The English Monarchy and Interesting Deaths
Thank you to Beth and the QAB community for hosting me today on Day 1 of my virtual book tour for Illustrated Kings and Queens of England. I’m so excited to be here!
“A King should die standing,” are said to be the final words of King Louis XVIII of France in 1824, a man who tried to carry on with his royal duties right up to the end even though he was suffering from extensive gangrene. When I was researching the lives of the English monarchy for Illustrated Kings and Queens of England, I found it interesting to read about the deaths of these monarchs. Some had died fighting for their crown, others had been murdered, some had been executed, and others had died as a result of nasty accidents, and still others had died peacefully in their beds – they were the lucky ones!
Today, I’m going to share with you some of the interesting fates of our English monarchs.
Death on the Battlefield
In an age of chivalry, everyone wanted to be a warrior king. Henry VIII certainly wanted to excel on the battlefield like Henry V and Edward I, but for some monarchs, the battlefield brought their lives and reign to a violent end.
In 1066, following his victory at the Battle of Stamford Bridge against his brother, Tostig, Earl of Northumbria, and Harald Hardrada of Norway, King Harold II of England (born c.1022) went to battle against William, Duke of Normandy, and his invading forces. The two armies met at Senlac Hill, near Hastings, on 14 October 1066, in a battle known as the Battle of Hastings. This time, fate was not on Harold’s side, and he was defeated and killed. An image on the famous Bayeux Tapestry has led to the story that Harold was killed by an arrow in the eye, but it is not known whether the man depicted is actually Harold.
Another king who was killed in battle by an invading force was King Richard III (born 1452). On 22 August 1485, Richard and his forces met the army of Henry Tudor, Earl of Richmond, near Market Bosworth in Leicestershire at the Battle of Bosworth. Henry Tudor had returned from exile in Brittany to claim the English crown. Richard was killed during the battle, and Henry was crowned King Henry VII later that day when Richard’s crown was recovered from the battlefield.
On 6 April 1199, King Richard I (born 1157) died from gangrene in a wound sustained from a crossbow bolt to the shoulder, while laying siege to the castle of Châlus, the home of Viscount Aimar V of Limoges who had risen in rebellion. And the famous warrior king, Henry V (1387-1422), died as a result of his warring, succumbing to camp fever (typhus) following the capture of Mieux in summer 1422.
Then there are the monarchs who were the victims of foul play, or whose deaths are shrouded in mystery. According to the chronicles, King Edmund I (born 921) was attacked and murdered by a robber named Leofa on 26 May 946 while he was attending mass at Pucklechurch, Gloucestershire. In 878, King Edward the Martyr (born c. 962) was murdered at Corfe, while on his way to visit his younger half-brother, Aethelred, at Corfe Castle. It is not known exactly what happened, but theories include that he was murdered by a supporter of Aethelred, that his murder was plotted by Aethelred, that he was murdered by Aelfhere, ealdorman of Mercia, and that his stepmother, Aelfthryth, plotted his death.
Kings whose deaths are shrouded in mystery include Harthacnut (born c.1018) who most believe died from a stroke or heart attack but the Morkinskinna, a 13th century Old Norse saga, claims that he was poisoned after drinking from a horn meant for Magnus I of Norway, who was visiting his court. Then there’s King Edward V who has gone down in history as one of the Princes in the Tower, along with his brother Prince Richard. The boys disappeared in the reign of Richard III, and their fate is unknown, although there are many theories. And then, of course, there’s Edward II (born 1284) who died at Berkeley Castle on 21 September 1327. It is not known how he died, but many believe him to have been murdered. According to one chronicle, he was killed by the insertion of a red-hot poker in his nether regions, but this is now thought to be nothing more than propaganda. His death remains a mystery. The fate of Richard II (born 1367) is also unknown. He died on 14 February 1400 while he was imprisoned at Pontefract Castle, but it is unclear whether his death was murder. It’s the same with Henry VI (born 1421) who died while imprisoned in the Tower of London in 1471. Although it was claimed that he died of melancholy, following his son’s death, it is now believed that he was stabbed to death on the orders of Edward IV.
