Weirder than Michael Jackson’s death: Aristocrats

By: Justin Nobel | Date: Sun, July 12th, 2009

Michael Jackson is still missing his brain but it has been a pretty normal after-death, considering. The afterworld of royalty can be much stranger…

Michael Jackson's after-death has been relatively normal, considering. British kings have had their hearts stolen and their heads put on sticks. (Photo by Justin Nobel)

Michael Jackson’s after-death has been relatively normal, considering. British aristocrats have had their hearts stolen and their heads put on sticks. (Photo by Justin Nobel)

Sir Thomas More was beheaded in 1535 for refusing to acknowledge the legitimacy of Henry VIII’s marriage to Anne Boleyn. More’s head was taken from the scaffold, parboiled, stuck on a pole and exhibited on the London Bridge. His daughter, Margaret Roper, bribed the bridge-keeper to knock it down. She smuggled the head home and preserved it in spices. When she died, the head was buried with her. In the nineteenth century, the tomb was opened and More’s head was put on public view in St. Dunstan’s Church, in Canterbury.

Queen Anne Boleyn was beheaded in 1536 on the orders of her husband, King Henry VIII. Her heart was stolen and hidden in a church. Three centuries later it was re-discovered and placed under the church organ.

Oliver Cromwell, the Lord Protector of England, died in 1658 and was embalmed and buried in Westminster Abbey. After the Restoration of the Monarchy in 1660, his body was dug up and taken to Tyburn where it was gibbeted until sundown. The Public Executioner lowered the body, cut off the head and impaled it on a 25-foot pole on the roof of Westminster Hall. It remained there until 1685 when it was dislodged during a gale. A soldier found the head and hid it in his chimney. On his deathbed, he bequeathed it to his daughter. In 1710, the head appeared in a freak show as ‘The Monster’s Head.’ A doctor bought the head for a significant sum and donated it to Sydney Sussex College in 1960 where it was buried in a secret spot on the college grounds.

During the French Revolution, the tomb of Louis XIV of France was plundered. His heart was stolen and sold to Lord Harcourt who later sold it to the Very Reverend William Buckland. One night at dinner, the Reverend, who liked to experiment with food, ate Louis’s heart.

King Charles, I was beheaded in 1649 and buried at Windsor Castle in the same vault as Henry VIII. In 1813, Sir Henry Halford, the royal surgeon, performed an autopsy on the body and secretly stole Charles’ fourth cervical vertebra. He used it as a salt-holder at dinner parties.

Argentina was obsessed with Evita Peron, the wife of the country’s president in the late 1940s and early 1950s. In 1952, when she died, of cancer, theaters shut, restaurants stopped serving food and within a day every flower shop in Buenos Aires had run out of flowers. Eight people were crushed to death in the stampede to see her body transported through the city. It was to rest in a monument in her honor set to be larger than the Statue of Liberty but after a coup overthrew Perón Evita’s corpse was hijacked. It was buried in a crypt in Milan, Italy under the name Maria Maggi. A 1995 book about Evita revealed a slew of misdeeds surrounding her corpse. One official purportedly committed sexual acts with a wax replica of the body.

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