King Slayers – King Henry I of England Loves Pie

HenryI

My perfect date is March 14th. It’s not too hot and not too cold, all you need is a little pie.

 

Let me preface this by saying, I’m related to this buffoon. And if you say that this explains a lot, how dare you! * My 29th great-grandfather Henry I of England was the fourth son of great grand pappy William the Conqueror who most folks might remember from European history as the man who made Britain by stealing it away from those pesky Anglo-Saxons who were having a ball of a time with Vikings and their descendants (William among them) for the past 500 or so years.

If you’re wondering how a 4th son in the royal line managed to become King, that’d be because he had a few brothers to get through first. After the death of their father William, the title of the kingship passed to his third son, William II. His eldest son Robert Curthose was consistently a rebellious little prick and was originally supposed to be disinherited altogether, but William the Conqueror bequeathed him the Duchy of Normandy instead. It couldn’t pass to the second son Richard, who died in a hunting accident (This happens a lot. Maybe royalty shouldn’t hunt so much). And after everything had been divvied up, the will basically read “And none for Gretchen Weiners, bye!” and Henry I was left with nothing.

Meanwhile, Robert’s younger brothers, William and
Henry, had taken umbrage at his pretensions and at the rash
demands which he had made upon their father, and they were
strongly supporting the king against him. While in this frame
of mind they paid Robert a visit at his lodgings. Going into an
upper room, they began dicing ‘ as soldiers will ‘; and presently
doubtless after there had been drinking they started a row
and threw down water upon their host and his companions who
were on the floor below. Robert was not unnaturally enraged at
this insult, and with the support of his comrades he rushed in
upon the offenders, and a wild scuffle ensued, which was only
terminated by the timely arrival of the king, who, upon hearing
the clamor, came in haste from his lodgings and put a stop to the
quarrel by his royal presence. [1]

Charles Wendell David, Robert Curthose: Duke of Normany on the prank that caused Robert’s first rebellion. Basically, he had a whole chamber pot of water dumped on his head by his younger brothers and wasn’t having any of it going forward.

Most likely fuming at the slight and ostensibly aware that his older brothers now had titles and armies over him, Henry I purchased a swath of land and began building himself forces to aid him in the coming wars against his brothers over the Kingship. Especially now that daddy was out of the way and unavailable to break-up their quarreling.

Years of infighting ensued until Henry I emerged victorious over his brothers. Henry I beat Robert in battle and kept him locked up in perpetuity and as for the short-lived King William II, he perished in another one of those “accidental” hunting incidents.

Robert Curthose Defeated

Psst. Robert, I have a dungeon cell ready for you with 500 chamber pots. Get it? Get it?! They’re your favorite!

Once becoming king, Henry I spent most of his 35 year reign doing a bang up job at it, extending the reach of England, strengthening the government’s role in judiciary quibbles, and other awesome Kingly things. Except for the job of banging out an heir, apparently.

He did have one son, William the Aetheling and heir apparent, who was 17 and had been recently married, all the makings of a soon to be king naturally. Except, William and a large number of other nobles (around 200) decided to have a beach party rager not unlike an episode of Laguna Beach. Drunk out of their minds, they boarded The White Ship with the intent of crossing the English Channel, which the heavily inebriated captain suggested they could do well before the King did if they kicked it into high gear, and soon they were off sailing at high speed, having waved off priests who had intended to bless their safe passing because what could possibly go wrong on a pleasant night of drunken revelry such as this? The White Ship shattered upon a rock at the mouth of the harbor moments later, sinking Henry I’s future prospects with it. [2]

White Ship

Kids Making Good Decisions since 1120 AD!