Two English monarchs met their end on the scaffold, being beheaded for high treason. Lady Jane Grey, who has gone down in history as “The Nine Day Queen”, was executed on 12 February 1554 following her alleged usurpation of the throne and her father’s involvement in Wyatt’s Rebellion. Charles I (born 1600) was executed on 30 January 1649 following the defeat of the royalists by the Parliamentarians and his refusal to accept the idea of a constitutional monarchy.
Anyone would think that it’s unlucky to be a “King William” seeing as Kings William I, II and III all died as the result of an accident. William I (born c. 1028) died following a fall from his horse while riding into battle at Mantes, William II (born c. 1056) was accidentally shot with an arrow by one of his own men while hunting in the New Forest, and William III (born 1650) died of pneumonia, following a fall from his horse caused by it stumbling into a molehill. Nasty!
If regicide, warfare or accidents didn’t finish you off, then illness did, with some illnesses being worse than others. King Eadred (born c. 923) died in 955 after suffering from digestive problems and problems swallowing food, Henry I (born c. 1068) died in 1135 after eating a dish of lampreys, and King John (born 1167) died in 1216 after eating a meal of peaches and ale.
It is not clear what killed Edward VI (born 1537), the boy-king and son of Henry VIII. He’d suffered from measles and smallpox, but theories regarding his death in July 1553 include tuberculosis, bronchopneumonia and non-classic cystic fibrosis.
Queen Mary II (born 1662) died of smallpox in 1694. Poor George II (born 1683) died in 1760 on his close stool after his heart ruptured due to an aortic aneurysm, and George III (born 1738) was plagued with mental problems, possibly as a result of porphyria, and died in January 1820 after falling into a coma. Perhaps that was the most peaceful of these royal deaths.
MEET GRAPHIC DESIGNER VERITY RIDGWAY!
Queenanneboleyn.com had the pleasure of interviewing Verity Ridgway, talented graphic designer and writer, back in November 2014. Verity colorized several of the illustrations in Illustrated Kings and Queens of England. To enjoy our delightful conversation with Verity, click here —>>> QAB INTERVIEW: AUTHOR AND GRAPHIC DESIGNER VERITY RIDGWAY.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR!!
Claire Ridgway is the author of best-selling books including:
- ON THIS DAY IN TUDOR HISTORY
- THE FALL OF ANNE BOLEYN: A COUNTDOWN
- THE ANNE BOLEYN COLLECTION
- INTERVIEWS WITH INDIE AUTHORS: TOP TIPS FROM SUCCESSFUL SELF-PUBLISHED AUTHORS
- THE ANNE BOLEYN COLLECTION II
- GEORGE BOLEYN: TUDOR POET, COURTIER & DIPLOMAT
- TUDOR PLACES OF GREAT BRITAIN
- ILLUSTRATED KINGS AND QUEENS OF ENGLAND
Claire was also involved in the English translation and editing of Edmond Bapst’s 19th-century French biography of George Boleyn and Henry Howard, now available as TWO GENTLEMAN POETS AT THE COURT OF HENRY VIII.
Claire worked in education and freelance writing before creating The Anne Boleyn Files history website and becoming a full-time history researcher, blogger, and author. The Anne Boleyn Files is known for its historical accuracy and Claire’s mission to get to the truth behind Anne Boleyn’s story. Her writing is easy-to-read and conversational, and readers often comment on how reading Claire’s books is like having a coffee with her and chatting about history.
Claire loves connecting with Tudor history fans and helping authors and aspiring authors.
Claire Ridgway and MadeGlobal Publishing are graciously offering a complimentary copy of Illustrated Kings and Queens of England to one lucky QAB member or browser. If you are interested in being included in a drawing for a chance of winning this wonderful book, send the administrator a message via the website’s contact form. To complete the contact form, click here –> CONTACT US! We will draw a random winner on November 25, 2016. Good Luck!!!