Richard Roose Boiled to Death – 5 April 1531
Posted By Claire on April 5, 2011
On this day in history, 5th April 1531, Richard Roose (or Rouse), Bishop John Fisher’s cook, was boiled to death after confessing to poisoning the soup* that was served to the Bishop and his guests. Fisher, the Bishop of Rochester, survived but some of his guests, who’d eaten more of the soup, died.
People were quick to blame Anne Boleyn, saying that she and her family had bribed Roose to poison the soup to get rid of Fisher, and that her father had even provided Roose with the poison, but Henry VIII did not believe this to be the case and there is no evidence that the Boleyns or their supporters were involved.
Even today, Anne Boleyn is still being blamed for this act of murder and attempted murder. In her book, “The Other Boleyn Girl”, Philippa Gregory has Mary Boleyn saying:-
“A few nights later, Bishop Fisher was sick, and nearly died of his sickness. Three men at his dinner table died of poison, others in his household were sick too. Someone had bribed his cook to put poison in his soup. It was only his good luck that Bishop Fisher had not wanted the soup that evening.
I did not ask Anne what she had said to Father in the doorway, nor what he had replied. I did not ask her if she had any hand in the bishop’s sickness and the deaths of three innocent men at his table. It was not a little thing, to think that one’s sister and one’s father were murderers. But I remembered the darkness of her face as she swore that she hated Fisher as much as she had hated the cardinal. And now the cardinal was dead of shame, and Fisher’s dinner had been salted with poison. I felt as if this whole matter, which had started as a summer flirtation, had grown too dark and too great for me to want to know any secrets. Anne’s dark-tempered motto, “Thus it will be:grudge who grudge,” seemed like a curse that Anne was laying on the Boleyns, on the Howards, and on the country itself.”
Gregory goes on to say in the Q&A section at the back of her novel that “she [Anne] was not a woman to let something like sin or crime stand in her way—she was clearly guilty of one murder”, so she obviously believes that Anne Boleyn had a hand in this crime.
In “The Tudors”, Season 2 Episode 1, after Anne and her father have been talking about “Bloody Bishop Fisher”, the man standing in their way, we see Thomas Boleyn paying Richard Roose and threatening him with the destruction of his family if he betrays the Boleyns. George Boleyn then puts a vial on the table and Roose takes it. Later, we see Roose putting the contents of the vial into the soup he is cooking. The soup is then served to Fisher and his guests, which include Thomas More. Fisher says that he only wants a little soup and More refuses it all together. Fisher is taken ill and four of his guests die. Thomas More tells Henry VIII that people are blaming Thomas Boleyn, and even Anne Boleyn, and Henry is furious, saying that Anne is blamed for everything, even the weather.
Roose is arrested and examined by Cromwell in the Tower but will not say who paid him, as Thomas Boleyn is present. Roose is then boiled to death in the Tower, in the presence of Thomas Boleyn, George Boleyn and Thomas Cromwell. It’s a very shocking scene.
We will never know who was really behind the poisoning, but I do not believe Anne Boleyn or her family would have been stupid enough to try and kill the bishop.
The primary source evidence is the preamble of the 1531 “Acte for Poysoning” (22 Henry VIII c.9), which stated:-
“On the Eighteenth day of February, 1531, one Richard Roose, of Rochester, Cook, also called Richard Cooke, did cast poison into a vessel of yeast to baum, standing in the kitchen of the Bishop of Rochester’s Palace, at Lambeth March, by means of which two persons who happened to eat of the pottage made with such yeast died”.
Roose allegedly claimed that had had just put purgatives into the food as a joke and that he meant no harm but two poor people, Bennett Curwen and Alice Tryppytt, died from eating the food. Roose was “attainted of high treason” and “boiled to death without benefit of clergy. He was taken to Smithfield and boiled to death.
* Some sources say porridge.
- The Other Boleyn Girl, Philippa Gregory, p167 of my ebook and the Q&A section
- The Tudors Season 2 Episode 1 “Everything is Beautiful”
- A Draft of the 1531 ‘Acte for Poysoning’, The English Historical Review, September 01, 2001, KESSERLING, K. J.
