I am sure that for most of you, when you hear the name ‘William the Conqueror’ the obvious things pop into your historical-knowledge-filled craniums: Leader of the Normans from France, conquered England in 1066, the battle of Hastings, started construction that led to the famous White Tower, or Tower of London, and so on and so forth.
First, let’s start with the assumption that the Normans were French. I mean, in a way they were, but just a generation or two before they were actually Vikings, led by a guy named Rollo. They were raiding so successfully in France that the king of the French told them they could have a bunch of gold and a big patch of land in Normandy if they would stop with the looting and pillaging.
These Vikings decided that this was a good deal. Then, they decided that if they were going to stay, they would dang well become more French than the French were. They dressed French, they ate French, they fought French… except for the tendency to surrender… and voila, they were French.
The thing about William is that nobody called him ‘the Conqueror’ while he was alive. They mostly… not to his face, because he was something of a bad-ass… called him ‘William the Bastard’, because his father, the king, wasn’t married to his mother. This was a big deal in those days, and put you low on the list for inheriting anything, let alone a crown.
But by far the most interesting thing about old Willie happened to him after his death. It seems that he had put on weight… a lot of weight. He was injured falling onto his horse’s neck when it jumped over something while on a royal hunt. The pommel, or saddle horn, rammed into his rather impressive belly, and something inside must have sprung a slow leak. He took a while to die. But that isn’t the funny part. If you thought it was, you are weirder and sicker than me.
When he did die, and they carted his remains to the cathedral to put him into his fancy stone sarcophagus, well, it had taken a while for everyone to gather. So his body had been laying around for a few weeks. Now, it was even more swollen. And not-so-fresh.
When the monks tried to cram him into his eternal resting place, he wouldn’t fit, and jumping on the lid helped… if, by helped you mean that his internal organs left their internal resting place in a rather explosive manner.
Yup, he popped like a meat balloon full of very old innards. He went off like an infected zit. Green smelly goo and meat-chunks splattered the inside of the church, and the smell caused everyone to flee. Now that is what you call a sendoff.
I can’t help thinking that some monk, at this point, turned to the nearest peasant or serf, told him to go fetch a mop… if they had mops yet, which I doubt… and told him to start cleaning.
If you enjoyed this, tell me, and I will do some more fun history posts.