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A fleeting trick of the eye….

Forensics - collage

Occasionally, an image glimpsed quickly on TV appears to be something it is not. This happened to me when I first saw the TV trailer for the series Catching History’s Criminals: the Forensics Story on the Yesterday channel.

Being inured to the old, old propaganda that Richard III was the first criminal in all Creation, predating Satan himself, the black-and-white image I glimpsed—very briefly, and then only in close-up—appeared to be the one that went the rounds when Richard’s skull was used to re-create his true appearance. The one where the skull had his NPG portrait superimposed. So, I watched the programme, fully expecting another biased item that condemned him for the boys in the Tower, etc. etc.

Imagine my surprise when it turned out to be nothing of the sort. It wasn’t even about Richard! It was about a woman, Isabella Ruxton, who was murdered in the 1930s. The picture shown was, like the one of Richard, her skull superimposed on her photograph. The pose was the same as Richard’s, but the thing that spooked me initially, was the left eye. It seemed so like Richard’s left eye in the NPG portrait that I really was convinced Isabella was Richard.

Forensics - Richard III and Isabella Ruxton

Maybe it does not seem so evident to you but, to me, that fleeting out-of-the-blue glimpse on a TV screen was very convincing.

 

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Murder and mayhem in medieval London…

IMG_5516.jpgHere is a link to an interesting map and article on the murder hotspots of medieval London.  Click on a dot and details pop up of that particular murder.

Most of the culprits either just simply disappeared pronto or skedaddled into sanctuary and  frustratingly the outcomes are not shown.  The vast majority of the victims were male,  sadly one a small  child,  John de Burgh, aged 5 years old who died after being ‘cuffed’ after he stole a small amount of wool which he had hidden under his hat.    One of the more audacious was the murder of the gatekeeper of Newgate Gaol, Nicholas at Mill, who was stabbed to death by two men who broke into Newgate to do so.

Its seems you were quite vulnerable if you were a clerk in holy orders, several of them being bumped off.  Although priests seemed to be susceptible to ending up as murder victims  they could actually give as good as they got with one priest, Alan de Hacford murdering Walter de Anne, the man he shared his lover, Alice de York with,  after finding Walter and Alice sitting together.  For reasons unknown Alice aided and abetted Alan, the pair of them fleeing afterwards.

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Loud music then as now could lead to altercations with fatal results.   In May 1324, Thomas Somer,  a minstrel.   incensed Thomas of Lynn, by playing outside his home after dusk.  The householder Thomas chased Somer intending to bash him with a door-bar.  After Thomas caught Somer and struck him, the musician pulled out a knife and fatally injured Thomas.

IMG_5518 2.jpg 

In this picture its the turn of musician to get it…

A few of the culprits were female including a fishmonger stabbed to death by his mistress.  Surprisingly she didn’t batter him to death  with a piece of cod!… joking.. .. while another woman, a prostitute by the name of Agnes ‘Houdy Doudy’ killed another woman, Lucy,  the pregnant wife of Richard de Barstaple, by ‘striking her on the belly with fists and knees’.  Yet another woman, a beggar known as Nicola from Cardiff,  drowned her 3 month old baby,  Alice,  while ‘surreptitiously pretending to wash the child’ in a ditch.

Reasons for people getting murdered varied quite a bit from a suicidal man, John Pentyn,  bashing his would be rescuer over the head  with an iron stave to Roger Styward,  who as a result of throwing eel skins in the street,  received a fatal kicking.  Servants died protecting their masters belongings.  A violent altercation about a horse led to a murder while a planned gang rape ended in complete and utter mayhem.

Royalty was not exempt from the fallout of murder – John Gremet a groom of the kitchen of Queen Philippa – was murdered by another royal servant, Peter Tremenel.

A total of 142 murders are detailed sourced from the Coroners’ Rolls and credit and thanks to Prof Eisner at the Institute of Criminonology, University of Cambridge.   Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

My, my, some families really do not change their spots….!

Arms of Sir John Stanley I

While researching fourteenth-century Northamptonshire, I happened upon Sir John Stanley (1350-1414). “Stanley’s father was Master-Forester of the Forest of Wirral, notorious for his repressive activities. Both Stanley and his older brother, William (who succeeded their father as Master-Forester), were involved in criminal cases which charged them with a forced entry in 1369 and in the murder of Thomas Clotton in 1376.” Nice guys, right?