60 thoughts on “Richard Roose Boiled to Death – 5 April 1531”
This event, as depicted in “The Tudors”, gave a strong implication as to Anne’s involvement in the poisioning which, as you point out, has no basis of evidence in historical fact. I think the telling statement comes in your last sentence, that neither Anne, or her family, would have been stupid enough to do something in a manner which could have been discovered so easily. Anne’s detractors depict her as cunning, clever and duplicious, yet would seek to blame her for an act so utterly lacking in guile or subtlety. It doesn’t add up, after all they cannot have it both ways!
The depiction of the event in “The Tudors” injected a certain black humour when the executioner asks Roose if he wanted to go head first or “as it comes”. Not a good way to meet your end, whatever way round!
G.W. Bernard hinted that Henry VIII’s reaction to the incident, namely to sanction the unprecedented punishment of boiling alive, indicates an uneasy conscience. He implies that someone meant to scare Fisher (not necessary kill him), and that was possibly Henry or an ally of the Boleyn’s. Of course Henry’s reaction may have been a desperate and genuine attempt to make clear to everyone that he had nothing to do with it.
Or, we could take Roose’s claims at face value – that it had all been a prank that went horribly wrong. If true (and I doubt it), he was incredibly stupid (who thinks putting laxatives in the bishop of Rochester’s food is an acceptable joke? Even had it procured the desired effect, the bishop would still have been annoyed and rightly so! Roose would have almost certainly lost his job. Plus administering laxatives back then was dangerous and could have resulted in exacerbating someone’s health. Roose knew that remaining food was administered to the very poor, so he must have been extremely mean if he thought it was funny to give them all upset stomachs!).
The legal ramifications of this incident are really interesting. Gone was the formal judicial process – the attainder was merely passed against Roose and he was executed. In other words, he was deprived of the legal privileges, namely a trial, that the accused was expected to receive. Roose was just condemned in the act of parliament concerning poisoning. It was a perfect demonstration to contemporaries of the changing temperament of Henry VIII’s reign – if the Crown wanted you gone, you were no longer guaranteed justice. The next individual treated in such a fashion was Elizabeth Barton – Holy Maid of Kent – also deprived of a trial. And then countless others (like Cromwell!)
Alison Weir,said in her book on Henry’s Six Wives (at page 222) that Anne was involved. Anyone know how reputable she is?
I’ve just checked my copy of Weir’s book and she doesn’t say that Anne Boleyn was involved, she says that it was “widely believed” that the Boleyns were involved:-
“Rouse was arrested, even though it was widely believed he had been acting on the instructions of Wiltshire who was said to have given him the poison, and that Anne herself was privy to the plot.”
This was the gossip going around court at the time.
According to my copy Six Wives of Henry VIII, (Grove Press, 1991), after mentioning the court gossip, Weir goes on to say that “Anne’s involvement was confirmed in October 1531, when she sent a message to Fisher warning him not to attend the next session of Parliament in case he should suffer again the sickness he had almost died of in February.” The first four words sound to me like a factual accusation of involvement, rather than merely repeating gossip, but this is open to interpretation.
Does Weir give a reference for that message from Anne to Fisher?
I’ve now found the bit in Weir that you mean:-
“Anne’s involvement was confirmed in October 1531 when she sent a message to Fisher warning him not to attend the next session of Parliament in case he should suffer again the sickness he had almost died of in February. If she had not actively intrigued for Fisher’s death, she had at the very least condoned the attempt to murder him.”
There is no reference but I found what this is related to in the Calendar of State Papers, Spain Vol 4 Part2 1531-33 Note 805, Letter from Chapuys to the Emperor 9th October 1531:-
“There is no one here of whom the Lady is more afraid than the bishop of Rochester (Fisher) for he is just the man who without fear of any sort has always defended and upheld in the most unanswerable manner the Queen’s cause, owing to which the said Lady has lately sent him a message persuading him to remain where he is, and not come to London and attend Parliament for fear he should catch fever, as he did last year. The Lady may do what she likes in that respect, the Bishop is resolved, should he meet with one hundred thousand deaths, to come and speak in the Queen’s favour more openly than he has ever done.”
That’s a far cry from Anne threatening him or confirming her involvement in the poisoning of February 1531. A fever of “last year” would be referring to 1530 wouldn’t it?
