Thursday, 1 March 2012

William the Conqueror (1028-1087)

The evidence for William the Conqueror's death are contained in the nearly contemporary De Obitu Willelmi by an anonymous monk of Caen, where the king was actually buried, and the later Historia Ecclesiastica of Orderi Vitalis written approximately sixty-five years later.

William  "who was very corpulent, fell ill from exhaustion and heat" and died of a burst bowel at age 59. While jumping a trench on horseback, his stomach was forced onto the pommel of his sword.

There is little dignity in death, even for Kings and in the funeral service we hear that "the swollen bowels burst, and an intolerable stench assailed the nostrils of the by-standers and the whole crowd."

For William, even the frankincense and spices of the censers was not enough to mask the smell, and the rites were hurriedly concluded in an effort to move away.

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