Henry I was kind of screwed at this point. He spent the next 10+ years trying to sire a new heir to no avail and plan out a contingency plan for his legacy (which, lol, this is British history we all know how well that will turn out). We can only imagine that the happiest times of his life then at this point, was probably related to dinner time. Medieval meals were pretty much only something to write home about if you were part of the aristocracy, and that’d be for either good or bad reasons. Because for every sugar sculpture, there was probably a batshit insane eel pie to go along with it. Which just so happened to be Henry I’s favorite dish. (WHY ARE MY BLOOD RELATIONS SO DISGUSTING)

laynzmc

On a November night in 1135, Henry I requested copious amounts of lamprey (eeeeel) pie, which is basically this disgusting sounding concoction of crusty baked eel fish things in a wine and spice syrup and excuse me, I’m gagging. Apparently, he ate so many of these nasty things that he fell incredibly ill. Within days, the king had succumbed to what the chronicles called a “surfeit of Lampreys”. Whatever the hell truly caused his death (some modern scholars contend the culprit to certainly be food poisoning at the least) [3], his corpse was so wretched following his death, that “the body was cut all over with knives and copiously sprinkled with salt and wrapped in oxhides to stop the strong pervasive stench, which was already causing the deaths of those who watched over it.” [2] Basically, for the love of all that is right and holy, do not put pineapple on your pizza and DO NOT EAT EEL PIES.

 

Cause of Death: BEING DISGUSTING

 

 

Fact check it, yo!

[1] David, C. W. (1920). Robert Curthose, duke of Normandy, by Charles Wendell David, .. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

[2] Jones, D. (2014). The Plantagenets: the warrior kings and queens who made England. New York: Penguin Books.

[3] Crofton, I. (2014). A Curious History of Food and Drink. New York: Quercus.

*  On my relation, I did some extensive genealogy research with Ancestry.com on my mother’s French side and was able to track our family back to the Plantagenet’s by way of the Windsor line. I claim a slew of Viking kings, William the Conqueror, Henry I, and his daughter Empress Matilda as direct descendants. We start to deviate from there off with Matilda’s son William Plantagenet’s daughter marrying a Windsor. That line breaks somewhere in the 16th century and we start getting a bit more normal with each generation. But hey, if anyone is in touch with William and Harry, I’d be amenable to a wedding invitation! Welcome to the family, Meghan!

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King Slayers – Emperor Caracalla and the Case of the Full Bladder

Emperor Caracalla

Seriously, bruh? Couldn’t wait until I was finished?!

 

Emperor Caracalla falls among a long line of dickish Roman Emperors who, if anyone recalls his name at all, will be forever remembered in infamy for good ol’ fashioned tyranny and the pathetic way in which he met his end.

But this same emperor made many mistakes because of the obstinacy with which he clung to his own opinions; for he wished not only to know everything but to be the only one to know anything, and he desired not only to have all power but to be the only one to have power. Hench he asked no one’s advice and was jealous of those who had any useful knowledge. He never loved anyone, but he hated all who excelled in anything, most of all those whom he pretended to love most; and he destroyed many of them in one way or another. [1]

-Cassisus Dio. On Caracalla but without the context, could easily be confused for a different modern leader of today.

Following the reign of his father Septimius Severus, the dude who JK Rowling probably named Snape after, Caracalla began a joint rule with his brother Geta in 211 AD until he had him murdered because he just didn’t like to share or settle differences in a reasonable manner because what Roman Emperor needs to possess sound judgment? But even before this moment, Caracalla had already started his laundry list of assholery that began with the exile and murder of his wife, whom sources aren’t entirely sure why he hated so much (and keep in mind divorce in Rome at this time was quite common), and her father for being responsible for half of her gene pool. [2] To make matters worse, after Caracalla had his younger brother gutted in the arms of their own mother, he went on to order a damnatio memoriae which attempted to erase his name and memory from public record and history. Anyone who had a problem with the murder or even spoke Geta’s name out loud was rounded up and murdered. All in all, an estimated 20,000 people were killed over an affair that could have probably been solved with a nice family chat over wine. [3] So clearly, Caracalla was a fun guy to be around.

When the Egyptian population was touched by Caracalla’s heavy handed politics, they rebelled by their sense of humor of making Caracalla the object of their satire. Jokes and puns were devised on his account, to which Caracalla was not a ready audience… [3]

Robert Morgan, History of the Coptic Orthodox People and the Church of Egypt.

