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Deaths of Kings

September 22, 2014

While the skeleton of Richard III may have shown us that he didn’t quite fit the deformed villain mould it has shown us that his death was pretty brutal including 9 blows to his unprotected skull from swords, halberds and billhooks.

That son of York was the last British monarch to die in battle but my post about locked room mysteries reminded me of (the fanciful) take on Barbarossa’s death in Baudolino by Umberto Eco (which made my pick of the last decade) and generally got me thinking about regal mortality.

Henry I’s “surfeit of lampreys” is certainly a memorable one. At the age of 35 he fell ill and against doctors orders consumed an excessive number of lampreys and within weeks was dead. I wonder how many lampreys you’d have to eat for that to be the cause of death rather than your illness?

William II, Rufus, was killed in a ‘hunting accident’ in the New Forest after only 3 years on the throne (though by most accounts he wasn’t missed).

Edward II was killed while imprisoned in Berkeley Castle; it’s likely that death wasn’t administered by a red-hot poker to the rear but was certainly engineered by his own mother.

A cutting from a New York paper of the mid 1800s offers a rather unflattering summary the deaths of English/British monarchs from William the Conqueror:

Deaths of English Kings

Compare Richard the Lionheart’s “died like the animal from which his heart was named” with “the Lion (that) by the Ant was slain”, I fear our author is not a fan of the monarchy.

The death of Mary I by a “surfeit of black puddings” is an interesting one though I can’t find any other references beyond this cutting (it certainly never caught on like “surfeit of lampreys” did).

For the greatest royal death by food we have to look across the North Sea to Adolf Frederick, King of Sweden who died of digestion problems after a meal of:

…lobster, caviar, sauerkraut, kippers and champagne, which was topped off with 14 servings of his favourite dessert: semla served in a bowl of hot milk.

28 Famous Murders with Verse

September 4, 2014

This has to be the most grisly ukiyo-e print I’ve ever seen:

murder12

It’s from Tsukioka Yoshitoshi’s ’28 Famous Murders with Verse’ and the others are suitably gruesome. Yoshitoshi is regarded as the last great master of Ukiyo-e (he died 1892) and his work was brought to my attention by the quite wonderful Saladin Ahmed (he’s well worth a follow and his book is pretty damn good too, though that’s a post for another time).

yoshi-cats

He was a student of Kuniyoshi (who we’ve covered once or twice before). To my knowledge Kuniyoshi never produced anything as gruesome (though he did plenty of body horror and genital demons, including one series showcasing the versatility of an ample scrotum) but you can see influences in some of Yoshitoshi’s earlier work; his Battle of Cats and Mice (above) chimes with Kuniyoshi’s cat prints and they both have a fondness for comedic animal prints.

(Left: Yoshitoshi's A giant octopus takes on all comers at the fish market at Nihombashi; Right: Kuniyoshi's Octopus Games)

(Left: Yoshitoshi’s A giant octopus takes on all comers at the fish market at Nihombashi; Right: Kuniyoshi’s Octopus Games)

Some of Yoshitoshi’s warrior depictions are definitely bloodier and more brutal than most prints I’ve seen before (I’ve also spotted at least two trussed pregnant women in his works) but his fantastical stuff is just great. You can browse almost all of his works at yoshitoshi.net, and I’d recommend Crazy Pictures of placed in Tokyo, New Forms of 36 Ghosts, and One Hundred Ghost Stories of China and Japan, but they’re all very very good. So much so I just want to embed them all here! But I’ll limit myself to a few.

Farting at a kappa at the lumber yard in Fukagawa from 'Crazy Pictures of Famous Places in Tōkyō'

Farting at a kappa at the lumber yard in Fukagawa from ‘Crazy Pictures of Famous Places in Tōkyō’

The greedy old lady and the box of demons from 'The greedy old lady and the box of demons from 'One Hundred Ghost Stories of China and Japan'

The greedy old lady and the box of demons from ‘The greedy old lady and the box of demons from ‘One Hundred Ghost Stories of China and Japan’

The demon Ibaraki with her severed arm from 'New forms of 36 Ghosts'

The demon Ibaraki with her severed arm from ‘New forms of 36 Ghosts’

As an aside I’ve just noticed the works of Japanese woodblock masters sound a lot like Buzzfeed articles.

Edit: tweaked my phrasing a little…