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41 Facts About the 41 Kings and Queens Since 1066

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Queen Elizabeth II is the great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-granddaughter of William the Conqueror, and she has been related in one way or another to every other king or queen of England (and later of Great Britain, and later still the United Kingdom) since. Ahead of her birthdays (yes, she has two), here is one fact each about all 41 of Britain’s kings and queens since 1066.

1. WILLIAM I

A heckler interrupted the funeral of William I in 1087, shouting from the back of the church that it had been built on his father’s land without his family being compensated. Just when his royal send off couldn’t get any worse, William’s sarcophagus was found to have been built too small to accommodate his body and after an attempt was made to squeeze the body into it—in the words of the English chronicler Orderic Vitalis—“the swollen bowels burst, and an intolerable stench assailed the nostrils of the by-standers and the whole crowd.”

2. WILLIAM II

William II died under questionable circumstances while out hunting in the New Forest in 1100; some have claimed that he was assassinated to secure his younger brother Henry’s claim to the throne. Oddly, he wasn’t the only member of the family to succumb to that fate: William’s elder brother, Richard, also died in a hunting accident in the New Forest around the 1070s, while his nephew, another Richard, died in a hunting accident in the New Forest in 1099.

3. HENRY I

When Henry I died in 1135, his entrails were removed and buried in Rouen in northwest France. The rest of his body was buried in England.

4. STEPHEN

Stephen, son of one of William the Conqueror’s daughters, could credit a bout of diarrhea with saving his life. On November 25, 1120, a vessel called the White Ship was chartered to carry the present king Henry I and much of his family and court (Stephen among them) across the English Channel from France to England. Henry, however, had made other arrangements for himself, leaving the rest of his court to travel on the White Ship as planned. Off the coast of Normandy, the overcrowded ship sank. Of the 300 or so people on board, only one or two survived; among those who died was the king’s only surviving legitimate son, William. Henry I decided to name his daughter Matilda as the successor, but when Henry died she was an unpopular choice, allowing Stephen to claim the throne in a period of civil crisis known as The Anarchy. He had reportedly left the White Ship before it departed due to a sudden bout of diarrhea.

5. HENRY II

Henry II rode his horse so frequently that he was bow-legged.

6. RICHARD I

Richard I was shot through the shoulder with a crossbow outside of Chalus Castle in France in March 1199. The injury was serious, but survivable—but the infection that followed it was not, and he died two weeks later on April 6. As for the shot that brought down the king? It was a lucky shot over the side of the castle from a young boy. It became immortalized as “the lion by the ant was slain.”

7. KING JOHN

King John was reportedly the first British monarch—and perhaps even the first medieval king in Europe—to own what Latin wardrobe records refer to as a “supertunicam domini Regis ad surgendum de nocte,” or a “king’s over-shirt for rising in the night.” In other words, John owned a dressing gown.

8. HENRY III

Henry III was given a polar bear by King Haakon IV of Norway in 1252. He kept it in the Tower of London, and had it taken down to the River Thames each morning to swim and catch fish.

9. EDWARD I

In his campaign against Scotland, Edward I more than earned his nickname “The Hammer of the Scots.” During the Siege of Stirling Castle in 1304, Edward commissioned the construction of a gigantic trebuchet (perhaps the largest in history) that became known as the Warwolf. The sight of the enormous catapult being constructed outside the castle walls was enough to compel those inside to offer an unconditional surrender—but Edward had none of it, and did not accept the surrender until after he had tried the Warwolf out.

10. EDWARD II

In 1313, Edward II enacted a statute forbidding the wearing of armor in Parliament. It remains in force to this day.

11. EDWARD III

Edward III once attended a Christmas fancy dress banquet dressed as a pheasant.

12. RICHARD II

To celebrate the coronation of king Richard II on July 16, 1377, fountains of wine were opened across London.

13. HENRY IV

The first king of the House of Lancaster, Henry IV was the first king since the Norman Conquest to be a native English speaker.

14. HENRY V

Henry V is the shortest-reigning of all eight of England’s King Henrys. He ruled for 9.5 years from March 20, 1413 until his sudden death in France at age 36 on August 31, 1422.

