While the vast majority of Nostradamus prophecies are either totally wrong or so vague they could mean anything, a few have been singled out as eerily correct. His "centuries" of four-line "quatrains," written from 1550 to 1566, do appear, at first glance, to have some correct predictions. Some familiar names seem to crop up, as do events that are easy to interpret as visions of modern occurrences.
Of course, any list of predictions Nostradamus got right needs to be taken with some skepticism. Many depend on translations that aren't supported by the original French. Others are vary loose interpretations, dependent on taking predictions that are extremely vague and making them specific. But a few, especially those referring to events just a few decades after his writing, seem like they're correct.Here are some things Nostradamus predicted and might have gotten right. Or maybe not at all. It's up to the beholder.
The Death of Henry II of FrancePhoto: Freebase / Public domainThe Prediction:
"The young lion will overcome the older one, On the field of combat in a single battle; He will pierce his eyes through a golden cage, Two wounds made one, then he dies a cruel death." I: 35
How It Came True:
In summer, 1559, Henry II lined up for a friendly joust against Gabriel Montgomery, captain of his elite Scottish Guard.
In their final pass, Montgomery's lance tilted up and shattered. One splinter went through the king's visor and hit his eye, and another drove into the side of his head. Henry suffered for 10 days before dying of septicemia.
Some contemporary accounts claimed the shields displayed lion emblems, and that because Henry was younger than Gabriel, the prediction came true. In fact, it's said to have "made" Nostradamus's career as a seer. However, the Nostradamus quatrain wasn't connected to Henry's death until decades after it happened, making it a postdiction. Henry didn't wear a gold helmet, and Nostradamus had actually written Henry several years after the quatrain was published, saying he saw a long reign ahead of the monarch.
King Philip II of SpainPhoto: Sofonisba Anguissola / Public domainThe Prediction:
"For seven years Philip's fortunes will prosper, He will reduce the Arab army, Then, halfway through, things will perplexedly turn against him, A young onion will destroy his fortune." IX: 89
How It Came True:
Catholic King Philip II of Spain took the throne of his country in 1556, halfway through the century, and Spain became extremely wealthy. "Seven years" is often used in the Bible to denote a long, unspecific period of time. He also defeated a large Ottoman naval force at the Battle of Lepanto in 1571 - reducing the Arab army.
His success, however, came to an unexpected halt in 1587 with the execution of Mary Queen of Scots, who was also Catholic. Her death effectively ended his alliance with England, and the destruction of the Spanish Armada, bound for England as an invasion force the next year, sealed his fate.
Lastly, the "young onion" is seen as a reference to 36-year-old Henri IV of France, a nation renowned for its fine onions. Writing just a few decades before these events, it's not hard to believe Nostradamus could employ a widely-used monarchal name for a prediction of almost current events.
The Great Fire of LondonPhoto: Public domain
"The blood of the just will be lacking in London, Burnt up in the fire of '66: The ancient Lady will topple from her high place, Many of the same sect will be killed." II:51
How It Came True:
On September 2, 1666, a small fire in Thomas Farriner's bakery on Pudding Lane in London turned into a massive conflagration that consumed a large part of the city. It became known as the Great Fire of London.
Because peasant deaths weren't recorded at the time, the official death toll from the fire is given in the single digits. Over 13,000 houses were destroyed, along with nearly 100 churches, and as many as 70,000 people were made homeless.
Nostradamus appeared to have nailed this one in 1555. He clearly gets the city and year right. "Blood of the just" has been interpreted as the elimination of flea-carrying rats that spread the Black Death, as that deadly plague died out during the Great Fire, while the "great lady" is seen as the statue of the Virgin falling off the steeple of St. Paul's Cathedral. Skeptics have claimed that the "'66" is a misprint, and that the "great lady" is the contemporary Queen Mary of England.
The French Revolution
"Songs, chants, and demands will come from the enslaved, Held captive by the nobility in their prisons, At a later date, brainless idiots, Will take these as divine utterances." VI:Q74
How It Came True:
In 1789, the French people revolted against the monarchy, storming the Bastille, a Paris fortress used as a prison and freeing the prisoners inside. This marked the height of the French Revolution, as the peasants quickly took control and enforced their demands by kidnapping the royals, executing some.The prediction is vague enough to be hard to either confirm or debunk, though since he had French royalty as patrons, it's clear Nostradamus had no love for common people - calling them "brainless idiots," for one. It wasn't a stretch to think that one day they'd rise up and make demands.