It’s a very far cry. It’s a pity Weir incorrectly quotes from sources and then doesn’t give a proper reference. She runs the risk of being accused of deliberately misquoting in order to falsely convince people of Anne’s culpabilty.
I suppose that Weir could stretch the “fever” of last year to include the “illness” of February (only off by a few months), but I think that Lousie is correct … if Weir had quoted properly (or at least included references), it wouldn’t make Anne look as bad. That is why I orignally asked about how reputable Weir was supposed to be.
Alison Weir is reputable but her Six Wives book is very old, I think it was first written in the 1970s, and she has changed her views quite a bit since then.
Even if , in the 1970’s, Weir thought Anne was evil incarnate, it still doesn’t give her the right to be economical with the reporting of an original source in order to try and show Anne condoned Fisher’s murder.
Weir’s views and the use of extant records are separate issues; or at least they should be.
I wasn’t excusing her, I was just pondering if her view re Anne’s involvement in the poisoning will have changed now that she has done more research into Anne.
Sorry. I wasn’t having a go ( at you), it’s just that she drives me up the wall.
Excuse my ignorance. I was wondering what was the evidence to suggest that the poison was a laxative? The drug and its adverse effects seem to point to a more sinister poison than just a laxative.
In his confession, Roose claimed that he had not intended to poison the bishop and the rest of the household. He argued that he had been playing a prank by administering a laxative in the porridge. Though this was in itself unacceptable, it was evidently less awful than admitting he had laced the food with a concoction intended to kill. Whatever the truth of the matter, his claims that he had merely sought to trick everyone were not accepted.
For more information on the ‘joke’ – see, G.W. Bernard, The King’s Reformation, p. 110, K. J. Kesselring, ‘A Draft of the 1531 ‘Acte for Poysoning’’, The English Historical Review, 116, 468 (2001), pp. 894-99 and Richard W. Ireland, ‘Medicine, Necromancy and the Law: Aspects of Medieval Poisoning’, Cambrian Law Review (1987), pp. 52-61.
I beg to differ about the Laxative…if you have enough of it,I’m pretty sure it can be lethal,especially to smaller people. It can cause dehydration,just like salmonella or bad diarrhea,etc.,which can certainly lead to a long painful death. Dehydration causes loss of electrolytes which leads to heart failure,confusion & death.
Pamela,Alison,Nasim,I really don’t think they used laxative to off someone,I have Colitis and have had to drink worst things when, i prep for a scope,it would take far to long to kill him as there were times i wished i were dead ,that prep is the worst!! They had many more poisons that would rid you faster then laxative,as i am sure they had some pretty good mixalogist back in the day that new what to use. As far as Anne and her family just my thoughts, the family did not try to kill him,he new he was going to die because he would not sign and Moore to. Regards Baroness
Roose was saying that he didn’t mean to kill anyone and that it was just a joke, a laxative (purge) rather than poison.
I don’t think AT ALL that Anne was involved; nor the Boleyns. No matter who said what or what has been depicted in historical FICTION. I stand by the fact that everything is done to sell things; to make events more juicy; to get viewers. What if the episode in The Tudors had shown the cook having some sort of argument with Fisher and then suddenly Fisher is poisoned. It’s not as juicy as the Boleyns going through this secret moment in a darkened room and the slipping of a vial of poison and then watching as the cook falls for their wrong doing. It made Thomas Boleyn seem even more evil than depicted earlier in the series. In everything you have to have some sort of villian. I for one, hate that scene. I can’t even imagine the pain. I don’t think the Boleyn’s would have risked it–despite risking already so much. It’s the fact that I feel like Anne and her family would risk alot…to a certain point. I feel like they wouldn’t have risked a chance for one of their own to be on the throne. I am sure they watched their steps in order to ensure Anne’s success and poisoning someone would have gone against that.
I wonder why no one assumes it was Cromwell?
I think no one accused Cromwell because there was no evidence against him. Like the Bolyens he had a motive but he also was far too clever to be involved in such a risky scheme. Also as Cromwell usually did the King’s bidding perhaps it was felt that accusing him might be a tad too close to indicating Henry was involved.
Who would want Fisher gone and for what reason?