15. HENRY VI

Henry VI was the only child of Henry V, and his father’s unexpected death meant that he became king when he was just 9 months old. He reigned almost 40 years over a 50-year timespan (he was deposed for almost a decade by Edward IV) and supposedly died from “pure melancholy and displeasure” on hearing of the death of his son in 1471 (although many historians suspect he was murdered on Edward IV’s orders). Shortly after, a movement emerged to have Henry canonized as a saint. The many miracles “Saint Henry” are supposed to have been responsible for include saving a drowned boy, curing a man of scrofula, and resurrecting a young girl named Alice Newnett who had died of the plague.

16. EDWARD IV

Edward IV and his House of York took the throne from the opposing House of Lancaster in March 1461, following his victory at the extraordinarily violent Battle of Towton. Fought during a blinding snowstorm on Palm Sunday, Towton is believed to be the biggest and bloodiest battle ever fought on English soil: Somewhere between 50,000 and 60,000 troops were involved, of whom a contemporary account estimated 28,000 were killed. Put another way, the Battle of Towton wiped out 1 percent of the entire population of England at the time. Given such a bloody start to his reign, Edward IV has been credited as being, perhaps unsurprisingly, the first king in English history to appoint a bodyguard.

17. EDWARD V

Edward V is both shortest-lived English monarch post-conquest and the shortest-reigning English king (albeit uncrowned). Although his fate as one of the ill-fated Princes in the Tower is unclear, it has long been (controversially) assumed that he was murdered after just 78 days on throne on the orders of his successor, Richard III. He was just 12 years old at the time.

18. RICHARD III

When the skeleton of Richard III was unearthed in a car park in Leicester in 2012, analysis of his skull showed that he suffered from tooth decay (a result of the king’s rich diet—he drank a bottle of wine every day) and bruxism, better known as teeth grinding.

19. HENRY VII

Henry VII was the first English monarch to have a fully realized portrait stamped onto his coins. Before then, royal monetary portraiture was largely stylized and comprised little more than a crowned head, but a groat (equal to four pence) minted in London sometime around 1507 was embossed with a surprisingly realistic profile portrait of the king.

20. HENRY VIII

In 1520, Henry VIII challenged the king of France, Francis I, to a wrestling match. Henry lost [PDF].

21. EDWARD VI

Despite his youth (he was 9 when he as crowned and 15 when he died), Edward VI is credited with being the first English monarch to charter an exploration of the Arctic. The king was a keen geographer and had learned to read a compass from the Venetian explorer Sebastian Cabot. In 1553, Cabot championed an expedition, led by Sir Hugh Willoughby, to reach China via the Arctic Sea; Willoughby took with him letters signed by Edward VI and addressed to “the Kings, Princes, and other Potentates inhabiting the Northeast partes of the worlde.” Unfortunately, after a harsh storm Willoughby’s ships became encased in ice east of Murmansk and the entire crew perished. But one of the other captains, Richard Chancellor, found himself in Russia, where the letter was delivered to Ivan the Terrible and opened trade between England and Russia.

22. MARY I

After Edward's death in 1553, 16-year-old Lady Jane Grey—the great-granddaughter of Henry VII—ascended the throne. She had been named Edward's successor in a bid to keep Protestant control of England. Despite her youth, she was exceptionally well read and spoke Latin, Hebrew, and Italian. Her "reign" (which historians still debate) lasted just nine days; she was deposed by Mary I—a.k.a. Bloody Mary—on July 19, 1553, and was eventually executed in February 1554. Mary had two female court jesters, one of whom was named Lucretia the Tumbler.

23. ELIZABETH I

Elizabeth I had effigies of foreign dignitaries and other guests to her court made out of gingerbread.

24. JAMES I

James I kept an elephant in St. James’s Park. It was given a gallon of wine to drink every morning during the winter.

25. CHARLES I

Charles I remains the only English monarch ever to be executed. After he was beheaded on January 30, 1649, his head was sewn back onto his body before he was buried.

