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Unnatural Murder: Poison In The Court Of James I: The Overbury Murder

Anne Somerset

2 Reviews

Rated 0

Prose: non-fiction, British & Irish history, Early modern history: c 1450/1500 to c 1700

Royal scandal, set against the background of the Jacobean court, involving love, bribery, poison, treachery and black magic - 'a hugely enjoyable book' (Lucy Hughes-Hallet).

'Wonderfully dramatic ... Probably the juiciest court scandal of the past 500 years' Christopher Hudson, Daily Mail
'A sordid yet fascinating story' Antonia Fraser, The Times

In the autumn of 1615 the Earl and Countess of Somerset were detained on suspicion of having murdered Sir Thomas Overbury. The arrest of these leading court figures created a sensation. The young and beautiful Countess of Somerset had already achieved notoriety when she had divorced her first husband in controversial circumstances. The Earl of Somerset was one of the richest and most powerful men in the kingdom, having risen to prominence as the male 'favourite' of England's homosexual monarch, James I.

In the coming weeks it was claimed that, after sending Sir Thomas Overbury poisoned tarts and jellies, the Somersets had finally killed him by arranging for an enema of mercury sublimate to be administered. In a vivid narrative, Anne Somerset unravels these extraordinary events, which were widely regarded as an extreme manifestation of the corruption and vice that disfigured the court during this period. It is, at once, a story rich in passion and intrigue and a murder mystery, for, despite the guilty verdicts, there is much about Overbury's death that remains enigmatic. Infinitely more than a gripping personal tragedy, the Overbury murder case profoundly damaged the monarchy, and constituted the greatest court scandal in English history.

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Praise for Unnatural Murder: Poison In The Court Of James I: The Overbury Murder

  • Wonderfully dramatic ... A gripping detective story that tells us more about the corruption, debauchery and naked power-plays of seventeenth-century life than anything I have read - DAILY MAIL

  • Anne Somerset gives us scandal in high places, as well as insights into a seamy underworld of quacks and witches, hustlers and go-betweens ... Both history and whodunnit, this is a hugely enjoyable book - DAILY TELEGRAPH

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Anne Somerset

Anne Somerset was born in 1955 and read history at King's College London. In 1980, her first book, THE LIFE AND TIMES OF WILLIAM IV, was published in Weidenfeld & Nicolson's KINGS AND QUEENS OF ENGLAND series. This was followed BY LADIES-IN-WAITING; a biography of Elizabeth I; UNNATURAL MURDER and THE AFFAIR OF THE POISONS. Her biography of Queen Anne, England's last Stuart monarch, was awarded the 2013 Elizabeth Longford Prize for Historical Biography.

Until his death in 2011, Anne Somerset was married to the artist Matthew Carr. She lives in London with her daughter.