Regicidal Beasties

REGICIDE (Latin regis “of king” + cida “killer” or cidium “killing”) is the deliberate killing of a monarch

There is one peculiar side of regicide that is habitually overlooked by historians. This is when a monarch (leader, ruler etc) was put to death not by the hand of an assassin, terrorist or a conspirator, but a paw, a tooth, a sting or hooves of animal, microbes and bacilli aside.

William the Conqueror (c.1028 – c.1087)

William was duke of Normandy and, as William I, the first Norman king of England. He defeated and killed the last Anglo-Saxon king of England at the Battle of Hastings.

At the Siege of Mante, the royal horse bucked, His Majesty jumped and — as fate had it — impaled himself upon the pommel of his saddle. William the Conqueror  died on 9 September 1087 from his injuries.

William the Conqueror's statue in his birthplace of Falaise, Normandy, celebrates his courage and military skills, even though is he brandishing a mop.

William the Conqueror’s statue in his birthplace of Falaise, Normandy, on the horseback, wielding, incongruously, something resembling a mop.

Genghis Khan (c.1162 – 1227)

“I am the punishment of God...If you had not committed great sins, God would not have sent a punishment like me upon you.”  ― Genghis Khan

“I am the punishment of God…If you had not committed great sins, God would not have sent a punishment like me upon you.”
― Genghis Khan

The man wanted to conquer the whole world, from ocean to ocean, and advanced rather far along  this path. It is very possible that in the end he would have reached his goal. However, on August 18, 1227, his trusted horse, whose name ungrateful descendants have forgotten, took off suddenly, and Genghis Khan fell to the ground. Bayartay (“goodbye”), old murderer. According to the Mongolian chronicle, he  “ascended to heaven in the year of the Pig.”

Frederick I, also known as Frederick Barbarossa,  (1122 – 10 June 1190)

Barbarossa. (Goslar, Lower Saxony, Germany)

Barbarossa. (Goslar, Lower Saxony, Germany)

On 10 June 1190, Emperor Frederick drowned in the Saleph river. He either fell off his horse or decided to walk his horse through the river instead of crossing the bridge that had been too crowded with armored troops.

The current was too strong for the horse to handle and the horse pulled free. The suit of armor was too heavy to swim in and Barbarossa drowned in full view of his knights. That was the end of the fierce warrior and, consequently, the beginning of the end of the Third Crusade.

Pope  Urbann VI (c. 1318 – 15 October 1389)

Pope Urban VI

Pope Urban VI



Pope  Urban VI was, well, a controversial figure. He did order the torture and murder of Cardinals that did not agree with his policies. He complained he did not hear enough screaming when the conspirators were tortured. To English soldiers and nobles who would fight to defeat Pope Clement VII Urban promised indulgences for entrance to Heaven…

During the march to Perugia, Urban fell from his mule at Narni — a rather unfortunate occurrence — and died soon afterwards. A rather  inglorious  death, to think of it…

William III, King of Great Britain (1650 –  1702)


William III



He was a sovereign Prince of Orange of the House of Orange-Nassau by birth, and became king of Great Britain after the 1688 Revolution.

William III was well on the way to creating a European alliance against Louis XIV when his work was cut short.

On February 21st 1702, William was riding in Richmond Park when his horse stumbled on a mole hill and threw the king to the ground. The king suffered a broken collar bone, but couldn’t take a shock of a fall.

William died at Kensington Palace in March 8th 1702.

King Alexander of Greece (1893 – 1920)

Alexander I of Greece (1920)

Alexander I of Greece (1920)

This handsome lad was the King of Greece from 11 June 1917 until his death at the age of 27. No, he wasn’t nowhere near horses, mules or molehills.

On 2 October 1920, Alexander went for a walk through the grounds of the Tatoi estate with Fritz, his German Shepherd.  A domestic Barbary macaque, belonging to the steward of the palace’s grapevines, either attacked or was attacked by Fritz.  Alexander — brave man that he was —  attempted to break the fight. Another monkey was watching, and didn’t like such turn of events. This other monkey viciously attacked Alexander, biting him deeply, multiple times, on his leg, thigh and torso.

The king underestimated his injuries. The wounds weren’t properly attended to, and the incident wasn’t publicized. m

The royal wounds became infected; septicemia set in. The king’s doctors considered amputating Alexander’s leg, but none wished to take responsibility for cutting off the royal flesh and bone.

Oleg the Prophet — Oleg of Novgorod (early 10th century)

Oleg the Prophet by Victor Vasnetsov

Oleg the Prophet by Victor Vasnetsov

Oleg was a Varangian prince (or konung) who ruled all or part of the Rus’ people during the early 10th century.

As legend has it, the pagan priests prophesied he’d die because of his favorite stallion.  Oleg smartly sent the horse znaway. The horse died eventually on some distant pasture.

Many years later, Oleg asked to see the remains of his stallion, and was taken to the place where the bones lay. Lovingly, he touched the horse’s skull with his boot. An adder slithered from the skull and bit him. Oleg died, thus fulfilling the prophecy.

Oddly, adders aren’t usually found in those parts. Besides, the bite of ан adder isn’t fatal. It might as well Oleg died of a holy terror. Perhaps, his old heart failed or else, he had an allergic reaction to otherwise non-lethal snakebite.

Cleopatra, Queen of Egypt ( appr. 69 B.C. —  August 12, 30 B.C. 

cleopatradrawingCleopatra, the Queen of Egypt, and Marc Antony, part of the Second Triumvirate, became lovers. In the year 31 B.C., they combined armies to try to defeat Octavian.  The clash proved to be a costly defeat for the Egyptians, forcing Antony and Cleopatra to flee back to Egypt.

Marc Antony was deceived into believing that Cleopatra had died. The despondent Roman leader committed suicide by stabbing himself. Cleopatra followed her lover in death. She ended her life by being bitten by an Egyptian cobra.

*    *    *

Thus emperors, popes, queens, rulers should, perhaps, stay away from murderous horses, mules, moles, reptiles and other beasts of the wild…

The idea of this post came from the “anthology of zoo-terror” found on the blog site of  Boris Akunin, although the images and the  text of this post  differ greatly from Akunin’s and not in language only. Russian speakers might want to visit ЗоотанатосЛюбовь к истории блог Бориса Акунина.

“Why do I tell you all this horrific stories,” the writer asks. “Because I stumbled upon the following selection… and it made me feel uneasy.”

The selection B. Akunin stumbled upon and posted is similar to the selection I compiled. But the gist is the same.

V. Putin and horse

V. Putin and a horse

V. Putin on the horseback

V. Putin, bare-chested, in a 


V. Putin and a chick

V. Putin and a chick

V. Putin and various other beasties:

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