1468~1503: Knight’s Death by Fire Breathing

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In 1654 Thomas Bartholin [1616-1680], Danish physician, mathematician, and theologian, wrote that during the reign of Queen Bona Sforza (from 1468 to 1503), a Polish knight who had drunk two glasses of brandy died after flames erupted from his mouth. Bartholin was told this story by Aldolphus Vorstius, a noted physician and botanist of the time, who in turn said he got the story from his father who may have had a parchment about the incident.

Variations on a Theme
However intriguing the account might be, it has to be noted that Bartholin is essentially repeating what a friend told him their father once read… so not a very direct set of facts, per se. As such, I’m marking this account as ‘Unreliable.’ Still, this simple story has proven remarkably popular in repetition. In fact, I’ve been amazed at how often this story is repeated, and in how many different forms — sometimes the knight is described as a soldier, Sforza is not always mentioned, differing alcohols are blamed — but each variant story is the same enough to obviously all be from one ultimate source.

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