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These Historical Figures Had Some Particularity Unexpected Habits

Photo Credit: Bettmann/ Getty Images & FPG / Archive Photos / Getty Images
Photo Credit: Bettmann/ Getty Images & FPG / Archive Photos / Getty Images

Each of these famous figures is known for their contributions, whether good or bad, to history. They couldn’t be more different from each other, as the list includes explorers, dictators, composers, and more. What these people all have in common are some very unexpected habits. These behaviors are unexpected because they are unusual for the times, contradictory to what you would expect of the person, or just plain strange.

Benito Mussolini

Black and white photo of Mussolini standing in a street with a cane. He is wearing all black with a coat and hat.
Italian dictator Benito Mussolini on the Boulevard at Biarritz, France. (Photo Credit: Topical Press Agency/ Getty Images)

Benito Mussolini is best known for his role as an Italian dictator during the Second World War. He founded the Italian Fascist Party and acted as the prime minister of the country until his death in 1945. During the war, he allied with Germany and the other Axis Powers. What is less known about Mussolini, however, is that he maintained a prolific romantic life up until his death. He would have up to 14 mistresses at a time.

His most unique habit, however, was that he enjoyed writing explicit letters. This particular pastime was discovered in the diary of Clara Petacci, one of Mussolini’s many mistresses, in 2009. Apparently, Mussolini liked to write these explicit letters as a way to wind down.

Honoré de Balzac

Coloured painting of a man with brown hair wearing a white robe with his arms crossed.
Portrait of Honoré de Balzac, 1836. (Photo Credit: Fine Art Images/ Heritage Images/ Getty Images)

Honoré de Balzac was an important French literary figure who lived during the early 1800s. As with many of the writers and creatives listed here, de Balzac had a unique way of handling his grueling writing schedule. Instead of staying hydrated by consuming different drinks throughout the day, it is reported that de Balzac only drank coffee.

This meant that he was consuming roughly 50 cups of coffee a day. He would use the coffee to fuel his writing, waking up at two in the morning to write for 18 hours. He was clearly a man who loved his coffee, and tied it very closely to his writing. In fact, de Balzac is credited with saying, “Were it not for coffee one could not write, which is to say one could not live.”

Ludwig van Beethoven

Coloured painting of a white man with untamed grey hair in a jacket writing music on paper.
Painting of German composer Ludwig van Beethoven composing the ‘Missa Solemnis’, 1820. (Photo Credit: Universal History Archive/ Getty Images)

Ludwig van Beethoven was a famous German pianist and composer who, well into his career, went deaf but continued with his music. His works remain extremely popular and are still performed around the world. His Symphony Number 9, known as the Ode to Joy, has been adopted as the official anthem of the European Union and the Council of Europe. He might not have been as obsessed with drinking coffee as de Balzac was, but he certainly had his own strange habits surrounding his morning cuppa joe.

Beethoven would count out exactly 60 coffee beans to make a perfect cup of coffee to start his day. These beans were hand-counted, and he would often double-check them to make sure he had the number right.


Grigori Yefimovich Rasputin was a self-proclaimed mystic and faith healer who earned himself a place in the Russian court through his healing. He was able to ease the pain of Alexei Nikolaevich, the Russian heir who suffered from hemophilia. Rasputin and characters modeled after him are common in popular culture and films as he was a larger-than-life personality. This, of course, means that he probably had several unusual habits.

Black and white photo of Rasputin wearing a black robe standing up with one arm crossed over his stomach. Has his hair slicked down and a large black beard.
Rasputin. (Photo Credit: Hulton-Deutsch/ Hulton-Deutsch Collection/Corbis/ Getty Images)

Perhaps his most unexpected habit was that he ran what many consider to be a religious cult. Rasputin joined an underground part of the Russian Orthodox Church, where he led a group of followers with his own religious doctrine. He had his congregation participate in group “activities” until they were so exhausted that they reached a state of “holy passionlessness” and were able to worship God without carnal desires getting in the way.

Charles Darwin

Charles Darwin is best known for his theory on evolution and his travels across the world that led him to his discoveries. He was also, however, a fan of trying new and exotic meats. While he was a student at Cambridge University, he was part of a club that tried different types of meats that were not commonly eaten by people. During his travels, Darwin continued this habit by eating many of the new animals that he came across.

Line drawing of Darwin, with a hat and a stick, walking alongside a turtle.
An illustration from Charles Darwin, His Life and Work, by Charles Frederick Holder, of Darwin testing the speed of a tortoise, 1891. (Photo Credit: Bettmann/ Getty Images)

This led to him accidentally eating an extremely rare bird, the lesser rhea. This bird was unknown in Europe and he wanted to bring one home from his trip. One of the men who was with him ended up shooting one without knowing what it was, and prepared it for the crew to eat. When Darwin realized what he was eating, he collected all of the bones and sent them to a taxidermist in England who was able to recreate what the bird looked like.

King Edward VII

King Edward VII ascended the throne of England after the death of his mother, Queen Victoria. He was well known for his romantic escapades throughout France, and has been dubbed somewhat of a historic playboy. He earned himself the nicknames “Edward the Caresser” and “Dirty Bertie,” and managed to carry out at least 55 affairs during his marriage. What is lesser known about Edward is that in his spare time he created special furniture for his hobby.

Black and white photo of a man standing beside a sitting woman. Both of them wear extravagant, regal clothing and crowns.
King Edward VII with his consort Queen Alexandra in London on the day of his coronation, August 1902. (Photo Credit: Hulton Archive/ Getty Images)

The monarch’s special chair, sometimes called a sled, was kept in his favorite brothel in Paris. It had been custom-made to his specific measurements to assist in romantic activities, which could be difficult as he was a rather corpulent man in his later years. Allegedly, it could be used by three participants.


Mozart was a child prodigy musician and composer. He is still regarded as one of the world’s finest composers. Despite his sophisticated music, his taste in comedy was anything but sophisticated. According to historians who have studied the life and career of the composer, there is extensive evidence that indicates that Mozart really liked childish jokes.

Coloured painting of Mozart in a white wig with curls and a red jacket.
Portrait of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, c. 1780. (Photo Credit: Universal History Archive/ Getty Images)

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These weren’t just private jokes told among friends, either. Mozart wrote a number of compositions about these unusual topics – proper compositions which were designed to be sung by a choir. These songs are still performed to this day by many popular choirs and orchestras, despite their names and content.

Rosemary Giles

Rosemary Giles is a history content writer with Hive Media. She received both her bachelor of arts degree in history, and her master of arts degree in history from Western University. Her research focused on military, environmental, and Canadian history with a specific focus on the Second World War. As a student, she worked in a variety of research positions, including as an archivist. She also worked as a teaching assistant in the History Department.

Since completing her degrees, she has decided to take a step back from academia to focus her career on writing and sharing history in a more accessible way. With a passion for historical learning and historical education, her writing interests include social history, and war history, especially researching obscure facts about the Second World War. In her spare time, Rosemary enjoys spending time with her partner, her cats, and her horse, or sitting down to read a good book.