By her marriage in about 1430 Eleanor Cobham (born circa 1400) became the Duchess of Gloucester and thereby one of the most prominent women in English society. She married Humphrey three years after his first marriage was declared invalid. She had been an attendant to Jacqueline, Countess of Hainaut, the first wife of Humphrey, and had also been Humphrey’s mistress during his first marriage.
As the second wife of the Duke of Gloucester, Eleanor was often been described as ambitious and arrogant, but whether in fact she was thus or just typecast thus by historians would now be difficult to determine.
Other commentators have commented that Eleanor was ambitious and gullible, and that she allowed malicious and manipulative persons to tempt her and her household sufficiently along the path of necromancy and treason so as to quash the political influence of her husband – an influence that, in fact, was eventually quashed, whatever were the combination of factors involved.
Eleanor was thrilled when, in 1435, her husband became heir to England's throne (to the so-far-childless Henry VI) upon the death of his elder brother, John of Lancaster, the First Duke of Bedford. At this point, Eleanor began to consult several astrologers in an attempt to find out if her husband would ever become king.
These astrologers included Thomas Southwell (Eleanor’s personal physician) and Roger Bolingbroke - both respected and well-educated clergymen - and a witch named Margery Jourdemayne.
Southwell was a canon of St Stephen’s Chapel in the Palace of Westminster, and Rector of St Stephen’s, Walbrook, London. He was probably the personal physician to the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester.
Bolingbroke was a member of the Duke’s household, and a personal clerk to the Duchess. He was an astronomer, an astrologer, and probably also a necromancer.
Although it was not uncommon in those days to consult astrologers, many in the king's court did not think highly of the predictions that these particular ones made, i.e., that the king would become sick and die in the approaching twentieth year of his reign in 1442.
On 28th June 1441 Eleanor was formally accused of conspiring with these two scholars of the ducal household, Roger Bolingbroke and Thomas Southwell, and with a woman, the so-called Witch of Eye (Ebury Manor, near Westminster), Margery Jourdemayne, to secure the death of Henry VI so that her husband could become King.
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