Historically, a king or queen had an extraordinary amount of power over their subjects. Their decision was final, their authority unquestionable, their every whim met. They were worshiped as sorts of demigods. But the truth is these rulers were not divine; they were mortal, and they weren’t able to cheat death any more than the rest of us. On the contrary, some of history’s most famous rulers lost their lives in truly bizarre and inelegant ways. These are officially the strangest, least dignified royal deaths in history.
1. Sigurd Eysteinsson, Earl of Orkney
Sigurd Eysteinsson was a Viking leader, and, as such, he had a tendency for embarking on wars of conquest. His desire for expansion eventually took him to the northern reaches of Scotland, which at that time was populated by a people known as the Picts. One of the Pictish leaders, at this time, was Máel Brigte of Moray.
Máel was known by a nickname, “the Bucktoothed.” As you can probably figure out for yourself, that was a reference to his rather sizable teeth. This isn’t a digression: Máel’s big old gnashers are central to the tale of Sigurd.
The Bucktoothed’s revenge
Sigurd laid down a challenge for Máel: they would each gather a force of 40 soldiers, and they’d battle it out. When it came down to it, though, the sneaky Sigurd actually assembled double the amount of troops. Vastly outnumbering the Picts, the treacherous Vikings won the day comfortably. And to show off their victory in the most gruesome way imaginable, the Vikings chopped off the heads of their enemies and attached them to their saddles.
Sigurd took Máel’s head for himself, but as he rode on his horse — with the decapitated head bouncing up and down — something unexpected happened: Máel’s big teeth badly scratched against Sigurd’s leg. This cut became infected, and before long the double-crossing Viking leader was as dead as his enemy.
2. Edmund Ironside of England
When in 1016 the English King Æthelred the Unready died, a vote was taken by a group of his advisers. Who should replace the old monarch? Should it be the King’s own son, Edmund, or should it be a Danish leader called Cnut? The group was split; ultimately those who wanted Edmund won out. But not for long.
Cnut gathered a force and attacked Edmund, and for six months they battled it out. In the end, Edmund was defeated and Cnut took control of much of England. Edmund, meanwhile, became the King of Wessex.
Down the toilet
A mere month after the resolution of the hostilities, Edmund would meet his end in a gruesome fashion. At least, that’s if the account of the historian Henry of Huntingdon is to be believed. He lived more than a century after Edmund’s death, so there’s reason for skepticism here. All the same, it’s a story worthy of consideration here.
According to Henry, Edmund was murdered by an assassin. And how did this killer do the deed? Well, they concealed themselves within a literal cesspit and waited. When the King went to the bathroom, the assassin sprang up and stabbed Edmund in his privates. Brutal!