Richard Roose

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Richard Roose (or Rouse) (died 1531) was a cook to John Fisher, bishop of Rochester, who was executed for attempting to poison Fisher. Roose was the first person in England executed by being boiled to death.

According to one of Fisher's earliest biographers, Richard Hall, Richard Roose came into the Bishop's kitchen and put poison into the gruel which was prepared for the Bishop's dinner. When the Bishop was called into his dinner, he had no appetite. Instead, his guests and servants ate the poisoned meal. "One gentleman, named Mr. Bennet Curwen and an old widow, died suddenly, and the rest never recovered their health till their dying day".[1]

Roose was soon apprehended, and admitted to adding what he believed were laxatives to the meal as a "jest." No one believed him.

Ambassador Eustace Chapuys wrote a slightly different version of the story to his master, Charles V, the nephew of Catherine of Aragon: "They say that the cook, having been immediately arrested... confessed at once that he had actually put into the broth some powders, which he had been given to understand would only make his fellow servants very sick without endangering their lives or doing them any harm. I have not yet been able to understand who it was who gave the cook such advice, nor for what purpose."

Thomas More, the chancellor, informed Henry VIII that people were quick to blame Anne Boleyn for the poisoning, saying that she and her father and brother, Thomas Boleyn and George Boleyn, had bribed Roose to poison the soup to get rid of Fisher, and that her father had even provided Roose with the poison. The king reacted angrily, saying Anne Boleyn was unfairly blamed for everything, including the weather.

Henry VIII decided that Roose should be condemned by attainder without a trial. This was an unusual measure, since attainder was used for criminals who were at large. Roose, however, had been already arrested. The Parliament of England passed "An Acte for Poysoning," making willful murder by means of poison high treason, even if the victim was not the head of the government of the land. Boiling to death became the punishment for this crime.

The new law was applied to Richard Roose (an example of ex post facto law). He was boiled to death at Smithfield on April 5, 1531. According to an eyewitness: "He roared mighty loud, and divers women who were big with child did feel sick at the sight of what they saw, and were carried away half dead; and other men and women did not seem frightened by the boiling alive, but would prefer to see the headsman at his work."

This yere was a coke boylyd in a cauderne in Smythfeld for he wolde a powsyned the bishop of Rochester Fycher with dyvers of hys servanttes, and he was lockyd in a chayne and pullyd up and downe with a gybbyt at dyvers tymes tyll he was dede.

Chronicle of the Grey Friars of London, 1531 

From the time that Queen Catharine was defended so stoutly and learnedly by the Bishop of Rochester she did seek by all means his destruction. One Richard Rice, a cook, was suborned to poison him, and he knew no other way to do it than to poison the common pot, which was for the whole household of the bishop. It chanced that that day according to his custom the bishop came not to dine in the parlour, but most of his family that dined there were poisoned and died thereof. Rice the cook being discovered did confess it and was publicly put to death for it.--The Life of Jane Dormer, Duchess of Feria

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