by Caleb Reynolds

How well did you think you did on last week’s quiz?

Here are the answers:

1-k) Christopher Marlow – Was stabbed in the right eye in a tavern fight over the bill.

2-y) Jon Dun Scotus – “Mark this man’s demise, O traveler, For here lies John Scot, once interr’d, But twice dead; we are now wiser, And still alive, who then so err’d.” Modern historians are not 100% certain that he was burred alive, but Francis Bacon was certain of it.

3-q) Eleanor of Castile – Wife and Queen of Edward I of England. Fell ill on one of Edward’s famous romps to Scotland and died of what might have been malaria.


Ferdinand Magellan

4-g) Ferdinand Magellan – Was overcome with religious fervor and attacked warriors of the Lapu-Lapu tribe wearing only his captain’s helmet as armor (he wore a shirt and pants, just no body armor) and was stabbed repeatedly with bamboo spears while trying to draw his sword. He had also only brought 40 men on shore with him and left his marines and cannons aboard his ships.

5-t) Pedro de Valdivia – Was executed by the Mapuche commander, Caupolicán, for being greedy and untrustworthy, by having molten gold poured down his throat. Another contemporary writer states that Pedro was cannibalized by the Mapuche while he was still alive. A third states that his heart was cut out of his body and his skull turned into a drinking cup.

6-b) Mary, Queen of Scots – was executed by Elizabeth I for making a number of poor decisions.

7-a) Sir Walter Raleigh – Was executed by James I at the insistence of Count Gondomar, the Spanish ambassador to England, over violation of peace treaties between Spain and England.

8-d) Richard Coeur de Leon – While besieging Chalus-Chabrol, in France, King Richard got a little too close to the castle unarmored. A defender of the castle, protected by a frying pan, shot Richard in the shoulder with a crossbow bolt. 11 days later the king died.

9-j) Tiziano “Titian” Vecellio – died of the plague well into his eighties or nineties.

10-l) Sir Arthur Aston – Killed during the siege of Drogheda by Cromwell’s soldiers. Sir Arthur was bludgeoned to death with his own wooden leg, which the Parliamentarian soldiers believed to be filled with gold coins. There is no record as to why they used Sir Arthur’s leg; perhaps they were upset that it wasn’t filled with gold.

11-p) William the Conqueror – While taking the town of Vexin, his horse stumbled due to burning cinders and King William was thrown against the pommel of his saddle. The injury was to be fatal and he died a few days later.


Geoffrey Chaucer

12-c) Geoffrey Chaucer – the father of the English language disappeared in 1400 and no account survives as to when or how he died. He received £5 from Henry Somer on 6/5/1400 and that is the last record of the author of The Canterbury Tales. No death notice, no will, nothing.

13-n) Sigurd Eysteinsson – Sigurd, also known as Sigurd the Mighty, challenged Mael Brigte the Tusk (he had buckteeth) to a 40 on 40 melee. Sigurd won with the help of an additional 40 men. Sigurd strapped Mael’s severed head to his saddle and rode home. While riding, “Mael Brigte’s famous buckteeth scratched Sigurd’s leg, causing a gangrenous infection which eventually claimed his life.”

14-o) Pope Adrian IV – Suffered from tonsillitis and choked to death when he swallowed a fly that was in his wine cup. The insect, along with the obstruction and puss in his throat, caused him to choke to death.

15-e) George Plantagenet – George, the Duke of Clarence, was executed for high treason and was reportedly drowned in a butt of his favorite wine, malmsey.

16-h) Martin the Humane – After eating an entire goose, King of Aragon and Sicily laughed so hard at a joke, told by his jester, that he fell over dead. Probably choked on some of the goose that might have “revisited” him.

17-i) Caliph Al-Musta’sim – When the Mongols sacked Baghdad, they feared a superstition that spilling royal blood would bring bad luck. So, instead of beheading the Caliph, he was rolled up in a carpet and a herd of horses was driven over his body. Apparently horses aren’t worried about superstition.

18-z) Aeschylus – According to Valerius Maximus, Aeschylus was killed by a tortoise dropped by an eagle that had mistaken his bald head for a rock suitable for shattering the shell of the reptile.

19-f) Roger Bacon – died of old age in 1292. Francis Bacon died of pneumonia after trying to stuff a chicken with snow. You have to know your Bacon.

And the extra deaths?

Arthur of Brittany, Richard I’s nephew, was allegedly stabbed to death by his uncle, King John, at Rouen.

Hans Steininger tripped over his 4.5 foot beard and broke his neck in 1567. Apparently there was a fire and he didn’t take the time to roll up his beard and put it into its travel pouch.

James Betts died in 1667 when his girlfriend, Elizabeth Spencer, stuffed him into a cupboard in order to keep her father from knowing that she had a man in her room. The cupboard was apprantly air tight and only opened from the outside. His death, and later that day, her death, became part of the history of Corpus Christi College, at Cambridge.

Henry I

Henry I of England

Henry I of England died from a “surfeit of lampreys” in 1135. Most likely, since the 68 year old King was in exceptional health, he suffered from food poisoning or an infection.

And who was burned to death in a bread oven as a punishment? A medieval urban legend tells us that a Polish baker who was punished for using things other than grain for his flour (dirt, clay, ground up tree bark), was sentenced to be baked to death in his own oven. I classify this as an urban legend as I could find no account that listed the name of the baker, what town this happened in or what year this occured. But it is often listed as an example of excessive medieval punishment. The well documented punishments for unsavory bakers included having the baker eat his poorly made wares: all of it; as well as being tied to a cart and wheeled around the village, town or city with the bad bread tied around his or her neck.