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Today in 1441….

Elizabeth Hopton, Countess of Worcester, died 1498.

Elizabeth Hopton happens to be the present author’s 14th Great Grandmother, which prompted an interest in her. I think it is fair to say she is little-known. Of course, she did not (to our knowledge) involve herself in national politics, become the King’s mistress, murder the Princes in the Tower or get in trouble for witchcraft so perhaps this is not entirely surprising, No one has ever bothered to write a romantic novel about her, either.

Elizabeth’s parents were Sir Thomas Hopton and Eleanor Lucy of Shropshire. She is believed to have been born about 1427. Her ancestors, if you went back far enough, included the inevitable Rannulf, Earl of Chester and the even more inevitable King Henry I. She was also descended from Henry III via the Mowbrays, to say nothing of the French and Spanish royal houses. Her more recent ancestors included several leading Shropshire families.

Her first husband (married before 1448) was Sir Roger Corbet of Moreton Corbet near Wem. He was about 10 or 12 years her elder. Between them they had two sons and four daughters altogether. However, Sir Roger died in June 1467.

Her next marriage was more distinguished in rank – not that Sir Roger Corbet was insignificant in Shropshire society. It was to the rather notorious Sir John Tiptoft KG, Earl of Worcester and Constable of England. Tiptoft was of a similar age to Elizabeth, but had had two previous wives. Elizabeth seems to have married him soon after Corbet’s death, but of course the marriage did not last long as Warwick had Tiptoft executed in October 1470. During that brief time Elizabeth bore Tiptoft a son, Edward, who became 2nd Earl of Worcester but sadly died in 1485, unmarried.

Elizabeth did not long remain a widow. Before December 1471 she married Sir William Stanley, at this point a loyal Yorkist and one of the victors of Tewkesbury. She had a daughter, Jane, with Stanley, and also a son, William Stanley Esquire, who died about 1498. Both had children in their turn.

However, as is well-known, after a period of great prosperity, gained (in part) by first supporting Richard III and then betraying him at Bosworth, Stanley fell from grace and Henry VII had him beheaded in 1495.

To have one husband beheaded might be a misfortune. but to lose two in this way looks like carelessness.

Some sources claim that Elizabeth married again, to one William Brews. If she did, it was right at the end of her life, as she died on 22 June 1498, no doubt reflecting on an “interesting” time on earth and, one can hope, surrounded by at least a proportion of the children she had brought into the world.

 

 

 

 

An unusual witchcraft case in Ipswich

Catherine Murphy, coiner, was the last case, in 1789. She was strangled first and Mary Lackland may have been as well.

Mid Anglia Group, Richard III Society

Mary Lackland, or Lakeland, was burned on the Cornhill on 9th September 1645 but why? The heresy laws had been repealed in 1558/9 although they were invoked later, up to 1612/3.

This execution took place at the peak of the Matthew Hopkins witch mania but those convicted of witchcraft under English law, unlike Scotland and the continent, were routinely hanged – which was not just far more comfortable for the convict but makes life easier for scientists and historians today who can analyse bones.

About twelve years ago, I attended a talk at the University of Essex by that institution’s Professor Alison Rowlands, in which she spoke about evidence towards the identification of the St. Osyth witches, before Hopkins’ time. Hopkins himself, son of a vicar of Framlingham and Great Wenham, only lived from c.1620 to 1647 but, coinciding with the legal vacuum of the Civil War, procured the hanging…

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The suppression of witchcraft, 1484 style….

from Britannica.com

On 5th December 1484 Pope Innocent VIII issued a papal bull known as Summis desiderantes affectibus (“desiring with supreme ardour”). Its purpose was to suppress the practice of witchcraft by any necessary means.