26. CHARLES II

Charles II wore an enormous pair of high-heeled shoes to his coronation. They can be seen in his official coronation portrait.

27. JAMES II

After the English took over the Dutch colony of New Amsterdam in 1664, they promptly renamed it New York in honor of James, Duke of York—later king James II.

28. WILLIAM III AND MARY II

These two are the only official joint monarchs to have ruled Britain (although some consider Mary I and Phillip II to have also been joint monarchs). William outlived Mary by eight years: she died of smallpox in 1694, while he died of an infection after breaking his collarbone falling from his horse in 1702. Popular legend claims William’s horse had tripped on a molehill.

29. QUEEN ANNE

This monarch's body was so swollen when she died she had to be buried in a square coffin.

30. GEORGE I

Because they contain saltpeter (potassium nitrate) which can be used to make gunpowder, George I allegedly declared all pigeon droppings to be the property of the crown.

31. GEORGE II

The last British monarch to lead his own troops into battle was George II at the battle of Dettingen in 1743.

32. GEORGE III

There’s a myth that on July 4, 1776, George III wrote in his diary, “Nothing of importance happened today.” In fact, he didn’t even keep a diary. He did, however, have blue urine—which has been ascribed to either porphyria or, more recently, to the medication his doctors were giving him.

33. GEORGE IV

In preparation for a meeting the Foreign Secretary, George IV took 100 drops of laudanum.

34. WILLIAM IV

In his youth, the future King William IV served in the Royal Navy and was posted to New York during the American War of Independence. While he was there, George Washington plotted to have him kidnapped. Washington wrote to Colonel Matthias Ogden in March 1782, “The spirit of enterprise so conspicuous in your plan for surprising in their quarters and bringing off the Prince William Henry … merits applause; and you have my authority to make the attempt in any manner, and at such a time, as your judgment may direct.” Needless to say, the plot was never enacted.

35. QUEEN VICTORIA

Queen Victoria was given a musical bustle that played the national anthem whenever she sat down.

36. EDWARD VII

Edward VII had a leather chair fitted with a set of scales to weigh his weekend guests at Sandringham House. He weighed them once when they arrived, and once when they left to ensure that they had eaten well during their stay.

37. GEORGE V

Lord Dawson, royal physician of George V, gave the king a deliberately lethal dose of morphine and cocaine as he lay on his deathbed so that he would die in time to make the following morning’s headlines. Dawson even called his wife in London to tell her to let the editor of The Times know to hold back publication. In his notes, Dawson pointed out “the importance of the death receiving its first announcement in the morning papers, rather than the less appropriate field of the evening journals.”

38. EDWARD VIII

In 2010, a letter written by a steward named Jim Richardson from on board the Nahlin, the steam yacht chartered by Edward VIII, was put up for auction. Writing to his mother during a Mediterranean cruise Edward and Wallis Simpson were taking, Richardson wrote that the king had been “drinking heavily,” and, following an argument with Mrs. Simpson, had spent much of his time doing jigsaws. “When he was quiet,” he wrote, “he [the king] was usually fitting together those picture puzzles they have for children. I don’t know if he ever completed one, I don't think he could stay that long at it.” Mrs. Simpson meanwhile was described as “not good looking,” with “a very big mouth” and “a very high pitched metallic American voice.”

40. GEORGE VI

In 1926, the future king George VI competed in the men’s doubles tournament at Wimbledon.

41. ELIZABETH II

Elizabeth II is the first British monarch to have a televised coronation and a televised Christmas address. She sent her first email from an army base in 1976, and sent the first royal tweet in 2014.

All images courtesy of Getty Images unless noted otherwise 

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The Sky Was No Limit: The WASP Women Pilots of WWII
Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain
Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Shirley Slade sat on the wing of a plane and looked off into an uncertain future. Slade—clad in her flight suit with pigtails guarding against Texas wind—was posing for the July 19, 1943 issue of Life magazine, and the composition between the aircraft and its operator was a juxtaposition spelled out in the cover headline: "Air Force Pilot."

