Jul 31, 2009
I’m sure this isn’t the first time you’ve been told that certain members of the ruling classes are weird, but this might be the first time you’ve heard some of these exceptionally strange tales of royal weirdness.
The Cucumber King of Burma
In 931, King Theinhko of Burma ate the cucumbers of a local villager without asking first. The angry farmer murdered Theinhko and then took over the throne as King Nyanng-u Sawrahan. The queen welcomed him, in an effort to prevent political unrest. Nyanng-u was forever after known as ‘The Cucumber King.’ He reigned over Burma for 33 years until he was overthrown.
Nine Months of French Bastards
King Philip Augustus of France was married to his second wife, Ingeborg of Denmark, in 1193. Sadly, Augustus found Ingeborg to be absolutely revolting and filed for a divorce on the grounds that the marriage was not yet consummated. His wife, however, argued that they had consummated the marriage. As a result, Pope Celestine III refused to grant the king a divorce.
Philip was not easily defeated. He ignored the decision and went on to marry Agnes of Marania.
The pope ordered him to return to Ineborg and to make his point, he imposed an interdict on December 12, 1199. During this time, all churches were closed and the pope determined that as long as the king wasn’t sleeping with his wife, his subjects were not allowed to sleep with theirs. As a result, all children born in this period were deemed illegitimate. The interdict continued until September 7, 1200 –resulting in nine months of bastards born in France. Augustus eventually did return to Ineborg, but not until 1213.
A Dead Woman Crowned Queen
Ines de Castro was a loving mistress to Dom Pedro, heir of the Portuguese throne. Unfortunately, the current ruler, King Alfonso, was paranoid that the pair was plotting against him and ordered Ines to be assassinated in 1355.
When Pedro was crowned as king in 1357, his love for Ines had not yet faded. He sought revenge on the assassins and made them suffer through horrendous tortures. That wasn’t enough though, Pedro was still determined that Ines should take her seat beside him as queen. He had her body exhumed, dressed in proper royal attire and the entire candlelit coronation ceremony proceeded as usual. Ines’s body was anointed and crowned, the subjects were made to swear allegiance to her, and the nobles were required to kneel and kiss her cold, two-years-dead hand.
The Ghastly Death of Mary Queen of Scots
If you ever played Bloody Mary in the mirror as a youth, you know that it is quite a terrifying ghost story. While there are many proposed “Marys” that could be referenced in the story, Mary Queen of Scots has a terrifying ghost story thanks to her botched execution.
On February 8, 1587, Mary was led to the execution block. The executioner, likely drunk, failed to knock off her head on the first blow. Instead, he hit the back of her head, at which time, her servants reported that she muttered “Sweet Jesus.” He managed to remove her head on the second blow and he lifted her head up by the auburn hair on her head, right then, her head fell from his hands, revealing that she actually had short gray hair covered by thick wig. Also strange, her lips continued moving for the next fifteen minutes, likely caused by a nerve damaged during the first execution attempt.
As if all this wasn’t enough, Mary’s dog was discovered to be hiding under her skirts. When the pet was pulled out, it insisted on lying between the shoulders and decapitated head of her body. Eventually, Mary’s servants took the dog, but not until it was thoroughly soaked in its dead master’s blood.
Even for the people of the time, jaded from by frequent public executions, Mary’s beheading was full of exceptionally terrifying surprises.
A Strange ‘Divine Right’
Normally a king’s “divine rights” seem to include things like violating virgins and taking food and money, however, in 1627, Charles I decided to declare rights of a much different nature. He ordered all of his subjects to turn in their urine to official collectors once a day in the summer and once every other day in the winter. These collections were to help the country create saltpeter, a component of gunpowder.
Charles also claimed rights to all soil loaded with animal waste. The so-called ‘Saltpeter Men’ were permitted to dig up the floors of stables, slaughterhouses and other areas without permission of the property owners.
Louis The XIV’s Enema Obsession
Photo Via Curious Expeditions [Flickr]
Imagine trying to hold a conversation with someone receiving an enema. Now imagine that someone was King and he was holding court throughout the experience. King Louis XIV was known for performing this type of activity regularly. The enema was a quite popular medical procedure at this time, but few people seemed to love the activity nearly as much as the king who is said to have received over 2,000 enemas throughout his lifetime – many of them in public.
The King of Debt
King Theodore of Corsica wasn’t much of a king. For one thing, he wasn’t nobility by birth, he was merely a soldier who asked to be king in exchange for helping aid the Corsicans in a revolt. When the revolt had proven to be ineffective and a the Genovese government put a price on his head, Theodore started to lose popularity amongst his people. He decided that he would be better off ruling overseas.
