History is peppered with incidents that would not be believed if they were written in fiction. Here is the ridiculous life, and even more ridiculous death, of Anne Marie Louise d'Orleans, a woman who nearly killed her mourners at her own funeral.

Anne d'Orleans, also known as the Grande Mademoiselle because she lived to be the oldest woman at the court of the Sun King, was a great believer in her own importance. She was the niece of Louis XIII, the cousin of Louis XIV, and the granddaughter of Henry IV of France. She once refused to acknowledge her maternal grandmother because the woman wasn't a queen. In other words, she tempted fate, and fate decided to give her a highly mockable life.

She was on the wrong side of several palace intrigues, which kept her from high esteem when she was in court, and sometimes resulted in her exile from it. It wasn't a comfortable exile. She was barred from several towns for being out of favor with the king, and once had to get into a town by scrambling over a hedge. When she eventually got back to court she had several potential marriages that fell flat, sometimes because the suitor was politically wrong, sometimes because the suitor was openly homosexual, and once because everyone knew the suitor was a horrible person, and told her, and she ran away with him anyway. The affair didn't end well for her, but he went on to a decent career, because in politics it's better to be a horrible person than a ridiculous one.

Say what you like, the Grande Mademoiselle lived to be 66 in an age where many people dropped very early. A few of them nearly dropped during her funeral. At the time, it was customary for the body to rest in three places: the main body was interred; the heart was embalmed and was kept in some church or cathedral; and the entrails were put in a vase and placed in a room at Versailles, to be watched over around the clock by high ranking members of the clergy, nuns saying prayers, and specially-picked members of the female nobility. Clearly, Louis XIV spared no expense when it came to funeral rites...although he may have skimped a bit when it came to embalming services.


If there's anything that carries a lot of bacteria on it, it's the gut. Embalming someone's entrails is a meticulous process, but a necessary one, if those entrails are to be placed in a sealed vase. If even a few bacteria survive, they reproduce, eat, and produce gas. The process turns any sealed vessel into a time bomb. The Grande Mademoiselle's gut bomb blew up in the middle of the day, when the room was relatively crowded. Not only did the noise terrify people and the the shards endanger them, the seal on the vase had been the only thing holding back the smell of rotting entrails. People trampled each other on their way out the door.

Eventually, the situation was properly assessed and a very unfortunate clean-up crew was dispatched with a new vase and lots of perfume. The incident became a joke that long outlived the Grande Mademoiselle.

And that's what happens if you're mean to your grandmother.

[Sources: Urned Runs, Shadows of Old Paris]