Once pardoned, twice beheaded

It was on this day of 9 September in 1238 that Henry III and Eleanor of Provence were in residence at Woodstock Palace just north of Oxford. That evening, after they retired to the queen’s chamber, all the attendants went to sleep save for a single handmaiden reading devotional works by candlelight. Suddenly she heard a racket and saw a figure emerge from the shadows holding a knife. This would-be assassin had crawled through an open window into the king’s chamber, but finding the bed inside empty, he began wandering the halls in search of the royal presence. When the handmaiden raised the alarm, he was tracked down and apprehended after some struggle. He turned out to be the same man who earlier in the day had accused the king of usurping the throne from him. Declaring the man insane, Henry forbade his guards to beat or molest him. Now he got no pity and was drawn and hanged in Coventry. Henry ordered all the windows at the palace to be barred, even had a grille placed over the outflow of his latrine, because you never know. And there was more excitement that night. A little over nine months later, the future King Edward I was born.

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