Unfortunately, once he left the country, he was never able to return to his kingdom. Eventually, he ended up in debtors prison in Amsterdam, and later, London. He was freed from Holland’s prison easy enough, but the only way he could earn release from the London jail was by giving Corsica to his creditors.
When he died in London in 1756, his epitaph read:
Theodore this moral learned ere dead:
Fate poured its lessons on his living head,
Bestowed a kingdom, and denied him bread.
After his death, an opera was made from his tale in 1784. Additionally, ‘King Theodore of Corsica’ started to be used as a nickname for gin, joining the ranks of ‘Cuckold’s Comfort’ as a slang for the drink.
Madness Doth Not A Kingdom Make
Nouvelle France was a South American territory also called the Kingdom of Araucanìa and Patagonia. The area’s first (and only) king, elected in 1860, was Orelie-Antoine de Tounens, a French lawyer. He supported the local people’s efforts to resist takeover by Chile and Argentina. The people of the area, called Mapuche, thought that Tounens may help aid their cause as he was a skilled European negotiator. He helped the locals draft a constitution and mint coins, but Chile largely ignored him. Tounens tried to convince France to come to his aid and after a short investigation, they determined him to be crazy.
He was arrested by the Chilean government within two years of becoming king. France managed to secure his release from prison by convincing his jailers that he was insane. After his release, he was deported back to France and Tounens then spent the rest of his life trying to take over his kingdom again. In 1869, he made it back to the country, but soon returned to France to gather more money. Tounens attempted to return two more times afterward, but both times he was captured by Chilean authorities and deported. He eventually died in squalor in France in 1878.
His relatives periodically continued to claim their rightful place as ruler of the country, although the most recent heir has renounced the claim. Since the establishment of Nouvelle France, no sovereign state has ever recognized the territory as a legitimate country.
The Long-Lasting Legacy of Nobility
In 1888, Charles-Marie David de Mayrena elected himself Marie the First, King of the Sedang. Marie was an eccentric French adventurer and he arranged his kingdom to rule over a number of small tribes. King Marie declared the official religion of the country to be Roman Catholic although most of its residents were Muslims and he later adopted the Islamic faith himself. He awarded titles of nobility to his supporters during his two-year rule. He attempted to trade his kingdom to the French, English and Belgium governments in exchange for a trading monopoly, but he received little interest. When he tried to return to his kingdom though, the French prevented him from entering any port in Indochina. He died in 1890, and the details of this death remain a mystery –some sources claim it was by duel, others say it was poison and yet other reports argue he was bitten by a snake.
Over 100 years later, the Assembly for the Restoration of the Sedang Nobility was established in Montreal in 1995. This group consisted of descendants of those who bestowed with titles of nobility by King Marie. The organization claims it seeks to “re-establish and promote the social institutions of monarchy and nobility and practice their principles in a world which has largely forgotten them: chivalry, honor, duty, loyalty, respect, enlightenment, tolerance.” At the same time, they are glad to renounce their claims to the territory, admitting it is undisputedly part of Vietnam. Three years later, they changed their name to the Sedang Royalist Assembly. Although genealogists helped the group find an heir of King Marie, the descendant was uninterested in claiming his title. This organization is still around and is headquartered in Montreal.
What happens when your country’s official constitution and other historical documents fail to mention one small town? If that unmentioned village happens to be Seborga (flag shown above), you may end up with an “independent principality” smack dab in the middle of your country. The area, that should be part of Italy, declared its independence in 1967 and elected the head of the flower growing collective, Giorgio Carbone, to be the country’s head of state or “Giorgio I, Prince of Seborga.” Giorgio is officially addressed as “Your Tremendousness” by his followers.
Giorgio and other members of the village claim that Seborga was never incorporated into Italy. Although it was sold to the king of Savoy and Sardinia in 1729, the sale was not registered. On top of that, the Congress of Vienna in 1815, the 1861 Act of Unification and the constitution written in 1946 all fail to mention Seborga. Scholars have proven that regardless, the area is still part of Italy, but Seborgians defy this logic.
The principality mints its own currency, the luigino, currently valued at $6 – meaning if it were recognized as a legitimate legal tender, it would be the most valuable currency in the world. Regardless of the area’s claim to independence, most of the residents follow the laws of Italy, pay taxes and vote in national elections.
In 2006, a woman named Yasmine von Hohenstaufen Anjou Plantagenet, who claims to be heir to Roman Emperor Fredrick II and the rightful ruler of Seborga, tried to return the ‘country’ to Italy. The majority of villagers were notably upset and Prince Giorgio commented “The girl cannot give away something she does not own.”