Eclipses and Fearful Kings

Throughout history eclipses (from the Ancient Greek ekleipsis, meaning abandoned) have been interpreted in many different ways.  However, many ancient cultures shared the belief that they were bad news for rulers.

In Ancient China they were thought to bring success and good health but only if predicted, otherwise the kings feared for their lives.  Two unfortunate Chinese astrologers, failing to predict an eclipse in 2134 BC lost their heads as a result!  This belief was also held by the Babylonians who put ‘stand in’ kings on the throne during an eclipse so no harm would come to the real one.

King Henry’s Eclipse in 1133AD in Britain reaffirmed the belief that such events were a bad omen for kings as Henry I died shortly afterwards.

Illuminated manuscript image of Henry I

Miniature from illuminated Chronicle of Matthew Paris (1236-1259), showing Henry I of England enthroned.

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