(In response, Caracalla tricked the City of Alexandria into a display of extended respect by promising to pick from the city’s youth to back fill the employ of his legions. When the candidates had eagerly gathered to await their choosing, Caracalla ordered his soldiers to slaughter the entire crowd.)

Baths of Caracalla

I wonder how many people peed in these.

Not everything he did was entirely shitty, however. He built baths in Rome which are essentially the ancient equivalent of a YMCA, paid his military handsomely, and issued the edict of Constitutio Antoniniana which gave all freed men living in the borders of the empire Roman citizenship. [4] There were some exceptions of course, but this was a big deal because at this time Rome was at the height of its expanse, with only a small percentage of the population enjoying all of the benefits of being a true Roman, which included protection from being crucified as capital punishment.

 

Roman Empire 117AD

This is only one hundred years before Caracalla. That’s a whole lot of taxes.

But like all things in Carcalla’s life, when he was spurned, his immediate response was to kill things. So when he offered a marriage alliance between himself and the daughter of a Parthian king in an attempt to gain more territory for Rome but was rejected, he responded by launching a military campaign to take it by force with bloodshed. [1]

It was on one of these campaigns when Caracalla couldn’t resist the urge to urinate. Stopping off the side of the road to relieve himself, a disgruntled soldier unhappy by his lack of promotion approached him unnoticed. Apparently not even giving the emperor a chance to finish, the soldier stabbed Caracalla in the back shoulder until he fell dead, but hopefully not on his newly relinquished stream. [5]

Cause of Death: Inopportune bathroom break

 

Fact Check it, yo!

 

[1] Cassius Dio, Roman History; Epitome of Book LXVIII. Via URL: http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/Cassius_Dio/78*.html

[2] Dorothy King’s PhDiva. (n.d.). Retrieved January 05, 2018, from http://phdiva.blogspot.com/2011/11/damnatio-memoriae-geta.html

[3] MORGAN, R. (2016). HISTORY OF THE COPTIC ORTHODOX PEOPLE AND THE CHURCH OF EGYPT. S.l.: FRIESENPRESS. URL: Google Books

[4] Benario, H. (1954). The Dediticii of the Constitutio Antoniniana. Transactions and Proceedings of the American Philological Association, 85, 188-196. URL: https://www.jstor.org/stable/283475?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents

[5] Herodian, History of the Roman Emperor Since the Death of Marcus Aurelius; Murder of Caracalla. Via URL: http://www.livius.org/sources/content/herodian-s-roman-history/herodian-4.13/?

King Slayers

when-he-flashes-genuine-smile

The OG “Kingslayer”

I have always been fascinated by the powerful and the famous, the elites of the world that seem so far above the rest of us peons and yet are still vulnerable to mortal causality. Kings and queens throughout history have sometimes been thought divine, their rule designated by Gods or scripture, or have been so well respected by their subjects, they’ve been idolized and loved from afar, untouchable by the mere conflicts of men.

So who would dare slay a King?

This series will explore my favorite ends to some of histories most famous rulers, the Kings and Queens who’ve shaped history and the unfortunate bookends that finished off their legacy. Some of them have died valiantly in combat, some have been betrayed by their closest allies. And some, even found creative (and embarrassing) ways to meet their ends. Nosebleeds, anyone?

And yes, I still intend on exploring history’s incestuous couplings. But since HBO just announced that Game of Thrones will officially be returning some time in 2019, I figure I have some time.

I’ll be updating this post with links to new entries, so bookmark this one if you want a master list for easy access!

