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

On this day in 1531, Richard Roose (or Rouse), Bishop John Fisher’s cook, was boiled to death after confessing to poisoning the soup (or porridge) 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.

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 he 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. It would have been a slow and painful death.

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