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Unnatural Murder: Poison at the Court of…

Unnatural Murder: Poison at the Court of James I (edition 1997)

by Anne Somerset

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244447,176 (3.55)5
Title:Unnatural Murder: Poison at the Court of James I
Authors:Anne Somerset
Info:W&N (1997), Edition: First, Hardcover, 416 pages
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Unnatural Murder : Poison at the Court of James I by Anne Somerset


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The most interesting side of this book is not the murder of Thomas Overbury, or the MacBeth like nature of the Earl of Somerset and his wife, Frances. This tawdry affair, which may, or may not even have been murder,becomes a side show to the corruption of James I's court - and, one suspects, the entire courtly system. English law was at an early stage of development and, once a person had been arraigned by the King, he or she was almost inevitably guilty. The Earl of Somerset was the lover of James I and the imprisoning of Overbury in the Tower of London was at James' behest seemingly, to allow his lover to take Frances as his wife. Overbury threatened to cause problems concerning Frances' divorce from her first husband.

The trial of those accused of involvement in Overbury's murder would be considered totally unacceptable by modern standards; hearsay was not only allowed, it provided the main stay of the "evidence". Lower ranking parties - the gaoler and apothecary were hanged whilst the Earl and Countess would have escaped with little blemish had Somerset not been so arrogant as to challenge the King's settlement upon him post the royal pardon.

Until the last chapter, I was unaware that this event had been such a major event in British, indeed, World history at this date. I was much more interested in the deceit prevalent in James' court and the strange legal system then in place. We may feel that cynicism and satire are rated too highly today, when no act or person can be considered truly noble, but it is even more frightening to view the obverse whereby, nobody dared to suggest that the King's actions could be in anyway questionable.

This book, as one would expect of a tome penned by Anne Somerset, succeeds in laying out the facts, as best they can be accrued at this remove, and allowing the reader to make any judgements. As usual, this is a fascinating read and a useful book for anyone hoping to understand life in Britain in the seventeenth century. ( )
  the.ken.petersen | Feb 28, 2013 |
Boring!!!! ( )
  ramrak | Sep 9, 2011 |
Picked this up at the London meetup - "a story rich in passion and intrigue and a murder mystery." My kind of book!

Took a wee bit of time to get into this book as my kowledge of this era of history is not so extensive, but once I got stuck in, I really got drawn in. This is the history of a fascinating case of murder, intrigue, classwar and of the Royal house of the day. Very well researched, but also accesible book. I especially was grateful for the final segment of the book, which dealt with the fates of the main players, something that is often missing. ( )
  soffitta1 | Dec 31, 2010 |
A murder mystery at the Court of James I. Well researched though somewhat partisan (the author is a Somerset, decendant of one of the protagonists)this is a fascinating account of the corruption and power-broking at the highest level in 17th century England. ( )
  herschelian | Jan 21, 2006 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0753801981, Paperback)

In the autumn of 1615 the Earl and Countess of Somerset were detained on suspicion of having murdered Sir Thomas Overbury. The arrest of these leading court figures created a sensation. The Countess was both young and beautiful: the Earl was one of the richest and most powerful men in the kingdom, having risen to prominence as the male 'favourite' of the monarch James I. In a vivid narrative, Anne Somerset unravels these extraordinary events, which were widely regarded as an extreme manifestation of the corruption and vice which disfigured the court during this period. It is at once a story rich in passion and intrigue and a murder mystery, for, despite the guilty verdicts, there is much about Overbury's death that remains enigmatic. The Overbury murder case profoundly damaged the monarchy, and constituted the greatest court scandal in English history.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:06:45 -0400)

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