He was a very outspoken opponent of the King’s Great Matter so he was a ‘pain in the neck’ for Henry, Anne and the Boleyn family.
thanks for replying Claire, always happy to hear from you!
The point that maybe Roose had a fight with Fisher over something, and poisoned the food in retaliation is plausable as well as the idea that maybe Crpmwell was invovled.
Or it could have been just bad food, and they got food posioning pure and simple.
Don’t think the Boleyns were that stupid, nor did they I think have the skill of the Borgias tp pull it off.
I can see why it’s widely assumed that the Boleyns were involved, but I also don’t think they’d be so stupid as to do something so obvious. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was someone hoping that Anne would get the blame. After all, we know her enemies weren’t afraid of letting innocent people die.
Then again, it could be something entirely unrelated. Perhaps Roose had an unknown grudge or reasons of his own.
Could it have been simple food poisoning with no one at fault?
How curious!! I am watching that very episode of the Tudors right now, and decided to see what’s up here! Kind of odd I felt like watching ths episode on teh anniversary of his death, especially snce it’s an episode I normally avoid….
I think it is probable that the Boleyn’s be it Anne or her faction intended on poisoning Fisher. Yes, he was a Bishop but being a Bishop didn’t seem to mean much to Anne since she was a reformist and also as seen with her treatment towards Cranmer. After all the years she waited to be Queen, I highly doubt she would let Fisher get in her way.
Apologies, I meant to say, Annes treatment of Wolsey, not Cranmer. I don’t know why I said Cranmer. Huge difference between them – must have had Cranmer on the brain. lol
Anne Boleyn was a reformist, but she was still a Catholic. Archbishop Cramner and Thomas Cromwell were secret protestants. Even Henry remained a Catholic. His break from Rome was motivated by politics and personal expediency, rather than religion. As to Richard Roose, the question one must always ask is this: who had the most to gain from Cardinal Fisher’s death? The clear answer is the Boleyns and Henry. At that point in history, Cardinal Fisher stood as an obstruction not only to Anne becoming Queen (and Thomas and George Boleyn further rising in rank) but also to Henry’s growing appetite for full temporal and spiritual supremacy. Not only did Fisher oppose Henry’s annulment to Katherine of Aragon, but he opposed Henry becoming the Supreme head of the Church of England. Many people had much to gain by Fisher’s death.
Does anyone happen to know if Chapuys discussed the “poisoning” in his reports to the Emperor? Did he also accuse the Boleyns of the crime? Because he was no friend to Anne or her family, if anyone wanted to accuse her of something this vile in order to blacken her name and reputation, I would have thought he would have mentioned it.
In the “Resources” section, Claire provided, among other things, a link to the Calendar of State Papers (Spain). I checked the entries for February and March of 1531; this segment is something copied and pasted from Chapuys’s for March 1, 1531. He acknowledges the widespread belief that Anne (or her father) is involved, but that is all:
“He also requested them to look into the case of the bishop of Rochester’s cook, which is a very strange one and happened thus. About ten days ago, in the said Bishop’s house, some sort of soup was prepared, of which all who tasted (including almost all the household servants) were on the point of death, though only two actually died, besides some poor beggars to whom the soup (potage) had been distributed for charity. All, however, were taken very ill and suffered much pain. Very luckily the worthy Bishop, whom God no doubt considers very useful and necessary in this world, did not taste of the drug (drogues). and thus escaped. They say that the cook having been immediately arrested on the application of the Bishop’s brother, confessed at once that he had actually put into the broth some powders, which he had been given to understand would only make his fellow servants very sick without endangering their lives or doing them any harm. I have not yet been able to ascertain who it was who gave the cook such advice, nor for what purpose. The King has certainly shewn some displeasure at this, but whatever demonstrations of sorrow he makes he will not be able to avert suspicion from falling, if not on himself, for he is too noble-minded to have resource to such means—at least on the Lady and her father. (fn. 1) The Bishop is unwell (mal dispouse). and has been so ever since the acknowledgment (recognoyssance) subscribed by the Clergy, about which I wrote to Your Majesty on the 31st of January, and which has caused him considerable sorrow and disappointment; but notwithstanding his indisposition he intends leaving to-morrow [for his diocese], having already obtained the King’s permission to that effect. I cannot, however, conceive how, being in bad health, bishop Fisher can think of exposing himself to the fatigues of such a journey, when by remaining here [in London] he might find better medical advice and more resources than anywhere else, unless it be that he chooses to be absent from the discussion of matters appertaining to the Church, or else that he fears there may be yet some relics of the powders from which he has do miraculously escaped.”
