The Colour of History


07/12/2012 by noonobservation

This week I thought it was time to revisit my main thesis. This has absolutely nothing to do with my hectic Christmas drinking schedule impinging on my reading time.

For those who haven’t read all of my posts (you inconstant swines), I hypothesised in August that there are 3 main attributes that make a person memorable: hotness, eccentricity and violence. By scoring each property on a scale of 0-255 and converting to RGB colours codes (red = hotness, green = eccentricity, blue = violence), historical personages can be defined by colour.

I’m not sure that the colours illuminate any deeper historical truths, but they sure are pretty and I am beginning to identify some interesting patterns.

Colour chartInitial findings

captain magenta

Captain Magenta may not have been gay after all.

1.  All the best men have strong tendencies towards magenta. I am now having to redefine this colour in my own mind as manly and not remotely associated with women’s sports wear or 80s eye shadow.

2. While I am naturally drawn to the violent and the sexy, I have a sad disinterest in the peacefully mad. Not one of my ten personages is predominantly green. Further research is required here, but I suspect the green spectrum encompasses religious fanatics, philosophers and ugly poets.

3. Matching together complementary colours opens the possibility of using memorability spectrum analysis to determine personal compatibility. As you can see, Lola Montez and Charles XII would have got on like a small principality on fire.

Charles XII vs Lola

While some may question the usefulness of a historical dating service for the dead, I would point out how many dead people are long-term single. Gordon, Charles XII and Casanova never married and a quite shocking proportion of historical personages are widows and widowers, having tragically lost their spouses to decomposition and lack of memorability.

General Gordon

Gordon’s only friend was Jesus, and even he didn’t like him that much on account of all those people he shot.

Colour compatibility matching also explains why Gordon didn’t have any friends – cyan goes with absolutely no other imaginable colour.

4. In applying memorability spectrum analysis to historical figures, I’ve inadvertently created ranking lists of the hottest, maddest and most violent people in history. Here are the rankings as they currently stand.


As you would expect, the hotness chart is topped by the infamous Casanova with roughly 122 confirmed kills. Exotic dancer and statesman Lola Montez is in second, and ungallant hussar, Boris Uxkull has galloped into third place. Uncharacteristically, Charles Gordon and Charles XII are bringing up the rear.


Those who score low for hotness, tend to score highly for eccentricity, thus showing that madness and romantic achievement are often mutually exclusive. Gordon wins by a short head over Blucher, owing to the transitory nature of the Field-Marshal’s phantom pregnancies. Casanova makes a surprise appearance in third – there is a point where extreme womanising and madness collide.


Though usually a well documented attribute, violence is difficult to assess – is it about personal physical violence or total head count resulting from actions? Taking both aspects into account, it is unsurprising that warrior-kings and crazy generals win this category. So far, historical women are dismally pacifistic, largely due to the leading of armed hoards being unfashionable for ladies in the 17th-19th centuries. The education of women in the noble arts of stabbing, shooting, raping and starving people to death was also much neglected. Few were taught even the basics of punching people in the face.

Next steps

I intend to continue gathering data on this theory in the hope of creating a pretty, but useless coffee-table book for Christmas 2015. If anyone has a particular favourite historical person* they would like analysing, do let me know (religious fanatics, philosophers and ugly poets are of special scientific interest).

*I only really countenance European history between 700 and 1918. Everything else is obscure, irrelevant, American or current affairs.

15 thoughts on “The Colour of History

  1. russiansnows says:

    How about Napoleon and the King of Naples? Peter the Great and Catherine the Great would be fascinating as well.

    • Should be in a position to comment on the King of Naples by Sunday at the latest 😉
      Peter the Great and Napoleon are definitely on the list! Maybe I’ll add Catherine too… she was a card…

  2. cesare borgia says:

    how about a family like the borgias?

    • Good idea. I just finished Season 2 of the TV series – so addictive. Most of the Borgias seem likely to score highly on all three attributes, so I predict pale colours for them.

  3. Karl Pearson says:

    How are you removing personal bias from the equation?

    For example, your self-confessed weakness for Hussars could result in your scoring them much higher for ‘hotness’ and lower for ‘eccentricity’ than for an equivalent non-Hussar.

    BTW, how about Edward Longshanks, Hammer of the Scots?

    • It is of course impossible to remove personal bias.
      In the case of “hotness”, I attempt to find evidence for how they were perceived by their contemporaries and take into account their success (or otherwise) with the opposite sex, e.g. number of wives, lovers, children.
      Eccentricity is possibly harder, e.g. because I’m agnostic, I’m more likely to consider people who do things on purely religious grounds to be eccentric than a godly person would. Again, I try to gauge whether their contemporaries considered them to be nuts.

      Good call on Longshanks – it’s been a while since I visited the Middle Ages and he is my favourite medieval British monarch. Possibly because going on about him annoys Scottish people so much.

  4. Penny Ward says:

    Possibly a cliche, but how about Rasputin?

  5. Mab says:

    Ooh, Robert Carey, Robert Carey!

    As to pink, that used to a very macho colour, at least in the high medieval period, as opposed to that girly blue. I suspect that this was mostly because madder was a cheap dye and faded to pink but it could be because they were subconciously aware that your colour coding system is accurate and were dressing accordingly….

  6. Max says:

    Have you realised that a figure with an even balance of all three colours would result in a shade of grey? Does this suggest an an imbalance is attractive? hmmm… Charles II on England?

    • Those with balanced personalities are indeed uninteresting shades of grey. Doesn’t mean they are not memorable though, as those scoring high for all three attributes will always come out pale. The maximumly memorable person would be pure white.

  7. The first Churchill, Robert Clive and Prince Grigory Potemkin should be very excellent specimens for your microscopic dissection.

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