The following paragraph is taken from the 1928 English translation of it:-

“….Many persons of both sexes, unmindful of their own salvation and straying from the Catholic Faith, have abandoned themselves to devils, incubi and succubi, and by their incantations, spells, conjurations, and other accursed charms and crafts, enormities and horrid offences, have slain infants yet in the mother’s womb, as also the offspring of cattle, have blasted the produce of the earth, the grapes of the vine, the fruits of the trees, nay, men and women, beasts of burthen, herd-beasts, as well as animals of other kinds, vineyards, orchards, meadows, pasture-land, corn, wheat, and all other cereals; these wretches furthermore afflict and torment men and women, beasts of burthen, herd-beasts, as well as animals of other kinds, with terrible and piteous pains and sore diseases, both internal and external; they hinder men from performing the sexual act and women from conceiving, …they blasphemously renounce that Faith which is theirs by the Sacrament of Baptism, and at the instigation of the Enemy of Mankind they do not shrink from committing and perpetrating the foulest abominations and filthiest excesses to the deadly peril of their own souls, …the abominations and enormities in question remain unpunished not without open danger to the souls of many and peril of eternal damnation.…”

Pretty strong stuff. The bull was prompted originally by a request from the Dominican Inquisitor in Germany concerning witchcraft in the Rhine Valley. The number of people thought to be practicing witchcraft was increasing throughout western Europe, but especially in Germany. Innocent issued the bull and despatched inquisitors there to deal with the matter, but the ultimate intention was the destruction of witchcraft in whatever country it appeared.

To read more, go to this article.

Innocent VIII, commemorative medallion by Niccolò Fiorentino.Courtesy of the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., the Samuel H. Kress Collection

The “Devilish Dame” of Lincolnshire….

Christians and Saracens, found on Pinterest

According to https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=hdovAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA342&lpg=PA342&dq=elizabeth+devilish+dame&source=bl&ots=ZZGPTAz6n6&sig=ACfU3U00pw4KiBMUmlu-OBTeW7AFdQIeXQ&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwj2ipLJwPvlAhVYSxUIHblZCHQQ6AEwAnoECAwQAg#v=onepage&q=elizabeth%20devilish%20dame&f=false in the middle of the 14th century, Sir Thomas Holand of Estovening (Estoveninghall, Estovenhall) Manor in the parish of Swineshead in Lincolnshire, married Elizabeth, daughter of Sir Piers Tempest.

Swineshead, Lincolnshire, from http://www.swinesheadhistory.com/

Elizabeth was apparently known as the “Devilish Dame”, and the unfortunate (or exceedingly wise!) Sir Thomas spent most of his time in the Holy Land, coming home only every seven years.

I have, as yet, been unable to discover why Elizabeth earned this epithet. Was she accused of being a witch? Did she call up tempests (sorry!) or raise demons? Or did she simply have such a vile temper that her husband preferred to face the Saracens? Whatever, one may read what one will into Sir Thomas’s almost permanent absence from England.

Witch raising a storm, 1562. From Olaus Magnus Historia de gentibus septentrionalibus, Antwerp. (Coloured black and white print).

Incidentally, Swineshead Abbey “….is famous for the poisoning of King John after his baggage train had been washed away on the tide at Sutton Bridge. It is debatable whether any treasure was actually lost in this accident and there is an excellent book by Richard Waters called ‘The Lost Treasure of King John’, in which the author puts forward a number of different scenarios as explanation for the supposed loss…”

available from Amazon

 

The anonymous friar and the black arts….

I quote the footnote below because I believe it to be an example of giving someone the wrong name.

“….Another high-profile case comes in 1376, during the Good Parliament, with antagonism against Alice Perrers, Knights of the Parliament captured her physician, the Dominican friar Palange Wyk, accused of practising black arts on her behalf; Carole Rawcliffe, ‘The Profits of Practice: the Wealth and Status of Medical Men in Later Medieval England’, Social History of Medicine, I (1988): 73; and J.R. Maddicott, ‘Parliament and the Constituencies, 1272-1377’, in The English Parliament in the Middle Ages, ed. R.G. Davies and J.H. Denton (Manchester, 1981), pp 79-80….”

The above paragraph is from: Popular Protest in Late Medieval English Towns by Samuel K. Cohn, Jr, Douglas Aiton, Jr. and Samuel K. Cohn. Page 304, footnote 169.

Why do I think it names someone incorrectly? Because I have researched this particular case, and try as I will, I haven’t been able to find the actual name of the Dominican friar in question. For the purposes of this article, it doesn’t matter whether he did or didn’t cast spells and so on, just that he is never named. Except in this quoted footnote.

