(ORDO NEWS) — With the bodies of royals, everything is not easy. In some cultures, royalty are considered – or at least were considered – divine, making their bodies literally sacred vessels.
Royal women had to deal with the fact that their wombs were technically the property of the state, which was interested in what went in and out of their bodies.
Then there is the modern phenomenon where royals are constantly being photographed and often have their bodies metaphorically torn apart by the media and their bored subjects.
In the case of Princess Diana, for example, this led to tragedy. And yet, the royal body is also forbidden, as anyone who tries to reach out and grab the royal surrounded by guards will quickly find out.
The complex problems that royal bodies bring with them do not end with the death of a king. The difficulties for those in charge of the corpse are just beginning.
Many royalty are treated with the reverence they would expect from death, with elaborate funerals and rituals centered on their remains.
You might think that with all their money and power, it would not be difficult to complete an elementary task – to bury the body and keep it there.
But sometimes things go drastically wrong.
Whether it’s a terrible accident, a misunderstanding, or deliberate and malicious intent, there are many ways in which the body of a deceased member of the royal family can end up in a very unsightly situation.
Here are the strangest things that happened to the bodies of royals after their death.
William the Conqueror
William the Conqueror may have a cool nickname now, but as a child he was known as “William the Bastard”, for obvious reasons.
However, he became an aristocrat, fought a dozen different enemies and managed to successfully take over England, according to Mental Floss. It’s enough to make anyone hungry. And William was certainly hungry, for he ate himself to a truly astonishing size.
There’s nothing wrong with being big, but in this case it just killed Wilhelm. In 1087, when the king was fighting new enemies, his stomach was pierced with a saddle horn and his intestines were torn. It took him six weeks to die.
One would have thought that this was enough time to plan a funeral befitting a king, but instead, as soon as he died, practically everyone, from servants to aristocrats, fled, “leaving the body of the king almost naked on the floor of the house… as if he was a barbarian,” wrote Orderic Vitalis in his Historia Ecclesiastica.
The few who remained buried William, but things got much worse at the funeral.
As Orderic explained (in Memory and Myths of the Norman Conquest), “when the corpse was placed in a sarcophagus, which was forcibly folded in half, because the masons had inadvertently made the coffin too short and narrow, the swollen intestines burst, and an unbearable stench hit the nostrils of passers-by and the whole crowd.
A thick smoke rose from the incense and other incense in the censers, but it was not strong enough to hide the shameful stench.” Gross.
Queen Catherine of Valua
Samuel Pepys was a relatively middle-ranking courtier of Charles II, but his name went down in history because he wrote very, very well in his diary. According to the Royal Greenwich Museum, one of the few things Pepys didn’t write much about in his diary was his birthdays.
In these notes, he seems to casually mention how old he is, and in one year he does not even bother to do so. There is no hint of celebrating his birthdays. Although he goes to plays, attends dinners or spends time with his mistress, in those days these were ordinary things for a person of his class.
A notable exception is the last birthday in the diary, in 1669. The family traveled to Westminster Abbey, where they were given a tour of the royal tombs. Among them was the tomb of Catherine of Valois, the French wife of Henry V in the 15th century.
The tomb was smashed and they could see her corpse, “the bones were firmly joined and covered with flesh, like scraps of tanned skin,” as John Dart would write in the next century.
Then, as Pepys writes, he did a very strange thing: “I held the upper part of her body in my hands and kissed her mouth, thinking that I kissed the queen, and that on this day of my birth, thirty-six years old, I kissed the queen for the first time. Well, this is certainly one of the ways to treat yourself on your birthday.
According to the New York Times, Sabata Dalindiebo was the “supreme leader of the Temba people” who occupied South African territory “nominally independent” from the all-white apartheid state.
Although it sounds like a good idea, these areas were allocated by the apartheid government, and the African National Congress, as well as Chief Sabata, were extremely opposed to them.
The leader openly advocated South Africa, where all people are equal. This caused concern to the government, especially when he died in 1986. They knew that his funeral would be used as a massive protest against apartheid.
So they stole the chief’s body. Not only was the corpse stolen, but it was taken by the archnemesis of Chief Sabat, whom the Los Angeles Times said he called “a usurper, a scoundrel and a traitor.”
Winnie Mandela found out about the crime when she was preparing for the funeral, and someone ran into her house and told her: “They took his body.” The government hastily buried Chief Sabata, and the people were furious.
“What crime could be more vile than stealing a man’s body from his grieving family?” asked the chief’s son. “And when a leader… is buried as a beggar, then this is a crime against the whole nation, and not just against his family.”
Winnie Mandela said: “Indeed, it seems that even in his death the late king was a prisoner. The king actually turned into a prisoner in his coffin.”
