A House in Gross Disorder: Sex, Law, and the 2nd Earl of by Cynthia B. Herrup

By Cynthia B. Herrup

Intercourse, privilege, corruption, and revenge--these are parts that we predict to discover splashed throughout modern-day tabloid headlines. yet in seventeenth century England, a intercourse scandal within which the 2d Earl of Castlehaven used to be carried out for crimes so terrible that "a Christian guy ought scarce to call them" threatened the very foundations of aristocratic hierarchy. In a home in Gross sickness, Cynthia Herrup offers a strikingly new interpretation either one of the case itself and of the sexual and social anxieties it solid into such daring aid. Castlehaven was once convicted of abetting the rape of his spouse and of committing sodomy along with his servants. greater than that, he stood accused of inverting the traditional order of his loved ones by means of reveling in instead of restraining the intemperate passions of these he used to be anticipated to rule and defend. Herrup argues that simply because an orderly residence used to be thought of either an instance and endorsement of aristocratic governance, the riotousness presided over by means of Castlehaven was once the main damning proof opposed to him. Castlehaven himself argued that he was once the sufferer of an impatient son, an unsatisfied spouse, and courtiers grasping for his lands. Eschewing uncomplicated conclusions approximately guilt or innocence, Herrup focuses as a substitute at the attention-grabbing felony, social and political dynamics of the case and its next retellings. In prose as riveting because the ethical and felony dramas it depicts, a home in Gross sickness reconsiders a scandal that also speaks to modern anxieties approximately intercourse, solid governance, and the position of legislations in regulating either.

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Extra resources for A House in Gross Disorder: Sex, Law, and the 2nd Earl of Castlehaven

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In the labyrinthine worlds of Whitehall and Westminster, however, charges of sodomy were often preemptive, emerging where a disruption of civic calm was threatened, but not yet realized. Most prominent men against whom there were public complaints of sodomy were never indicted for the crime; most accusations emerged alongside suspicions of other species of corruption. 28 Walter, Lord Hungerford, was condemned in July 1540 for committing sodomy with his servants, for knowingly harboring a supporter of the Pilgrimage of Grace (whom he retained as his chaplain instead of handing him over to the Privy Council), and for procuring a prediction of the time of King Henry VIII’s death.

But rape undermined a trust between men and women that most people saw as intrinsically delicate; sodomy, by weakening homosocial bonds in a society where so much of public life relied on male clientage and male patronage, more directly attacked the sinews of community. Sodomy was not a crime in common law, nor was it a secular crime at all until legislation against it was passed in the parliamentary session of 1533–34. 24 Although the law fitted easily among the legislative accomplishments of a reign that produced more new felonies and excluded more extant crimes from benefit of clergy than any other before the eighteenth century, it is best understood as part of the Henrician government’s assault on the authority of the Catholic Church.

By exploiting a long-held belief that priests were particularly dissolute and depriving the ecclesiastical courts of their authority over sodomy and bestiality, the act laid the ground for the expropriation of both the Church’s monastic properties and its moral jurisdiction. Buggery was the first crime explicitly to be taken away from the church courts. 25 Edward VI’s first Parliament modified the Henrician act, Mary I’s repealed it, and Elizabeth I’s restored it to its original (and then lasting) form.

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