Weird History
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The Stupidest, Least Dignified Ways Royals Have Died

Updated November 5, 2018 51.8k votes 8.8k voters 698.4k views15 items

List RulesVote up the silliest royal deaths that prove a crown and throne don't keep life from happening.

The royal houses of Europe have had a bloody history. From battles to coups and assassinations, kings and queens have suffered deaths ranging from the serene to the ridiculous. After all, death is central to the idea of monarchy: new kings and queens can ascend the throne only after their predecessors have died. Monarchy itself is built on the condition of death.

But that does not mean all royal deaths are dignified. Many kings and queens have gone gently into that dark night thanks to respectable illnesses. Others have been victims of political struggles. Still others have not been so lucky in death, and they exemplify some of the stupidest ways royals have died. Like royals who had terrible portraits, bizarre obsessions, or were just plain weird, these dumb royal deaths prove that, at the end of the day, people who sit on thrones and wear ancient crowns are just as mortal as those over whom they claim authority. Some of the dumbest ways royals have died also happen to be some of the most entertaining. 

  • King Béla I of Hungary was a warrior-king praised for protecting the sovereignty of Hungary against the ambitions of the Holy Roman Empire. But Béla's literal seat of power proved his undoing. In September 1063, the throne's wooden structure collapsed under the Hungarian king, injuring him so badly that he died of his wounds.

    Was this a silly way to go?
  • Photo: Metaweb (FB) / Public domain

    In 1498, King Charles VIII of France hit his head on the lintel of a door while walking out to watch a tennis match. He hit it so hard, in fact, that he subsequently died from the accident. Today, doctors believe he likely sustained cranial trauma when he hit his head, which is what caused his quick death.

    He's remembered for this unfortunate and unlikely cause of death—and for his troops, who spread syphilis across mainland Europe.

    Was this a silly way to go?
  • Photo: Unknown / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    James II's tenure as King of Scotland began when his father was murdered. The remainder of his reign would be defined by his attempts to manage rival clans - and these attempts were downright bloody. Prominent Scots were killed before his eyes, and his own mother orchestrated the bloody downfall of a rival faction.

    Indeed, both his reign and his random death were marked by violence. In 1460, James had laid siege to Roxburgh Castle in the Scottish Borders and wanted to celebrate by firing a salute with giant cannons - James had long been fascinated with the new technology of war. When it was lit, the cannon did not fire like it was supposed to; it backfired, killing the king.

    Was this a silly way to go?
  • Photo: Charles Chusseau-Flaviens / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    The 23-year-old Alexander succeeded to the Greek throne in an entirely political move in 1917. Europe was shoulder-deep in World War I, and Alexander's father, King Constantine I, refused to drag Greece into the disastrous war. The Allies then forced Constantine to abdicate in favor of his son, who more or less became a puppet of the Allies; thus, Greece entered the war.

    On October 2, 1920, Alexander was walking on his estate when his dog got into a fight with a monkey that belonged to a member of his staff. While attempting to break up the fight, a second monkey bit Alexander on the leg. The wound became infected, and the infection spread. While he suffered for weeks, royal doctors debated whether to attempt to amputate the bitten leg, unsure whether it would solve the problem or if they would be blamed should it make things worse. The young King Alexander finally died age 27 on October 25, 1920.

    Was this a silly way to go?