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A weekly show where knowledge junkies get their fix of trivia-tastic information. This week, John tells you about some lesser known siblings of famous historical figures!


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Hi I'm John Green, welcome to my salon. This is Mental Floss video.

1. And did you know that Walt Disney's brother Roy was the chairmen of the board of Walt Disney Productions for many years? He also gave $250 of the $790 total dollars to help start the company in 1923. AND he postponed his retirement to build Walt Disney World after his brother's death in 1966. Roy once described his job as, "Help Walt do the things he wants to do."

That's funny, that's what my job is. Only my brother's name isn't Walt. Anyway, that's the first of many interesting, lesser known siblings of famous historical figures I'm going to tell you about today in this video brought to you by our friends at Geico.

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2. Napoleon Bonaparte had several brothers and sisters, but probably the most interesting is his older brother Joseph, who spent time ruling Naples and later Spain, despite his actual career ambition of being a writer. Napoleon was like, "Listen, man, I can't make you a good writer, but I can make you the head of Spain." Anyway, Joseph later moved to the US and ended up in New Jersey with the crown jewels of Spain, which he'd stolen. 

3. Joseph Bonaparte, by the way, also helped popularize Niagara Falls as a honeymoon location, and one of Napoleon's sisters was named Pauline. She had two husbands, the first one died and the second one was a Prince, who she kind of ditched because she didn't like him anymore. They stayed married but didn't spend any time together, and she was notorious for having many affairs. In fact, some even say she had an affair with Napoleon. Yeah, that's not okay Napoleon.

4. Which brings us to Cleopatra's brother/husband, Ptolemy XIII, who became the Pharaoh of Egypt in 51 BCE when he was about eleven. Eventually, he exiled his sister because he was jealous of her popularity. Obviously, that didn't go well for him. He died around 47 BCE and Cleopatra got to become Cleopatra.

5. And talk of Cleopatra inevitably leads us to Mark Antony, who was married to a woman named Octavia, who was also the sister of future emperor Augustus, aka Octavian. Octavia actually helped create peace between Antony and Augustus during a tumultuous time in Ancient Rome, but Mark Antony continued his famous fling with Cleopatra. 

6. Wolfgang Amadeus wasn't the only prodigy in the Mozart family. His older sister, Maria Anna, toured Europe as a piano player when she was just 12. She also helped teach the instrument to her younger brother, along with their dad. Then, the two siblings traveled together to play music. Sadly, she stopped touring because it was frowned upon for a woman over the age of eighteen to have that lifestyle.

7. Mary Boleyn has a reputation of her own thanks to a handful of books and films, but she's not quite as famous as her sister Anne, one of Henry VIII's wives in the sixteenth century. It's believed that Mary had an affair with Henry VIII for at least two years, though it's worth noting that nearly everyone in England had an affair with Henry VIII. But she eventually married one of his friends, William Carey, and after he died, Mary wed a man named William Stafford who was below her in status because she was a queen's sister, so she was banished.

There really was no way to win in Henry VIII's England except to be Henry VIII.

8. King George III of England had an interesting sister. Caroline Matilda, who married Christian VII in 1766, making her the Queen of Denmark. The arrangement resulted in a scandal - Caroline had an affair with a doctor named Johann Friedrich Struensee, who lived in the palace to look after the mentally unwell king. Struensee actually rose to power during this time and had to be overthrown, and then Christian and Caroline divorced.

9. Speaking of European kings, Louis XIV, aka the Sun King of France, had a younger brother Philippe. Philippe was fairly openly homosexual, despite marrying women twice, and he was also an accomplished military commander. He led a huge victory at the Battle of Castle against the Dutch in 1677.

10. While we're on the topic of royalty, let's talk about Li Jiancheng, the Crown Prince en, who was the older brother of Li Shimin, the famous Chinese Emperor who helped found the Tang Dynasty. It's strange that he was the older brother and Crown Prince, rather than the Emperor himself, but Li Shimin got preferential treatment from their father because he contributed so much to their dynasty and military. 

Then, when the Crown Prince and another younger brother tried to take power, Li Shimin had them both killed. There was really no job worse in the pre-modern era than sibling to a monarch. Well, except I guess literally all the other jobs. You know, constant fratricide, lack of antibiotics, no Snapchat filters, it was really a terrible time to be human.

11. Christopher Columbus had a younger brother, Bartholomew was an explorer, mapmaker, and cartography expert. Like, he was once caught by pirates and had to make way back to Portugal with little help. Eventually, he assisted his brother with expeditions to the New World, and even founded the Caribbean city Santa Domingo.

12. Okay, let's stop talking about death and move onto artists. Famous painter Edvard Munch had four siblings, but one in particular inspired much of his work - his sister Sophie, who died to tuberculosis when she was 15. I thought we were done talking about death?!

Edvard was fourteen at the time, he spent a lot of time with Sophie while she was dying, and many of his paintings were inspired by her and the disease.

