Gloucester, Duchess of (Eleanor Cobham)(d. ca. 1443)

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Gloucester, Duchess of (Eleanor Cobham)(d. ca. 1443)

Wife of Humphrey of Gloucester, who was uncle of Henry VI and lord protector of England during the king's minority. Although Humphrey was very popular in England, he was not without enemies, and one of the most bitter of these was Henry Beaufort, cardinal of Winchester, great-uncle to the king. Beaufort brought a charge of witchcraft against the duchess of Gloucester, hoping thus to destroy her husband's power as the actual head of the realm and heir to the throne in the event of the king's death.

It was supposed that the duchess had first resorted to witchcraft in order to gain the affections of Humphrey. When she became his second wife and the death of the duke of Bedford had removed all but one barrier between her and a crown, she set about to secretly remove that barrierthe unfortunate king.

To assist in her plot, she was said to have sought the advice of Margery Jourdain (the Witch of Eye), Roger Bolingbroke, Thomas Southwell, and Fr. John Hun, a priest. All five were accused of summoning evil spirits and plotting to destroy the king. They were also suspected of making a waxen image, which was slowly melted before a fire in the expectation that as the image was consumed the king would also waste away.

The five were tried. Father Hun turned informer and was pardoned. Bolingbroke was publicly humiliated, then hanged and drawn and quartered. Southwell died in prison, Margery Jourdain was burned as a witch, and in 1441 the duchess of Gloucester was disgraced and sentenced to walk through the streets of London on three separate occasions bearing a lighted taper in her hand and attended by the lord mayor, sheriffs, and others.

She was imprisoned for life, first in Chester Castle, then (from October 1443) in Kenilworth. She died around 1443.

Early in 1443 Humphrey had set out for parliament in the hope of securing a pardon for the duchess, but he was arrested on suspicion of treason and died in custody. Known as "Good Duke Humphrey," he is remembered chiefly for his love of books; he made generous gifts to the library of Oxford University.

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Gloucester, Duchess of (Eleanor Cobham)(d. ca. 1443)

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