1. Karma Caught Up With Charles the Bad in the Form of an Idiot Servant’s Mistake
Charles The Bad’s poor reputation was no better in Spain, where he allied with Peter the Cruel of Castile against Peter IV of Aragon in 1362. He then turned around and betrayed Castile the following year, and switched his support to Peter IV against Peter the Cruel. In 1378, Castilian armies invaded Navarre and Charles was forced to flee. Out of allies, having betrayed them all, Charles was forced to accept a humiliating treaty that defanged his kingdom and reduced him and his realm to Castilian clients. Karma finally caught up with him in 1387. That year, an illness that impeded the use of his limbs led a physician to prescribe that he be swaddled from head to foot in linen cloth steeped in brandy or other spirits of wine.
A maid, tasked with securing the swaddling cloth snugly around the king’s body by sewing it in place with yarn, realized when she was done that she had no scissors with which to snip the excess yarn. So she resorted to an otherwise common alternate method for thread cutting, that turned out to be an idiot idea in the circumstances: she reached for a candle to use its flame to burn off a section of yarn. The alcohol-infused cloth caught on fire, and Charles the Bad, tightly swaddled in the burning linen, was unable to escape. He suffered horrific burns all over his body, and lingered for two weeks in extreme agony before he finally succumbed.
Where Did We Find This Stuff? Some Sources and Further Reading
Balfour, Patrick, Lord Kinross – Ottoman Centuries: The Rise and Fall of the Turkish Empire (1977)
Ceilan, Cynthia – Thinning the Herd: Tales of the Weirdly Departed (2007)
Gonick, Larry – The Cartoon History of the Universe, Volume II (1994)
Lazenby, John Francis – Hannibal’s War: A Military History of the Second Punic War (1978)
Livy – Ab Urbe Condita, Book XXII
Plutarch – Parallel Lives: Life of Crassus
Sima Qian – Records of the Grand Historian, Volume 8
Whiting, Marvin C. – Imperial Chinese Military History (2002)