Hope this helps.
Anne Boleyn took the episcopacy very seriously. She was incredibly interested in its appointments and, in fairness, reformists who rejected the apostolic succession on which the entire theory of the episcopacy was based did not really exist until long after Anne’s death. Even if they had, there’s a long way to go from being sceptical of the utility of having bishops in Christianity to trying to poison one that annoys you. Also Fisher’s influence over the politics and the importance of his opposition to Anne has been vastly overstated. Put bluntly, if she was going to poison anyone in 1531, it wasn’t going to be Fisher.
I was also wondering if it could have been a simple case of food poisoning. You keep something too long or do not cook it at a high enough temperature to kill those germs, you could develop a bad case of food poisoning. Sounds like the cook just came up with any story since he could not realize that bacteria can make you very sick, especially since he did not know about bacteria.
I don’t believe Anne or Henry had a hand in this poisoning–after all, Anne was accused of poisoning Catherine of Aragon and Princess Mary, too. Even Henry accused her of trying to poison Mary and the Duke of Richmond, Henry Fitzroy. Anne was accused of all kinds of evil activity but to commit murder? I don’t think so. She was a religious person, schooled in the New Religion but also brought up in the old Catholic ways, as was Henry. I think it’s pretty clear murder is a no-no. I really don’t think either would have tried to murder Fisher. Now, her father, I’m not so sure about. He was ruthless, pimping his own daughters to the king. He very well may have paid to have it done. Or, I suppose it could have been one of Catherine’s supporters, knowing Anne would be blamed for it. Who knows? But what a horrible way to die…
Richard Roose or Coke as I have also found out that, that too could have been his surname as well I was thinking earlier as there seems to be little to know information on this man, there is no birthdate, no information on him or the rest of his family or how long he had been in the clergy’s and the Bishop of Rochester’s service, not does it state what religion that he had been of.
It is possible that that he may have been hired to do this deed by someone I highly doubt that it was a joke like he stated, he was probably just saying that to cover himself and his tracks plus trying to cover up for the person who paid him to do this. He may have been acting alone, this could be another probabillity, does anyone think that? He may just like the Boleyn’s been on the road to reform too and it was then that he seized his oppertunity. Plus like another blogger said it may have been down to gone off food which was served little did the cook know. I highly doubt that it was a laxative anyway as we all know laxatives are there if you need help with getting to sleep and would just send you to sleep, not kill you. I would say that either it had to be poison or just gone off food, food in which was gone off. I know that food was highly salted in those days as there had no source of refrigeration or any source of freezing food would be salted that was until Elizabethan times when one of the people in Queen Elizabeth’s court thought of the freezing theory using snow as a way of means of trying preserve and keep food though unfortunately he ended up dying of pneumonia as a result unfortunately for him.
Yes, one would have to look at who would have the most to gain by the Bishop of Rochester’s death and the only ones that I can think of like which has been mentioned is the Boleyn’s, the King and Cromwell and last but not least Richard Roose/Coke himself.
I think “Coke” simply refers to his job “cook” and that it is the old spelling of cook, like “boke” for book. His surname is spelled “Rouse”, “Roose” or “Rose”. A laxative is for purging the body, not making you sleep, so I guess that it could have been a prank. He might have thought it funny to have his master and dinner guests urgently needing the privy if his master had upset him in some way. I’m not buying that story myself, I think it would have been very foolhardy to upset your master like that.
Ah! well I read otherwise somewhere! 🙂 A laxative would not kill you though only poison would that is what I was trying to say plus they would help you relax hence the word “Lax” I am no expert in Tudor medicine just the Tudor period, era but it is interesting and I am interested to know never the less 🙂
Thanks Nasym. Regards Alison
Even if someone wanted to seek the death of Fisher, why would they take the chance of putting the poison in a pot in which all of Fisher’s guests were going to partake? And let’s not forget the remains would go to the poor and make them ill as well. If you want to kill one man, wouldn’t it make more sense to put the poison in his morning cup of coffee?
