Which Nostradamus Predictions Came True?

Revered as an oracle by some, reviled as a charlatan by others, Nostradamus is one of the most famous and controversial figures in the realm of prophecy and esoteric studies, indeed in all of history, but are there any predictions by Nostradamus that came true? Let’s take a look back - or forward - to find out.

8 July 2024

From the eerie prediction of French King Henry II’s tragic death and the chaos of the French Revolution, to the meteoric rise of Napoleon, the assassination of JFK, and even the cataclysmic 9/11 attacks in New York, Nostradamus’s most famous prophecies – written in the mid-1500s – can seem at times bizarrely accurate. But are they the writings of a genuine seer who had the ability to predict the future with remarkable precision, or did he get lucky with some vague shots in the dark that can be endlessly reinterpreted to fit any and all of history’s major events?

Let’s take a trip back to sixteenth century France to discover what was written in the famous Nostradamus quatrains, and to examine whether Nostradamus’s prophecies are down to supernatural powers, or the result of easy misinterpretations and questionable translations.

Who was Nostradamus?

Catherine de' Medici and Nostradamus (Credit: duncan1890 via Getty Images)

Born Michele de Nostredame in the southern French town of Saint-Rémy-de-Provence in December 1503, Nostradamus was a French astrologer, physician and alleged seer whose prophecies have fascinated and perplexed people in equal measure for centuries.

It seems that Nostradamus began making predictions sometime in the late 1540s. During this time, he gained significant fame and was even invited to the court of Catherine de’ Medici, the wife of King Henry II of France, where he served as her personal astrologer.

But it was in 1555 that his story got really interesting.

Les Prophéties

Was Les Prophéties written in a mix of languages to avoid persecution? (Credit: benedek via Getty Images)

Les Prophéties – ‘The Prophecies’ – was published in 1555 and contained a collection of four-line poems known as quatrains. The quatrains were grouped in sets of 100, called Centuries, and the first edition contained three Centuries and 53 quatrains.

The second edition, also published in 1555, was a slightly amended version of the original, and in 1557, the third edition was published which contained the full text of the first book, plus three additional Centuries. A fourth version, published in 1568, two years after Nostradamus died, contained all of his 942 quatrains. However, for reasons unknown, quatrains 755 – 800 of the seventh Century were never completed.

Nostradamus’s quatrains lack chronological order and are written in a mix of French, Greek, Latin, and Occitan. Historians and linguistic experts believe the poems contain anagrams, as well as references to mythology and astrology, all presented in a perplexingly subjective and bafflingly cryptic language that’s challenging to understand and interpret. Some suggest that Nostradamus used this complex style deliberately to avoid persecution by the Holy Inquisition, as he feared being accused of heresy.

Many of the quatrains are related to supposed future events, but what are the predictions by Nostradamus that came true, or are supposed to have come true?

Are There Any Correct Nostradamus Prophecies?

Did Nostradamus have a crystal ball? (Credit: Ellerslie77 via Getty Images)

Nostradamus’ significance in history stems from the perceived accuracy and mysterious nature of his predictions. His supporters claimed he accurately predicted major occurrences, such as the death of King Henry II of France. This supposed foresight earned him royal patronage, as well as a lasting reputation as a visionary. However, the true accuracy of these predictions is often debated, since they’re written in a notoriously vague and metaphorical way which allows for multiple interpretations.

It’s also worth noting that no two versions of Les Prophéties are exactly the same, further muddying the already murky waters of what some believe to be Nostradamus’s correct predictions, and others claim as manipulated interpretations of vague and nonsensical prophecies.

Prophecy: The Death of Henry II

The fatal joust battle between Henry II and Gabriel de Lorges (Credit: mikroman6 via Getty Images)

In a prophecy that’s been interpreted as foretelling the death of Henry II a number years ahead of the actual event, Nostradamus wrote:

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.

The fate of the French king appeared to follow this grim prediction. During a jousting tournament in 1559, Henry was paired with a young nobleman named Gabriel de Lorges, Count of Montgomery, Lord of Lorges and Ducey. On one of the passes, the younger man’s lance shattered, and razor-sharp splinters pierced the king’s helmet through his eye and temple. He eventually succumbed to his injuries.

This is believed to be one of the earliest Nostradamus predictions that came true. Sceptics often point to the fact that a friendly tournament isn’t a ‘field of combat’ but it’s fair to say that this particular prediction does seem quite accurate.

The Great Fire of London

Illustration of the Great Fire of London, September 1666 (Credit: Nastasic via Getty Images)

One of the most famous events in British history, the Great Fire of London started in September 1666 in the bakery of Thomas Farriner in Pudding Lane. Over four days and nights, fire ravaged London and destroyed almost 13,000 homes.

The prediction linked to this event has become one of the most famous of all Nostradamus prophecies. So, did he predict the fire over a century before it happened?

Nostradamus wrote –

The blood of the just will commit a fault at London,
Burnt through lightning of twenty threes the six;
The ancient lady will fall from her high place,
Several of the same sect will be killed.

This is one of the most ambiguous of all the supposedly correct Nostradamus prophecies. ‘Twenty threes and six’ may refer to the year, the ‘ancient lady’ could possibly refer to London itself. However, the reference to ‘lightning’ is ambiguous and certainly not reflective of how the Great Fire itself was started. Close, but clearly not quite as direct as some may claim this prediction to be.

