When we think of British monarchs, we probably picture a reserved ruler with a stiff upper lip and a regal sense of dignity. Queen Elizabeth, with her famously tempered smiles and polite waves, is a perfect example of this.
What we don’t think about is these “great” rulers dying on the toilet or accidentally blowing up themselves with cannons in a bid to impress a girl. Yet, as history has shown us, British monarchs have died in all sorts of embarrassing ways, and the stories are so graphic, that they don’t even tell them in school!
Here are 10 unusual—and mostly embarrassing—ways that British kings have kicked the bucket!
1. King Alexander III of Scotland: This monarch insisted on making a solo trek to return to his wife, Yolande, after a time away. Unfortunately for all parties involved, he was thrown from his horse and killed, since there was no one around to help.
2. King William II: While out hunting with a group of his peers, this son of William the Conqueror was accidentally shot and killed by his friend who was clearly a lackluster huntsman. Everyone panicked, with the friend taking off, and his other compatriots fled back to the castle. William rotted for several days until they came back.
3. King George V: This ruler was dying slowly from pulmonary failure. When the end was near, his doctor killed him by injecting him with cocaine and morphine. His reason for offing the leader of the nation with fatal doses of drugs? It was all about timing: if the king died in the morning, his death would feature in the morning papers, not the evening ones.
4. King James II of Scotland: This Scottish king was killed by his own cannon, which he decided to stand close to and fire to impress his lady love. He completely underestimated the power of the cannon; his thigh was cut in half and he bled out immediately.
5. William the Conqueror: While he may have been famous for conquering all sorts the Saxons (hence his nickname), William’s death wasn’t nearly as impressive. While on the battlefield, his horse stopped abruptly, jamming the king’s innards against his saddle and rupturing his guts.
6. King George II: This king lived a very wild life; he loved to go to parties and he had 30 known mistresses that he spent most of his time with. However, a fatal bout of constipation was the king’s downfall. He was found sitting on a toilet.
7. King John: This monarch’s greatest contribution to history was being the architect of the Magna Carta in 1215. His second greatest achievement was eating a barrel of peaches while lost in the woods and defecating himself to death.
8. King James I: While his death seems horrible (yet fitting for a noble) at first glance—James died after being attacked by a bevy of stab-happy assassins—a little research makes his death slightly more cringeworthy. Yes, he was stabbed to death by assassins… who chased him into the feces-filled sewer where he had decided to hide. In his pajamas.
9. King Henry I: Ol’ Henry here ate a lamprey, a parasitic fish that is known to not exactly be good for humans. At the time, he had no idea what it was and figured that, if it was caught by fishermen, it must have been okay to ingest. Boy, was he wrong!
10. Henry VIII: Henry was known as the despotic heavyset monarch who loved a good wedding (or six). Towards the end of his life, he weighed over 400 pounds and had a permanently leeching leg ulcer, bed sores, and all manner of other ailments. His coffin was lined with lead, but that did not prevent his corpse from, allegedly, imploding and leaking out kingly juices onto the streets.
Now there’s a list of things your high school history teacher never told you. Here’s to living in a day and age when death by horse is far less common!
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