Slade was one of more than 1000 women who had been solicited by the U.S. government to enter an intensive seven-month training course that would make them the first female pilots to enter the Air Force. What had been a boy's club was being forced into a kind of reluctant gender neutrality as a result of World War II and severe pilot shortages. By recruiting women, the Air Force could maintain delivery of aircraft, ferry supplies, and perform other non-combative functions that fueled the war efforts. Collectively, the group would become known as WASPs: Women Airforce Service Pilots.

While all of these women risked their lives—and more than a few lost them—they were not perceived as equals. Because they were designated as civilians, they were denied military honors and compensation. As the war wound down, men returning from combat jockeyed to take the WASPs' places as active-duty pilots. Occasionally, the women would be used in target practice. It would be decades before the women of WASP would finally get their due.

 
 

America's entry into World War II following the attack on Pearl Harbor heralded a new policy of rationing. Food, materials, and manpower were doled out carefully, but demand for pilots quickly exceeded the available personnel. By 1942, the Air Force realized they would have to tap into new sources in order to continue their campaign.

Jacqueline Cochran had a solution: A pilot in her own right and a contemporary of Amelia Earhart, Cochran knew there was a strong contingent of female fliers who had licenses and had logged air time who could be recruited for support missions. She petitioned the Air Force, including commanding general Henry Harley "Hap" Arnold, to approve a training program that would ultimately relocate volunteers to Avenger Field in Sweetwater, Texas. Another pilot, Nancy Harkness Love, submitted a similar proposal.

WASP pilot Elizabeth Remba Gardner looks out from her plane while on a Texas runway
WASP pilot Elizabeth Remba Gardner
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Cochran and Love were up against considerable resistance to involving women in military efforts. General Dwight D. Eisenhower once admitted he was "violently against" the idea (before concluding that none of his concerns came to light and women were an integral part of the effort). Internally, there was concern as to whether women would even be capable of handling a massive aircraft like the B-29 bomber, so superiors hedged their bets by creating two organizations.

Love was put in charge of the Women's Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron (WAFS)—an organization to ferry planes—while Cochran was put in charge of the Women's Flying Training Detachment, which did whatever the Army Air Corps required of it. A little under a year later, these two groups were merged into a single organization: the WASPs. This new group demanded that incoming women logged at least 35 hours of flight time before coming to Sweetwater. More importantly, the women would be considered civilians, not military personnel.

Roughly 25,000 women applied; around 1900 were accepted and 1100 completed training. On their own dimes, these women streamed into Texas to begin the seven-month program that taught them every aspect of military flying except for gunnery duty and formation flying. Every day in the barracks included intensive lessons, physical fitness training, and studying. At night, the women would dance, sing, or play ping-pong. Life described their ambitions as "piloting with an unfeminine purpose" and noted that some of the women needed cushions in order to sit comfortably in planes designed for male bodies. Their mascot, a tiny winged sprite named Miss Fifinella, was designed by Disney, and the patch appeared on many of their jumpsuits and plane noses.

According to Life, the Air Force reported that the women were faster on instruments while the men "had better memory for details." But in virtually every way that counted, the magazine wrote, there was no practical difference in ability.

Graduates were dispatched to bases around the country, though the most pressing job was ferrying new aircraft from factories to places like Newark, New Jersey, where the planes would make the jump overseas. The women shuttled 12,000 of these planes during the war. They also escorted military chaplains from base to base on Sundays for religious services and operated test flights for repaired aircraft to make sure they were safe to fly in combat. Sometimes, they'd be tasked with towing targets behind them so soldiers could use live ammunition for combat practice.

Simulated combat may have been nerve-wracking, but it was no more dangerous than the actual flying and the very real possibility that the WASPs would experience equipment malfunction or fuel issues. In the two years the squad was active, 38 women perished during missions. At the time—and for decades afterward—the families of those women were denied many of the basic privileges afforded to the families of their male counterparts. When a WASP died, her colleagues—not the government—would pitch in to pay for her burial. Their families were prohibited from putting a gold star in their windows, a sign of a military casualty, nor were they "allowed" to drape the American flag over their coffins.

