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 Adolf Frederick of Sweden reigned from 1751 to 1771, and he had to share most of his power with the Swedish parliament. On February 12, 1771, Adolf Frederick sat down for a meal of caviar, lobster, champagne, and more, before ordering his favorite dessert, the Nordic pastry semla.
But he was not satisfied with one serving of the decadent dessert. Oh no. Adolf Frederick downed 14 portions of the sweet treat. This binge literally cost the king his life, and he died that night after complaining of severe indigestion.
Sigurd Eysteinsson was a prominent Viking leader who ruled Scotland's Orkey Islands in the late 9th century. Eysteinsson was a fierce warrior who battled his way into the Scottish mainland. Though he agreed to a peace meeting with Maelbrigt Earl of Scots, the conference soon devolved into a fight.
Eysteinsson handily defeated Maelbrigt, severed his head, and attached it to his saddle as he fled the battlefield. The motion of the horse's galloping, however, caused one of Maelbrigt's long teeth to scratch Eysteinsson's leg. However, the wound soon became infected, which ultimately led to the Viking's untimely death.
King Henry I ruled England with an iron fist. One of his weaknesses was lampreys, an eel-like bloodsucker. Henry's physician expressly forbade him to eat lampreys, but the king paid no mind. In 1135, he indulged in them while on a hunting trip and died soon after, likely as a result of the feast.
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.