Stanley was found guilty, and outlawed. But because he was proving himself as a military fighter, he was pardoned—helped in this by Sir Thomas Trivet, who had a habit of getting scoundrels off the hook. He did the same for Sir John Cornwall, Senior, who was definitely a bad lot, but that’s another story.

Well, although Sir John Stanley was a younger son, in 1385 he made a very fortunate marriage. In the teeth of strong opposition from John of Gaunt, he wed Isabel Lathom, who was heir to swathes of land in Lancashire. Stanley was on the up!

He did well under Richard II, becoming the deputy in Ireland of Robert de Vere, Duke of Ireland. Richard II chose Stanley as justiciar of Ireland, and he was very much part of Richard’s successful first expedition to that land. Next, Stanley was prominent in soothing trouble in Cheshire, and took part in Richard’s second, ill-advised expedition to Ireland. This expedition came to an abrupt end when Henry of Bolingbroke, Gaunt’s heir as Duke of Lancaster, who had been exiled by Richard, invaded England to take the throne as Henry IV. Returning to England, “Stanley, who had long proved adept at political manoeuvring, turned his back on Richard and submitted to Henry IV.” Richard was imprisoned and soon died under mysterious circumstances.

So, the Stanleys were at it in 1399/1400 as well. Political jiggery-pokery, deserting their rightful King Richard, and smarming up to the wrongful King Henry. But this one did well, becoming King of Man, a privilege he and his descendants enjoyed until the 18th century.

Spots? Never change?

Stanley is granted the Isle of Man

http://www.cheshirenow.co.uk/stanley_family.html and http://www.isle-of-man.com/manxnotebook/people/lords/stanleys.htm. And see this list of offices held by Sir John Stanley.

 

 

 

 

Conspiracy theories, Elizabeth I and Shakespeare….?

 

Guy Fawkes

Guy Fawkes on a bonfire in Kent. Photo: Rex.

If you go to here you will find examples of those intriguing possibilities, conspiracy theories. Well, some of them are too outlandish, but others…well, maybe…? Anyway, take a look and decide for yourself whether, for example, the Gunpowder Plot was really a put-up job by the Earl of Salisbury. Or whether Elizabeth the First might—just might—have been the real Shakespeare!

Medieval murder at Richard’s Red Tower in York….

The Red Tower

Here is a tale of how a 15th-century trade dispute in York got out of hand, and for once Richard isn’t getting the blame!

The following extract is from here:

“A building in York, which was once the scene of a medieval murder over a trade dispute during its construction 500 years ago, is set to be transformed into a brand new café and community hub.

“Croft Farm Construction is carrying out the refurbishment of the Grade-I Listed, The Red Tower, near Navigation Road, York.

“The building was part-funded by King Richard III, before his death at Bosworth Field in 1485, and later completed by his successor as the only section of the city’s medieval walls built from brick rather than magnesian limestone.”

Aha, and therein lies the murderous rub, as becomes clear here :

“The construction of the original building was part-funded by King Richard III before his death at Bosworth Field in 1485, and later completed by his successor Henry VII. As the only section of the city’s walls built from brick rather than magnesian limestone, the brick tower did not please local stonemasons, [who were] unhappy that tilers were asked to build the property.

“The tilers sought protection from the city council to stop masons threatening them and breaking their tools. In 1491, a tiler, John Patrik was murdered. Two masons, York’s Master Mason, William Hindley, and an accomplice, Christopher Homer, were charged with murder but later acquitted.”

So it appears that the Red Tower’s red bricks caused a mini-war between tilers and stonemasons in York. Oh dear, at least these days disputes seldom, if ever, reach the point of murder!

I hope the Red Tower approves of its future as a café and community hub. Only if the conversion is spot-on, I imagine. Nothing garish and too bright will do in such surroundings.

 

 

 

Another royal murder mystery….!

King_James_I_of_Scotland_jpg-e1487678242974-536x372

King James I of Scotland

Well, it has to be said that Leicester has benefited immensely from the discovery and burial of Richard III, and his supposed “murder” of the boys in the Tower. Of which he was NOT guilty.

Anyway, maybe Perth can benefit too, because it has its own royal mystery. James I of Scotland died a very bloody, grubby death, his body being found with 28 knife wounds in a stinking tunnel. In 1437, he too was buried in a house of God, which was subsequently destroyed. Is he, like Richard, still waiting to be discovered?

