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.

Related Post

32 thoughts on “The Boiling of Richard Roose – 5th April 1531”
  1. What a horrible death!!And I am sure it was a slow drown in boiling water,but he did poison two people.They were quick to lay blame on Anne,as always!

    1. As Baroness Von Reis rightly stated everything that went wrong was blamed on our poor Anne. I still am not able to understand why was she hated so much! Was it her immaculate personality and sophistication or her reformist views ? Whatever, I am a faithful admirer of Queen Anne Boleyn.

      1. Ashok Pate,It really all began with Henry V111,banishing Queen Katherine ,much beloved by the Kingdom.Henry had a domino effect ,when it came to his Queens!Anne really should have waited to marry the King ,after the divorce,thats when the hate for her really took off,had she waited ,I think she would have been more liked by the people.

        1. Thank you so much Baroness for casting some light on Anne being so hated. It seems emotions ran high amongst the masses of the time. Wth my limited knowledge, I thought Henry was pestering Anne day in and day out to marry her and she resisted til she could -” mistress I will not, marry I cannot” – her famous lines resonates loud and clear. What else do you think can be other important reasons for the hate?

      2. Ashok Patel,There were many reasons,as I said Queen Kate was much loved,Henry’s break from Rome,kiling off all of his friends,banishing Wolsey.Beheading, Sir Thomas More ect;ect;All I can say is keep up on,Claire’s site,aswell as your opioions and with all the AB Freinds and Claire’s books are a excellent source of factual infromation,if you have not had the chance to read them,I highly recommend them,you will learn sooo much. Kind Regards Baroness

      3. Anne was probably hated for the following reasons: justified or not—

        She was not Queen Katherine and she sought to replace her as Queen- the other woman is often seen as a home wrecker even though she did not haul herself at Henry- he pursued her.
        There were rumours that she wanted to and attempted to have Katherine and Mary poisoned- she did say she would kill Mary, but there is no evidence that she ever really would have or could have achieved such an action.
        Anne became haughty towards the gaining of her goal showing very little regard for Katherine’s status or her feelings- stating she did not care a fig about her and would rather see her hung than acknowledge her as mistress.
        Anne was given supreme precedence over other women in the royal family who deserved the honour more: the Kings sister, Mary, her daughters and the kings own daughter.
        Anne made personal enemies because she was to be Queen. She spread rumours about the Duke of Suffolk that he was sleeping with his daughter Lady Frances and he said that she was sleeping with Thomas Wyatt. She was to make a personal enemy of him and his friends, many of whom were her judges at her trial. If she went around making enemies then it is not a surprise that people did not like her.
        After she became Queen, she gave orders for the mistreatment of the Princess Mary and seemed to have too much influence over the King.
        As with the above she was even blamed for the deaths of Thomas More and Bishop John Fisher.
        Anne was blamed for many things simply because of whom she was and because she was having an affect on the King. Her reformist views would have also been her undoing by Catholic conservatives who did not like the changes that happened in the country because of the divorce. They should have blamed the King more, but perhaps they would not dare. As a woman and a subject Anne was an easy target by people who were jealous of her.
        Anne was probably blamed for a lot of things that she did not do or influence but when the world is turned upside down and you find yourself on the wrong side all of a sudden, what else are you meant to do? People were afraid of the changes that were happening in England, an England that was torn apart and transformed within six short years!

    2. I doubt if he drowned! He would have been dead long before he would have drowned!
      There is little doubt as to why AB would have been suspected of being behind this. Fisher was not a fan of hers by any stretch of the imagination and if you were around at the time, who would you have suspected of being behind it? Whether she had anything to do with it is, of course another matter.
      As for the posts regarding the horrific method of execution, that was the whole point! As for pontificating about the Middle East,it was not that long ago that people in the USA could witness a man being strapped into a chair and electrocuted, and all that that entailed. Who can throw the first stone?

        1. Sorry Baroness, I have just noticed your question: I have studied Anne for many years and my knowledge on her is accumulated over many years of reading, sources, research and recall. I first began researching Anne and other history in 1974; I have a good memory and recall most of what I have learnt. I cannot be specific but can recommend a number of good books on Anne if that helps: Eric Ives would be one, Hester Chapman the Challenge of Anne Boleyn, Marie Louise Bruce’s famous bio; Joanne Denny; David Starkey’s books on the six Queens, Also Died, Divorced: Beheaded: A Feminist Perspective on the six wives of henry VIII; variety of articles on this and other sites of course, the Boleyns and the Boleyn women by Elizabeth Norton, Alison Weir: the lady in the tower; six wives and so on, and many much older studies, some of them out of print. I have also studied many of the original sources and journals on Anne and her contemporaries. Hope helps; sorry so late; but just came back to this from a more recent post.

    1. Same here, I always shudder when I hear of deaths like this. How barbaric. Can you imagine if people were put to death this way in this day and age??

      1. Some of the more hard-core governments in the Middle East and Africa still do. Isn’t Saudi Arabia going to paralyze some man because he was responsible for paralyzing another person? It might be 2013, but we’re not so far from the barbaric practices of the 1500s.

        1. cyd525,Very true they still pratice such things not just the Sausdi’s, but most all of the middle east,they still stone women to death for adultry,if you steel they cut off the hand that did the deed.I shutter to think what else they do!

    1. Showtime was wrong about a great deal. The show was entertaining but not at all historically accurate, which is quite a shame because the REAL stories are much more interesting than the ones that they fabricated.

  2. I remember reading about this and in the course of forming an oppinion I decided that Ann had a lot of enemies because she was blamed for the devorce between Henry and Catherine. Catherine was loved by the people no one would hold the king responsible. I do not believe that the Boleyn famiily would lhave daired to poison anyone the whole family had to much to loose by being found out,. What Henry wanted, henry got by what ever means he deamed necessary.

