Murder, Mayhem and a very small Penis

Medieval murderMurder, mayhem and a very small penis: motives for revenge in the 1375 murder of William Cantilupe, great-great nephew of St. Thomas of Hereford

By Frederik Pedersen

Paper given at the Institute of Historical Research, 09 November 2012

Introduction: On a Friday evening in the spring of 1375, William Cantilupe, a knight of the relatively young age of thirty and the great-great-nephew of St Thomas of Hereford, was murdered by members of his household. His murder, which took place in his wife’s family manor in Scotton in Lincolnshire, marked the final stage of the fall of the house of Cantilupeas a major baronial family in medieval England. However, although the legal records of the subsequent murder trials have been known since 1936 and the motives for the murder have been the subject of much speculation, we have hitherto been unable to understand the motives behind the involvement of Sir Ralph Paynel, powerful nobleman and a retainer of noless than two of the most powerful nobles in late fourteenth-century England, John of Gauntand Sir Thomas Roos. As we shall see, this Lincolnshire murder case is spectacular in itsmixture of sexual and secular motives and its final resolution and the complex interactionsof the main protagonists in the decades preceding the crime make this particular murder, which was one of the first to be tried under the Statute of Treasons, worth considering morefully. In this paper we shall combine a re-examination of the murder of William Cantilupe with a case initiated seven years earlier between his brother, Nicholas and Nicholas’ wifewhich was heard by the consistory court in York in 1368-70. The latter case has not previously been linked to the murder of William Cantilupe, but it adds startling newinformation about a pre-existing conflict between the Cantilupe and Paynel families that can be traced back for almost two decades.

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Please see also our interview with Frederik Pedersen on this case:

See also: Erectile dysfunction in the Middle Ages – historian examines medieval impotence cases

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