10 strange ways Tudors died

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New research into accidental deaths in Tudor England reveals the strange way people died, writes Sean Coughlan.

Oxford University historian, Dr Steven Gunn, has been scouring 16th Century coroners' reports and researching accidental deaths in Tudor England.

These reports revealed an intriguing possible link with William Shakespeare's tragic character Ophelia. But they also revealed examples of some strange and sometimes stupid deaths.

1. Bears were part of the Tudor entertainment scene. There were performing bears and there were bears kept for the bloodthirsty attraction of bear-baiting. In a purpose-built bear garden, a bear would be tied to a post in an enclosed pit and would be set upon by hunting dogs. Henry VIII had his own royal arena built in Whitehall.

But sometimes they escaped. A widow called Agnes Rapte was killed by Lord Bergavenny's bear when it broke loose at his house at Birling, Kent in 1563. Another victim, Agnes Owen from Herefordshire, was killed in her bed by a runaway bear. When a bear bit a man to death in Oxford in 1565, the bear wasn't punished but was taken into royal custody. Perhaps because it was worth 26 shillings and 8 pence - about six months' wages for a labourer....

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