Edmund II, AKA Edmund Ironside (circa 993 – 1016) was England’s king from April 23 to November 30, 1016. The son of one of England’s worst kings, the weak and vacillating Ethelred the Unready, Edmund was a vast improvement over his father, and proved himself made of sterner stuff than his predecessor. He earned the surname “Ironside” for his staunch resistance to a massive invasion led by the Danish king Canute.
Starting in 991, Edmund’s father, Ethelred the Unready unwisely sought to buy off the Danes then occupying northern England, and stop their incessant raids into his kingdom, by paying them tribute known as the Danegeld, or “Danish gold”. Unsurprisingly, that emboldened the Danes, who upped their demands for more and more gold, and fearing little from Ethelred, kept on raiding his domain. Finally, after bankrupting his kingdom and beggaring its people with the high taxes necessary to pay the Danegeld, Ethelred ordered a massacre of Danish settlers in 1002.
The massacre led to an invasion by the Danish king Sweyn Forkbeard, who conquered England in 1013 and forced Ethelred to flee to Normandy. However, Sweyn died the following year, at which point Ethelred returned, and with his son Edmund playing a leading role, chased Sweyn’s son, Canute, out of England in 1014. Canute returned the following year at the head of a large Danish army which pillaged much of England, but crown prince Edmund mounted a fierce resistance which stymied the Dane. When Ethelred died in 1016, Edmund, by now surnamed “Ironside”, succeeded him on the English throne.
Edmund II’s bizarre death came 7 months after he was crowned, on November 30, 1016. That night, Edmund went to the privy to answer a call of nature, but unbeknownst to him, an assassin was waiting in the cesspit for the royal posterior to show up. When Edmund sat down to do his business, the assassin stabbed upwards with a sharp dagger, and leaving the weapon embedded in the king’s bowels, made his escape. Unfortunately for Edmund, even if his sides had been made of iron, his bottom was not.