Harry Eberhardt has crappy luck. He’s now the sex slave of Dr. Candy Knox, who takes “dressing down” to mean dressing ugly or not at all. He needs to communicate with Abigail Lane, who’s been dead for the better part of a century. And he needs to keep Persephone Désirée Arabia Nightfeather Sanderson from her nasty fate . . . if only he knew what that fate is! There’s one thread binding together all these issues, “The morality of magic,” in chapter 13 of Magician’s Misfortune, my weekly serial about a demon-slayer working for the government who is getting in way over his head. If you’ve not been reading it before, you can start at the beginning; chapters are hyperlinked to each other for easy reading.
The painting below sums up some of the threads in this chapter, but deserves more of an explanation that I can fit in a caption. Eleanor Cobham (c. 1400 – 1452) was the attractive daughter of a baron who arranged for her to be a lady in waiting to Jacqueline, the Duchess of Gloucester. As sometimes happen, Eleanor attracted the attention of her lady’s husband, Humphrey, who was not only Duke of Gloucester, but uncle to King Henry VI. Humphrey first took Eleanor as his mistress, and then had his marriage to Jacqueline annulled so he could marry Eleanor in 1428.
Eleanor was now Duchess of Gloucester, rich and powerful. But her husband had many political enemies, and they looked for a way to engineer his downfall. Sadly, Eleanor provided them with a pretext: she’d gotten involved with magic. She’d consorted with the Witch of Eye and obtained an astrological forecast of the king’s life, which showed a serious illness in his future. The word got out, and those involved were arrested in 1441. The Witch of Eye was burned at the stake, and while one of the astrologers died in the Tower, the other was hanged, drawn, and quartered. Eleanor was forced to divorce her husband and do penance before being imprisoned for the rest of her life. Her husband retired from politics in disgrace, and died in 1447 before he could be tried for treason.
The painting shows Eleanor doing her penance. It was executed by Edwin Austen Abbey (1852 – 1911), best known for his murals on the Quest for the Holy Grail in the Boston Public Library. Abbey, who did many painting based on Shakespearean scenes, probably knew the story from the inaccurate version in Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Part II.