Let us journey back in time, dear friends, to the benighted days of fucking…I guess 1998? Probably 1998. Maaaaaybe early 1999. Before Google was actually A Thing, and you had to look shit up in real, honest-to-god books. Real, honest-to-god books that were not always as fucking helpful as they could be.
So, in this era, when dinosaurs still roamed the earth, I was taking a class on central European history. We were assigned a particularly horrible book, namely Robert A. Kann’s History of the Habsburg Empire. It is approximately a million pages long, and it is incredibly informative, and it is written in the style of a German lawyer, because, according to the professor who taught the class, Kann was a German lawyer. Apparently the good scholar produced a similar experience in person; the professor had attended a lecture by him while he was himself a student, only to be mystified by the fact that he couldn’t understand a word Kann was saying.
"My German was not as good as it could have been," the Hungarian expatriate told us, "but I thought surely I should be able to pick up some of it. It was not until the lecture was half over that I realized he was speaking English. To this day, I have not heard a thicker German accent.”
So basically History of the Habsburg Empire is like watching extremely informative paint dry, and reading it was awful. Not because history is boring. No. The book itself was just incredibly dry and dull and did I mention dry and dull?
But then! Then! We came to a passage in which was mentioned the Defenestration of Prague. I’m going to ask you not to wikipedia it yet, please. I am telling you a story. Those of you know are probably already giggling to yourselves. There are not many ways to make the Thirty Years’ War boring, but Kann found them. All of them. I was about ready to fall asleep on the book by the time I read the fateful sentence: “It culminated in the fateful defenestration of Prague in 1618.”
Like, *zzzzzzzzzzZZZZZzzzzzzzz* “It culminated in the fateful defenestration of Prague in 1618.”
It was like a literal record-scratch. The Defenestration of Prague. What the hell was he talking about? It sounded really fucking interesting. Naturally, he felt absolutely no need to elaborate on it. Knights and lords and the Protestant estate and fuck you, A Song of Ice and Fire, this shit is all actually really fucking dull most of the time, and the Defenestration of Prague and right back to breaks with the government and theological dickering.
I checked the appendix. Nothing. I checked for missed footnotes. Nothing. Nowhere in the fucking text did he explain what the hell he was talking about. I checked the other textbooks. It’s not even mentioned. Maybe I was deluding myself? I checked a dictionary. Nope. “Defenestration” means “chucked out a damn window,” all right. How are more people not focused on this? Am I the only one in the world who thinks this is fucking cool? The Thirty Years’ War was started by somebody getting thrown out a goddamned window.
So off to class we go the next day. “Do we have any questions about the reading?” Bet your ass we do! Well, by ‘we’ it turns out that it was ‘me.’ I don’t know if nobody else did the reading, or if everybody else knew what the Defenestration of Prague was and didn’t see fit to enlighten me, or if I was the only one who had that much of a psychotic break in response to the phrase, but I was the only one who raised my hand. “What’s the Defenestration of Prague?”
The professor starts laughing. Just sort of chuckling, then outright laughing, then a little sigh. “We shall get to that next class, I promise.”
But I fucking want to know right now.
No dice. We spend the class talking about land rights and linguistic frictions and escalating tensions and blah blah blah.
The class after that, we come in, and the professor looks at me and writes “The Defenestration of Prague” in these graceful, loopy letters on the board, because he was a fancy continental gentleman. Aw yisss.
The Defenestration of Prague, as it turns out, is actually the Second Defenestration of Prague, because screw not throwing people out of windows in Prague. Prague is a window-throwing-out-of sort of town.
Basically what happened is that central Europe had a dynastic conflict and a religious conflict that were kind of the same conflict brewing. Protestants vs. Catholics, and everybody took this shit way seriously. But war sucks, so they were trying to sort shit out, only when everybody thinks God loves them and isn’t too fond of the other guy, things can get…well, messy. Catholic-king-ain’t-having-your-Protestant-nonsense messy.
So in May of 1618, four Catholic lords turned up in Protestant-stronghold Bohemia to tell the assembly they were, essentially, fucking fucked, by order of the king.
The assembly’s response was, more or less, that they could go fuck themselves in return.
This not being the sort of message anyone in a feudal society is ever happy about getting or having to pass along, the Catholics asked for time to confer with a dude who was conveniently not present. They were told that they absolutely fucking could not, because how stupid do you think we are?
Eventually, the Protestants dismissed two of the Catholics, on the grounds that they weren’t big enough assholes to have had anything to do with the “you’re fucked” letter. The other two, assuming that they were only going to be arrested because where are they, Russia?, copped to having written the letter, and further intimated that the Protestants could kiss their asses.
When it became clear that the mob was not dicking around here, and intended to pretty much straight up kill them, they appealed to Mary to save them. Protip: If you’re about to get pitchforked by a mob of angry Protestants over specifically religious differences, calling on Mary to save you is a less-than-great move unless you’re sure she’s taking requests. The assembly proceeded to (I guess maybe after voting on it and entering it in the public record and maybe glaring at the guy who voted ‘nay’ for no reason) seize the Catholics, and, because why not, the Catholics’ secretary, and hurl them all bodily from a third-floor window.
Unfortunately, because they’d been pitching trash and debris out that same window for a very long time, instead of a three-story drop onto maybe flagstones or sharpened pikes or some really uncomfortable turf, the Catholic lords and their Catholic secretary all Assassin’s Creeded that shit and landed safely in a pile of garbage. (Official story: Mary saved their asses. With a pile of garbage.) The lords, having only been doing their fucking jobs, remained lords. The secretary, having been hurled from a window above and beyond the call of duty, was later given the title of “Baron of Highfall” (presumably the Baron of Facestabbing and Count von Taxcollection were ennobled later that day) by King Protestant-Riler.
Having escaped with their lives, the Catholics scurried home to alert the king and kick off a brutal civil war that lasted an entire generation and completely fucked the landscape for another generation after that.
Next week on History Time!: Britain starts a gang-war with China over their foreign policy decision to push smack on China’s turf. Again.