13. Branwell Bronte, the only boy of the famous Bronte siblings, was also kind of the only failure of the famous Bronte siblings. He lost several jobs over the course of his life, including railway clerk and tutor twice. And he never quite made it as a professional painter. Although he did collaborate with his sisters on creative projects from time to time, but he never achieved their fame. He did, however, continue the great Bronte family tradition of dying of tuberculosis, just like all of his sisters.

14. Edwin Booth was a famous stage actor in the late 19th century, but thanks to John Wilkes, he'll always be known as the brother of the guy who killed Abraham Lincoln. But Edwin had a very prolific acting career; he performed lots of Shakespeare, he even started his own theatre in Manhattan, Booth's Theatre, which was open from 1869 through 1874. And, as you may remember from our episode on Lincoln, Edwin also once saved the life of Abe's son Robert Todd.

15. Everyone knows the Red Baron, Manfred von Richthofen, a German fighter pilot during the First World War, and later, maker of frozen pizzas. But many people haven't heard of his brother, Lothar, who gave Manfred a run for his money. Lothar had about 40 victories during the war, which was less than his brother, so he didn't get the same notoriety. Plus, he crash-landed many times, which, you know, isn't an ideal outcome.

We can't mention the Red Baron without giving old Snoopy a shout-out.

16. And then there's Albert Goring, the younger brother of Hermann Goring, a Nazi leader. Albert was not a Nazi; in fact, he helped Jewish people escape Germany during World War Two. And interestingly, when Albert would get in trouble for that, Hermann would bail him out. We know of four warrants for Albert's arrest, but he was never convicted of anything. After the war, Albert had a sad life of depression and unemployment, largely due to his last name.

17. Infamous possible ax murderer Lizzie Borden had an older sister, Emma. And after Lizzie was found not guilty, the two women remained on speaking terms for a while, but according to an article in the 1905 issue of The San Francisco Call, they had a falling out, which had something to do with Lizzie spending time with actress Nance O'Neil whose work Emma presumably didn't like.

18. Harry Houdini performed some escape artist tricks with his lesser known bother Theo Hardeen. They called themselves "The Brothers Houdini" and worked at Coney Island for a while. And when Harry died, Theo inherited his props and continued to do illusions for two more decades. 

19. Al Capone had a couple siblings, including his oldest brother James Vincenzo Capone, also known as Richard James Hart, a name he gave to himself because he liked the actor William S. Hart. A couple of other interesting tidbits, the older brother tried to join the circus when he was sixteen and he later worked as a federal prohibition agent. 

20. Famous Yankee Joe DiMaggio had a brother named Dom who played for his rival team, the Boston Red Sox, for eleven years. And their older brother, Vince, was a center-fielder for a bunch of different major league baseball teams over the course of a decade.

21. Okay, let's talk about a few siblings of US politicians. Benjamin Franklin had sixteen siblings, including his youngest sister Jane Mecom. They exchanged letters for many years and were very close, and pretty similar in a lot of ways. She also loved reading and writing.

22. Charles Adams was the son of president John Adams, making him John Quincy's brother, and he started out just as promising as John Quincy, attending Harvard, etc. But, he struggled with alcohol abuse and had financial problems. In fact, he once lost thousands of dollars of John Quincy's money.

23. President Teddy Roosevelt's younger brother was Elliott Bulloch, and he also had a drinking problem. And he had an affair and a child with one of the family's servants. Theodore strongly encouraged him to move to Virginia from New York to stop embarrassing everyone.

24. Jumping forward in time, we have Donald Nixon, Richard's brother, who lived in California and ran drive-ins in the 1950s. He once got a $205,000 loan from Howard Hughes for his company, which he didn't pay back, but they stayed friends. Because you know sometimes Howard Hughes would cough and $205,000 would come out. Anyways, they remained close enough that Donald went to the Dominican Republic with one of Hughes' top aides in 1969.

25. Jimmy Carter also had an interesting brother, Billy, who had a tough go of it with rehab, almost losing his home to the IRS, and then accepting a $220,000 loan from Libyans in 1980. He once said, "My mother went into the Peace Corps when she was sixty-eight. My one sister is a motorcycle freak, my other sister is a Holy Roller evangelist and my brother is running for president. I'm the only sane one in the family."

26. Moving onto first ladies, Jackie Kennedy Onassis had a socialite younger sister, Caroline Lee Radziwill. For a few years, she tried to become an actress and once played the part of Tracy Lord in a 1967 stage production of The Philadelphia Story to terrible reviews. She was also married to a Polish prince for a while, but they divorced.

27. And finally, I returned to my salon to tell you about Leo and Ron Gallagher. You probably know about Leo Gallagher, the comedian famous for his fruit smashing routine. Well in the 1990s, he allowed his younger brother, Ron, to perform this routine as well. Ron called it "Gallagher 2." But eventually, Leo sued, and won, because Ron hadn't always advertised appropriately, sometimes implying that he was Leo. Because if there's one thing I don't want in this world, it's the second best Gallagher.

Thanks for watching Mental Floss Video, which is made with the help of all of these nice people and made possible by our friends at Geico, thanks very much for your sponsorship. As we say in my home town, don't forget to be awesome.