Cases of Magic in Medieval England

These two examples are excerpts from The History of the Inquisition of the Middle Ages by Henry Charles Lea:

“While Bishop Ledrede was busy at this good work a trial occurred in England which illustrates the difference in efficiency between the ecclesiastical methods of trial by torture and those of the common law. Twenty-eight persons were accused of employing John of Nottingham and his assistant, Richard Marshall of Leicester, to make wax figures for the destruction of Edward II., the two Despensers, and the Prior of Coventry, with two of his officials who had tyrannized over the people and had been sustained by the royal favorites. Richard Marshall turned accuser, and the evidence was complete. The enormous sums of twenty pounds to Master John and fifteen pounds to Richard had been promised, and they had been furnished with seven pounds of wax and two ells of canvas. From September 27, 1324, until June 2, 1325, the two magicians labored at their work. They made seven images, the extra one being experimental, to be tried on Richard de Sowe. On April 27 they commenced operating with this by thrusting a piece of lead into its forehead, when at once Richard de Sowe lost his reason and cried in misery until May 20, when the lead was transferred to his breast, and he died May 23. The accused pleaded not guilty and put themselves on the country. An ordinary jury trial followed, with the result that they were all acquitted.”

“Even as late as 1372 a man was arrested in Southwark with the head and face of a corpse in his possession, and a book of magic was found in his trunk. Tried before the Inquisition he would infallibly have confessed under torture a series of misdeeds and have ended at the stake; but he was brought before Sir J. Knyvet, in the King’s Bench. No indictment even was found against him; he was simply sworn not to practise sorcery and was discharged, but the head and book were burned at Tothill at his expense.”

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