It wasn’t until 1989 that Chief Sabata received an elaborate funeral.
The famous French Sun King Louis XIV died in 1715. He was buried in the traditional site for the country’s royals – the Basilica of Saint-Denis in Paris, according to the book Caves, Coprolites and Disasters.
The Story of Pioneer Geologist and Fossil Hunter William Buckland. But two things will haunt Louis: the French Revolution and the aforementioned William Buckland.
When anti-monarchist mobs revolted in France in 1789, one of their targets was the basilica, where the royal tombs were looted and destroyed.
Westminster Abbey claims that the heart of Louis XIV was removed from the tomb by a member of the English aristocratic Harcourt family. They brought it to Britain, and in the mid-1800s, the heart ended up in Buckland.
When an aristocratic Englishman is described as “eccentric”, you know he is on another level. Buckland’s main weird quirk was that he wanted to eat everything at least once and taste it. (Apparently the worst he ever tasted were blue bottles, according to the Guardian).
Once, while conducting classes, he rushed at a student with a hyena skull, shouting “What rules the world?”. While the student panicked, Buckland answered his own question: “The stomach, sir, rules the world!”
When Buckland was invited to dinner at the Harcourt residence, he was shown the family’s treasure – the heart of Louis XIV in a silver box. Buckland grabbed it, put it in his mouth and swallowed it, saying, “I’ve eaten a lot of strange things, but I’ve never eaten a king’s heart before.”
Charles I was the only English monarch to be executed. After a disagreement with Parliament that led to the English Civil War, Charles was put on trial and convicted of treason against his own people, according to the Historia.
Since treason was punishable by death, this meant that Parliament was in the awkward and unprecedented position of executing the king.
There were legitimate concerns about how this would play out. If the politicians had their own reasons for not liking the king, then ordinary people did not always agree with this.
The execution was to take place in public, although attempts were made to slightly reduce the number of onlookers. January 30, 1649 Charles was taken to the scaffold. He addressed the crowd, but the drummers were careful not to be heard. Then he put his neck on the block.
An anonymous observer recorded what happened next (via Eyewitness to History): “After a very short pause, when His Majesty extended his arms, the executioner severed his head with a single blow from the body, which, being raised and shown to the people, was laid with the body in a coffin upholstered in black velvet, and taken to his dwelling.
How would the crowd react to this terrible act? It turns out … very painful. “His blood was taken by different people for different purposes: some – as a trophy of their villainy, others – as a relic of a martyr.” In other words, they dipped things in his blood as souvenirs.
Dìng Líng in China is the third largest tomb of the Ming Dynasty, and according to Lonely Planet, it is the only tomb from that time that has ever been excavated. Judging by what happened to the bodies of the royals in this tomb, it will probably remain so.
Atlas Obscura explains that in 1956, just seven years after Mao Zedong came to power in China, some archaeologists in the area asked if they could unearth Dìng Líng. Formally, this was supposed to be a rehearsal excavation before the larger ones that they planned to carry out.
But they ruined everything. Though they found amazing treasures: The official excavation report describes (via China Daily) “countless gold and jade jewelry and crafts, as well as hundreds of rolls of [silk] cloth.”
But due to inadequate technology or lack of storage for these priceless items, many of them were quickly destroyed by the elements.
They also found royal bodies, including the Wanli Emperor, and the report says, “The flesh on the three corpses is completely rotten, but the bones remain intact, and in all three cases the hair is soft and shiny.” Then came the Cultural Revolution.
In 1969, members of the Red Guard carried the bodies of Emperor Wanli and his wife from the tomb, publicly shouted at them, and then set them on fire.
The wife of one of the first archaeologists says: “A few years after that, my husband and several other people went to the place of burning in search of anything that could remain from the corpses, but without success.”
Anna of Britain
Although Anne of Brittany lived only 36 years, during this time she managed to become Queen of France twice.
Mental Floss writes that she was originally married to Charles VIII when she was 12 years old, and after his death she married his heir, which, fortunately, was not as rude as it could be, since Louis XII was only Carl’s second cousin.
When Anne died in 1514, she was buried in the traditional tomb of French royalty at the Basilica of Saint-Denis, but she asked that her heart be laid next to her parents in Brittany.
It was placed in a gold case (pictured), and it even managed to escape destruction during the French Revolution, when everything royal that fell into the hands of the crowd was thrown into the trash.
Therefore, it was especially insulting when, in 2018, thieves stole a heart from the Thomas-Dobre Museum in Nantes. People were shocked. Philippe Grosvalet, president of the museum’s group, said: “Thieves have attacked our common heritage and stolen an item of inestimable value.
Much more than a symbol, the case with the heart of Anne of Brittany belongs to our history.” He asked them to think again: “If the thieves were guided by the fact that it is shiny and made of gold, they should understand that its historical and symbolic value far exceeds its 100 grams of gold.”