A laxative would only make them sleepy? Must be an English laxative because here in America a laxative would send everyone running for their chamber pots.
Was Roose tortured while being investigated? I am leaning towards food poisoning…gone off food.
Anne would have been blamed no matter what. Chapuys..HA!
I’m not sure why Tudorrose claimed that laxatives are there to ensure sleep. It has quite the opposite effect!
Don’t buy Roose’s claims myself, as I doubt anyone would be stupid enough to think giving a bishop (of all people!) laxatives, resulting in the poor man being stuck in a bathroom for some time, was an acceptable joke. Plus purging concoctions could be highly dangerous. Imagine giving a laxative to someone back then and it being so strong that they can’t stop going to the loo… Oh dear!
Thank you Nasim.
You state that purging concoctions could be highly dangerous back then. Were they dangerous enough to kill?
I’m definitely not an expert in Tudor medicine but I have heard that wormwood was popular and that is toxic. Not sure.
Back then, there was always the danger of administering a drug and being unable to fully control the result. It only took the wrong dosage, or a more potent laxative, and some serious damage could be done.
Pure oil from wormwood (Artimisia) is extremely toxic, but in small amounts its safe used in cooking, drinks and medicines. Good for upset tummy…..
A laxitive is there to help you relax, I mean I am no expert in medicine just the Tudor period/Era but I can get the and still get the jist of it, things hence the word “Lax” so it would probably send you to sleep, anyone to sleep if taken, if if got you really relaxed that is of course and depending on how much one took 🙂
TudorRose – the word lax means weak, loose (and can also be used to mean careless). Not to dwell too long on this disgusting subject, but a laxative simply is something that loosens the bowels. Roose claimed he thought it would be funny to make the household ill in this manner; at no point did he say he was giving the household some concoction to relax everyone. That simply wasn’t the point of the (alleged) joke.
Yes, laxatives are anything but relaxing!
I know he did a terrible thing and deserved punishment, but I can’t help feeling sorry for this man. The thought of being boiled alive is so horrifying to me I can hardly even bear to think of it. I once read a comment by someone who said they were so traumatized by that scene in The Tudors that they didn’t even like to take really hot showers anymore. While part of me was giggling at their reaction, another part of me completely understood. It’s beyond awful, thinking of a death like that.
Of course, it goes without saying that I feel even more sorry for the guests who were poisoned.
I have a question on another topic. In the passage from Philippa Gregory’s book that was quoted by Claire, Anne’s motto is supposedly “Thus it will be, grudge who grudge.” However, I’ve never seen this claim anywhere except in Gregory’s book. Was this really one of Anne’s mottoes, or is this just Gregory (AGAIN) presenting her own fictional creations as if they were solid, verified, inarguable fact?
Anne Boleyn did have the motto “Ainsi sera, groigne qui groigne” in 1530 but only for a few weeks, it was then removed from her livery. When translated, it means “Grumble all you like, this is how it’s going to be”, or, as Philippa Gregory says, “Thus it will be, grudge who grudge”.
“Grumble all you like, this is how it’s going to be.”
That. Is. Awesome.
It’s so hilarious and irreverent, and so very Anne. This is the kind of thing that has made me like and admire her all these centuries later. I love this woman. 😀
And leave it to Gregory to use the most negative, sinister translation possible and put the worst spin she can on it. Sigh.
Yes, it is indeed is it not 🙂
Anne Boleyn had the motto “Grumble all you like, this is how it is going to be” for a few weeks but then after a while after complaints she had it hastenly changed to “The moost Happy” meaning “The most Happy” 🙂
When Anne warned Bishop Fisher to stay away from court, I believe she said that because he was such a staunch champion of both Katharine of Aragon & the Catholic church. Anne had enough negative publicity and people against her: why would she poison a bishop who was much loved by the Queen and revered by the populace?
