Richard Roose being lowered into the cauldron in “The Tudors”

On this day in history, 5th April 1531, Richard Roose (Rouse) was boiled to death at Smithfield after being attainted of high treason.

Roose was the former cook of the household of John Fisher, Bishop of Rochester, and he’d been attainted after Parliament had passed a new bill, the “Acte for Poysoning”, which made it high treason to kill anyone with poison.

It was claimed that Roose had poisoned the pottage that had been served to the bishop and his guests on 18th February 1531. Two poor people, who’d been served leftovers as alms, died after eating it, and the bishop and his guests were taken ill but survived.

Read more…

Also on this day in history, 5th April 1533, Convocation gave its ruling on Henry VIII’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon, stating that the Pope had no power to dispense in the case of a man marrying his brother’s widow, and that it was contrary to God’s law.

Read more…

Related Post

13 thoughts on “Poisoned pottage and a man boiled to death”
  1. What a terrible method of punishment. Talk about punishment to fit the crime. Even putting purgatives into the soup was hardly amusing. He may have claimed he didn’t intend to kill anyone but Roose was still culpable. John Fisher and his guests were public figures and revered. I know his punishment was terrible, but from the point of view of the government he had to be made an example of. This normally means rough justice. The Tudors and Medieval mind seem to be very inventive when it came to horrible punishments. I think Henry must have been under some serious pressure as this was a new law. I know what the man did was wrong, but boiling him in hot boiling water is very extreme. The human mind when it comes to terror is truly frightening.

  2. It certainly is I believe the most horrendous way to die and shock possibly killed the victim within seconds, the reality of the true victims though, that is the poor people who were poisoned is that their suffering was very great and just as real to, the most excruciating agony they would have endured is something that horrified the people at the time, vomiting and coughing up blood and the most dreadful stomach pains are symptoms of poisoining and their suffering would have been great before eventually dying, no medicines at the time could help to alleviate their torture, now they can pump your stomach out and treat you with drugs to lessen to pain but those people would have had to just suffer before merciful death released them, incidentally when I first looked at this post I saw a lobster also being lowered into the cooking pot which is how they kill them to, I always assumed ite water was boiling and chefs estimate they die in 60seconds but then one chef said the water is not boiling but is tepid and gradually heats up while the lobster is in it, I no it’s irrelevant to the case and lobsters are not people but I got a picture in my mind when I read it, I do hope the lobsters don’t suffer too much themselves.

    1. Yes, as Roose was the cook of the household, but he was probably set up or paid by someone else. The earlier post gives a fuller story in that it emerged that people murmured about suspicious suspects included Anne and her father, but there is no proof of this being the case. John Fisher may have been in the way of the divorce, but in the end he was only one man, hardly worth killing him for. It could also have been an accident. Roose claimed he had used herbs to purge the guests, but this would have also been very risky, very nasty, or deadly even. He was certainly guilty of harming the guests, whether or not he intended to kill them or not. A total accident cannot be ruled out either as depending on the time of year normally latent, safe fresh herbs can become deadly. A cook and a housekeeper or wife should know that at this time, but it is still possible he picked up the wrong vile or was given the vile without realising it contained poison. Unfortunately, nobody else were implicated in the deaths, deliberate or not.

  3. Tina, I’ve always wondered that! There’s a quote on Wiki which reads, “He roared mighty loud, and divers women who were big with child did feel sick at the sight of what they saw,” This Act operated for 16 years before Edward repealed it in 1547. However, I can’t think that death by boiling, or death at the stake, are essentially different, and I think both are brutal and savage. Are you, like me, amazed that women ‘big with child’ actually went to executions.
    Was there some incentive which persuaded people to attend these awful executions? Anyone know?

    1. I think it was a day out for them Globerose, there was no tv or the cinema, certainly the poor people always went to see public hangings, no doubt they took a packed lunch to, the way we do today ha ha! in the 17th and 18th c the condemned would wear their Sunday best and be decked in all their finery like they were going to their wedding, a great crowd would gather and there would be stall holders selling souviners, mind you I agree I find it odd that pregnant women would go to witness someone being boiled alive, but they probably had stronger stomachs in those days.

      1. Totally agree, execution was as much entertainment as it was punishment. It doesn’t mean that they didn’t find these particularly horrible executions with horror or even have some sympathy for the victims, but yes I agree, they definitely had a day out, souvenirs, food, drink, etc…but in some cases they were respectful and showed support. The crowd must have been a very mixed bunch, even in private executions like Anne Boleyn, which somehow attracted over 1000 people, despite the orders to exclude foreigners and lock the gates. Somebody left the gate open, no doubt. Public executions, the big ones at Tyburn and Tower Hill or Smithfield were crowd pullers. People also provided proper entertainment at the sites and people loved to hear what the victims had to say last. Women dipped their handkerchiefs in the blood of those killed, all sorts of things ended up in the homes of the audience. The handsome superstars, the big names like James, Duke of Monmouth, horribly botched, attracted huge crowds and the authorities feared trouble. Highwaymen, violent though they were, were romantically portrayed in newspapers and broadsheets, they had female fans, they were seen as heroes and they played to the crowds. I have heard that in America some executions have been shown on television, but I don’t know if this is true or not. It is in some other countries. This I believe is terrible. I don’t even believe anyone should witness an execution but officials, a doctor, a priest, or other religious person of choice, or if requested, a close friend or relative. I don’t believe in the death penalty these days anyway, although I did at one time. Too many people have ended up on death row who are innocent or have diminished capacity. It must be very difficult, however, if a beloved family member, friend or spouse, is murdered not to want the death sentence, but you want the right person punished. Unfortunately, jurors are human beings and make mistakes, both ways and modern justice systems are still deeply flawed. With uncertainty and vulnerable people being caught up in this system, there is no justification for the death sentence. It’s totally incomprehensible as to how human beings can watch others die horrible deaths and suffer such terrible torments. Rooses victims deserved justice, though, because their suffering would have been painful and hard to watch. It cannot have been any easy thing to watch him boiled alive or for him to bear.