 
 

On December 20, 1944, the WASPs were sent home. The war wasn't yet over, but men returning from the front lines were dismayed that jobs they expected to find waiting for them were being occupied by women. Despite Cochran's petition to have the WASPs permanently incorporated into the Air Force, Congress turned her down.

WASP pilots are photographed circa 1943
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The pride the women had felt serving their country turned to confusion. By being classified as "civilians," the WASPs found little respect for their efforts. When entering the workforce after the war, some even became flight attendants, as no commercial airline would hire a female pilot.

In the 1970s, the Air Force announced they'd be accepting female recruits for the "first time," a proclamation that angered the surviving WASPs. Their efforts had largely gone unheralded, and now it seemed like the government was wiping them from history completely. Petitioning for recognition and receiving aid from fellow war ferry pilot Senator Barry Goldwater, they were finally granted military status on November 23, 1977.

As the WASPs aged, a handful got the chance to enjoy another honor. In 2010, the women were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal for their efforts. After flying 77 different types of planes over 60 million miles during wartime and being largely ignored for decades, it was recognition that was long overdue.

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The Bizarre Death of Bridget Cleary, the Irish "Fairy Wife"
The town of Tipperary, Ireland
The town of Tipperary, Ireland
Amergin, Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0

The policemen had been combing the green yards and fields of Ballyvadlea, Ireland, for a week when they finally found Bridget Cleary. The 26-year-old's body had been wedged beneath several inches of clay and a jumble of thorn bushes, but her corpse showed wounds caused by something much worse than branches: Her spine and lower limbs were so badly burned that parts of her skeleton were exposed. She was naked, except for a stocking and one gold earring, and her head was encased in a sack.

The judge would later describe the events leading up to Bridget's death as demonstrating "a degree of darkness in the mind, not just of one person, but of several—a moral darkness, even religious darkness." It was the end of the 19th century, not exactly the Middle Ages, but those involved in the end of Bridget's life had become convinced that she wasn't really herself—and that a supernatural creature had taken her place.

GONE WITH THE FAIRIES

Bridget was the wife of a cooper named Michael Cleary, and the pair were regarded around town as a relatively happy couple. They shared their cottage, in a remote townland near Tipperary, with Bridget's father, Patrick Boland, and had no children. Michael was nine years Bridget's senior and earned a decent salary; she brought in some extra income by working as a seamstress and egg-seller. By all accounts, they were more prosperous than their neighbors, likely thanks to her resourcefulness. As a literate, independent, and fashionably dressed working woman, she was part of an emerging class in a rural society that had long been based in agriculture and the oral tradition.

It was also a society steeped in legends of the supernatural. Fairy belief, in particular, was pervasive in Irish rural societies at the time, and had long coexisted with Christian doctrine. Children grew up hearing legends of the Little People from their earliest days, and learned how to appease them by leaving untasted food on the table, for example, or saying "bless them" whenever the fairies were mentioned. The fairies were blamed for everything that went wrong—lost items, spoiled milk, bad crops. As one County Sligo man interviewed at the start of the 20th century told an anthropologist, "Nothing is more certain than that there are fairies."

Bridget herself was known to be fascinated by the beings, and to take trips to the most fairy-ridden spots around town. She may have visited such a spot on Monday, March 4, 1895, when she went to deliver eggs to her father's cousin, Jack Dunne, near Kylenagranagh Hill. The area was home to a ringfort, an early medieval circular fortified settlement believed, in Irish folklore, to be a "fairy fort," and thus to be avoided at all costs. Yet Bridget often visited the fort, and she likely spent time there that Monday after delivering the eggs.

It was a cold morning, the mountains still covered in the snow that had fallen the previous day, and after the two- or three-mile walk Bridget couldn't seem to warm up once she got back home. She spent the following day in bed, shivering and complaining of "a raging pain in her head."

That Saturday, her father walked four miles in the heavy rain to ask the doctor to call on her. But the doctor wasn't able to visit until the following Wednesday, and by then her husband had also gone to summon him twice. They should have been reassured by the doctor's diagnoses—"nervous excitement and slight bronchitis"—but it wasn't this ailment that worried Michael. He was convinced that the bed-ridden woman in their cottage was "too fine," in his own words, to be his wife, and that she was "two inches taller" than the woman he had known. At some point, Michael had developed the belief that Bridget had been replaced by a fairy changeling as she passed near the fairy fort on Kylenagranagh Hill.

