King Martin of Aragon
Martin (1356-1410) was King of Aragon, Valencia, Sardinia, Corsica and, very briefly, Sicily. Though nicknamed Martin the Humane, this says more about the standards of behavior for medieval kings than Martin’s personality, for he was an enthusiastic warrior who fought many battles in his lifetime. To control such a vast number of territories and maintain several crowns, Martin did not scruple to put down any pocket of resistance to his rule, and was really rather good at it. Yet he did not just defend his lands and titles, but looked for trouble, launching Crusades in North Africa against the Moors.
Medieval kings are renowned for their incredible appetites, hosting enormous banquets with menus that truly make one’s jaw drop and were often praised for how much they could shove down their necks in one sitting. Martin was no different in this regard. One day, at the age of 54, Martin had been enjoying a feast near Barcelona that saw him consume an entire goose on his own, probably with all the trimmings to boot. Surprisingly, he felt a bit unwell afterwards, and had to retire to his bedchamber for a bit of a lie-down to cure his indigestion.
Martin was determined not to let indigestion ruin his night, however, and invited his jester to his chamber to amuse him. Martin asked the jester where he had been, to which the latter replied: ‘in the next vineyard, where I saw a young deer hanging by his tail from a tree, as if someone had so punished him for stealing figs’. The joke was so hilarious that Martin laughed non-stop for three whole hours, then fell to the floor, stone dead. Historians debate the story, however, and suggest he may have died of plague or poisoning. Yah, boo, hiss.