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Medieval (sic) Murder Mysteries

This is a six-part series, first shown on “Yesterday” (a UKTV channel) in 2015 but is available to view on their website here. The producers used pathologists, coroners, historians, barristers and other writers to form their conclusions, some of which are more reliable than others.

The first episode, which surely misses the mediaeval timescale, is that of Christopher Marlowe, stabbed in a Deptford tavern in 1593: in self-defence, a brawl or a targeted assassination? Marlowe’s possible involvement with heresy or espionage, Raleigh or Cecil is investigated in depth. The riddle of Edward II‘s fate at Berkeley Castle is tackled next – could he really have died by poker or suffocation or could he have escaped? Their conclusion points in the latter direction, although the current Berkeley heir leans towards the ultra-traditional legend.

The third show is about Arthur of Brittany, son of Geoffrey and nephew of John, who seems to have been disposed of in a particularly grisly manner in Brittany – blinding and castrating, either of which could have been fatal through shock. Several Byzantine Emperors, from 800 onwards, had been blinded, to prevent them from ruling effectively and castration would prevent him from reproducing, although death would not necessarily be intended. The fourth, again un-mediaeval, case covered Amy Robsart’s fall down a staircase at Cumnor, Oxfordshire after sending her servants away – accident, suicide, murder to free her husband Dudley to marry Elizabeth I, murder to stop him from ever marrying Elizabeth? Both suicide and murder are less probable, as the pathologist argued, because Amy might have survived as an invalid for a few years and remembered her assailant if there was one. There was no mention of the cancer I have heard, elsewhere, that she suffered from, although the staircase is the series emblem.

Inevitably, the “Princes” feature, in part five. Sadly, as with Edward II, many of the “experts” may understand their own professions well but seem not to appreciate the level of “Tudor” propaganda and have not approached the case with open minds, which skewed their conclusion against the high probability of one or both being sent to Burgundy. The final case was that of Juan (Giovanni) Borgia, the acknowledged son of a Pope (Alexander VI), who was definitely murdered and dumped in the Tiber – but as a random victim, by his brother Gioffre, the Orsini family or someone else? An Orsini had just died in a Papal prison.

The White Princess to hit our screens tonight (11th November) at 9 p.m….

whiteprincess-d118093

Well, it’s been a long time since The White Queen, and the actors are different, but the sequel is to be aired on UKTV Drama. And by the photograph above, we can’t expect much in the way of accuracy. Of course, being pure fiction, it would be difficult to have a “hero”, i.e. Henry VII, who looks like the back end of a bus, so we have Handsome Henry. But Henry wasn’t handsome, he was the back end of a bus. Elizabeth of York, on the other hand, was plumply lovely. At least, so her portraits suggest. Henry’s portraits can’t do much to flatter him. He was not photogenic…or brushogenic, whatever the correct term might be for what the artist manages to commit to canvas, wood or whatever.

So it will be difficult to watch the sexy bed scenes without sniggering.  Sorry to say it, but it’s true. Sow’s ears do not make silk purses!

If you want the silk purse, bring back Richard III.

 

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