Prince Eugene of Savoy, the grand military maestro of 18th century Austria, was born in Paris. A short and sickly boy from the cadet branch of the house of Savoy, Eugene was supposed to end up where all sickly aristocrats go – the Catholic Church.
But the boy known for playing a woman in games with his pages had a secret military dream. At the age of 19, he bravely volunteered for the French army. Who turned him down flat.
In a fit of pique, Eugene went east. The Austrians were desperately battling the Ottoman Turks, and were willing to take whoever was foolhardy enough to join them (even a Frenchman). Eugene tasted blood in the Siege of Vienna and never looked back.
Over the reigns of 3 Emperors, Eugene conquered the Turks, made friends with the Duke of Marlborough, and – you guessed it – successfully vanquished the French in the War of the Spanish Succession. His later career was less starry, but he endured in the public imagination. Napoleon dubbed him one of the seven greatest commanders in history.
Reputed to be gay, Eugene never married or had children. You’ll find his body in the Stephansdom and his ghostly presence in the Upper Belvedere, the Prince’s summer palace.