Great People Of History Who Died On The Toilet

You're a legendary general, the leader of a vast empire, or a groundbreaking artist. That's the good news. Bad news: You are subject to the same cruel fate as everyone else, which means you have a not-zero chance of spending your last breath on the crapper and getting snickered at by your lessers.

It's happened enough to be notable — or maybe not, considering that humans will spend the equivalent of 92 days on the john in their lifetime (via The Scotsman). That's a quarter of one of your precious few years spent doing nothing but evacuation. When you consider that a CDC report found that 234,000 people went to the emergency room in 2008 after an incident in the bathroom (per ABC News), perhaps the question should be why more people don't die on the toilet.

Here are some of the figures of history who met nature's cruelest end. Don't titter too loudly — you never know if the same fate may befall you.

King George II

King George II successfully battled the Jacobites and expanded British trade (per the Royal Family website), but today, he might be best remembered for having the earliest recorded instance of aortic dissection — his main artery literally burst open while he was straining to pass a bowel movement one morning.

According to contemporary reports — including the autopsy report by the king's physician Frank Nicholls, who published the full account of the king's unseemly death in the name of scientific advancement — on October 25, 1760, George II, aged 76, rose from his bed at 6 a.m., drank some hot chocolate, and then went to his closestool to relieve himself (via the National Institutes of Health). "[A] noise was somewhere heard, as if a large billet had tumbled down," Nicholls wrote in his report, available via Google Books. "And, upon enquiry, his majesty was found fallen on the ground, speechless and motionless, with a slight contused wound on his right temple. He appeared to have just come from his necessary stool." The Jacobites probably loved that little detail.

King Edmund Ironside of England

King George II was by no means the first English king to die on the toilet, at least according to some accounts. King Edmund II of England was known as Edmund Ironside because of his fierce resistance to the Danish invaders in the early 11th century (per Britannica). But legend has it he also died with iron in his side — when he was assassinated on the toilet.

The story goes that during a time of intense power struggles — the country had been split in two, with the Danish leader Canute ruling England north of the Thames — Edmund died suddenly on November 30, 1016, when he was still in his 20s. In "Historia Anglorum," the history of England written by Henry of Huntingdon that was first published in 1129, the cause of death listed is the worst assassination imaginable (via History of Yesterday). "[Having] occasion to retire to the house for relieving the call of nature," Henry wrote, "[Edmund's brother-in-law], by his father's contrivance, concealed himself in the pit, and stabbed the king twice from beneath with a sharp dagger, and, leaving the weapon fixed in his bowels, made his escape." Other versions have an arrow firing from the pit into Edmund's bowels, or say that his attendants "drove an iron hook into his posteriors," but the common thread of the story has someone hiding in a latrine pit, which is super gross.

This account is disputed, and historians today believe that Edmund likely died of natural causes, possibly from injury in an earlier battle. But with the toilet making an appearance in so many stories, perhaps even this natural death occurred in the WC.

Elvis Presley

The most famous king to die on the toilet, of course, is the King of Rock 'n' Roll. Elvis Presley was a superstar in the 1950s and '60s, but his heavy use of barbiturates (and apparently unhealthy diet) took a toll on him in the '70s, when he suffered a fatal heart attack on the can. He was just 42 years old.

Presley was suffering from chronic constipation at the time of his death, a common side effect of painkillers his shady doctor had prescribed him in massive doses (via PBS). On August 16, 1977, he was likely straining to pass a bowel movement on the toilet when he had a massive heart attack and keeled over. He was discovered lying facedown on the Graceland master suite bathroom by his girlfriend, Ginger Alden, who attempted to administer CPR to no avail. She had not noticed that he spent a long time on the toilet because, according to her account, he told her he was going in the bathroom to read (according to the Chicago Tribune, the book might have been "A Scientific Search for the Face of Jesus" by Frank O. Adams).

Arius of Alexandria

Arius was an Alexandrian priest who theorized a different conception of Jesus' divinity than the early Christian Church would come to believe and thus was labeled a heretic, according to Britannica. He essentially believed that Jesus was not the same as God but created by God; this put him in contrast with religious leaders of the day, who believed that the Holy Trinity were three parts of one whole. Arius' writings were enormously controversial and important to the development of Christian theology (today, Jehovah's Witnesses and Unitarians are considered Arianist). But then he died on the crapper. Allegedly.

The story is this: After Arius was excommunicated by the church, he went to Constantinople to petition the emperor. Constantine allowed Arius to rejoin the church, but when Arius was wandering the streets of the city afterward, he was suddenly struck by the desire to take a dump. He went into a water closet and suddenly "falling face first, he burst in the middle," according to his contemporary Athanasius in his "Letter to Serapion" (via Oxford Academic). But note that historians aren't sure how true this account is — his death is the same as Judas' in Acts of the Apostles, and it was certainly a convenient story for Arius' enemies, who were convinced that God had intervened to make sure Arius couldn't take Eucharist.

Evelyn Waugh

Throughout his life, Evelyn Waugh was known as a great English writer of satirical novels like "Brideshead Revisited" and "Decline and Fall.". He was also seemingly a real jerk — his published diaries and letters revealed him to be quite racist and antisemitic, even by the standards of the day (via The New York Review). Waugh ultimately joined the club of people who died on the toilet on April 10, 1966 (he even seemed to welcome his own death — in one of his letters, he recounts excitedly asking a doctor if he would get to die soon after a bad blood pressure reading, according to The Washington Post).

On his last day, the devout Waugh attended Catholic Mass. He then died in his bathroom under somewhat mysterious circumstances. The cause of death was officially listed as coronary thrombosis, but his friend, the writer Graham Greene, said he heard that there had been water in his lungs (via the Evelyn Waugh Society). Greene's assertion might be a melodramatic invention, but Waugh's son reportedly said he saw excrement on the floor outside the bathroom that was soon cleaned up and never spoken about. It's an end that Waugh himself could have written.