 

Kings Who Met Embarrassing Ends

Emperor Caracalla

 

History is Incessantly Incesty (Part Uno)

pojo2hu

A Song of Fire & Ice or shameless familial “bonding”

I, like 16.5 million viewers last Sunday, watched the Game of Thrones season 7 finale with bated breath. With only 6 episodes left of the entire show, a series which was born from books that are taking about as quickly to write as The York Minister Cathedral was to build, the story is furiously spiraling to its inevitable conclusions. One of which happens to be the fate of a couple I’ve personally been rooting for since Book 1 when it made little sense geographically or personally, nor does it seem likely ideal in light of recent revelations…

But what do I care? In defense of myself, I’m here to point out a few instances in history where things got a bit too close for comfort, if you know what I mean. And perhaps by contrast, make the Dragon and Wolf look guiltlessly desirable in comparison. Lord of Light, have mercy on my internet search history…

1. Lucrezia & Cesare Borgia (And maybe Pope Alexander VI)

Lucrezia_Cesare Borgia

Unlike Showtime and Victor Hugo, I personally don’t ascribe to the belief that this Renaissance Brother & Sister Power Duo were secretly boning. But, alas, contemporaries of their time assumed they might be. After-all, the family of Pope Alexander VI stood accused of liberal poisonings and murders, thievery, buying and selling church offices, adultery and rampant orgies among the papacy, fratricide, and general douche-baggery aimed toward the Papal States–was there no limit to bounds The House of Borgia knew? [6]

Late in the 15th century, when Rodrigo Borgia became Pope Alexander VI in no small part to bribery (presumably) and the assistance of rival Cardinal Sforza who was said to have personally taken a large payoff himself, Lucrezia Borgia suddenly became the most eligible, illegitimate 12-year old daughter in Italy. As a reward for his support, Cardinal Sforza saw Lucrezia married off to his nephew, Giovanni Sforza the then Duke of Milan, to solidify the alliance between the two families. This went about as well as a dinner date between the Hatfields & McCoys, and soon Pope Alexander VI was calling for an annulment while Cardinal Sforza’s other ally –just the King of France, Charles VIII, no big deal — appeared parading through Italy with the door held wide open for him to invade the papal territories. Giovanni was accused of having neglected to consummate the marriage, which incensed, caused him to lob the nefarious accusation at the Borgia family that the true reason the papacy was asking for the divorce was because Lucrezia was busy fornicating with her father and brother, a somewhat less humiliating prospect for the Duke to stomach apparently. With the promise of keeping the dowry intact for Giovanni, the marriage was soon dissolved but not so for the rumors. [1]

“It is said that Mr. Giovanni Sforza did this because the Duke used with his sister, his wife, the puppet of the pope, but of another mother” – Malipiero Letter 1497 [5

The Borgias had not yet given up on Lucrezia’s worth as a bargaining chip, and so paired her off with Alfonso of Aragon, a bastard of Naples, in the hopes of laying the ground work for Cesare Borgia to marry the daughter of the King of Naples and inherit the throne as well as another ally against Charles VIII who was still busy trouncing through doors a bit willy-nilly around Italy. Still a teenager, Lucrezia managed a hot second of a peaceful marriage before, again, her scheming brother and father (who were totally plausible lovers…of her misfortune, clearly) decided, you know what, Charles VIII just loves walking through doors and things, really good at it actually, the best–we might as well be friends and marry Cesare off to his daughter instead. Naturally, the Kingdom of Naples was a bit pissy about this new frenemy and The Borgias added another noble house of Italy to their shitlist. [2]

“Thus, Lucretia, Sextus always wants to make love to you? O fate with a horrible name! This Sextus is your father.” Epigram by Jacopo Sannazaro Italian poet (1457 – 1530) [4]

On the wrong-side of another family dispute, 18-year old Lucrezia tried to navigate her way through another marriage doomed to fail when her Neapolitan hubby was ambushed on the steps of St. Peter’s Basilica by henchmen wielding a few knives, no doubt causing her to cry out “Et Tu, Pater?”. Alfonso managed to survive for the time being, held up under the “reliable” care of the papacy while propaganda papered the streets of Naples supposing that Cesare had made the idle threat “What didn’t happen at lunch may still happen at dinner.” like this was some pilot season episode of The Sopranos. Unsurprisingly, Alfonso turned up in bed strangled one morning. Perhaps by a jealous lover brother reasoned the gossip. Lucrezia, having really no energy left to deal with the mess her life had become at the hands of her family, went into mourning. [1]

