Was one Dr John Argentine an ancestor of the other….?

We all know of Dr John Argentine, who attended Edward V, with such grave results for Richard III’s reputation. But was he from a family line of physicians/astrologers? I am reading The Rise of Alchemy in Fourteenth-Century England: Plantagenet Kings and the Search for the Philosopher’s Stone, by Jonathan Hughes, and in the Bibliography is mentioned: BL Sloane MS 964, which is titled John Argentine’s medical notes regarding Isabella.

I realise that Isabella is often used for Elizabeth, but am going to go with Isabella, if only because of the manuscript title.

There were various Isabellas during the reigns of Edward II, Edward III and Richard II, but only two Queens of England. The first is the “she-wolf” (to distinguish her – the second queen also being an Isabella of  France). The first Isabella was the queen of Edward II, mother of Edward III and (arguably) the lover of Roger Mortimer. Or maybe he was her lover? Whatever, they may have been lovers.

Somehow I don’t think it’s it’s the “she-wolf”. Instinct tells me the Isabella in question has to be Richard II’s French child bride. (I may be wrong and am prepared to be corrected!) However, if it is Richard II’s little queen, and therefore from the latter years of the 14th century, might this John Argentine be a forebear of the Argentine who attended Edward V? Mind you, whichever of however many Isabellas, it could still be the same Argentine family, just a generation or so further back.

It has been suggested to me that Hughes’ reference to Argentine might well be an error for John Aderne (1307-1392), who was master surgeon to Edward of Woodstock, the “Black Prince”. The only trouble with this, is that Richard II didn’t marry Isabella until 1397, so I think that eliminates Dr Aderne. Unless, of course, I have the wrong Isabella in the first place.

So, whichever Isabella it was, might the earlier John Argentine be an ancestor of the one of exactly the same name who tended the boys in the Tower? It just seems to be too much of a coincidence that there should be two royal physicians called John Argentine. And yes, our medieval ancestors were almost rigid in passing on the same Christian names to their offspring, but even so….


  1. Thanks for picking this up.

    I don’t like being overly critical of writers unnecessarily, but since this is Jonathan Hughes writing, I would treat this evidence with caution. I haven’t read this particular book, but JH’s work on Richard III’s religion is well researched but its interpretations and conclusions are largely wishful thinking, and the one on Edward IV and alchemy similarly. I have never managed to follow any explanations of alchemy so I can’t comment personally on Hughes’ arguments on that subject in EIV & the A’s, but I saw a claim on an alchemy forum that Hughes shows a complete lack of understanding of that particular subject. I do understand the very basics of astrology, and so I can confirm that just about every time there is a comment on astrology in EIV & the A’s, it is wrong too.
    I also checked out one of JH’s sources in EIV & the A’s, and it wasn’t correctly reported either. He claims that John Stacey (of Thomas Burdet case fame) is named in an 18th list of famous alchemists of the past (another Sloane MS). So back in the day I went to the British Library and looked up the document. It doesn’t mention John Stacey at all, but does name a Thomas Stacie as a famous alchemist of c. 1460. Perhaps John Stacey was meant, but it is not what the document says. Perhaps this Thomas Stacie was the Stacey who, according to the Paston Letters, prophecied to the Duke of Suffolk in 1450 that if he should escape the danger of the Tower he should be safe (because John Stacey didn’t even get his bachelorate until 1462).
    Anyhow, I have looked up BL Sloane MS 964 in the British Library catalogue, and this is what it gives (copied & pasted):-

    ” Title: includes: ff.2-59b Medicine: Charms and Receipts. Orationes et receptæmedica.: 10th-18th centt. f. 60 Claudius Galenus: De minutione sanguinis per duodecim anni menses: 15th cent.: Engl. f. 62 Receipts: To make colors azure and silver: 15th cent. f
    Collection Area: Western Manuscripts
    Reference: Sloane MS 964
    Creation Date: 10th century-18th century
    Extent and Access:
    1 item
    Language: English
    Contents and Scope:

    ff.2-59b Medicine: Charms and Receipts. Orationes et receptæmedica.: 10th-18th centt.
    f. 60 Claudius Galenus: De minutione sanguinis per duodecim anni menses: 15th cent.: Engl.
    f. 62 Receipts: To make colors azure and silver: 15th cent.
    ff. 63-82 Botany: Synonyma herbarum: 11th cent.
    f. 82 Nicolas von Kottwitz, of Montpellier: Experimentum contra morbos varios: 15th cent.
    f. 93 Receipts: For “Aqua miraculosa” and “aurum potabile”: 16th cent.: Lat.

    Custodial History:
    Dom. Thomas Watkyn: Formerly owned. ”

    As you can all see, a mix of material from different periods, and no mention of Argentine or Isabella, so that must be a small item. A pity Hughes doesn’t give a folio reference.

    A really interesting subject, though. A pity we don’t have a genuine afficionado writing about it.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for this comment. Alchemy is something that confounds me from the outset, but I will definitely approach this particular book with caution.


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