The BBC reports that, fortunately, the heart was found intact a month later.
If you have gone down in history as Philip the Handsome, know that you have succeeded. Philip, Duke of Burgundy married Joanna of Castile in 1496. But he constantly cheated on his wife. This made her jealous and unhappy, and then Philip died.
This did not stop Joanna’s obsessive love for her husband, and one historian of the Spanish court of the time said that she suffered from “the same jealousy that tormented her during her husband’s life.” Esquire writes that she took his coffin with her everywhere, even eating next to him at dinner.
One chronicler recorded that she visited her husband’s body every day, kissed the corpse’s feet, driven “to love madness… A good queen had no more use and peace than a damned or crazy woman.”
This is the old school take on what happened to Joanna, which earned her the nickname “Juana la Loca” or “Joanna the Mad”. The men around her wrote how she completely broke down, a poor weak woman who could not cope with the death of her husband and did all sorts of nasty things with his corpse.
But revisionist historians look at it from a different angle. People, including her own father, constantly tried to overthrow Joanna, and by keeping her husband’s body near her, she could use it as a symbol of both her power and the legitimacy and rights of her children, according to the book “Juana of Castile: the history and myth of crazy queen.” Instead of coping with her loss, she could defend her throne by using a corpse as a weapon.
Torgbui Hor II
The strangest thing that happened to the body of the leader Agbozume Torgbui Khor II after his death is… nothing. Nothing at all, that is, it lay in the morgue and was not buried for a long, long, long time.
In fact, it is unclear if he was ever buried. Why? Because the chief’s family can’t decide who should be the main mourner at his funeral.
Lest you think it’s just cultural differences, Ghanaian journalist Elisabeth Ohene wrote an article for the BBC in 2018 expressing her dissatisfaction with the case.
While she says it’s not uncommon in Ghana for funerals to be delayed while the head funeral director is being dealt with, Torgbui had been dead for 6 years by then.
Ohene explains that the problem is that the family must decide on the main mourner, and writes: “You think you know what and who makes up the family, but when death occurs, the definition of family completely changes.
Spouse and children are suddenly no longer considered a family after death.” Instead, the decision is made by the deceased’s large extended family, which causes problems: “This ‘family’ and this main mourner may not have seen or spoken to the deceased for the past 30 years, but it is believed
In 2018, Citi Newsroom reported that after the funeral was once again delayed due to an injunction, the unresolved feud over the chief’s body became a “security threat” to the local area.
Richard I, aka Richard the Lionheart, is known as the king of England, perhaps due to references to him in the tales of Robin Hood. But in reality, Richard did not visit England very often.
He had lands in France that he liked, and besides, he constantly participated in the crusades. But just at the moment when he combined these two loves and fought with enemies in France, he was hit by a crossbow arrow and died.
Sometimes in the Middle Ages, the hearts of important people were buried separately from the body. According to the BBC, Richard had three body parts buried in completely different places… but despite this, they were all in France.
For poor England, there was not even a little toe on her foot. Richard’s body is in the Abbey of Fontevraud, his “innards” went to Chalous, and his heart was taken to the cathedral (not that one) of Notre Dame in Rouen.
800 years after Richard’s death in 1199, scientists analyzed his heart and found that it had been embalmed using ingredients that the Daily Beast notes would have cost a pretty penny.
Dr. Philippe Charlier explained: “The spices and vegetables used for embalming were directly inspired by those used to embalm Christ. For example, we found incense. materials that are in high demand and are rare, adds a sense of Christlike quality.”
Ines De Castro
16th-century Portuguese poet Luís Vaz de Camões called Inês de Castro the one “who, after being assassinated, became queen” (via Portugal Things).
In the 1400s, Pedro, heir to the Portuguese throne, met Inês and fell madly in love, but his father King Afonso IV forced him to marry another.
But Pedro refused to stop dating Ines, having children with both her and his wife. To solve this problem, the king ordered the death of Ines.
After Pedro inherited the throne, he wanted Ines’ children to be his heirs, and not from his wife, so he stated that he and Ines had secretly married before official marriage.
That would have made him a bigamist, but he was a king, so everyone took it easy. However, Pedro used his declaration to make his children legitimate, which meant that Ines was the real queen all along.
Everything else is legend that only appeared in documents in the 1500s, according to Google Arts and Culture. It is said that Pedro dug up Ines, seated her on a throne, and forced the entire court to kiss the hem of her skirt as a sign of loyalty.
Other sources, such as the Encyclopædia Britannica, say that a crown was placed on her head and that courtiers were supposed to kiss her hand.
While this story is most likely apocryphal, if any of it is true, it is definitely one of the strangest things ever done to royalty after their death.
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