Unfortunately, if there was one thing a noble Renaissance woman was good for other than posing for paintings, it was getting hitched– and that’s precisely what the Borgia brood were plotting to do again. This time their ambitions were with the duchy of Ferrara (And no, not for Lemonheads, that candy company is an American one) and Lucrezia was soon married off to Alfonso D’Este, another alliance Charles VIII would surely adore. Ultimately, this one worked out for Lucrezia and she was able to spend the rest of her days in Northern Italy cherished by her subjects. Not a year later, her father Pope Alexander VI collapsed of illness (or poisoning, eh it was the Renaissance after-all), sending the papacy into the awaiting hands of Borgia enemies and her brother Cesare, infamous as a subject of Niccolò Machiavelli’s The Prince, aesthetic model for portraiture of Jesus Christ, and number one suspect in the Tiber river murder of his brother Giovanni or “Juan” [7], died only a few years later.

It seemed almost as if Lucrezia would be fortunate enough to finally escape the sins and rumored exploits of her family, but after her death in 1519 after a troubled childbirth, the gossip again rose to a feverish pitch with little to no one left to denounce them.

“Here rests Lucrezia by name, who in reality was a Thais, the daughter, wife & daughter-in-law of Alexander.” – Epitaph written by Jaccopo Sannazaro, who wasn’t yet done slandering Lucrezia. [1]

Why did the rumors persist? Alexander’s papacy wasn’t exactly the first of its kind to churn out questionable practices nor a squeaky clean image, but perhaps the answer lies with the sheer amount of enemies The Borgia managed to collect over their years clamoring for power. Among the families already listed, they also managed to incite the animosity of the legendary House of Medici who ran Florence, the Orsini family, the Colonna house which churned out a libelous diary from Stefano Infessura who gleefully chronicled Lucrezia’s rumored licentiousness, and Pope Julius II. Before becoming pope, Julius II spent his time hating Alexander VI and worked to undermine and, if possible, unseat him. When he wasn’t trolling Michelangelo, Julius II used his papacy to try and mop up remaining Borgia territory all while torturing a Cesare Borgia loyalist for any amusing gossip he could gleefully spread about his enemies. [2]

“For the thing was known far and wide, and because my informants were not Romans merely, but were the Italian people, therefore have I mentioned it.”

-Matarazzo of Perugia, who relates the accusation of papal orgies by Pope Alexander VI with the inclusion of his daughter Lucrezia as well-known fact because it was ‘common’ gossip. [5]

As for the fate of King Charles VIII of France who featured so prevalently in the torrid politics of Lucrezia’s numerous marriages? Killed by a door. I’m not even kidding. [3]

hodor4

(To be Continued…Part 2)

Fact check it, yo!

[1] Hibbert, C. (2009). The Borgias and their enemies. London: Constable.

[2] Meyer, G. J. (2014). The Borgias: The Hidden History. Random House Inc.

[3] Markatos K., Karamanou M., Arkoudi K., Konstantinidi A., Androutsos G., A Cranial Trauma was the Cause of Death of Charles VIII of France (1470–1498), World Neurosurgery, Volume 105, 2017, Pages 745-748

[4] Fantazzi, C. (2011). Susanna de Beer, Karl A. E. Enenkel, and David Rijser, eds.The Neo-Latin Epigram: A Learned and Witty Genre. Supplementa Humanistica Lovaniensia 25. Leuven: Leuven University Press, 2009

[5] Gregorovius F., Lucretia Borgia: According to Original Documents & Correspondence of Her Day.

