Werewolf Wednesday: Did a Lycanthrope Kill Louis IV? (1836)

While digging around I found a reference to werewolves in Edward Smedley’s 1836 book The History of France Part 1: From the Final Partition of the Empire of Charlemagne, A. D. 843, to the Peace of Cambray, A. D. 1529. The reference is brief and likely included as a bit of a joke, but it nonetheless caught my eye, largely because the book was published in 1836 — two years before the earliest piece of werewolf fiction I’ve covered in this series, Sutherland Menzies’ “Hugues, the Wer-Wolf”.

The section in question describes the death of the tenth-century monarch Louis IV:

The life and reign of Louis were terminated by a remarkable accident. A wolf crossed his path as he was riding on the banks of the Aisne, and (undeterred by an omen which might have staggered the courage of a Roman†), he clapped spurs to his horse in pursuit. The horse stumbled, and in his fall injured his master beyond the relief of surgical skill*. He expired in his thirty-third year…

The passage has two footnotes. The first simply explains a classical allusion made in the paragraph:

† —-ab agro
Rava decurrens Lupa Lanuvino
is among the evil omens mentioned by Horace, iii. 27.

The second, meanwhile, is the one that concerns werewolves. Possibly with his tongue in his cheek, Smedly wonders if his source for the above account, the chronicler Flodoard of Reims, had lycanthropy on the mind:

* We are by no means sure that Flodoardus does not mean to imply that a weir-wolf was the cause of this disaster. He writes, apparuit ei quasi Lupus præcedens, “there appeared to him, as it were, a Wolf going before him;” and he attributes the King’s death in the end to elephantiasis.

Make of this tidbit what you will…

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