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parrot_knight [userpic]

Continuity in history

September 5th, 2008 (12:53 pm)
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While you might be familiar with the various plans the CIA are said to have had to discredit or kill Fidel Castro, such as poisoning his boot polish, this was by no means a new strategy. I've just come across an alleged scheme in 1688 in which James II, his chief minister the second Earl of Sunderland, and religious adviser Father Benjamin Petre, were believed to have persuaded the Prince of Orange's tailor, a Roman Catholic, to poison the prince's waistcoat and thereby prevent his invasion of England. I very much doubt James had the perspicacity or the cynicism to allow this, and the mention of Father Petre indicates a story which has been through the rumour mill of alarmist protestantism; but it sheds light on the mood of the opposition to James at the time.


Posted by: wellinghall (wellinghall)
Posted at: September 5th, 2008 12:02 pm (UTC)

I'm interested. And intrigued, wondering how a poisoned waistcoat would work - I will check the multiple definitions in the OED, and see if any of them were worn next to the skin.

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: September 5th, 2008 12:04 pm (UTC)

The cuffs at least would probably have touched the skin - I believe waistcoats at this period had long sleeves which extended beyond the shirt, over the wrists and were then folded as cuffs.

(The source for the anecdote in the post is a transcription made by Thomas Carte in the eighteenth century of a letter written not long after the event by an army officer, Ambrose Norton.)

Edited at 2008-09-05 12:06 pm (UTC)

Posted by: wellinghall (wellinghall)
Posted at: September 5th, 2008 12:08 pm (UTC)

The OED does indeed say, "The earliest waistcoats ... were sometimes provided with sleeves."

Posted by: malaheed (malaheed)
Posted at: September 5th, 2008 02:20 pm (UTC)

Was it not a popular device at the time to try and poison via the clothing. I recall accusations during Gloriana's reign, and also against one of the kings of france from a similar period. But I'm at work and not able to look up the details

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: September 5th, 2008 03:23 pm (UTC)

I don't remember any other examples but I wouldn't be surprised to find them. I have a better memory for stabbings, and an even better ones for marriages and unlicensed sexual liaisons.

Posted by: daniel_saunders (daniel_saunders)
Posted at: September 5th, 2008 05:58 pm (UTC)
Radcliffe Camera

I seem to recall Elizabeth I had someone executed for allegedly trying to poison her saddle.

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: September 5th, 2008 10:53 pm (UTC)

Many thanks for this. I'll have to look it up, as I've not heard it before and I am curious.