Thursday, 24 February 2011

Clever King

During the 1600s, it was thought that the touch of the British monarch had curative properties. It is said that Charles II touched a hundred thousand subjects during his reign (more than 8,000 in 1662 alone).

William III was rightfully more skeptical of his own role as a healer, and could be persuaded to touch only one sufferer during his reign, whom he advised "God give you better health and more sense."

Source: "Forgotten English", Jeffrey Kacirk, 1999

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Buried Alive Hoax, 1929

A man who called himself Marcel Clement, the Marquis of Champaubert (real name: Clement Passal) had been trying to sell his memoirs of his life of crime, but had met with little success so he struck upon a plan to make his biography more appealing. He invented a story in which he’d been kidnapped and tortured by a secret society, sending out letters from this society to newspapers in the hope they’d pick up the story.

The culmination of the plan was to have himself buried alive and for journalists to find him and disinter him, still alive. He and a fellow criminal, Henri Boulogne, successfully completed a dress rehearsal in which Clement had remained in the coffin (fitted with an air tube) for nine hours.

Despite the newspapers ignoring the letters they sent out, they decided to see the plan to its completion. At a rented villa near Versailles, Henri was given the letters to post and buried Clement in his coffin. However, exhausted by all the work, Henri then fell into a deep sleep and when he awoke he sent off the letters in a rush. Later on he went to check on Clement, but when there was no reply through the air tube, he feared the worst and ran away.

Meanwhile, the newspapers received the letters, informed the police and the body was exhumed. It was found that Clement had suffocated, and that the air tube fitted was not adequate.Henri was captured, tried and sentenced to three months in jail. The report from the Times, 7 October 1929, ends with:

“The grim irony of Passal’s fate is given greater prominence in the Press than has been accorded to any criminal event in recent years so that the vain desires of the psuedo-Marquis de Champaubert have been fulfilled. Unfortunately for him, even this measure of gratification has come too late.”

Source, The Times, 07/10/1929 and 05/12/1929

Sunday, 20 February 2011

The Tale of Thomas Arden

I haven’t been writing any comic strips for a while, but instead of leaving this blog lying unused, I thought I’d just type up any curious bits and bobs that I find while looking around the library.

The first entry is about a man called Thomas Arden (1508-1551) whose wife needed seven attempts and ten conspirators to murder him. Thomas had married into a powerful family, and so when his wife, Alice, had an affair, he put up with it just so he’d retain access to her family.

1. She asked a painter from Faversham to concoct a poison, but although Thomas fell ill, he didn’t die.

2. John Greave (who had previously argued with Thomas over a property issue) offered a £10 bounty on Anne’s behalf to a man named Black Will (an ex-soldier). Black Will was to murder Thomas at St Paul’s, but there were too many people around.

3. Thomas Arden’s servant was asked to leave the back door open, so that Black Will could get in and kill Thomas in the night. But the servant, Michael Saunderson, was too afraid of Black Will and would not let him in.

4. Black Will was told to murder Thomas as he journeyed back to Faversham, but Thomas was accompanied by a number of gentlemen.

5. Alice tricked Thomas into going to see Sir Thomas Cheyne at Shurland. The plan was that Black Will and his accomplice George Shakbay would ambush him on the way. Unfortunately due to the mist they waited for him in the wrong place.

6. A man called T Morsby picked a quarrel with Thomas Arden, but he refused to fight.

7. Lastly they successfully attacked Thomas while he was at home, playing a table game with T. Morsby. Morsby, Black Will and Alice all inflicted wounds upon him. After the murder, they hosted a party for visitors from London, before hiding the body in the snow. The body was soon found, and Morsby and Alice were arrested.

Eventually, all conspirators were executed. Black Will, Morsby and his sister were hanged, Alice burned, and Saunderson was hung, drawn and quartered.