January 28, 1393

On This Date in TWISTED-HISTORY.com! in 1393, The “Ball of Burning Men” was a masquerade ball held in Paris, in which the King of France, Charles VI, almost died. It was held by Queen Isabeau to celebrate the third marriage of her lady-in-waiting, twice widowed Catherine de Fastaverin. The highlight of the masquerade was the Wild Man dance performed by six high ranking members of the French nobility, with one of the being the young king, Charles VI. While the men danced, insulted the crowd, and acted the fool, the crowd was encouraged to guess their identities.

The costumes, which were sewn on the six men, were made from linen soaked in resin that had flax stuck to it, so that the men would appear shaggy and hairy from head to toes. Masks made of the same materials covered their faces and further concealed their identities. Because of this, most of the crowd was unaware that their king was one of the six dancers. It also has to be noted that torches were forbidden in the hall during the ball, as the extreme flammability of these costumes was known.

As the men danced and cavorted, King Charles’ brother Orleans and his friend Phillipe de Bar arrived late and drunk and carrying torches. One of the rumors was that Prince Orleans held his torch over one of the dancer’s mask to get a better look and a spark set the man afire, which then started a chain reaction and set three of the other dancers aflame. Queen Isabeau, knowing one of the dancers was her husband, fainted. Charles, though, was not with the other five dancers, instead, he was flirting with his 15 year old aunt, Joan, Duchess of Berry. When Joan saw the flames engulfing the dancers, she threw the king to the ground and covered him with her voluminous dress, keeping any flame from reaching his costume and saving his life. The only other man who survived, Sieur de Nantouillet, did so because he jumped into an open vat of wine and stayed there until the flames were extinguished.

The morale of this story is that when playing and acting the fool, sometimes wine and women will save your life.

About Joel Byers

Born in North Georgia and educated at some very fine public institutions. Real education started after graduating from college and then getting married and raising two boys. Has the ability to see the funny and absurd in most things and will always remark on it, even if it means getting the stink-eye from his victims.
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