Stewart/Douglas dinners - William went. James brutally stabbed the Earl to death, and his guard helped him toss the lifeless body out of the window. As that didn’t do much to cover up the murder, a war between the Stewarts and Douglases - which James eventually won - ensued.
4. An angry pro-Medici mob throws Pazzi conspirators out of the window (1478)
Image credit: Angelo Bronzino/Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain
Leading up to 1478, the rich and powerful Pazzi family had decided they were not as rich and powerful as they wanted to be, and they never would be as long as the Medici family controlled Florence. Thus, the Pazzis plotted to kill the Medici princes, Lorenzo [pictured above] and Giuliano. On April 26, the group of assassins murdered Giuliano in front of a packed cathedral at mass. Lorenzo escaped with a non-fatal stab wound, and one of the Pazzi family’s elders, Jacopo, called for a revolt against the Medicis. A mob of Medici supporters grew in response to the murder and managed to capture several of the Pazzi conspirators in the Medici palace. Some were hanged and others were tossed out of the windows to the pro-Medici crowd below, who proceeded to rip their bodies to shreds. Violence against the Pazzis continued, and the family was forced to leave Florence until 1494, when the Medicis were finally overthrown.
5. Mughal Emperor Akbar throws his foster brother out of a window - twice (1562)
Image credit: Unknown/Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain
Known as Akbar the Great, this Islamic ruler of India is credited with vastly expanding his kingdom through military conquests, and then winning the allegiance of his conquered peoples with fair governing and religious tolerance. But Akbar's family was a different story. In 1560, he sent his foster brother, Adham Khan, with his own army to take more land. Khan succeeded, but he slaughtered the people of that land and kept most of the spoils for himself. Akbar thusly relieved Khan from his commanding duties. Two years later, Khan became enraged when Akbar promoted his favourite general to chief minister over him, and Khan and his men killed the new minister. Akbar immediately confronted Khan, struck him, and hurled him out of either a window or off a terrace. When he realized Khan survived that fall, Akbar had him dragged back up so that he could throw him out again.
6. Gaspard de Coligny's defenestration catalyzses the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre (1572)
Image credit: Joseph Martin Kronheim/Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain
During the French Wars of Religion, Huguenots and Catholics wavered between periods of outright hatred and earnest attempts at tolerance. In 1571, Huguenot Admiral Gaspard II de Coligny had quickly befriended Catholic King Charles IX and was acting as an unofficial mentor. Coligny sold Charles on the benefits of Catholics and Huguenots joining forces to fight the Spanish in the Netherlands, but Charles’s mother, the incredibly powerful Catherine de Medici, didn’t want war with Spain, nor did she want this Huguenot gaining favour with the king. When Catherine’s planned assassination of Coligny failed, it only made Charles more loyal to his friend. Catherine set to work convincing her son that Coligny was in fact plotting to take him down, and eventually the king weakened. Incensed, Charles called for the murder of Coligny and other Huguenot leaders in what would become known as the St. Bartholomew Day massacre. Coligny was beaten and thrown out of the window to his death. Over the next few days, Catholics killed thousands of Huguenots all over France, causing survivors to flee or convert.
7. Serbian King Alexander and Queen Draga are thrown out in favour of a new ruler (1903)
For decades, Serbia’s Obrenovich and Karageorgevich dynasties feuded. The families alternated ruling the country over the years, but at the start of the 20th century, it was an Obrenovich on the throne. In 1900, King Alexander married his mistress, Draga, a widow 10 years his senior. Horrified, his father/commander-in-chief and the entire cabinet resigned, and the army turned against the king. The Karageorgevich family seized upon this conflict as an opportunity to tear down the Obrenovich rule. In 1903, a group of army officers stormed the palace and found Alexander and Draga hiding in a cupboard. They shot the royal couple, killing Draga and wounding Alexander, and the group dragged the king and queen to the window and threw them out, which finally killed Alexander. The army declared Prince Peter Karageorgevich king, and the leader of the group of murderers went on to form the terrorist group responsible for the 1914 assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand - the impetus for World War I.
8. Mao Zedong's guards cripple Deng Pufang (1968)
Image credit: China Vitae
Mao Zedong, the chairman of the Communist Party of China, worked ruthlessly to cleanse his country of any capitalist notions between 1966 and 1976. One of his many enemies was prominent communist leader, Deng Xiaoping. Mao suspected the official of being a capitalist and corrupting the people of China. In trying to get Deng Xiaoping to confess, Mao’s Red Guards turned their attention to his family. They captured his son, Deng Pufang [pictured above], tortured, and imprisoned him. In 1968, it’s said that these guards threw Deng Pufang out of a fourth-story window. A controversy around whether he actually might have jumped lives on to this day, but many believe that the guards were responsible. Deng Pufang was denied hospital admittance after the incident, and became paralyzed. Today, he is vocal about China’s period of Cultural Revolution and is an advocate for disabled rights.
Bonus: Charles Barkley throws a bar patron through a window (1997)
Neither religion nor political oppression were on Charles Barkley’s mind in an Orlando, Florida bar in 1997. The basketball star flew into a rage when 20-year-old Jorge Lugo, seemingly unprovoked, threw a glass of ice at him and his friends. Barkley chased Lugo, picked him up, and heaved the 110-pound man through the plate glass. ''He lifted that kid up and flung him like he was a toy and threw him into the window,'' a witness told The New York Times. Lugo was fine except for cuts on his arm, but Barkley remained adamant that he was in the right (even after he was charged with battery, disorderly conduct, criminal mischief, and resisting an officer without violence). "If you bother me, I'm going to whip your ass," Barkley told a Florida newspaper. "The guy threw ice in my face, and I slammed his ass into the window. I'm not denying that. I defended myself. He got what he deserved.''
Top image: Second Defenestration of Prague in 1618. Credit: Karel Svoboda/Wikimedia Commons.
[Source: Mental Floss. Edited. Some images and links added.]