Cries of horror surely wailed at William’s
messy burial beneath Abbaye aux Hommes,
his tomb, ‘twas found to be too small to hold
his corpse’s expanding girth; hence ensued a
gruesome scene…they forced him in, until he burst!
When I was in school I had little use for history with its dry facts and dates to be memorized, only to be forgotten once I’d barely passed the final exam. But as I have discovered a personal link with some of these characters I’ve had the opportunity to dig past the textbooks. Today’s story is about my 34th Great Grandfather William, the Conqueror, the Bastard King. He had a turbulent reign as king. Married Matilda of Flinders and had at least 9 children, among them Henry, my 33rd great. But the story I found most interesting was his funeral. You don’t generally read this sort of thing in history books. Thanks to the internet and Wikipedia read on to learn the final chapter of William’s life:
“Disorder followed William’s death; everyone who had been at his deathbed left the body at Rouen and hurried off to attend to their own affairs. Eventually, the clergy of Rouen arranged to have the body sent to Caen, where William had desired to be buried in his foundation of the Abbaye-aux-Hommes. The funeral, attended by the bishops and abbots of Normandy as well as his son Henry, was disturbed by the assertion of a citizen of Caen who alleged that his family had been illegally despoiled of the land on which the church was built. After hurried consultations, the allegation was shown to be true, and the man was compensated. A further indignity occurred when the corpse was lowered into the tomb. The corpse was too large for the space, and when attendants forced the body into the tomb it burst, spreading a disgusting odour throughout the church.”