THE OVERBURY AFFAIR by Miriam Allen DeFord


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The mysterious death of Thomas Overbury, poet, essayist, ex-secretary and mentor of Robert Carr, Earl of Somerset (the favorite of King James I of England) in the London Tower in 1613 launched a scandalous and dramatic trial. This is the story of that trial, of the events which preceded it, and the events to which it gave rise. Beside the alleged murderer, Robert Carr, and the alleged murderess, his wife, the beautiful Frances Howard, the trial implicated such noted personages as the King, Ben Jonson, Sir Francis Bacon, and the Earl of Essex. Driven by ambition and lust, the beautiful Frances, first wife to Essex and later wife of the King's favorite, brooked no resistance to her plans to marry Robert. In her way stood the brilliant Overbury, impediment to all her dreams of power and love. Wilful and persuasive, Frances had Overbury dispatched to the Tower, and then, as it is believed, proceeded to feed him on a diet of sweets and tarts, the ingredients of which were ground glass, arsenic, corrosive acids, and other lethal condiments. It is not certain exactly by whose hand the fatal dosage was administered, but after months of imprisonment--the penalty of resisting the Howard influence over the man he virtually controlled--Overbury succumbed. For his death many walked to the gallows and the lives of the chief protagonists were ruined. An exciting documented account of the reign of James I and the curious legal procedures that flourished then.

Pub Date: March 10th, 1960
Publisher: Chilton