Even though the UK is a country admired by all nowadays, its royal history was violent and filled with tragedies upon tragedies. I am not just talking about some of the fictional stories from Shakespeare, I am for real! Without further ado, let’s review the ten most unfortunate fates of British monarchs.
1. Oliver Cromwell
Granted, Oliver Cromwell never became king of Britain and preferred to take on the title of Lord Protector, which frankly is kind of the same thing. However, considering that he commanded over 40,000 men, he did manage to dissolve the Rump Parliament. In spite of Cromwell’s good intentions to stop the civil wars and bring peace to Britain, the aristocracy and commoners alike didn’t forget about the absurd reforms and bans during his reign. Once the monarchy was reinstated, the preserved body of Cromwell was hung on display near the Tyburn gallons, then dismembered and fed to the pigs.
2. Henry IV
Even though Henry IV didn’t really want to become King of Britain, somehow he was convinced by his closest friends to kill the current ruler and seize power. As he was about to learn later on, anyone who gets the throne by force will be constantly faced with various plots and attempts of seizing it back. Henry lived in a constant paranoia and is even said to have slept in his armor while leading campaigns. Not to mention the fact that he spent most of his life suffering from poor health!
3. Richard II
What started out as a promising reign eventually turned out to be one of Britain’s darkest moments. When he first came to power at the age of 14, Richard managed to save the day and London by putting an end to the peasant rebellion. But that was about the only “good deed” recorded, because soon after his beloved wife’s death Richard’s behavior altered radically. Simply put, he was dishonest, a vain sovereign and most of his “friends” stated they are afraid to be in his presence. It is his bad temper and unpopularity among English nobleman that lead to the quick and simple overthrowing by Henry IV followed by Richard’s imprisonment and suspicious death.
4. Edward II
Despite the fact that Edward the Second married the very beautiful princess Isabella of France, historical evidence suggests that he wasn’t really “into girls”. In fact, the king managed to irritate a lot of the court nobleman due to his close friendship with shady characters like Piers Gaveston or Hugh le Despenser. This is why his charming wife found comfort in the arms of another and plotted to overthrown the king and put their son in charge. Even though he fled London, Edward was confined in the Berkeley Castle, where it is said he suffered a terrible death; in short, his royal posterior was impaled with a roasting spit.
5. Henry II
Without a doubt, Henry the Second was one of the best British monarchs who – in the 35 years of reign – managed to bring peace and prosperity back into his kingdom. However, when he was almost reaching his twilight years, Henry made the mistake of favoring his second son over the rightful predecessor to the throne. Richard Lionheart, the older son allied with King Philip of France, Henry’s worst enemy and invaded Britain. Burdened by age and weakened by sickness, Henry lost and was hunted like an animal by Richard, to whom he surrendered. He died a few hours later and, since his servants stole everything they could – including the clothes – he had anything but a royal funeral.
6. Henry I
Henry I remained in history as one of the first rulers to introduce the idea of almost democratic elections. To be more precise, he managed to raise the wealth of the country by selling charters, which were special privileges to build walls around towns and for the residents to choose their own council. Ironically, even though he showed no interest in living in lavishness, historians suggest that he died from eating too much lampreys contaminated fish.
7. William Rufus
Known for his great cruelty, deceptiveness and greed, William Rufus was one of the most hated British monarchs, particularly by the church from which he collected great amounts of cash. In fact, people hated him so much that they didn’t even bother to investigate the suspicious events that led to his death. Coincidence or not, his favorite nephew was also killed by an arrow three months before the king’s death. Even though he was buried at the Winchester Cathedral according to tradition, the ceremony was very modest.
8. William the Bastard
While history dubs him as “the Bastard”, people living under William the Conqueror didn’t dare call him that to his face, especially since nobody really wanted his tongue cut out and nailed to the front door of him home. Not to mention that William was always on a rampage in order to ensure the security of the newly conquered lands. Sadly for him, in one of the incursions his horse got scared by fire and threw the old king down; the injury resulted from the accident concluded with his death. Because his body was swelling rapidly during his funerals, it is said that his belly was busted open in order to fit the king in his coffin.
9. King Harold
The story of King Harold, the last known Anglo-Saxon ruler has been illustrated in the famous Bayeux Tapestry, a 70 meter masterpiece of embroidery. According to this artistic evidence, the death of King Harold was incredible cruel; when 4 highly trained and skilled knights appointed by his rival finally caught Harold, they preceded to cut his head, disembowel and even dismember him.
10. Aethelbald of Mercia
Although Aethelbald usurped the throne from his father, it is necessary to mention that this was nothing out of the ordinary in the 7th and 8th centuries. In fact, this is one of the few successful monarchs that reigned over 30 tribes recorded in the Southern part of England. Despite his great achievement, he has managed to irritate the clergy by marrying his stepmother. The marriage was immediately annulled, his 15 years old stepmom sent back to France and Aethelbald of Mercia assassinated by his faithful bodyguard soon after.