  3. Although I do not believe any of the Boleyns had anything to do with it, I have to wonder if the poison wasn’t given to the poor cook by someone who thought they would be doing a great favor to Anne. Fisher was very outspoken against her and I’m sure she had admirers who wanted to impress her. I wonder if they didit and then did not brag about their act in fear of Henry.

    The horrible punishments of that time hold nothing to the punishments people are experiencing in Iraq, Iran and Saudi Arabia. A woman can be shot in the back of the head if her husband only suspects her of adultry (what woman would be stupid enough to commit adultry considering the outcome if caught?). Young girls – daughters are the chattel of their fathers and if raped they are the ones punished for seducing the man. Nothing is ever the man’s fault in these countries and frankly I am surprised there is not more “mysterious” deaths of men over there. There probably are a lot of women day dreaming about it! I can’t imagine going through life seeing the world through a veil, and having to do whatever my father or husband told me to do without question. Heck, my husband is surprised now if I even cook dinner!

    1. Totally agree with you about the legal system in Saudi.

      There are thousands of foreign serants (many Philipinos) working in the homes of the rich autocratic Saudis. They are sexually abused and if they “make a fuss” nobody cares if they just “disappear”. Servants are treated as disposable chattels.

      If a girl is abused by her father SHE is liable to be stoned to death for having sex outside marriage. It is assumed that she seduced her father. SICK.

  4. I think people still would have terrible executions on people if they had there way and there were not laws to prevent it, human kind has not changed it is only fashions, styles, development of medicine and science but human cruelty still runs riot, i only have to see some of the vitriol and spite and hatred of some people when they are discussion groups on internet pages, Western culture has made such things unacceptable but cruelty on enormous levels still goes on in other lands and the potential for such evils remains in many people sadly.

  5. well so far we in America aren’t boiling people and what proof was there that the Boleyns were in involved or Richard Roose, correct me but did he not confess under torture? Been al long time since i read about this one

  6. Gives me the shivvers just thinking about his form of execution.
    Was he lowered into boiling water as on the ‘Tudors’, or was the poor man slowly cooked?

  7. it was certainly no jolk and who ordered it, I believe he was lowared into the pot, but it has been a long time since i read the account that I don’t remember.

  8. Ann had her faults no doubt and why not point as many fingers at her as possible, henry would have left Catherine anyway, and he wanted sons for England, yet Ann produced one of the greatest queens in history.

  9. A terrible death, but if he really did mean to poison a servant of the crown and a royal official, or anyone else, then he was a murderer and the penalty for murder was death. In an age when all sorts of things had the death penalty attatched to them and some terrible and varied punishments were associated with them. Some were made specially to fit the crime, others varied by region, class, and who you had killed or offended. In the sad and very curious case of Richard Roose the penalty on the books in 1531 was that poisoners were boiled alive as they had put the method of murder into the food of the person that they were cooking for. Now, cooks were normally employed in large households or by the King, and the royal cook took an oath direct to the king and only did his food. Henry had his own personal chief in other words, and the bishop probably had a similar arrangement. It is most likely that Richard Roose was the personal cook for Bishop Fisher and well known in his household. To get him to poison his master after four or five years service, someone must have paid him, someone with power, someone with wealth, someone with a personal grudge against Bishop Fisher.

    That is the reason why people blamed the Boleyn faction. They had good reason to get rid of Bishop Fisher; he stood in the way of the divorce and the King wanting to be free from Rome. The Boleyns also hated him personally and as the two most powerful members of the Boleyn family, Lady Anne and Sir Thomas, her father were the prime suspects. Sir Thomas had access to a great deal of money. It would be easy for him to hire someone to murder Bishop Fisher and it is natural that people would also blame Anne Boleyn for the murder.

    Bishop Fisher had a few enemies, he did not have many, however, but the Boleyn family would certainly have been considered among the most obvious and the first to come under suspicion of hiring his servants to kill him. What is curious, however, is why would Richard Roose agree to such a stupid and dangerous act, knowing that he would die if caught? How would the Boleyns have gained access to this cook? This is where the conspiracy breaks down and where the evidence trail runs dry. As you say, there is no evidence to connect the Boleyn faction with the murder or attempt to kill Bishop Fisher so the mystery has to remain. It does make good speculation and drama, of course.

    It was still sad to see this horrible death; reading about it is one thing; seeing it portrayed is quite harrowing. Assuming the details are correct, it was terrible and very difficult hearing his screams. However, I am not so certain that many people would have had much sympathy for him. He had committed a terrible crime against a man of God, a man who was very well loved, it was attempted murder, and in an age when executions were entertainment, I am sorry to say but while having some personal sympathy for the man as a suffering human, the majority of people who witnessed this horrible death, would have thought the poor man deserved it.

  10. Henery VIII believed that if he died without a male heir England would be plunged into civil war should a Queen suceed him. The only historical precedent he had to go on was that which followed the death of Henry I whose only surviving legitimate child was the Empress Matilda. We all know of the chaos which followed. Henry wanted to avoid that eventuality. Henry was deeply religious and as was customary in those days tried to find a Divine reason for not having a son. It is sometimes forgotten that he was actually married to is first wife for almost twenty years. When Katherine failed to prodice a living son he felt God was punishing him for marrying his brother’s wife. When Anne similarly failed he felt this was punishment because of his sin against Katherine. After Anne’s death, although he married a further four times it was not unuusual. Jane died, Ann of Cleves never had the marriage consumated, Catherine Howard was definitely guilty of adultery, leaving Henry bitterly hurt, and Catherine Parr survivied him. By the standards of today it appears he was a cruel tyrant, but there does seem to be a certain logic in his sctions. Trev the Rev

Leave a Reply

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