Weird History
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12 Historical Changes Of Fate So Unbelievable They Seem Like Divine Intervention

Updated November 15, 2019 34.8k views12 items

Can a single change of fate shape history? And is there proof of divine intervention in history? Sometimes a change of fate is so unbelievable, it seems like it must have been divinely inspired. During the Hundred Years' War, King Edward thought he had France on the run - until a freak hailstorm destroyed his army in just 30 minutes. George Washington thought his Continental Army would fall to the British in 1776 - until a fog rolled in at the last minute, allowing the army to escape. The Mongols thought they could conquer Japan - until a typhoon completely destroyed their invading armada, twice.

At the time, many interpreted these changes of fate as evidence of historical divine intervention. A Dutch admiral complained that God must be Spanish, since he froze a river to let Spain's army escape. When Poland's king saved Vienna from Ottoman conquest with a surprise cavalry charge, he declared, "I came, and God conquered." And the American Revolutionaries declared that "Providence" saved their army from British destruction. These moments of "divine intervention" changed the course of history.

  • Photo: George Munger / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    A Thunderstorm And Tornado Saved The White House From British Destruction

    From Redditor /u/CrunchwrapKiller:

    The burning of Washington, when a thunderstorm and tornado prevented the total destruction of the White House and other Capitol buildings by the British in Washington, DC during the War of 1812.

    Here's What Happened:

    During the War of 1812, the British marched on Washington, DC. By late August 1814, the British troops set fire to much of the capital, until a tornado and thunderstorm appeared to save the capital city.

    According to the National Weather Service reporting on August 25, 1814, “In the early afternoon, a strong tornado struck northwest Washington and downtown. The tornado did major structural damage to the residential section of the city. More British soldiers were killed by the tornado’s flying debris than by the guns of the American resistance.”

    By the next morning, the British planned to torch DC before retreating. Yet a massive thunderstorm appeared on the horizon. According to British soldier George Robert Gleig, "Of the prodigious force of the wind it is impossible for you to form any conception. Roofs of houses were torn off by it, and whisked into the air like sheets of paper, while the rain which accompanied it resembled the rushing of a mighty cataract rather than the dropping of a shower."

    While the British burned parts of the capital city, including the White House, they likely would have taken the entire city if not for the tornado and thunderstorm.

  • Photo: James William Edmund Doyle / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    A Deadly Hailstorm Decimated Edward III’s Troops In 1360, And He Believed It Was An Act Of God

    From Redditor /u/Zeb1122:

    The night Edward's army arrived at Chartres, a massive storm hit his camp. Edward emerged from his tent and saw two of his top generals get struck by lightning and [perished]. Massive hailstones ripped apart men and horses, and panic ensued. Edward reportedly knelt facing the cathedral in the nearby city, and prayed.

    By the end of the 30-minute storm, more than 1,000 men and 6,000 horses had been [slain]. Edward immediately signed a peace treaty with France and fled the country believing god had willed it that he would never be king of France.

    Here's What Happened:

    In April 1360, the English army chased France in the Hundred Years' War - until a freak hailstorm convinced King Edward of England to turn back. 

    The hailstorm broke out on Easter Monday, later called Black Monday. Thunder and lightning joined the hail, and two English leaders were struck with bolts of lightning. Trapped in an open field, the English had nowhere to hide from the storm.

    The storm cut down more than 1,000 Englishmen in just a half-hour. Edward feared the storm was a sign from God that he wasn't meant to become King of France. He signed a peace treaty with the French and renounced his claim to the throne.

  • Photo: Banwarí Khúrd / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    The Great Khan Perished Just As The Mongol Army Was About To Invade Medieval Europe

    From Redditor /u/LambdaMale:

    A seemingly unstoppable Mongol army on the borders of Medieval Europe, waiting for the right weather to destroy Europe as we know it... but back in their homeland, the Great Khan falls off his horse drunk to his [demise] and the army retreats.

    Here's What Happened:

    In the early 13th century, the Mongol horde descended on Europe. The fatal riders soon gained the nickname "horsemen of the Devil." As Tbilisi, Buda, and Kiev fell to the Mongols, it seemed nothing would stop the invaders from marching across all of Europe.

    Until the Great Khan, Ogedei Khan, passed suddenly. The Mongol forces withdrew from Europe, returning to crown a successor. The senior military leaders invading Europe had to return to their ancestral homeland to choose a new Great Khan. 

    Europe barely knew what hit it. As a chronicler wrote about the Mongol horde in 1222, "They turned back from the river Dnieper, and we know not whence they came and whither they went."

  • Photo: Hans F. Helmolt / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    The Holy Roman Emperor’s Horse Tripped And Threw Him Into A River, Just As He Was About To Take Jerusalem

    From Redditor /u/Demiansky:

    The Holy Roman Emperor leads a massive German army toward the holy land during the 3rd crusade. The emperor's army steamrolls all enemies in its path... then his horse trips on a rock and throws him into a river. He drowns. The army goes home. Saladin praises Allah for the salvation.

    Here's What Happened:

    Three European kings teamed up in the Third Crusade. Holy Roman Emperor Frederick Barbarossa led the alliance, which included King Philip II of France and King Richard I of England. With the might of three massive kingdoms behind the crusade, many believed the Third Crusade would retake Jerusalem.

    Until June 10, 1190. While riding through part of Turkey on his way to the Holy Land, Frederick Barbarossa fell off his horse and drowned in a river. After the demise of their emperor, Frederick's army was struck with dysentery. Most of the army either perished or turned back before even reaching the Holy Land. Instead of retaking Jerusalem, the remaining kings signed a peace treaty with Saladin, sultan of Egypt and Syria.