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~ Sunday, January 25, 2004
THE KING IS DEAD
The strange deaths of some British monarchs:
Edmund Ironside - spear attack - Saxon toilets consisted of a wooden seat with a pit dug below. Edmund is said to have been killed by two thrusts up the rectum from a sword-wielding enemy soldier who was hiding in the pit.
William the Conqueror - horse accident: William died in France in September 1087, having sustained serious injuries a few weeks before when his horse reared up and threw him.
William II - arrow in the heart: William Rufus, an unpopular king, was shot in the heart while hunting deer in the New Forest. It may have been an accident, perhaps even a self-afflicted one, but the king had so many enemies, even within his own hunting party, that murder seems more likely.
Henry I - surfeit of lampreys: Henry died in his late 60s while on a hunting trip in Normandy. It appears to have been a case of greed. At a feast, Henry had partaken of a large amount of lampreys (small eels), a favourite dish of his. The resulting intestinal problems finished him off.
Richard I - gangrene: Having survived wars, crusades and imprisonment by the age of 35, Richard died a few years later after an arrow grazed his shoulder during a trifling battle in France in 1199. Gangrene set in and the minor wound was enough to do for him.
John - greed: the unpleasant King John died of natural causes in 1216 but, seeing as he was only 48 at the time, it is thought that his hugely overweight frame, caused by lifelong gluttony, was a major factor.
Alexander III - ‘drunk driving’: in 1286, after a drunken feast at Edinburgh Castle, this Scottish king, hungry for his new, young wife, decided to undertake the five hour ride back to his home in Fife, despite a freezing storm. While riding along the clifftops, lost in the darkness, his horse is thought to have panicked and thrown him over the edge to his death.
Edward II - red hot poker: Queen Isabella, tiring of her older husband who had had relationships with male courtiers, hatched a plot with her lover Mortimer to overthrow him. Mortimer had Edward murdered at Berkeley Castle. A red-hot bar of iron was thrust up his rear-end. He died screaming; the corpse was said to have borne a terrifying grimace.
Richard II - murder: crowned at the age of 10 and taking charge of England in his mid-teens, Richard started well, but by his late twenties had become a dangerous tyrant. Having been forced to abdicate in 1399, in favour of his hated relative Henry IV, he was quietly done away with in Pontefract Castle the following year.
Richard III - in battle: at the age of 32, Richard led his large, experienced army against Henry Tudor’s supposedly weaker forces. But great bands of men began deserting Richard for the Tudor side and he died in the thick of a battle he ought to have won.
Edward VI - poison?: in 1553, still only in his mid-teens, the promising boy-king had fallen victim to tuberculosis. He may have been helped along the way with poison by the power-hungry Duke of Northumberland. The night of his death was marked by a terrible storm all over England.
William III - death by mole: the frail and grieving William was riding his horse Sorrel when it tripped on a molehill and collapsed. William fell and his broke his collarbone. He died of a fever some days later, never quite recovering from the accident.
George I - seasickness: the German-born king, never comfortable with his life as British King, spent much of his later life back in Hanover. He was on his way there when he had a stroke which was rumoured to have been brought on by nausea from overeating melons in an attempt to soothe seasickness. He was taken to nearby Osnabrück Castle where, by chance, he died in the same room in which he had been born.
George II - toilet trouble: George died at the ripe age of 78 in 1760. When his servant heard troubled sounds emanating from the palace lavatory, he was not too worried, since the king had notorious bowel troubles and could make a lot of noise. However, on investigation it turned out that the king had collapsed with the strain of it all, and had smashed his head open on fittings as he slumped dead.