History is witness to the exploits of many figures with conflicting legends associated with them. But what is the reason behind the ‘conflicting legends’? Why do people misunderstand some figures while they glorify others? With legends and folklores passed down through generations, it is but natural for several versions of the truth to emerge. At times, the entire perspective of the world changes due to the additions or omissions from tales. Let us read about the top 10 most misunderstood people in history.
10. Anne Boleyn:
Anne Boleyn was the Queen of England from 1533 to1536. She was the second wife of King Henry VIII. When she was unable to give birth to a boy – an heir – she was accused of infidelity and beheaded. She is now remembered as the woman who bewitched the king and seduced him to marry her. The fact that they were both very much in love seems to have been forgotten. She was not only misunderstood when alive but after death as well.
9. Oliver Cromwell:
He was the Lord Protector of the Commonwealth of England, Scotland and Ireland. In 1653 he dismissed the supposedly corrupt parliament by force before being invited by his fellow leaders to rule as Lord Protector. However, he is believed to have been involved in genocide in Ireland during his efforts to bring the country under English control. He was not a republican hero as it is believed by many but in fact a tyrant.
8. Ulysses S. Grant:
The 18th President of the United States of America was faced by as many as 11 corruption charges which marred his standing. He is remembered today as a corrupt drunkard but historians have argued that the charges were inflated. Even if the corruption charges were genuine, Ulysses was a military genius prior to becoming president and in reality had no relationship with the bottle.
7. La Malinche:
La Malinche was a Nahua woman who played a pivotal role in the Spanish conquest of Mexico. She was the mistress to Hernán Cortés and also bore him his first son and was his interpreter, advisor, lover and intermediary, too. Most see her as a traitor to the native Mexicans while others think of her as the saviour along the lines of Virgin Mary; the truth, however, lay buried in history until her love life was retold.
6. King Canute:
He was the king of Denmark, England, Norway and parts of Sweden. Canute was one of the most powerful and wise kings in medieval Europe but unfortunately he is remembered today as an idiot who tried to hold back the tides. But that is not the real story in its entirety. Canute had actually demonstrated and even stated to his men that the forces of nature are more powerful than any king on earth. Unfortunately these wise words were lost in oblivion.
The last pharaoh of ancient Egypt, Cleopatra was a powerful woman who belonged to the Ptolemaic dynasty. She originally ruled with her father as a joint ruler and eventually became a sole ruler. In spite of being a strong woman who ruled a great land, she is today remembered for her relationships with various men and her beauty. She is looked upon as a sex symbol rather than a great ruler.
4. Thomas Edison:
He was an American inventor who gave the world the Electric Bulb. He was certainly one of the greatest inventors of the world and it wouldn’t be wrong to say that his inventions played a major role in shaping it. He believed in the power of nature and it was in one of his interviews regarding the same that gave people the notion of him being an atheist which he denied. However, he is still misunderstood as a man who denied the existence of God.
3. Pontius Pilate:
Pontius Pilate was the prefect of Judaea from AD 26-36. He has been blamed as the judge at the trial of Jesus and the man who authorized his crucifixion. However, the Bible maintains that Pilate was reluctant to sentence Jesus to death as he believed that the latter was innocent. Scholars have debated over whether Pilate was actually responsible for the crucifixion.
Stalin was the leader of the Soviet Union from the mid-1920s until his death. Though terror and treachery were his ammunitions for success, the fact that he had spent years in the Bolshevik cause is often overlooked. He was a man who toiled for workers and peasants; basically the poor. Much of his support base was from these very people. He was a leader who was close to the hoi polloi but that is usually forgotten.
1. Mahatma Gandhi:
In spite of being one of the foremost figures in India’s struggle for independence he is often accused of causing the partition of the country and for abruptly calling off his popular movements under British influence. And that’s not all; he is also blamed for not preventing the execution of Bhagat Singh in spite of having had the chance to do so. He is often accused of opposing Subhash Chandra Bose and forcing him out of the Congress party – something that could have changed India’s history. The irony of the father of the nation is that he is the most misunderstood man in his own country.