However, the Hammersmith manor where he was arrested, and which belonged to his mistress, Alice Perrers, was called Pallenswick (Pallingswyck, Palingswick, Paddingswick and so on) Now, it seems to me that Palange Wick and Pallenswick are confusingly similar. Too similar, in fact, to merely be coincidence. So I have to conclude that the friar remains unnamed, and his only connection with the words Palange and Wyk is that he was arrested in Pallenswick.

If anyone knows better, and can supply the friar’s name, I will be eternally grateful.

Elizabeth Woodville and witchcraft in medieval England….

 

Elizabeth Woodville meets Edward IV in 1464
(Photo by Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

Aha, so Elizabeth Woodvile was a witch, and so was her mother, Jacquette of Luxembourg. Well, everyone knew that already, because Philippa Gregory wrote about it in great detail. So it just has to be true!

Anyway, joking aside, this History extra article is interesting for the information it gives about what the English medieval world thought about magic and so on.

Britain’s Most Historic Towns (2)

This excellent Channel Four programme, presented by Professor Alice Roberts, with Dr. Ben Robinson in the helicopter, has returned for a new series. The early venues were Dover (World War Two, visiting the underground base, concentrating on the retreat from Dunkirk and subsequent Channel defence, meeting some survivors, wearing ATS uniform and riding in a tank), her home city Bristol (Georgian, with slavery, gin, chocolate and great architecture featured) and Cardiff (where coal and the Marquess of Bute brought much prosperity in the Edwardian era, before it could supplant Machyllenth as Wales’ capital).

The series then moved on to Oxford to illustrate the Civil War sieges, where Alice Roberts’ Worsleyesque love of dressing up saw her in New Model Army uniform, playing real tennis and viewing Charles I’s ersatz capital. Episode five illustrated Plantagenet Canterbury, featuring St. Augustine, Becket, Chaucer, the Black Death and Peasants’ Revolt. We were also shown a copy of the Magna Carta. The last show was about Stewart Stirling, where she visited the Castle and walls, brewed beer, played with a replica antique football and visited a well, illustrating how individual Stewart monarchs were vulnerable, even to internal opposition, but the line was secure.

Haunted Essex

Some of the venues in this article are surprising and the nocturnal visits sound very expensive but they include some classic historical venues. In Colchester, the Castle and (Howard) Red Lion are included, as is the Redoubt at Harwich, although the Kelvedon Nuclear Bunker and North Weald Station are much newer. In the north of the county, many of the locations are connected to Matthew Hopkins and his anti-witchcraft activities, or earlier victims such as Ursula Kemp (the St. Osyth Cage). In the south, there is also the Valence House, Dagenham.

Good luck ghost-hunting.

Beauty tips from the Middle Ages, including how to get a huge, freckle-free forehead ….

 

Beauty tips

The following article is from here. It is a light-hearted look at the things our medieval sisters did to make themselves look beautiful:-

Longing to know how to hide your devil’s marks and dissolve your hairline? Step this way!

Strictly speaking, the Middle Ages extend from the 5th to the 15th century, but here, I’ll be focusing on the late Middle Ages. Best to clear that up and avoid any mishaps. I mean, imagine what a fool you’d look if you turned up to a 12th-century-themed party in 6th-century makeup. How your friends would laugh!

The late Middle Ages liked its maidens with high foreheads, long necks, sallow complexions and lacklustre eyebrows. Added to that, the babeliest of Medieval babes rocked low sloping shoulders and protruding stomachs. This might seem a touch… um… surprising, but in the name of fairness (both kinds) let’s give these ladies the benefit of the doubt and try to unravel their beauty commandments.

Hide your hair

It is a truth universally acknowledged that hair is sexy. So, naturally, it was seen as sinful by the Medieval Church, and decent women hid theirs with veils, nets, hoods and hats. In warmer European countries, women might get away with braiding since hot weather rendered head-covering a bit of a nightmare. Elsewhere, the only women who left their hair unconcealed were peasants, prostitutes and very young unmarried girls.

Hand in hand with the desire to hide hair was the belief that the higher the hairline the better. Many women resorted to potions of vinegar or quicklime to erode their natural hairline (often taking skin with it), whilst to keep foreheads as unsullied as possible, eyebrows were tweezed within an inch of their lives.

