nonfiction

Medieval Murder ~ The Money Motive

Pen & Sword Books 2020

Chapter 4

Chapter 4 is the first of the ‘Motive’ chapters. Since no motive is recorded, and the assumption of a love triangle is the basis for the traditional interpretation of the case, the middle chapters of this book look at alternative ideas, and present them for the reader to consider alongside the evidence.

In this chapter, we follow the money: or rather, we look at material loss/gain. Who stood to gain by Sir William’s death, or lost out while he was alive?

Sir William and his older brother, Sir Nicholas IV de Cantilupe, inherited directly from their grandfather, Sir Nicholas, third Baron Cantilupe. While their father, William, was well provided for by his father, he was passed over for the title and lands in favour of his children, which wasn’t an unusual move. The de Strelleys, neighbours of the Cantilupes in Lincolnshire, did the same thing. While this could be a comment on his suitability, it’s more likely to be a way of making the grandchildren more attractive as marriage prospects for family allies, and perhaps part of the betrothal negotiations.

The chapter considers the likelihood of filicide, with William senior as a shadowy figure behind the scenes, although he was never indicted nor implicated in the case.

It also looks at what his widow was able to claim as her dower – very little, as it happened, and she only pursued what was rightfully hers through her third husband, John de Bussy, who outlived her.

Sir William did, however, retain certain castles that he inherited from his brother, who had refused to return them to the Paynells after the break-up of his disastrous marriage to Katherine. Is that why Sir Ralph Paynell was involved in the case? Or did he have other reasons too?

What do you think of material loss/gain as a motive for the murder? Grab a copy to read the case for yourself and see what you think!


Buy the book: direct from the publisher in hardback or eBook format, or from Amazon [UK / US, etc] AppleKobo and other eBook retailers.


Curiously, the story has not previously been the subject of a book, a deficiency that I am pleased to say has been corrected by Dr Melissa Julian-Jones with this volume – warmly recommended.

Ripperologist, July 2021, No. 169 – review by Paul Begg

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