        1. In the old execution yard behind the Old Bailey, ( site where Old Mother Newgate once stood) the more recent executions were carried out justly so in private, they had long since decided that the Victorian mind for freak shows bordered on the morbidly curious, and the condemned people were accorded the dignity and respect they deserved, (well within reason) since they had murdered someone, but yes by the Edwardian era all the executions were carried out with just the hangman, the priest and I believe a doctor had to be present to witness the death and ascertain the it, yes it’s true Bq a lot of innocent people did die yet in these days we have something they didn’t, genetic fingerprinting and discovery of DNA which our own wonderful scientists discovered, a medical breakthrough in the twentieth century.

        2. Hi Christine, a notorious incident known as the Clerkenwell murders in 1867 was as a result of a Fenian jailbreak. In order to rescue Richard Burke a major mover in the Fenian cause, a large amount of explosive was used to break the prison wall down, but it went wrong because there was so much powder. There were several people killed, eventually rising to 30, including children and women, as the wall was close to the local tenement houses. The deaths caused outrage, naturally and the executions of six Fenians accused of these murders on a scaffold outside Saint Stephens Church brought huge crowds. It is interesting to note however, that the area is surrounded by buildings and many are two or three storeys or more, with very large windows, giving commanding views of the execution site. On the morning of the execution, people paid huge sums to the building owners or residents to watch the executions. Now the six men were hung, but they could have been drawn and quartered too. Acts of murder resulting in explosion, riots, protest, acts of terrorism, prison breaking, anything with arms in fact all came under treason laws still in existence. They were still used in Ireland until after 1973. Although most executions in such cases were reduced to hanging and riots or protest such as the Chartists, originally condemned to death by hanging, drawing and quartered were reduced to prison or deportation, it was only by the 1880s that all executions became private. Even here, the executioner had stuff thrown at him because of controversy over the trials during which evidence came to light that three of the accused were not in London that day. The judge brow beat the defence, the jury, the clerks in the court and constantly interrupted the condemned men who had a right to make a final speech. The executioner was notorious for making fun of those he executed, but on this occasion he kept his mouth shut. Despite the initial outrage, the executed also won some sympathy as they were young and handsome. The mind of the public is truly a mystery. The Victorian ladies often would campaign for private executions, for better treatment of prisoners, visiting the condemned cells and they eventually with the support of social campaigners, political support, plus Queen Victoria, they won the reforms which included fewer death sentences, even for murder and better conditions as well as an end to the gastly exhibition of people being killed in public. Things are of course much better now and DNA has meant that murderers are normally pinpointed, but still innocent people get accused, people with mental health problems who should not be executed are, especially among the Black or South American populations, people with learning difficulties or who are poor and women are more likely to end up on death row, regardless of advanced science. Even if DNA could accurately identify every murderer, which is not the case as its not left at every murder, that cannot give society the right to end a human life. An interesting footnote to DNA, however, is that some old cases have been revealed to have sent the wrong person to the noose. We still live in a society that prefers revenge and outrageous outcrys or demands spectacular show trials, rather than actual balanced justice and to be honest that frightens me.

  4. It was a different time, so people were used to seeing things we would recoil at on a pretty regular basis.Children were taken to executions as a lesson, and executions were something of a spectacle. Suffering was so endemic that death, by most means wasn’t such a big deal to people.

    Personally, I find the entire concept of executing people pretty barbaric. Values change.

  5. Yes in the case of Dr.Crippen for one the skeleton believed to be that of his murdered wife was recently found to belong to a man, his relatives in America are seeking a pardon from the home office, but the fact remained, Mrs. Crippen did vanish and if she wasn’t murdered then where did she go? In another travesty of justice John Christie who wallpapered his victims up had a lodger and his young family living in his house, in the case of Edward Evans his wife and baby daughter was murdered and Evans, having learning difficulties did not supply a convincing defence and as a result, this poor unfortunate man was hung, only after when more bodies were found and Christie had done a runner, did they realise they had more than likely hung the wrong man but he was dead and nothing could bring him back, I think iv heard of the Clerkenwell murders as you say Bq was quite a notorious case, and then there was the Brides In The Bath, that guy makes Henry V111 look like a parsons son!

  6. Yes a barbarous punishment indeed, and I hated that The Tudors series and certain authors who we do not like to name in these pages assume that the Boleyn family must have been involved in trying to do away with Bishop Fisher.

    On the subject of hangings moving to being in private, that didn’t mean that hanging became any more humane until they retired old short drop Calcraft as executioner and brought in the long drop. But there were few present at an execution, there would be the hangman and his assistant, two warders, the prison governor, the chaplain and the High Sherriff as representative of the monarch. From them entering the condemned cell to the drop falling was no more than 10 seconds as a rule, and they would be brain dead but the heart would beat for up to 20 minutes after dropping. But for all that, far less drama than the lethal injection fiascos where they can’t find a vein.

    Some very agonising miscarriages of justice, but it is odd how the enquiries on the Timothy Evans case never totally exonerated him, they said he wasn’t guilty of murdering the one he was convicted for but probably murdered the other one. I personally think Christie did both and they were trying to stop the establishment looking like total fools…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *