The Tryal of 1613

Today, I attended the funeral for David’s grandfather who just passed away. It is strange to think that he just married us in Florida less than two months ago. He was a very good man.
I feel like a criminal, because I have so much school work to do that I have to stay here at David’s parents’ house and work on my rare book project instead of spending time this afternoon with David’s family. I feel like an even bigger criminal because I am wasting time writing on my blog when I should be working on this project.
The book that I am reviewing in the UW Law Library’s rare book collection is entitled The case of impotency, as debated in Engliand, in that remarkable tryal, 1613, between Robert, Earl of Essex, and the Lady Frances Howard, who, after eight years of marriage, commenc’d a suit against him for impotency. The edition that the library owns is actually the third edition, printed in 1719. It is a fascinating trial, covered word for word from early Stuart England. Wow, perhaps the public’s obssession with the minute details in the lives of the rich and the famous isn’t such a recent phenomenon. Today’s celebrities ate yesterday’s nobility, and I can’t help but feel like I am reading some 17th century version of TMZ when I look at this book.
Only the difference for me is that the tale of the Earl of Essex and Lady Frances Howard impacted the King of England. After the divorce was granted, Lady Howard went on to marry James I’s favorite, the Earl of Somerset. She also was convicted of killing on of the major witnesses in the impotency trial, that could have perhaps ruined her chances of getting her divorce. But since the King of England loved her husband, he pardonned her, and saved her from execution. For whatever reason though, her husband lost his favor with the King and was ultimately replaced by George Villiers as the king’s favorite.
The Earl of Essex, his manhood questioned in such a public fashion, went on to distinguish himself on that ultimate field of manhood, the battlefield.
Sometimes history is more than valour, victory and defeat on the battlefield. It is the old feminist mantra that plays in my head over and over like a broken record – the personal is the political, the personal is the political, the personal is the political.
The legacies that we leave…

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