Francois Hollande endured a rough first day as France's president on Tuesday, but the seemingly luckless Socialist is certainly not the first world leader to encounter ill omens on inauguration day. Here, his story and four other tales of higher-office woe:
1. France's Francois Hollande
Brooding rainstorms soaked the new president so thoroughly on his inauguration day that he had to change suits... twice. Hollande told reporters he wasn't afraid of rain or anything else — but that was before lightning struck his presidential jet while he was en route to Germany to meet Chancellor Angela Merkel later that day. Hollande switched planes, but arrived two hours late. Though Twitter chatter characterized the electrical storm as a bad sign, an outgoing conservative minister joked that it might bode well for Hollande's relationship with Merkel, a crucial ally. The French term for lightning bolt also means "love at first sight."
2. Haiti's Michel Martelly
As Martelly, once a raunchy carnival singer, prepared to assume the leadership of his earthquake-ravaged Caribbean nation a year ago, he promised to send the world the message that Haiti was "open for business." Things didn't work out quite that way. "In a sign of the nation's troubles," says CNN, "the electricity went out moments before the inauguration," knocking out the air conditioning and leaving dignitaries, including former U.S. President Bill Clinton, trapped in stifling heat.
3. Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe
The late reggae superstar Bob Marley put on a free concert to help celebrate Zimbabwe's independence when Mugabe was sworn in in 1980. But when freedom fighters who had been excluded from the "official hoity-toity ceremony" heard the music, they crashed through the fence, sparking a riot. Though the concert was engulfed in tear gas, Marley returned to the stage to play his song, "Zimbabwe," which had become "a sort of anthem for the freedom fighters," according to Marley documentarian Kevin MacDonald at Gothamist.
4. America's Andrew Johnson
In 1865, Vice President-elect Andrew Johnson reportedly arrived at his inauguration intoxicated, having attempted to cure a case of typhoid fever with whiskey. He gave a rambling speech to Congress, and slurred through the oath of office. When Johnson's boss, Abraham Lincoln, was assassinated just months later, Johnson took over. "Although an honest and honorable man," says Whitehouse.gov, "Andrew Johnson was one of the most unfortunate of presidents." A Southerner who had remained in the Senate after his state, Tennessee, seceded, Johnson battled with Radical Republicans over Reconstruction. The House impeached him in 1868, and the Senate cleared him by a single vote.
5. America's William Henry Harrison
Long speeches are not, in and of themselves, particularly worrisome. But when president elect William Henry Harrison insisted on delivering his 8,445-word inaugural address in 1841, he did so without a hat or overcoat to protect him from the winter elements. He caught pneumonia, which his contemporaries blamed on his inadequate wardrobe, and died a month later.
Sources: CBS News, Chicago Tribune, CNN, Gothamist, History.com, Reuters, Virgin Media, Whitehouse.gov
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- The U.S. is about to sell weapons to Vietnam. That's bad news for China.
- What the Middle Ages can tell us about the GOP's big charity myth
- Why is the Pentagon stuffing caves in Norway full of tanks?
- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- The one thing the New Atheists get right about religion
- How to be the most productive person in your office — and still get home by 5:30 p.m.
- 3 horrific inaccuracies in Homeland's depiction of Islamabad
- The uncomfortable truth in The Giving Tree
- Syrian women know how to defeat ISIS
- The U.S. government is actually trouncing Ebola. When will it get credit?
Subscribe to the Week