The stories of four royal women, their lives intertwined by family and bound by persecution, unravel the history of witchcraft in fifteenth-century England.
Until the mass hysteria of the seventeenth century, accusations of witchcraft in England were rare. However, four royal women, related in family and in court ties—Joan of Navarre, Eleanor Cobham, Jacquetta of Luxembourg and Elizabeth Woodville—were accused of practicing witchcraft in order to kill or influence the king.
Some of these women may have turned to the “dark arts” in order to divine the future or obtain healing potions, but the purpose of the accusations was purely political. Despite their status, these women were vulnerable because of their gender, as the men around them moved them like pawns for political gains.
In Royal Witches, Gemma Hollman explores the lives and the cases of these so-called witches, placing them in the historical context of fifteenth-century England, a setting rife with political upheaval and war. In a time when the line between science and magic was blurred, these trials offer a tantalizing insight into how malicious magic would be used and would later cause such mass hysteria in centuries to come.
Gemma Hollman has a Master’s degree in Medieval History from the University of York. She runs the Just History Posts blog and Twitter account and has written for the British Numismatic Journal. She lives in Hertfordshire, England.