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The gory deaths of Britain's kings

Reaching the heights of British nobility was the ambition for many power-hungry people from the UK's past, but success didn't protect plenty of historical figures from a gory end. 

October 3 is the anniversary of the death of Dafydd ap Gruffydd, the last Welsh Prince of Wales, who met a violent end in 1283 when he was dragged through the streets of Shrewsbury, hanged, drawn and quartered for rebelling against Edward I. 

Dafydd's predecessor, his brother Llywelyn, had also met a horrific end the previous year. He was killed in battle and his head sent for display in London, carried on the point of a lance to the Tower of London, where it was left on display for 15 years.

150 years before the grisly end of these Welsh princes, Henry I's 35-year reign came to an excruciating finish when he overdosed on lampreys, a type of snake-like fish.

The battle to succeed Henry ended with the House of Plantagenet ruling England and parts of France for hundreds of years to come, but many of its members suffered untimely deaths. 

Richard the Lionheart failed to pay due care and attention when besieging a castle in France. His habit was to watch and applaud the defending crossbowmen as they took potshots at him. However one hit the mark with a shot to the shoulder. As his wound turned gangreneous Richard pardoned the archer, however when he died his men were not so kind and flayed then hanged the bow man. 

In 1216, King John became the first of several royals to die from dysentery. He was reviled as a cruel and cowardly ruler and his death, from diarrhoea so violent it caused bleeding, was seen as just desserts by many. 

Dysentery also brought an end to Edward I, who died of the disease as he marched north to fight Robert the Bruce. Another famous Edward, the Black Prince, was a warrior and statesman who had won great battles and was destined for the throne, but he couldn't avoid an early demise thanks to dysentery in 1376. And just 50 years later, Henry V suffered the same fate while close to clinching the crown of France. 

Edward I was known as the Hammer of the Scots, but his son, Edward II, was a much less successful king who fell out with many of England's powerful barons. After a controversial reign he was deposed by his wife and her lover, and locked up in Berkeley Castle. The most salacious version of his death is that a red-hot poker was inserted in his anus as punishment for his homosexuality. However historians can find no firm evidence of this and most think the manner of his murder will remain a mystery.

Henry V's death from dysentery left his infant child, Henry VI on the throne, but he grew into a terrible king and his poor rule led to the Wars of the Roses. This decades long conflict between the Houses of York and Lancaster included many gruesome deaths, including that of Henry VI who was kept in captivity for five years by the new king, Edward IV, and was finally murdered when it was felt the people might welcome his return. 

Historians believe that Edward's brother Richard, the Duke of Gloucester, gave the order to kill Henry. Richard himself ascended to the throne when Edward passed away, and in later years Shakespeare was among the Tudor-era  story tellers who embellished his reputation as a murderer by linking him to the deaths of Edwards' children Edward V and Richard of Shrewsbury, often known as the Princes in the Tower. 

This killing was said to be part of Richard's campaign to strengthen his own hold on the crown, however he was soon facing a new challenge from Henry Tudor, and met his own fate at Bosworth, when double-crossing on the battlefield saw his support drip away and a last ditch charge left him unhorsed and outnumbered by Henry's bodyguard, with a predictable, decisive end. 

Henry Tudor became Henry VII, and he was followed by his son Henry VIII. Famous for founding the Church of England, Henry VIII couldn't escape the effects of a jousting accident and piled on weight in later years. A lack of exercise and over indulgence saw his waist balloon to 54 inches, he was covered with painful, pus-filled boils and he had to be moved around on a series of mechanical inventions. The end came at the age of 55 from gout. 

Of course, Henry outlived several of his wives with Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard both beheaded for alleged adultery. 

While plenty of kings had died in battle, Charles I was the first to be executed for treason (pictured above) with Parliament, led by Oliver Cromwell, ordering his death after the brutal Civil Wars. His son, Charles II, would get some revenge on returning to the throne years later. He captured and executed many of those responsible for his father's death and even dug up the bodies of those who'd died already, including Cromwell, to hang them afterwards. 

Our final entry in this list is William III, who had done so much to bring about Protestant dominance over Catholics through wars across the UK and Ireland. Despite his success in battle he was finally felled by a mole, when his horse stumbled over a molehill and William fell and broke his collarbone, with pneumonia finishing him off soon after. 

 
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