Check out Panati's Extraordinary Endings of Practically Everything and Everybody by Charles Panati (1989, Harper and Row Publishers).
William the Conqueror by Phillips Russell (1933, Charles Scribner's Sons) offers a complete chapter on his death - Chapter 37 - The Last March.
drove worshippers running out of the church!
Sometimes, death can be like a scene from an old Monty Python movie.
King William I of England, better known as William the Conqueror was born in 1027. Others referred to him as William the Bastard, being the illegitimate son of Robert I, Duke of Normandy, and Arletta, a tanner's daughter.
William faced many battles in his life.
His most famous was on October 14, 1066. On this date he lead the Normans to defeat the English forces in the celebrated Battle of Hastings. On Christmas Day, he was crowned the King of England in the famed Westminster Abbey.
This foreign rule of England did not go without opposition. William had to fight off great violence in the north and west of the country.
His rule was stern, yet he commanded great respect of his subjects and maintained good order in his kingdom. However, he was merciless in the suppression of political opposition. In fact, so merciless was he that he introduced the act of beheading to England in 1076.
For all his conquests in life, William had one challenge that he could never conquer - that of being extremely fat. He was constantly ridiculed for being a "fat man" and was said to be "lying in" (pregnant).
So, in the summer of 1087, William went off to the ancient equivalent of a weight loss clinic in Rouen, France. Here he planned to trim the pounds with a strict diet of herbs and medications.
He never made it, however.
Along the way, he had to take care of a little business. He decided to retaliate against an invading French garrison at the border town of Mantes.
Of course, William and his troops won the battle.
But poor William lost his life as the result of the celebration.
It seems that his horse suddenly shied away from a fiery ember of the smoldering ruins. The horse took William and threw him violently into the saddle's iron pommel (that big knob on the front of the saddle).
Ouch! The pain!
His injuries were solely internal, but severe. The saddle burst his intestines and waste matter began to fill and poison his intestines (sounds great, huh?).
Peritonitis (inflammation of the abdominal cavity membrane) quickly set in. William was carried to Rouen where he slowly died over a period of five weeks. Pus filled his intestines.
Now for the weird, twisted part of his death:
William died on September 9, 1087 at the age of sixty years.
Within minutes, the servants stole everything from his residence - including his clothes - and left his swollen, lifeless body lying naked on the floor.
An obscure knight named Herluin was the first to discover William's nude body. At his own expense (he was not a wealthy man), he arranged for the body to be prepared for the funeral and transported to Caen.
Just before the solemn funeral procession reached the church, the cries of fire were heard. The mourners were forced to put his coffin down and go fight the fire. Eventually, they put the fire out, returned to the body, and continued it along its way to the church.
The funeral was held on a blisteringly hot day. As a result, his abscess had swelled and became putrid.
When they tried to fit William's body into a custom made sarcophagus (stone tomb), they found out that it had swelled so much that it would not fit in!
What to do? What to do?
Very simple - squeeze him in!
They tried pushing him in to no avail. They then pushed on his swelled abdominal wall. (BIG mistake!)
William the Conqueror's body burst like a popped balloon!
The pus and putrefaction drenched the King's burial garb. The stench filled the chapel. The mourners raced for the doors with their hands covering their noses. (I wasn't even there and I can imagine the smell!) Needless to say, they buried him very quickly!
His body was allowed to rot in peace until 1562 when the Huguenots dug him up and threw his bones all over the courtyard.
So ends the strange, smelly death of William the Conqueror.
Useless? Useful? I’ll leave that for you to decide.
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