Back in the 16th Century, many were mystified by the prophetic powers of French astrologer and physician Nostradamus. His series of predictions baffled, bemused and bewildered many in his lifetime.
However, written in four-line poems, known as quatrains, their loose form means that they are open to endless interpretation as the years roll on and new events take significance in our history books. Naysayers may argue that ambiguity is the key to successful divinity, but if you really squint and give him the benefit of the doubt, are some of his lines too close to be coincidence?
Here are five historical events, as late as the 1960s, that are believed to have been prophesied in Nostradamus’s lines. They’re not definitive but you must admit there is an uncanny accuracy for someone who died centuries ago.
- The Death of Henry II, 1559
Henry II of France came to a slow and painful death in the summer of 1559 after a friendly joust with a young soldier took a turn for the worse. The latter’s lance shattered, driving splinters into the king’s eye and skull that resulted in a slow and painful death from sepsis.
Many believe the king’s death at the age of 40 was foretold by Nostradamus. The quatrain in question tells us ‘the young lion will overcome the older one’, that he will ‘pierce his eyes through a golden cage’, and that ‘two wounds’ will ensure a ‘cruel death’. Pretty on the nose, perhaps.
Despite this, critics also point out that the quatrain said the killing would take place ‘on the field of combat in a single battle’, rather than being accidentally slain during a playful joust celebrating a recent peace treaty. Similarly, the king had been a personal acquaintance of Nostradamus, whom he once addressed as ‘The most invincible Henry King of France’ in a letter, contradicting his supposed prophecy.
- The Great Fire of London, 1666
This is possibly one of the most mysterious prophecies of all, generating much speculation and debate over the years. Here is the quantain in question: ‘The blood of the just will commit a fault at London/Burnt through lightning of twenty threes the six:/ The ancient lady will fall from her high place/ Several of the same sect will be killed.’
It’s inevitably tantalising if you decode the reference to “twenty threes the six” as 66 (20 x 3 +6). Add to this the reference to London, deaths and burning, and you can understand why people believed it was foreshadowing the Great Fire of London in 1666.
However, in true Nostradamus fashion, not everything adds up. The Great Fire was set off by a flame in a bakery, not by ‘lightning’ and England was ruled by Charles II at the time so it’s not clear who the ‘ancient lady’ is supposed to be. Perhaps London itself?
- The coming of Adolf Hitler
Scholars of Nostradamus’ work credit him with a few 20th Century predictions and the rise of Adolf Hitler is one of them. Provoking a chill of truth, one quatrain reads: ‘’ From the depths of the West of Europe,’ Nostradamus wrote, ‘A young child will be born of poor people’. He goes on to say that the child will ‘by his tongue… seduce a great troop’, and his fame will spread far beyond Europe.
A second, more tenuous reference is believed to be hidden in another quatrain that mentions fighting ‘close by the Hister’. This could either be a loose reference to Hitler, or a more mundane mention of the old name of the Danube river.
- The Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs
Another quatrain tells the story of dystopian suffering within two cities- a description that would certainly apply to the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki which were devastated by atomic bombs at the end of World War Two. ‘Within two cities,’ Nostradamus wrote, ‘there will be scourges the like of which was never seen.’
The quatrain foretells ‘famine within plague’, painting an increasingly bleak picture, which may be a reference to radiation sickness and the lasting disruption of war. Similarly, the line ‘people put out by steel’ may point to the planes that dropped the bombs.
But, then again, the man himself had firsthand experience treating plague patients and so he could simply be referring to a literal plague and famine in any two cities worldwide, which is not beyond the realms of possibility.
- The Kennedy Assassination
President John F. Kennedy’s killing was one of the most pivotal moments of the 20th Century, causing many to scour the works of Nostradamus for any hint of a prophecy. One line that has been quoted as a contender reads ‘From on high, evil will fall on the great man’, which could connote the distant shot by a sniper (or snipers) that assassinated the president.
The quatrain continues with ‘A dead innocent will be accused of the deed’ which may refer to Lee Harvey Oswald who has long been thought of as an innocent fall guy. He goes on to say that the true guilty party will ‘remain in the mist’, a sentiment which countless JFK conspiracy theorists have agreed upon.
What is to come?
Invasion of France
Within Nostradamus’ work, the invasion of France by a threat from the east is a recurring theme. However, owing to astrological movements, the following prediction is speculated to be in referring to the year 2022. He wrote: ‘Blue-head shall white-head/ harm in such degree/ as France’s good to both shall e’er amount.’
Could this prediction be referring to the breakout of WWII, or France’s chances at the 2022 Qatar World Cup? Let’s see if the team who beats France is dressed in white!
While climate change warnings have been coming thick and fast in the last five years, rising sea temperatures were something that Nostradamus predicted in 1555. One of his poems said: ‘Like the sun the head shall sear the shining sea: /The Black Sea’s living fish shall all but boil./When Rhodes and Genoa/ Half-starved shall be The local folk to cut them up shall toil.”
With global temperatures climbing, sea levels rising, ecosystems and habitats destroyed, these lines do resonate. Is 2022 going to be the year where temperatures reach breaking point? Perhaps fish won’t boil in the sea, but we are already witnessing a mass extinction-level event happening across the globe. The death of coral reefs, decimation of natural habitats, and declining number of fish globally could be a warning sign that Nostradamus’ predictions of boiling seas and starving populations are just around the corner.