Fatality of Numbers

S. Baring-Gould


It is hardly necessary for me here to do more than mention the peculiar character given to different numbers by Christianity. One is the numeral indicating the Unity of the Godhead; two points to the hypostatic union; three to the Blessed Trinity; four to the evangelists; five to the Sacred Wounds; six to the number of sin; seven that of the gifts of the Spirit; eight that of the Beatitudes; ten is the number of the commandments; eleven speaks of the apostles after the loss of Judas; twelve of the complete apostolic college.

I shall now point out certain numbers which have been regarded with superstition and certain events connected with numbers which are of curious interest.

The number 14 has often been observed as having singularly influenced the life of Henry IV and other French princes. Let us take the history of Henry.

On the 14th May, 1029, the first king of France named Henry was consecrated, and on the 14th May, 1610, the last Henry was assassinated.

Fourteen letters enter into the composition of the name of Henri de Bourbon, who was the 14th king bearing the titles of France and Navarre.

The 14th December, 1553, that is, 14 centuries, 14 decades, and 14 years after the birth of Christ, Henry IV was born; the ciphers of the date 1553, when added together, giving the number 14.

The 14th May, 1554, Henry II ordered the enlargement of the Rue de la Ferronnerie. The circumstance of this order not having been carried out occasioned the murder of Henry IV in that street, four time 14 years later.

The 14th May, 1552, was the date of the birth of Marguérite de Valois, first wife of Henry IV.

On the 14th May, 1588, the Parisians revolted against Henry III at the instigation of the Duke of Guise.

On the 14th March, 1590, Henry IV gained the battle of Ivry.

On the 14th May, 1590, Henry was repulsed from the Fauxbourgs of Paris.

On the 14th November, 1590, the Sixteen took oath to die rather than serve Henry.

On the 14th November, 1592, the Parliament registered the papal Bull giving power to the legate to nominate a king to the exclusion of Henry.

On the 14th December, 1599, the Duke of Savoy was reconciled to Henry TV.

On the 14th September, 1606, the Dauphin, afterwards Louis XIII, was baptized.

On the 14th May, 1610, the king was stopped in the Rue de la Ferronnerie, by his carriage becoming locked with a cart, on account of the narrowness of the street. Ravaillac took advantage of the occasion for stabbing him.

Henry IV lived four times 14 years, 14 weeks, and four times 14 days; that is to say, 56 years and 5 months.

On the 14th May, 1643, died Louis XIII, son of Henry IV; not only on the same day of the same month as his father, but the date, 1643, when its ciphers are added together, gives the number 14, just as the ciphers of the date of the birth of his father gave 14.

Louis XIV mounted the throne in 1643: 1+6+4+3=14. He died in the year 1715: 1+7+1+5=14. He lived 77 years, and 7+7=14.

Louis XV mounted the throne in the same year; he died in 1774, which also bears the stamp of 14, the extremes being 14, and the sum of the means 7 + 7 making 14.

Louis XVI had reigned 14 years when he convoked the States General, which was to bring about the Revolution.

The number of years between the assassination of Henry IV and the dethronement of Louis XVI is divisible by 14.

Louis XVII died in 1794; the extreme digits of the date are 14, and the first two give his number.

The restoration of the Bourbons took place in 1814, also marked by the extremes being 14; also by the sum of the ciphers making 14.

The following are other curious calculations made respecting certain French kings.

Add the ciphers composing the year of the birth or of the death of some of the kings of the third race, and the result of each sum is the titular number of each prince. Thus:

  • Louis IX was born in 1215; add the four ciphers of this date, and you have IX.
  • Charles VII was born in 1402; the sum of 1+4+2 gives VII.
  • Louis XII was born in 1461; and 1+4+6+1=XII.
  • Henry IV died in 1610; and 1+6+1=twice IV.
  • Louis XIV was crowned in 1643; and these four ciphers give XIV. The same king died in 1715; and this date gives also XIV. He was aged 77 years, and again 7+7=14.
  • Louis XVIII was born in 1755; add the digits, and you have XVIII.

What is remarkable is that this number 18 is double the number of the king to whom the law first applies and is triple the number of the kings to whom it has applied.

Here is another curious calculation: Robespierre fell in 1794, Napoleon in 1815, and Charles X in 1830. Now, the remarkable fact in connection with these dates is that the sum of the digits composing them, added to the dates, gives the date of the fall of the successor. Robespierre fell in 1794; 1+7+9+4=21; 1794+21=1815, the date of the fall of Napoleon; 1+8+1+5=15, and 1815+15=1830, the date of the fall of Charles X.

There is a singular rule which has been supposed to determine the length of the reigning Pope's life, in the earlier half of a century. Add his numlcr to that of his predecessor, to that add ten, and the result gives the year of his death:

  • Pius VII succeeded Pius VI; 6+7=13; add 10 and the sum is 23. Pius VII died in 1823.
  • Leo XII succeeded Pius VII; 12+7+10=29; and Leo XII died in 1829.
  • Pius VIII succeeded Leo XII; 8+12+10=30; and Pius VIII died in 1830.

However, this calculation does not always apply: Gregory XVI ought to have died in 1834, but he did not actually vacate his see till 1846.

It is also well known that an ancient tradition forbids the hope of any of St. Peter's successors, pervenire ad annos Petri; i. e., to reign 25 years.

Those who sat longest are:

  • Pius VI, who reigned 24 years, 6 months, 14 days
  • Hadrian I, who reigned 23 years, 10 months, 17 days
  • Pius VII, who reigned 23 years, 5 months, 6 days
  • Alexander III, who reigned 21 years, 11 months, 23 days
  • St. Silvester I, who reigned 21 years, 0 months, 4 days

There is one numerical curiosity of a very remarkable character, which I must not omit.

The ancient Chamber of Deputies, such as it existed in 1830, was composed of 402 members and was divided into two parties. The one, numbering 221 members, declared itself strongly for the revolution of July; the other party, numbering 181, did not favor a change. The result was the constitutional monarchy, which re-established order after the three memorable days of July. The parties were known by the following nicknames: The larger was commonly called La queue de Robespierre, and the smaller, Les honnêtes gens. Now, the remarkable fact is that if we give to the letters of the alphabet their numerical values as they stand in their order, as 1 for A, 2 for B, 3 for C, and so on to Z, which is valued at 25, and then write vertically on the left hand the words, La queue de Robespierre, with the nomber equivalent to each letter opposite to it, and on the right hand, in like manner, Les honnêtes gens, if each column of numbers be summed up, the result is the number of members who formed each party.