Unsurprisingly, all this hiding only made hair a more potent symbol of temptation, and most tempting of all was blonde hair. We know that women tinted their hair blonde with saffron, stale sheep’s urine, onion skins, or by spending time in the sun (often wearing a hat to maintain modesty, but with a sneaky hole cut in the top). Chaucer’s Virginia (from “The Physician’s Tale”), a “maid in excellent beauty,” has “tresses resembling the rays of [Phebus’] burnished sunbeams.” Whilst the Old Woman from the “Roman de la Rose,” a 13th-century French poem, advises: If (a lady) sees that her beautiful blonde hair is falling out (a most mournful sight)… she should have the hair of some dead woman brought to her, or pads of light coloured silk, and stuff it all into false hairpieces.”

Remove all distinguishing marks from your skin.

Pallor was preferred (as so frequently and boringly through much of history) and smooth skin was highly prized. In a darker turn of events, freckles, moles and birthmarks were often cited as the devil’s mark on those accused of witchcraft–blemishes left by a woman’s erotic entanglements with Satan.

Techniques used for reducing skin to a blank canvas include:

• To remove spots, lick an amethyst and rub the slobbery stone over offending areas.

• To remove freckles, boil oatmeal and vinegar together and smear it on. Alternatively, if you were out of porridge, you could use bull’s or hare’s blood.

• To eradicate redness, apply cucumber or strawberry juice.

• To soothe sunburn, use the squeezed juice of the waterlily.

The potency of all such unguents could be increased by the application of a plaster/band-aid made from sheep’s leather.

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Use enough makeup to keep your husband, but not enough to tempt the husbands of others

Just as women were encouraged to hide their hair so as not to lead men astray, excessive makeup was frowned upon. However, the views of Thomas of Aquinas show what a minefield makeup was.

On the one hand, Tom thought, yes, a woman should be allowed makeup in order to look her best for her husband, thus discouraging him from the sin of adultery. On the other hand, he cautioned: she should not make herself too pretty, thereby luring other women’s menfolk into an adulterous trap.

In terms of what was available to those willing to tread this very fine line, women could apply foundation, often lead-based, sometimes flour-based. Here’s a recipe from the 13th-century L’ornement des Dames:

Put very pure wheat in water for fifteen days, then grind and blend it in water. Strain through a cloth, and let it crystalise and evaporate. You will obtain make-up which will be as white as snow. When you want to use it, mix it with rosewater, and spread it on your face which has first been washed with warm water. Then dry your face with a cloth.

Eye makeup, despite being available since forever, simply wasn’t very fashionable. Most paintings and sculptures show women with pale, undefined eyes and thin eyebrows. However, we do know that women used to drop deadly nightshade into their eyes to dilate the pupils and make them appear bigger, which is possibly where the plant’s common name Belladonna, “beautiful lady”, comes from.

We know that a fair few women used rouge. Indeed, the 12th-century monge de Montaudon (monk of Montaudon) sang about statues in churches who complain that there is not enough makeup to decorate them “because of all the ladies who use rouge.” It was mostly made from ground plants (angelica or safflower), but the physician Gilbertus Anglicus mentions the effectiveness of brazilwood chips soaked in rosewater.

In terms of lip colour, similar rouge could be used, and also crushed berries to make stains. The 21st-century Lipstick Queen, Poppy King, named her famous Medieval lipstick in honour of the medieval trend for rubbing lemons on your lips to get a deeper colour.

I actually tried this myself and was amazed with the results. Sorry that these photos were so obviously taken in my kitchen, but that’s where the lemons live. I just cut one in half and squished it into my mouth, which was both yummy and effective; my lips look significantly more blood-filled, which is suitably medieval.

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Lip balm also existed, by the way. The book Secrets of Don Alessio Piemontese gives a recipe for “sweet smelling grease that will keep the lips and hands from chapping and make them moist and soft.” It’s made from suet, marjoram and wine.

I like the sound of wine-flavoured lip balm. I like the lemon trick, too. But I’ll keep my freckles and my hair, thanks.

beauty tips - 4

It’s so interesting to me that, in the age of Cara Delevingne eyebrows, St. Tropez tans and Big Sexy Hair, there’s a space in our beauty past like the Middle Ages. Just goes to show how subjective beauty can be.

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