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  • Writer's picturePaul


You know how it is when you’re sick. You just want to stay in bed, all wrapped up, cosy and warm with a hot cup of Lemsip, and some trashy daytime TV to keep you company. But have you ever considered, I don’t know, being tightly sewn into linen sheets soaked in brandy to make yourself feel better? No? Well, that’s exactly what Charles II of Navarre tried to do when, towards the end of his life, he was apparently in “such a state of decay” that he’d all but lost the use of his limbs.

“You’re going to wrap me in what now?”:

Charles of Navarre contemplates changing his doctor (Wikimedia Commons)

Now, you’re probably thinking this all sounds harmless enough, if a little strange. But things took something of a horrifying turn as soon as poor old Charles’ treatment was administered.

Just as the handmaid who had sewn the king into his cocoon was finishing up the task, she picked up a nearby candle, ostensibly to burn away a loose thread, and—well, you can probably guess what happened next.

The king’s brandy-soaked garb immediately burst into flames, and the girl fled in terror leaving the hapless king to burn alive in his bedchamber. It’s not known what happened to the girl in the aftermath of the calamity, but “once burned a king alive” certainly wouldn’t have looked good on her resumé.

Unsurprisingly, the pious moralists of the time were quick to interpret the king’s grim death as an example of God’s judgment; Charles wasn’t seen as the most morally upstanding of gentlemen, and is arguably best known for his devious behaviour and near constant chicanery during the Hundred Years’ War, that saw him repeatedly alternate between supporting England and France.

Upstanding gentleman or not, that’s still one heck of a way to go...

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