If he’s found and reburied, I hope Perth will reap some reward. Maybe too, the truth of how he died, and who killed him, will be discovered as well.

Serial bigamy and murder again – the Henry VIII of Chicago?

On the left is Herman Webster Mudgett, alias H.H. Holmes, an American serial killer executed in May 1896 whilst a few days short of his thirty-fifth birthday. On the right is the “murder castle”,

H._H._Holmes_Castle

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replete with trapdoors, sealed rooms and poison gas, he built in Chicago for the 1893 “World’s Fair” and from which at least nine people failed to emerge alive. Mudgett, a serial fraudster even before the disappearances began, confessed at one stage to killing far more people but later to just two murders. Unlike Henry VIII, George Joseph Smith and Crippen, he didn’t kill any real or imagined wives. The “murder castle” concept was later adapted in France by Marcel Petiot, who was also medically qualified.

Just like Smith, Mudgett made one proper marriage and it was never dissolved despite his abandonment of Clara Loveridge and several subsequent “marriage” ceremonies. As a result, she became his widow when he was hanged, although two other women imagined themselves to have that status. The castle was demolished and its grounds now abut a post office at Englewood.

The neighbourhood surrounding the area has since become one of the worst in Chicago.   Englewood sadly has one of the highest crime rates in said fair city.   (Ahem).   Perhaps Homes ghost is roaming as some say Henry’s is…

 

The ten worst Britons in history?

This is a very entertaining and well-illustrated 2006 article, choosing one arch-villain for each century from the eleventh to the twentieth. The all-male list includes just one King but two Archbishops of Canterbury.

So what do you think?

Historical murder investigations redux

thewenchisdeadA fictional police officer lies in a hospital bed and his mind wanders to a historic case.

However, it isn’t Inspector Alan Grant and the disappearance of the “Princes”, as related by Tey, but Inspector Morse and the definite murder of Christina Collins.

Written in 1989, The Wench is Dead was broadcast on Radio 4 in 1992 and was John Thaw’s penultimate television case as Morse on ITV in 1998.

White widow, black widow…a story of medieval murders….

pashley-manor-ticehurst-kent

This is the story of a medieval murderess who got away with a clutch of bloody crimes.

It all began with the murder at Coulsdon in Surrey, of 13-year-old Edmund de Pashley and his valet on 13th March 1328. Edmund was a son of rich Sir Edmund de Pashley, a Sussex landowner (and lawyer) who was a king’s serjeant and a baron of the Exchequer in 1323. He too had died mysteriously the previous year, leaving a large fortune and many estates in the south-east of England. Edmund’s eldest brother, William, was disposed of as well. That only left John, who would eventually fight for his rights.

Sir Edmund’s death led to his first widow turning up to claim her third of his lands in dower. I regard her as the White Widow, because she appears to be innocent of crime. But she was lustful Sir Edmund’s second wife, his first being Maud, who died in 1318 and was probably little Edmund’s mother. Then he married Joan, before taking himself off to live with Margaret de Basing (widow of William de Basing – and my Black Widow), by whom he had more sons. So, when Joan tried to obtain her dower lands, she met with a problem—they were already occupied by Margaret, who wasn’t about to move out. One of these properties was Pashley House, Ticehurst, Kent, pictured above.

Joan proved her case, one of her witnesses being the Bishop of London, but Margaret was a very hard nut, and impossible to crack. She wanted her sons by Pashley to inherit everything, and was prepared to murder to have her way. So, while claiming that Sir Edmund had married her, she set about bumping off Sir Edmund, and then started on his three sons by Maud.

Margaret’s offspring were subsequently guilty of raids on properties, wholesale theft, cattle rustling, beatings, bloodshed, failures to appear in court and escapes from custody. They truly were criminals, born of a criminal mother. But then John, the sole remaining son from Sir Edmund’s first marriage was guilty of some similar activities, although (in my opinion) with some justification.

The court cases dragged on for a decade or more, until Margaret’s death in 1341, and in 1345 there was a private settlement. John abandoned his claim to lands in Surrey, and one imagines there was a similar agreement from the other side regarding lands in Sussex.

Wicked Margaret therefore achieved her aim, and the lands passed down through her sons. A coroner’s inquest had found her guilty of procuring the murders of little Edmund and his valet, yet she was acquitted!

Go figure, as the modern saying goes…

 

 

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