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 France
"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 Spain
"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 London
"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.
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"A ruler will be born near Italy, Whose cost to the Empire shall be quite dear; They will say from those whom he shall rally, That he is less a prince than a butcher." I:60
"PAU, NAY, LORON, more fire than blood, Swimming in praise, the great man hurries to the confluence. He will refuse entry to the magpies, Pampon and Durrance will confine them." VIII:1
How They Came True:
Two different quatrains appear to predict the ascendancy of the French tyrant Napoleon. In the first, Nostradamus gets Napoleon's birth location right, although it's extremely vague, and "near Italy" could be used to refer to any number of European tyrants - including Hitler.
In the second, Nostradamus uses a series of anagrams and analogies, both favorite tools of his. Pau, Nay, and Loron reference three towns in the South of France that form a triangle, although the last one is actually named Oloron.
Rearranging the letters in the three cities spells either "NAYPAULORON" or "Napaulon Roy," a close match to "Napoleon the King" in French. "More of fire than of the blood" may refer to the general's non-noble lineage, as he took power during a coup, while "Refuse entry to the magpies" has been speculated to refer to Popes Pius VI and VII, both of whom Napoleon had imprisoned.
As always, Nostradamus skeptics point out the logical leaps needed to make these predictions. Napoleon wasn't a king, and one of the towns' names is written incorrectly.
The Discoveries of Louis Pasteur
"The lost thing is discovered, hidden for many centuries. Pasteur will be celebrated almost as a God-like figure. This is when the moon completes her great cycle, But by other rumors he shall be dishonored." I:25
How It Came True:
Born in 1822, Louis Pasteur was a French chemist and microbiologist who discovered that the growth of micro-organisms causes fermentation, and that bacteria grows from already-living organisms - a process called biogenesis. Later, he invented a process for removing bacteria from milk, called"pasteurization," that greatly increased its safety.
He later did groundbreaking work in vaccine development, particularly for anthrax.
However, in 1995, science historian Gerald L. Geison published a book that alleged Pasteur incorporated the findings of a rival scientist into his own work to make his anthrax vaccine functional - the "dishonor" predicted by Nostradamus.
Skeptics point out that the word for "pastor" in French is "pasteur" and that it's extremely unlikely Nostradamus pointed out the scientist by name, centuries before he was born.
Hitler's Birth and Rise to Power
"From the depths of the West of Europe, A young child will be born of poor people, He who by his tongue will seduce a great troop; His fame will increase towards the realm of the East." III:35
"Beasts ferocious with hunger will cross the rivers, The greater part of the battlefield will be against Hister. Into a cage of iron will the great one be drawn, When the child of Germany observes nothing." II:24
"In the place very near not far from Venus,The two greatest ones of Asia and of Africa, From the Rhine and Hister they will be said to have come, Cries, tears at Malta and the Ligurian side." IV:68
End of the World Prophecy by Nostradamus's Son
Hitler was born to an aged civil servant and a young homemaker in 1889 in Austria-Hungary, and used his intense oratory skills to mobilize German anger and resentment toward Western Europe.. Germany, as a part of the Axis powers, also allied with Japan in the East. Intense battles were fought near the island of Malta, and Germany also allied with Italy, of which Liguria is a region. Contrary to common skepticism, "Hister" isn't a typo, but a Roman name for the Danube River.
Again, Nostradamus makes use of vague proclamations and anagrams, and it's arguable that Hitler wasn't a "child of Germany" at all. Most of this could be applied to numerous German rulers in history, and nothing is specifically about Nazis. Incidentally, propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels's wife was a devotee of Nostradamus, and the Nazi propaganda machine often used the French seer's writings to claim they were destined to rule the world.
The Atomic Bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki
"Near the gates and within the cities, there will be two scourges the like of which was never seen,famine within plague, people put out by steel; crying to the great immortal God for relief." II:6
How It Came True:
The "two scourges" could easily be seen as the atomic bombs, which caused a plague of radiation sickness, the pollution of crops, and fell from the sky in steel case.
As with all Nostradamus predictions, the efficacy of the prediction depends on translation. It's also easy to look at this not as about atomic death, but about the actual plague, which had ravaged Europe multiple times, and of the steel of weapons.
The Presidency of Charles De Gaulle
"Hercules become king of Rome and of Annemarc, A man named De Gaulle is a three-time leader, Italy and the waters of Venice will tremble, He will be renowned above all monarchs." IX:33
How It Came True:
Charles de Gaulle was truly a three-time leader. He began as the leader of France's government-in-exile based in London during World War II, then fighting in Europe against Italian forces loyal to Nazi Germany.
He later became prime minister of the provisional post-WWII government. Finally in 1959, he undertook the first presidency of the French Fifth Republic.
However, this interpretation depends entirely on translation. Some versions don't mention De Gaulle at all, but rather "triple Gaul" or "three Guyon." Scholars have pointed out that this could refer to Julius Caesar, rather than a French general 400 years later.
The Challenger Disaster
"Nine will be set apart from the human flock Separated from judgement and counsel: Their fate to be determined on departure… … line unripe fruit will be the source of great scandal Great blame, to the other great praise." I:81How It Came True:
Other than a mistake with the numbers (the Space Shuttle carried seven astronauts, not nine), it seems like Nostradamus gets this one completely right. The Shuttle exploded soon after it launched in 1986, and the disaster caused a great scandal with military contractors and the firms that built the Shuttle components.Other translations have no real connection to the Shuttle, and are much more vague proclamations about people being scattered and banished.
The 9/11 Attacks
"Garden of the world near the new city, In the pathway of cavernous mountains,
Seized and plunged into a cauldron shall be, Forced to drink water that’s sulfur-poisoned." X:49
How It Came True:
A number of Nostradamus predictions have been said to refer to the September 11th attacks, as well as many fake quatrains that began circling the Internet soon after. But if one takes "cavernous mountains" to mean skyscrapers, and "new city" to be New York (home of Madison Square Garden), then one can see Nostradamus as having gotten this right. Additionally, the "poisoned water" might refer to the after-effects of the attacks, when many workers and residents became sick due to fumes and chemicals.