The French Revolution

Illustration of the Storming of the Bastille, 14th July 1789 (Credit: mikroman6 via Getty Images)

One of the most important events in European history, the people of France rose up in July 1789 after becoming exasperated by the monarchy and the ruling elite. They stormed the Bastille and effectively took control of Paris.

Nostradamus wrote –

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.

The French weren’t actually enslaved, but they certainly suffered at the expense of the aristocracy and many political prisoners were indeed held in captivity in the Bastille before being freed. It’s been argued that the ‘brainless idiots’ line may reference the eventual beheadings of King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette who, without their heads, were literally brainless. Alternatively others point to the ‘brainless idiots’ being the leaders of the Revolution or even the people themselves. However, while many believe this is one of the predictions by Nostradamus that came true, it remains open to speculative interpretation.

The Asassination of President John F. Kennedy

Dealey Plaza in Dallas (Credit: Kirkikis via Getty Images)

On November 22 1963, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated as he drove through Dealey Plaza in downtown Dallas. The official explanation is that the president was killed by Lee Harvey Oswald from the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository, though conspiracy theories abound as to who was behind the assassination. While debate continues as to the motives and perpetrators behind the assassination, when it comes to prophecies some claim this event also ranks among Nostradamus’s correct predictions.

Nostradamus wrote –

The ancient task will be completed,
From on high, evil will fall on the great man;
A dead innocent will be accused of the deed,
The guilty will remain in the mist.

There’s little doubt the bullet was fired from ‘on high’ and to many, JFK was a great man. Was Oswald – accused but not proven – innocent of perhaps the greatest crime of the twentieth century? Have the real guilty parties disappeared into the mist? There’s very little in this quatrain to disagree with, but as with all of the Nostradamus prophecies, there’s ample room for manoeuvre.

Other Notable Nostradamus Predictions

Did Nostradamus predict the Apollo moon landings? (Credit: amanalang via Getty Images)

As well as those already covered above, Nostradamus has been credited with predicting all manner of world events, including the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki (“a fire will fall from the sky”) and the Apollo moon landings (“He will come to go into the corner of Luna”). More recently, some claim Nostradamus predicted the death of Princess Diana, and even the recent Covid-19 pandemic, though there remains much debate as to whether the references usually cited are actually included in the writings of Nostradamus at all.

The Ultimate Moveable Feast

Were the predictions of Nostradamus genuine? (Credit: aluxum via Getty Images)

There are plenty of people who believe almost all the Nostradamus predictions are genuine, that he did have the extraordinary ability to predict future world events with, in some cases, astonishing accuracy.

Others argue that his writings are little more than clever wordplay or coincidences, and while there are almost a thousand quatrains are about wars, floods, death, plagues, and other natural and manmade disasters, they’re written in a way that often leads to broad and flexible interpretations that can be retrofitted to almost all historical events. And while those who believe focus on those predictions that can be interpreted as coming true, they conveniently ignore hundreds of other Nostradamus quatrains that either didn’t – or haven’t yet – come true. So did Nostradamus specifically forecast future events? The evidence suggests he probably didn’t.

Vagueness & Ambiguity

Critics argue that the Nostradamus quatrains are deliberately vague and ambiguous, allowing for multiple interpretations. This makes it easy to retroactively apply his predictions to a wide range of events, rather than providing clear and specific forecasts.

Retroactive Fitting

Sceptics point out that many of Nostradamus’s predictions are interpreted only after the events have occurred. This practice, known as retroactive fitting or ‘postdiction,’ undermines the credibility of his prophecies as genuine predictions.

Translation & Interpretation

The original texts were deliberately written in a mix of languages and archaic forms, leading to significant challenges in translation and interpretation. Misunderstandings and misinterpretations can easily occur, making it difficult to claim accuracy with any degree of confidence, and further encouraging the process of retroactive fitting outlined above.

Lack of Evidence

Many of the most famous claims about the supposed predictions by Nostradamus that came true are anecdotal or lack solid evidence. Critics argue that there’s no rigorous method for proving his quatrains have predicted any events accurately.

Selective Reporting

Believers in Nostradamus’s prophecies often highlight predictions that seem accurate while ignoring those that have not come true. This selective reporting creates a biased view of his success rate and distorts the overall picture of his alleged ability.

Historical Context

Some argue that Nostradamus’s knowledge of history and current events of his time allowed him to make guesses about future trends. Therefore his predictions might be based more on insight and educated speculation rather than mystical foresight.

Nostradamus: Fact, Fiction, or Flexible?

Les Prophéties: Fact or Fiction? (Credit: Tetra Images via Getty Images)

Despite the enduring fascination with his enigmatic quatrains, the debate over the accuracy of Nostradamus’s predictions remains unresolved. While some believe his prophecies have indeed foretold significant historical events, others argue that his writings allow for broad interpretations that can easily be steered in any direction to suit any narrative.

The issues of translation, selective reporting, and the potential for an educated guess further complicate the assessment of his work. Ultimately, the question of which of the predictions by Nostradamus came true may never be definitively answered, but the intrigue surrounding his legacy continues to captivate the imagination.


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