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Archive for the tag “murder”

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!

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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

220px-H._H._Holmes

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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THE RED KING–WILLIAM RUFUS

Amidst the spreading Oaks of the New Forest stands a solitary stone, once ten foot high with a ball on top, now truncated and protected from vandals.  Known as the Rufus Stone, it is the memorial to a slain king, William II, one of England’s most mysterious and little known Norman Kings.

On the stone, which only dates from the reign of Charles II and is not sited where the event it commemorates actually happened, is an inscription:

Here stood the oak tree, on which an arrow shot by Sir Walter Tyrrell at a stag, glanced and struck King William the Second, surnamed Rufus, on the breast, of which he instantly died, on the second day of August, anno 1100.
King William the Second, surnamed Rufus, being slain, as before related, was laid in a cart, belonging to one Purkis and drawn from hence, to Winchester, and buried in the Cathedral Church, of that city.

  William Rufus, son of William the Conqueror, is one of those historical figures who has attracted lots of mythology but about whom little is actually known. Due to his nickname, frequently he is described in modern writings as  red-headed, but in the medieval Malmesbury Chronicle, he is said to be ‘yellow haired’ with a very red face that grew more florid when enraged.

It is claimed William was cruel and unpopular, but there is little written evidence of what his cruelty exactly consisted of. He did implement high taxation, treating his English subjects with disdain, but his main folly seemed to be in defying and even ridiculing the Church. (The Anglo Saxon Chronicle  said he was ‘abhorrent to God’.) The Church loathed him, and the clerics of the day spoke peevishly of his possible sodomy (he never married, nor had any known illegitimate children), his dissolute court and the fact he wore his hair nearly as long as a woman’s as well as enormously extended pointy shoes!

Despite his unpopularity, Rufus was a capable soldier, making forays into Scotland and putting down a serious revolt in Northumberland.

It is  his unusual death however, for which he which is best remembered , and here the folklore has grown and flourished most. On August 2, the day after the ancient harvest festival of Lughnasad, Christianised  as Lammas, William was out hunting in the forest with his brother Henry, a lord called William Tirel/Tyrell/Tyrrell and others of his entourage. Apparently, the night before he had been gripped by evil dreams in which he had been kicked by an angry cross, and this put him in an evil mood. As the party spotted a stag amidst the trees, he turned to Tirel, the best archer in the party and shouted, “Shoot, in the name of God, shoot!”

Tirel shot and the arrow struck not the  deer but the king, entering his lung. He tried to draw it out but collapsed, falling on the shaft and driving the arrow in deeper.

No one helped the dying king. Tirel immediately spurred his horse onwards and fled for France. The King’s brother Henry, not bothering with any niceties for the newly deceased King’s body, rushed for the nearby city of Winchester where he seized the treasury, then promptly rode to London where he claimed the crown before his other brother, Robert Curthose, who was away on the First Crusade, could hear of William’s demise.

It was, reportedly, two humble peasants who recovered William’s corpse, dumping it unceremoniously into a cart and carrying it to Winchester, with blood dripping through the cart-slats all the way along the road. In the great cathedral, Rufus was hastily buried in a plain chest tomb ( and some bones believed to be his still remain there, although the skull is missing.)

The Church of the day believed God had stricken down William for his wickedness, but later historians began to speak of murder and a potential plot to remove him from the throne. Henry was definitely present at the death and certainly had the most to gain; his actions when the King was stricken down were also not exactly those of a loving brother. Tirel was said to be an excellent archer and most unlikely to have missed his target in such a disastrous manner.

In the earlier 20th century the story was given another twist—anthropologist Margaret Murray wrote about  Rufus being a pagan who was sacrificed in an ancient Lammas harvest rite because he was ‘infertile’ and hence would bring famine and plague to England. (The chroniclers  did in fact say that in Rufus’ reign,  “thunders terrifying the earth, lightnings and thunderbolts most frequent, deluging showers without number, winds of the most astonishing violence, and whirlwinds that shook the towers of churches and levelled them with the ground.

As ‘proof’ Murray  pointed to the auspicious date of death at Lammas  and to  the fact another young royal relative had died in an identical manner earlier  that year…on May 2, the day after old Beltaine. She thought of this earlier death as a ‘proxy’ for the king himself, but when England did not flourish after  the substitute was sacrificed, Rufus himself had to die. The peasants who allowed Rufus’ blood to flow onto the earth on the journey to Winchester were also seen as continuing some sort of  ancientritual practice.

Pretty wild, unlikely stuff, intriguing though it is.

So Henry became Henry I and Tirel in France remained free and unpunished.  Who killed Rufus, and whether it was an accident or murder (ritual or  otherwise) remains another unsolved medieval mystery (although I would personally  put my money on Henry.) As for Tirel’s involvement, his name was in fact not immediately associated with the death; the Anglo Saxon Chronicle  just says the King was  ‘shot by one of his own men.’ Tirel’s name only appears in later writing, although he does seem to have fled England (and his daughter Adeliza was married to one of the men Henry took with him when he seized the treasury.)

It is a slightly strange and interesting coincidence that this surname for a possible ‘King killer’ is so similar to that of James Tyrell/Tyrrell who has been accused of overseeing the deaths of Edward V and his brother Richard of York in the Tower 383 years later, another figure obscured by time and by later mythologising.

William_Rufus_death

 

A country-house murder mystery with a Ricardian theme….

The Murders of Richard III

For those Ricardians who like country-house murder mysteries, here’s one with a Ricardian theme. Mixed reviews, but I don’t think it’s anti-Richard. It was originally written in 1974, so apparently shows its age a little. But then, don’t we all? <g>

The Amazon link wouldn’t work properly, so here’s a TinyURl: http://tinyurl.com/hw4u2fh

 

 

More useful than ever

This is the story of a triple murder in Seattle. The trial took place in 1998 and the victims were two drug dealers and their dog, Chief. The case was also featured on an episode of CBS Reality’s “Medical Detectives” that British viewers may have seen on several occasions; most recently on the early evening of Monday 4th or 11th this month. It was established that DNA from other mammals, or almost any animal, is of as much forensic use as is human DNA. It helped that Chief was of a short-haired breed so his blood flowed easily over the killers.

http://www.deseretnews.com/article/652373/Dog-DNA-helps-convict-2-in-murder-of-couple-pet.html?pg=all

Remember that human DNA was used to solve crime (the 1980s Pitchfork murder case in Leicestershire) before it could be used to conclusively identify historical individuals such as Richard III. So, thanks to the late Chief from Seattle, should you own a dog apparently descended from a Crufts champion or a horse apparently descended from a Derby winner, logic suggests that this can be proven one way or the other and not just from a pedigree on paper.

Furthermore, whichever species are in that Westminster Abbey urn, we can learn more about them.

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