History books are bursting with stories of glorious leaders who died in blazing glory in the heat of battle – ‘Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more; Or close the wall up with our English dead!’ – that type of thing.

But what of those monarchs who snuffed it in rather less-than-glorious ways (red-hot poker up the bottom, anyone?) Here’s our collection of some of the weirdest royal deaths…



Herod the Great of Judea (of Biblical fame) died in 4BC after his private parts – having become putrefied and worm-infested – burst. Yikes. This ‘gangrene of the genitalia’, dubbed ‘Herod’s Evil’, is thought to have involved excruciating gangrene and kidney disease.

They don’t like it up ‘em…

weird royal deaths: King Edward II


Some ignominious royal deaths were bought about by various implements being thrust up bottoms.

Edmund II (d. 1016) died after a sword was stuck up his rectum – although it sounds like he might have had a quicker death than Edward II, who expired in 1327…

It is alleged that Edward died from a ‘hot spit put through the secret place posterial’ – although some accounts claim that it was in fact a ram’s horn. Slightly better, but not a lot.

A loo-sing battle

Royal deaths: George II


Others, perhaps foreseeing the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll’s departure, also shuffled off this mortal coil whilst on the toilet.

Roman emperor Eliogabalus (d. 222) was murdered in his privy (along with his mother, who was in there with him…).

George II (d. 1780) awoke one morning, took a sip of his hot chocolate and nipped to the loo. He then collapsed and died while doing his business, thanks to a ruptured aorta.

Catherine the Great of Russia (d. 1796) was the longest ruling female leader in Russia. She suffered a stroke while on the loo aged 67.


Valerian – a Roman Emperor – suffered an ostentatious death in 260. After being forced to drink molten gold, he was then skinned alive, stuffed with straw and put on display in one of his enemy’s temples!

Eat this!

Adolf Frederick of Sweden (d. 1771) certainly had eyes bigger than his belly. Going out in style, Adolf managed to gorge himself to death, keeling over after a monster meal of champagne, lobster, caviar and kippers – topped off by 14 helpings of pudding. The dastardly dessert in question, which probably tipped him over the edge, was semlas – a traditional Nordic dish made up of a sweet bun filled with almond paste and whipped cream. Well done that man!

Henry I also ate himself to death in 1135, overindulging in ‘a surfeit of lampreys’ (a type of eel). It’s thought that severe vomiting and diarrhoea caused by food poisoning killed him off.

In 1387, Charles II of Navarre was feeling a bit peaky on account of his painful limbs. So, on doctor’s orders, he was wrapped head to toe in linen and soaked in brandy. Unfortunately, the maid charged with sewing the king into his linen prison was a little careless with her candle. Then, as author Francis Blagdon explains: ‘Being terrified, she ran away and abandoned the king, who was thus burnt alive in his own palace.’

Death by horse

Man’s trusty steed played a part in a few royal deaths.

Poor old Caliph Al-Musta’sim (d. 1258) was killed by the Mongols in Baghdad. He was wrapped snug-as-a-bug in a rug before being trampled to death by horses. It’s thought this tidy method of execution was designed to prevent the spilling of royal blood.

Alexander III of Scotland dropped off the earthly plane in 1286, when he rode off a cliff whilst rushing to get home one fateful night.

William the Conqueror launched the Norman Invasion in 1066, becoming England’s first Norman king – and one of our most famous monarchs. His death in 1087 isn’t quite as glam. It’s believed that, while out riding, William fell from his horse onto stony ground, smacking his head. To add insult to injury, his saddle fell from his horse and struck him again, wounding him fatally.

Louis III of France (d. 882) popped his clogs after being overcome with amorous feelings for a girl – although this isn’t what did him in. Mounting his horse to pursue her, he cracked his head on a doorframe and died.

Other odd deaths

royal deaths


– Sigurd Eysteinsson (d. 892) had a pretty cool death – as would befit a Viking. He was killed by the severed head of one of his enemies. Galloping off with his vanquished foe’s noggin strapped to his saddle following a victory in northern Scotland, the dead man’s teeth grazed Sigurd’s leg, causing an infection that lead to his death..

– Nanda Bayin of Burma (d. 1599) laughed to death – as did Martin I of Aragon (d. 1410), who expired during a particularly hilarious attack of indigestion.

– Paul I of Russia (d. 1801) had an unusual, but rather boring death, dying after getting hit on the head with an inkwell.

– Alexander of Greece (d. 1920) fell off his perch after being bitten by a pair of diseased monkeys.