Have you ever thought about the dark side of the world? Have you ever been assigned to write an original essay about some great historical figure? For sure, usually you were supposed to write about someone kind and merciful like Mother Teresa, Horatio Nelson, Charlotte Corday or Joan of Arc and so on. However, have you ever had an irresistible temptation to write about someone really bad and dark, about someone who had an invisible aura of virtue and some gloomy magnetism – about the most famous villains and the crimes they committed? History has both good and bad geniuses. However, bad ones are popular but not easy to understand. They were learning dark arts, getting acquainted with poisons, potions, tinctures, daggers, knives, swords, ropes and masks. They left behind only grief, sorrow, disillusions, sufferings and pain. They were treading all over people to get to the top. Rivers of blood and tears were shed and that is why we still remember them and shudder. They were always ready to spy, to fight and to kill and despite all the harm they had done, they had been attracting our attention for ages. Many dark pages of history were filled up with their stories. Mean rumors and slander always chase after great figures and we are not fated to know what the truth is. Only time can judge and we cannot interpret its signs. We can only suppose that we know something, but the truth will always remain hidden.
One of the most sophisticated murderers ever was, for sure, Catherine de' Medici. She had a pretty face, a cold blood, a sensible mind and a very bad family history. She was awarded with plenty of complimentary epithets like bloodthirsty, cruel, ruthless and heartless. Actually, she was a real master of her art. She succeeded in exquisite workmanship of poisonings. She had many secrets in her arsenal, such as rings with poisoned needles, aromatic lamps, pomades and so on. However, the most scandalous crime was the poisoning of Jeanne d'Albret, who was the mother of the future French king Henry IV. She was killed by a pair of gloves, tinted with the mortal poison.
Perhaps, her story was generously decorated by gossips and myths because she was a true legend of her time. People are prone to underestimate the good and exaggerate the evil. Our memory plays a joke with us and fixes everything bad willingly. Many authoritative historians are absolutely sure that the character of Catherine Medici, which was created in literature and which we were accustomed to, was strongly demonized without any particular proof. Literature can offer you very picturesque and romantic (but full of the writer’s fiction) stories about this queen, for instance, “Queen Margot” by Alexandre Dumas, “A chronicle of the reign of Charles IX” by Prosper Merimee or “Queen’s conspiracy” by Lorenzo de’ Medici and “Young Henry of Navarre” by Heinrich Mann.
Violent and Ruthless
Once upon a time in Italy, filled with crimes and intrigues, lived an amazing woman called Thofania d’Adamo. She had her own cosmetics store, where she was also selling love potions and bottles with so-called Manna of Saint Nickolas or Neapolitan water – a clear liquid with no flavor and taste, which claimed to be a Christian relic. In fact, it was an extremely strong poison which contained arsenic and belladonna, and was called Aqua Tofana (Thofania’s water). It was working gradually and helped many Italian women to get rid of their husbands. Thofania’s case was solved and after having confessed to more than six hundred murders, she was executed. There were rumors that Mozart was also poisoned with Aqua Tofana, but there was no proof. Tofana arrived with the Spanish boot on her leg to the Satan’s Ball, depicted by Mikhail Bulgakov in his iconic novel ”The Master and Margarita.”
Another bloodthirsty madman, who had always attracted the attention of the masses, was Vlad III Dracula, legendary and the most famous prince of Walachia. He ordered his bread to be dipped in the blood of his victims. He was putting hundreds of innocent people on the stakes, peeling their skin off and boiling them alive. Dracula regularly arranged luxurious feasts, after which all the guests were executed. If they had not come, they would have been killed on the ground, therefore, it was a choice without any choice. Dracula was always mocking people, making their death even more horrible. He had his own specific sense of justice, so people were put on the stakes, no matter what crime they had committed. Once upon a time, having invited all the beggars and ill people to his castle, he apologized and went out. Immediately after that, all the doors and windows were boarded up and people were burnt together with the castle. Dracula’s story was captured in the well-known novel by Bram Stocker.
Tricky and Shameless
Another powerful villain, Alexander VI (Roderic Borgia) became...the Pope! He was the most lecherous pope ever. He rose up the ladder making the victims of his former rivals. Alexander Borgia made a breathtaking career thanks to multiple murders, intrigues and plotting. He got scandalous fame through using very resourceful ways to get rid of his enemies. For instance, his servants could stab them discreetly with a poisoned needle while walking down the street. The chosen ones were gifted with the cup of toxic wine during the feast. This Alexander’s wine had no smell, no flavor and no color. It was easy to mix it into some drink. The death of that victim came a few years later, so there were no reasons to suspect the pope. The Borgia Clan distinguished itself with particular violence, greed and filth. The children of Alexander VI (Giovanni, Cesare and Lucrezia) were also taking part in all these crimes. Cesare even killed his brother because of jealousy of his sister. Lucrezia, on the other hand, got rid of annoying lovers by giving them the key to her room with a tiny thorn, oiled with poison. Ironically, Alexander died after drinking his own poison by accident. The servant just mixed up the glasses with wine and spared Italy another cruel tyrant. This story was depicted in the books (“The Borgias” by Alexandre Dumas and “The life of Cesare Borgia” by Raphael Sabatini) and even in the historical series with unambiguous title: “Flesh and blood.”
Dark villains concern our indignation, contempt and disgust, but anyway they are still drawing our attention. The world does not consist of only good, there is also bad to keep the balance between the light and the dark. If you want to fight with the evil, do not forget that we must know our enemies well to destroy them. Tie your shoelaces, take your Superman’s coat and be ready to write your historical essay and conquer the evil, for sure!