February 18, 1478

On February 18, 1478, George Plantagenet, Duke of Clarence,  House of York was executed by his older brother and King of England, Edward IV, for treason. His manner of death? It is rumored that  he was drowned in a butt of Malmsey wine. This was a very ‘Game of Thrones’ death. How did a once staunch supporter of his brother, Edward IV, become convicted of treason? He allowed his father-in-law, Richard Neville, the Kingmaker, to ply him with sweet, sweet words of power about how he would do better under a different king, maybe  even eventually become king, and convinced him to him to switch sides from the Yorks to the Lancasters, with him. When George was subsequently confronted by his brothers Edward IV and Richard III, he immediately felt remorse and switched back and helped them defeat the Lancasters. George wasn’t a bad person, as 15th century English nobility went. He did have an innocent woman hanged because his alcoholic paranoia convinced him she poisoned his wife, but who hasn’t done that after coming off a red-wine hangover? But his brother Edward never really trusted him again. Good old Edward had one of Georgie’s trusted retainers arrested, Oxford astronomer Dr. John Stacey and had his torturers extract a confession from Dr. Stacey. Johnny Boy claimed that he and two others ‘imagined and compassed’ the death of the King by the ‘black arts’. Stacey and the two unfortunate men, Thomas Burdett and Chaplain Thomas Blake were quickly tried and found guilty and sentenced to be hanged. Thomas Blake was spared at the last minute by a plea from the Bishop of Norwich, but the other two were killed as ordered. Angry, George sent Dr. John Goddard, a Lancaster, to Parliament to protest the innocence of the two men, which was a mistake. First, Goddard was a Lancaster, and the Lancasters had just been defeated in their bid for the Throne. Second, if didn’t matter how trumped up and ridiculous the charges were against Stacey and Burdett, by defending men convicted as traitors, Edward could now accuse George of treason, which he did. And found him guilty. And sentenced him to die. Being Game of Thronish and an alcoholic, it is rumored, and probably true, that George demanded he be drowned in a butt of Malmsey, his very favorite wine and died at the tender age of 29. I wonder if George RR Martin ever envisioned Tyrion Lannister dying this way?

About Joel Byers

Born in North Georgia and educated at some very fine public institutions. Real education started after graduating from college and then getting married and raising two boys. Has the ability to see the funny and absurd in most things and will always remark on it, even if it means getting the stink-eye from his victims.
This entry was posted in 15th Century, Historical Facts and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to February 18, 1478

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *