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
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 theright 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
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 endeavors 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
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 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.