From A Drug-Fueled Car Cash To A ‘Surfeit Of Lampreys,’ These Are The Strangest And Most Gruesome Royal Deaths In History

Published November 15, 2022
Updated November 16, 2022

The Royal Death Of Charles II of Navarre, The King Who Was Accidentally Burned Alive

Charles Ii Navarre

Hulton Archive/Getty ImagesCharles II suffered an especially gruesome royal death.

Charles II of Navarre developed such a reputation that he became known as “Charles the Bad.” But a more appropriate name might be “Charles the Burned,” since in 1387, the French monarch was accidentally burned alive.

The grandson of French King Louis X, Charles adamantly believed that he should inherit the French throne. But his ambitions were thwarted by others who declared that, since Charles’ link to the monarchy came through his mother, he didn’t have the strongest claim. The throne instead passed to his mother’s uncle, Philip de Valois, and then to Philip’s son, John the Good.

Charles the Bad spent most of the rest of his life scheming to usurp John the Good. He plotted with the English, the Spanish, and his fellow Frenchmen. But by 1387, the royal had fallen ill.

Charles II's Royal Death

Public Domain/Wellcome CollectionCharles II of Navarre was burned alive in a bizarre accident.

As History Collection reports, doctors attempted to treat Charles II’s illness by wrapping him in linen soaked in brandy, aqua vita (ethanol), and wine. To ensure that this treatment worked, they ordered that the King of Navarre would be stitched into the linens every night.

But on January 1, something went wrong. Having sewn Charles II into his linens, one of his servants searched for scissors to cut off a loose thread. When she couldn’t find any, she decided to burn off the loose thread with a nearby candlestick — and set the ailing king on fire.

As medieval author and historian Jean Froissart wrote of the incident, “[B]y the pleasure of God, or of the devil, the fire caught to his sheets, and from that to his person, swathed as it was in matter highly inflammable.”

Kaleena Fraga
A staff writer for All That's Interesting, Kaleena Fraga has also had her work featured in The Washington Post and Gastro Obscura, and she published a book on the Seattle food scene for the Eat Like A Local series. She graduated from Oberlin College, where she earned a dual degree in American History and French.
Jaclyn Anglis
Jaclyn is the senior managing editor at All That's Interesting. She holds a Master's degree in journalism from the City University of New York and a Bachelor's degree in English writing and history (double major) from DePauw University. She is interested in American history, true crime, modern history, pop culture, and science.
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Fraga, Kaleena. "From A Drug-Fueled Car Cash To A ‘Surfeit Of Lampreys,’ These Are The Strangest And Most Gruesome Royal Deaths In History.", November 15, 2022, Accessed June 14, 2024.