Primaries;

[6] Diario della citta di RomaStefano Infessura (Notoriously biased & unreliable, as are the rumors)

[7] “But I understood, as the Duke of Candia died for the death of his brother, Cardinal.” Pigna dispatch Ercole, Venice Feb 22nd, 1498

The Killing Joke

chrysippus

Stoic AF

There are many bizarre deaths in Classical antiquity and, with a people that guzzled wine like water [1], it shouldn’t be all that surprising. There was Emperor Caracalla who decided to take a pee break off the side of a road and was stabbed mid-stream [2].  Philosopher Empedocles who hurled himself into a volcano thinking he’d survive it and become a god because that sounds legit [3]. Or rich bastard Roman General Crassus who forced down molten gold because he lost a battle with the Parthians and irony [4]. There was even Saint Lawrence who earned his martyrdom by sass for quipping “Turn me over–I’m done on this side!” [5] while being cooked up on a giant grill to be served during a persecution of Christians BBQ. But speaking of jokes, my favorite has to be the tale of Chrysippus, whose death you probably just had to be there to get.

Backing up a little bit, let’s lay the foundation for this set-up. Chrysippus was a famous Greek philosopher who was tearing up the streets of Athens a few hundred years after Socrates daintily sipped an aromatic cup of freshly brewed hemlock tea. He was a stoic, the guys confused in modern days with sociopathy and Commander Spock, but taught his students about the aether of the Universe and living a life in congruence with the will of Fate and aligning oneself with Nature. So more like a Jedi rather than someone who refuses to smile at puppies. He also tinkered around with math, created prepositional logic, and started some early ancient therapy sessions hoping to assist folks with unruly passions. Chrysippus was kind of a big deal, logical in thinking and focused entirely on formulating an impressive philosophical rapt sheet. So let’s fast-forward to a now 73 year-old man with this impressive a career to behold.

Invited by his pupils to a sacrificial feast which, in those days, was probably akin to a professor attending a wild on-campus keg party, Chrysippus downed copious amounts of wine as one is want to do. It was noted by Diogenes Laertius, a Classical biographer of the Greek philosophers, that this particular wine was undiluted–no water, just pure sweet straight up wine which was sure to get even the most stoic philosopher congruently drunk in accordance with Nature. Stumbling around in the throes of intoxication, Chrysippus was giddy in delight when a donkey escorted by an old woman happened by him and immediately started to consume the remaining figs Chrysippus must have been carrying around from the party. [6]

Struck with the genius of his own cleverness, Chrysippus seized upon the moment to hurl the greatest joke to which would ever be uttered in the history of hilarity:

Now give the ass a drink of pure wine to wash down the figs! [6]

Howling with laughter, Chrysippus was beside himself with his own joke, the old woman we can only assume, struggling to find the humor at all in this line. Delirious and overtaken with his own comedic timing, Chrysippus fell into such a violent fit of hysterical giggles about the prospect of giving a donkey wine or something, I don’t know, I don’t get you Chrysippus, that he promptly died on the spot–in the wake of his own comedy. [6]

The dude literally died laughing at his own joke.

And it wasn’t even that funny.

Fact Check it, yo!

[1] Wine and Rome. (n.d.). Retrieved April 25, 2017, from http://penelope.uchicago.edu/~grout/encyclopaedia_romana/wine/wine.html

[2] Goldsworthy, A. K. (2009). How Rome fell: death of a superpower. New Haven: Yale University Press. P. 74.

[3 & 6] Laertius, D. (1980). Diogenes Laertius: Lives of Eminent Philosophers. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

[4] Nuwer, R. (2014, June 10). Here’s What Actually Happens During an Execution by Molten Gold. Retrieved April 25, 2017, from http://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/heres-what-happened-people-who-were-executed-having-molten-gold-poured-down-their-throat-180951695/?no-ist

[5] Miller, O. F. (2017, March 06). Saint Lawrence. Retrieved April 25, 2017, from https://www.franciscanmedia.org/saint-lawrence/

A Touch of Classical Wisdom VI

The fortunate man, in my opinion, is he to whom the gods have granted the power either to do something which is worth recording or to write what is worth reading, and most fortunate of all is the man who can do both.

-Pliny the Younger in a letter to Tacitus describing the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD and the death of his famous uncle Pliny the Elder. [1]