"ARE YOU BRIDGET BOLAND?"

It is likely that this idea was planted in Michael's head by his confidante, Jack Dunne. According to Irish historian Angela Bourke, who has researched the case extensively, the 55-year-old Dunne was a charismatic man rumored to have the power of divination. He was known in the area as a seanchaí, a sort of storyteller well-versed in fairy mythology.

On Wednesday afternoon, after the doctor's visit, a priest visited. He wasn't overly concerned about the illness, but decided to administer the last rites in case it worsened. The ceremony emphasized the fact that Michael could lose his wife, which distressed him even more. He talked to Dunne, who urged him to act immediately, or the "real" Bridget would be lost forever. "It is not your wife is there [sic]," the older man reminded him. "This is the eighth day, and you had a right to have gone to Ganey"—the local "fairy doctor"—"on the fifth day."

The cooper duly visited Ganey following morning. He came back with a mixture of herbs that needed to be boiled in "new milk," the nutrient-rich first milk produced by a cow after calving.

That night, Michael forced the bitter concoction down Bridget’s throat while Dunne and three male cousins pinned her down in bed. Relatives outside the house heard someone—likely Michael—shouting, "Take it, you witch, or I'll kill you!" The men threw urine at her and shook her, yelling, "Away with you; come home Bridget Boland, in the name of God!" Other relatives and neighbors came and went, witnessing her ordeal and hearing her screams, but were too scared to intervene. Michael asked his wife to answer her name three times: "Are you Bridget Boland, wife of Michael Cleary, in the name of God?" The men then brought her to the fireplace and held her over the grate—ordeals by fire were known to drive out the fairies—while they repeated the questioning.

By midnight Thursday night, the ritual seemed to be completed. Bridget was "wild and deranged," according to her cousin Johanna, but her husband seemed satisfied, and her relatives thought there had been some sort of catharsis. The following morning, at Michael's request, the priest said mass in Bridget's bedroom in order to banish the "evil spirits" that were left in the house.

"IT IS NOT BRIDGET I AM BURNING."

An image of fairies from fairies from "The Poetical Works of Percy Bysshe Shelley"
Fairies from "The Poetical Works of Percy Bysshe Shelley"
British Library, Europeana // Public Domain

On Friday, March 15, for the first time in 11 days, Bridget got out of bed and dressed in her usual, fashionable clothes "to give her courage when she would go among the people," as Johanna later told the magistrates. Several family members had joined them in their cottage for tea later in the day when an argument erupted. Bridget had asked for some milk, which had rekindled Michael’s suspicions; fairies are known in folklore to yearn for fresh milk.

Bridget was probably exhausted, and she didn't want to be questioned any more. "Your mother used to go with the fairies and that is why you think I am going with them," she told her husband. Michael was furious. He demanded that she eat three pieces of bread and jam—perhaps to reinforce his control over her—asking her to say her name again. She answered twice and ate two of the three pieces, but when she hesitated for a moment with the third, her husband flung her on the ground and threatened her: "If you won't take it, down you will go."

Michael jabbed his knee into her chest, forcing the bread and jam down Bridget's throat. He began tearing off her clothes, leaving only her chemise, then grabbed a hot stick from the fire and held it close to her mouth. He struck her head against the floor, then set her chemise alight. Within a few minutes, he had also poured paraffin lamp oil over her, encouraging the flames.

As her body was burning, Michael said in front of shocked relatives: "She's not my wife. She's an old deceiver sent in place of my wife." Relatives yelled at Michael to put out the flames, but Bridget "blazed up all in a minute," according to their later testimony. They huddled in fear in a nearby bedroom, the flames soon barricading their way.

