Concerning Throwing People Out the Window

Welcome to Random Explanations, in which I try to explain a matter, answer a question, or concoct a theory based on a reader's suggestion. This week's suggestion comes from T.J., who simply wrote: The Defenestration of Prague.

The first thing you should know is that defenestration is the act of throwing someone or something out the window. The fact that this word exists should tell you something. Throwing people out the window has happened enough times that someone said, "You know? We should probably have a word for that."

Our story begins in 1617 when Ferdinand of Styria became King of Bohemia. F-Sty was a staunch Catholic who did not want to see the still-young Protestant movement spread any further. As such, he began to roll back some of the religious liberties that had been granted by his predecessors: particularly the Letter of Majesty which allowed the estates in Bohemia to freely exercise their religion.

Things really started to hit the fan in 1618 when F-Sty stopped the construction of some Protestant churches. After the Protestants protested (it's what we do to the point that it's in our name), the King of Bohemia rhapsodized "Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?" and dissolved the assembly of Protestant Lords.

On May 23, a group of Catholic Lord Regents came to Prague. An angry group of Protestants confronted them concerning whether these Regents knew of the decision to stop construction and, if so, whether they approved of it. Eventually Count Vilem Slavata, Count Jaroslav Borzita, and the Secretary to the Regents Philip Fabricus admitted that they agreed with the decision and were responsible for a letter threatening the Protestant Lords.

As expected, this did not go over well. The Regents probably expected anger, but it's doubtful they anticipated how the anger would be expressed. In a rage, the mob tossed the three men out of the third story window of the the Bohemian Chancellory. Incredibly, the trio survived the fall. Catholics of the day claimed angels rescued them. Protestants said they survived because they landed on a massive pile of poop. Regardless, the Defenestration of Prague is considered one of the main catalysts of the Thirty Years' War, a conflict which is believed to have cost 8 million lives.

But here's the thing: this was not the only defenestration that happened in Prague. In fact, the 1618 edition is called the Second Defenestration of Prague. In 1419, an angry mob stormed town hall and tossed at least thirteen people out the window. In this case, seven people died. If you are in a multistory building in Prague, you do not want to royally tick people off.

It makes me thankful that this is not a problem solving technique used today. There would be a variety of instances when people would violently dispatch those they didn't want in charge. In fact, I think we can all agree that this would totally happen in college football all the time. It's not too much of a stretch to imagine a throng of irrational Florida fans (Note: There are good, rational Florida fans) trying to defenestrate Will Muschamp after they lost to South Carolina this past Saturday.

But I digress. Moral of the story? Don't be like F-Sty and try to curb the religious liberty of others. Don't be like the angry mob and defenestrate people. Otherwise you might plunge the European continent into three decades of bloodshed. Check back next Monday for another Random Explanation.

If you would like to ask a question for a future Random Explanation, you can ask me here or on Twitter.

An Encouraging Conversation

"Shake It Off" and the Impenetrable Wall of the Swiftian Worldview