In these very civilised times, royals tend to pass away of natural causes rather than, say, being beheaded in a clean sweep of potential contenders to the throne after a violent coup or executed by Bolsheviks in a dank cellar following a nationwide revolution. With just a few exceptions, we’ve become used to farewelling our blue bloods at a ripe old age. But if you dig into the history books – perhaps during the umpteenth repeat of a state funeral telecast – there are some truly bizarre expirations in royal bloodlines. And they’re all 100 percent true... as far as we know.
The fate of Game of Thrones’s Viserys was based on an actual emperor’s demise
Remember way back in season one of Game of Thrones, when Daenerys was naked all the time and her brother Viserys (Harry Lloyd) was calling the shots? The Dothraki treated him to a “crown of gold”, pouring molten metal over his head while he screamed then died. Well, turns out George RR Martin got the idea from Roman emperor Valerian, who was a prisoner of the Persians. According to one account (which, look, maaay have been early Christian propaganda, but just go with it), he was forced to swallow molten gold. Obviously that killed him, after which his body was skinned and the skin stuffed with straw to be displayed as a trophy.
Awful, awful man Prince Sado died in a box
Korea, 1762: Sado, the wild and violent son of King Yeongjo pushed things too far and had to be dealt with. He’d been killing eunuchs, raping ladies-in-waiting and beating women to death. The final straw was the rumour he planned to kill his father. Unfortunately, the court rules of the time forbade the defilement of a royal body and endorsed communal punishment, meaning Sado’s wife and son could also be killed or banished if he was executed. So Yeongjo hatched a plan – he ordered his son to climb into a wooden rice chest, which was locked. Eight days later, he was dead. Problem solved!
Too many eels claimed Henry I’s life
“A surfeit of lampreys” is one of those inside jokes historians love, while the rest of us wonder what the hell’s going on. Well, Henry I of England fell ill on a hunting trip after necking too many delicious sucker-faced eels against the advice of his personal physician, and posterity has recorded his demise as the result of being greedy at the all-you-can-eat seafood buffet. No, but seriously, it’s more likely the 67ish-year-old monarch passed away as a result of vomiting and diarrhoea from food poisoning. So make sure your eels are fresh!
Sigurd Eysteinsson’s enemy got revenge from beyond the grave
Imagine this: you’re a mighty earl who has seen his enemies driven before him, heard the lamentations of their women and strapped one of their severed heads to his saddle after a great victory. Next minute, a gallop-induced jolt has somehow caused the teeth in that severed head – which once belonged to Máel Brigte the Bucktoothed – to bite your leg. For Sigurd Eysteinsson, this was a bad omen. The graze got infected and killed him. That’s a sequence of events Shakespeare would have said was too far-fetched. And he once gave a bloke a donkey’s head.
Martin of Aragon died hearing the funniest joke ever
Brace yourself, you don’t want to join the old fella in the afterlife just yet. According to legend, Martin had indigestion from eating an entire goose when his favourite jester popped in with a rib-tickler that caused His Majesty to expire on the spot. Martin asked where the jokester had been and he replied, “Out of the next vineyard, where I saw a young deer hanging by his tail from a tree, as if someone had so punished him for stealing figs.” Our condolences to your loved ones.
You can watch Royal Murder Mysteries this Saturday night on SBS at 7:35pm, streaming soon after on SBS On Demand.