It doesn’t make sense to me that Anne or her supporters would be involved in a plot to kill Fisher. Certainly she and Henry had the most to gain from Fisher’s death, but the results of being caught carried such a heavy loss that I don’t think Anne would have chanced it knowingly. I think there are other, more likely scenarios that would explain the death of Fisher’s guests. Simple food poisoning (E. coli) for example kills people today with modern medicine–it could have easily done in perfectly healthy people in the 16th century. I agree that it isn’t appropriate, but let’s say for the sake of argument that Rouse did decide to play a prank on his boss and put a laxative in the soup. I think it’s safe to assume that the laxative in question would have been a herb or plant, and it’s equally possible that Rouse could have added too much, put in the wrong part of the plant, or mistaken one plant for another. Rhubarb was used for centuries for its laxative properties, but it’s leaves are toxic containing high concentrations of oxalic acid. If he accidentally used the leaves in the soup instead of the stalks, he could have unintentionally poisoned the group. Equally likely is simply accidental poisoning with no malicious intent. And let’s be honest, he wouldn’t have been the first innocent person to confess to a crime and be executed for in it Tudor England.
Could a case for mere food poisoning really be made here? That would depend on if there is a record of Rouse himself getting sick. For what cook neglects to sample his own soup during its stages of creation, assuring himself that it’s fit to be eaten by his master and his guests? If it can be determined that Rouse remained unvexed by the soup, then the better question to ask is CUI BONO?
Rouse’s statement that laxatives were used as a prank seems a weak CYA tactic. Is it known how long Mr. Rouse was kept in the bishop’s employment before this all went down? My intuition says that if Rouse was smart enough to cook for a bishop for any length of time, he was smart enough to refrain from dangerous and juvenile gags, even if he was a joker by nature. However, longstanding employees can be bribed. And if it can be verified that Rouse was a recent addition to the bishop’s staff, it can be argued that the cook was a plant by some anti-Catholic faction. Nobody except a profound simpleton would undertake such a perilous misdeed UNLESS he was well compensated and promised protection from the law. However, as is the case with a lot of hired guns, protection was not forthcoming.
I think a strong case can argued that this was indeed an assassination plot against Fisher. Although nothing can be proven beyond a shadow of a doubt, the Boleyns are certainly top suspects in the question of CUI BONO. They were an extremely powerful family at a time of cut-throat court politics which can be likened to that of ancient Rome. Perhaps the Boleyns believed they were too powerful to be toppled as a lot of mob bosses believe themselves to be in the present day. And perhaps like a lot of mob bosses, they held the condescending attitude that those of lesser ranks ought to be the ones to take the brunt of the pay-back. Perhaps they even had King Henry’s approval in this scheme and felt untouchable because of it, for certainly the king saw Fisher as a great nuisance….although there is absolutely no way of knowing any of this. I also find it curious that AB would message the bishop imploring him to look out for his health, as it was discussed upthread. Really….Was this something that AB had commonly done, to write letters to her opponents showing “concern” for their well-being? Strange. This sounds like a sly threat to me, but in all fairness, she cannot be convicted by that alone.
This is my first post here…I’ve immensely enjoyed the good chunk of time that I’ve spent lurking here in the last couple of days. I hope that my less than flattering views of the Tudors and those that fluttered about them don’t rub anyone the wrong way. I really like this site! 🙂
The boiling scene in the Tudors was shocking but wrong. In reality Rouse was taken to Smithfield, put in a large cauldron of cold water which was then slowly brought to the boil. It would have taken hours for him to die. He was held in place by an iron collar around his neck which was attached to two long poles which were held by two men to keep him from struggling too much. A truly horrible death and one that shows what a sadistic maniac Henry VIII was.
Yikes! thanks for that … no really …
As disgusting as it is, it’s best to know the truth …
I’m fairly new to this whole Tudor story, and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading this thread. I’ve read some P. Gregory (who’s a little to soap-opera-ey for me) and a little Alison Wier (who can be extremely detailed which I like but can understand if someone doesn’t). I’ve just watched the first season of “The Tudors.” Can’t say I’m looking forward to the boiling scene … but thanks, all, for the warning. I saw where a tour guide in England likened H.VIII to Elvis: starts out a sexy rock star, and turns into an overweight weird-o. I don’t think that’s exactly fair to Elvis, but I get the point.
I don’t understand why the Tudor series re-enacted his execution by showing him dying in a execution chamber as opposed to publicly outside as it actually happened. Got to love Hollywood for their constant inaccuracies in history.