Once the flames had died down, Michael wrapped her body in a sheet and shoved it in an old bag. Then he left the house, locking Bridget's relatives inside with the corpse. They waited for about an hour, praying. When Michael returned, he was wielding a knife and threatened to kill Bridget's cousin Patrick Kennedy if he didn't help him bury Bridget's body. "Come on out here now," he shouted. "I have the hole nearly made." The two men carried the body to a boggy area about a quarter-mile uphill from the cottage, and buried it in a shallow hole. Back in the cottage, Michael made the rest of the family swear they wouldn't tell the authorities.

ON A WHITE HORSE

The following morning, an agitated Michael arrived at Drangan church with Dunne. Dunne wanted Michael to speak to a priest, but when the priest saw him kneeling in front of the altar—weeping, tearing his hair, and asking to go to confession—he thought he wasn't fit to receive the sacrament. He spoke to Dunne instead, who hadn't been at the cottage at the time of Bridget's death, but told the priest that Michael had claimed to have burned his wife the previous night. "I've been asking them all morning to take her up and give her a Christian burial," Dunne added. Bewildered, thinking them both insane, the church minister reported their conversation to a police sergeant.

For the next few days, the police searched for Bridget and questioned her friends and relatives. Even though Michael spoke about emigrating or committing suicide to escape the law, he still hoped his "real wife" would come back: For three consecutive nights starting the day after visiting the priest, he waited at the ringfort on Kylenagranagh Hill, where he believed she would appear, galloping on a white horse. He said he would only have to cut the ropes that bound her to the animal so she would be his forever.

On Wednesday, March 20, the Royal Irish Constables issued arrest warrants for eight people from Bridget's circle, as well as Denis Ganey, the "fairy doctor." Two days later, police found Bridget's body. The prisoners were brought before the magistrates on March 25, ushered in by the angry screams of a crowd who had learned of the case through extensive press coverage. On July 5, 1895, after a two-day trial, Michael was found guilty of manslaughter and imprisoned, along with Jack Dunne, Patrick Boland, and four of Bridget’s cousins, including Patrick Kennedy. The judge ruled out a verdict of murder, explaining they all had acted out of genuine belief.

Michael was released in 1910, after which he boarded ship for Montreal. Dunne served a three-year prison sentence before returning to the area, where he kept working as a laborer. "God knows I would never do it but for Jack Dunne," Michael had reportedly said not long after burning Bridget. "It was he who told me my wife was a fairy."

ILLNESS—OR INFIDELITY?

During her illness, Bridget was visited by her aunt, Mary Kennedy, and told her, "He [Michael]'s making a fairy of me now. He thought to burn me about three months ago." Her words suggest this wasn't the first crisis of its kind.

Although we can only speculate about the couple's disagreements, there were rumors in Ballyvadlea that Bridget had a lover. Contemporary newspapers reported Michael saying his wife "used to be meeting an egg-man on the low road" [sic], but the rumors pointed to young caretaker William Simpson, who had visited the Clearys' cottage with his wife the night before Bridget’s death. In his court testimony, Simpson explained he had arrived as the four men were restraining Bridget, and he had asked them to leave her alone.

Although Michael and the other people involved in the killing were never formally psychiatrically assessed, a 2006 article from the Irish Journal of Medical Science suggested that Michael may have been suffering from a psychotic state known as Capgras syndrome, which involves the belief that a person has been replaced by an impostor. The authors suggest Michael "may have developed a brief psychotic episode" as he struggled to deal with his wife's illness, sleep deprivation, and the recent death of his father—news of which had reached him in the middle of his attempted "cure" on Thursday night. In Capgras syndrome, the socio-cultural context of the sufferer determines the nature of the impostor, which can be another person or even a supernatural being, such as an alien or a fairy changeling.

In her discussion of the supernatural beliefs related to the case, Bourke notes that the message of fairy legends is that "the unexpected may be guarded against by careful observance of society's rules." Bridget Cleary was ambitious, independent, and childless; a modern woman. She didn't conform to the patriarchal norm, which may have made her appear, to some in her life, as closer to the fairy realm than to their own.

Even today in Tipperary, her story hasn't been entirely forgotten. The local children have a nursery rhyme that runs: "Are you a witch or are you a fairy, / Or are you the wife of Michael Cleary?"

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