Read Crowner Royal (Crowner John Mysteries) Online

Authors: Bernard Knight

Tags: #lorraine, #rt, #Devon (England), #Mystery & Detective, #Great Britain - History - Angevin period; 1154-1216, #Historical, #Coroners - England, #Fiction, #Police Procedural

Crowner Royal (Crowner John Mysteries)

BOOK: Crowner Royal (Crowner John Mysteries)
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Professor Bernard Knight, CBE, became a Home Office pathologist in 1965 and was appointed Professor of Forensic Pathology, University of Wales College of Medicine, in 1980. During his forty-year career with the Home Office, he performed over 25,000 autopsies and was involved in many high profile cases.

Bernard Knight is the author of twenty-three novels, a biography and numerous popular and academic non-fiction books.
Crowner Royal
is the thirteenth novel in the Crowner John Series.

You are welcome to visit his website at
www.bernardknight.homestead.com

 

Also by Bernard Knight
The Manor of Death
The Noble Outlaw
The Elixir of Death
Figure of Hate
The Witch Hunter
Fear in the Forest
The Grim Reaper
The Tinner’s Corpse
The Awful Secret
The Poisoned Chalice
Crowner’s Quest
The Sanctuary Seeker

CROWNER
ROYAL
 
Bernard Knight
 
 

LONDON • NEW YORK • TORONTO • SYDNEY

 

First published in Great Britain by Simon & Schuster UK Ltd, 2009
This edition published by Pocket Books, 2009
An imprint of Simon & Schuster UK Ltd
A CBS COMPANY

Copyright © Bernard Knight, 2009

This book is copyright under the Berne Convention.
No reproduction without permission.
® and © 1997 Simon & Schuster Inc. All rights reserved.
Pocket Books & Design is a registered trademark of Simon & Schuster Inc.

The right of Bernard Knight to be identified as author of this work has been asserted in accordance with sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988.

1 3 5 7 9 10 8 6 4 2

Simon & Schuster UK Ltd
1st Floor
222 Gray’s Inn Road
London WC1X 8HB

www.simonsays.co.uk

Simon & Schuster Australia
Sydney

A CIP catalogue record for this book is
available from the British Library

ISBN: 9781847372970

eBook ISBN: 9781847399816

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters,
places and incidents are either a product of the author’s
imagination or are used fictitiously.

Typeset by Rowland Phototypesetting Ltd,
Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk

Printed and bound in Great Britain by CPI Cox & Wyman,
Reading, Berkshire RG1 8EX

 
CONTENTS
 

Author’s Note

Maps

Glossary

CHAPTER ONE: In which Crowner John loses a corpse

CHAPTER TWO: In which Crowner John disagrees with a sheriff

CHAPTER THREE: In which the coroner meets an old comrade

CHAPTER FOUR: In which Crowner John takes a ride into the country

CHAPTER FIVE: In which Crowner John receives a welcome visitor

CHAPTER SIX: In which Crowner John comes across a corpse

CHAPTER SEVEN: In which Crowner John comes under suspicion

CHAPTER EIGHT: In which the coroner goes back to the Tower

CHAPTER NINE: In which Crowner John visits a brothel

CHAPTER TEN: In which a lady calls upon Crowner John

CHAPTER ELEVEN: In which Crowner John suffers a blow

CHAPTER TWELVE: In which Crowner John goes to a feast

CHAPTER THIRTEEN: In which Crowner John rides west

CHAPTER FOURTEEN: In which Crowner John returns to Westminster

CHAPTER FIFTEEN: In which Crowner John goes hunting

CHAPTER SIXTEEN: In which Crowner John draws his dagger

 
AUTHOR’S NOTE
 

In the twelfth century, the vital Exchequer of the Royal Council (the
Curia Regis
), which governed England, gradually moved from the old Saxon capital of Winchester to London. It was housed in the Palace of Westminster, which was also the main residence of the king – though when in England, the kings (especially Henry II and John) spent much of their time away from Westminster, progressing around the countryside with their huge court retinues.

William the Conqueror had first resided in the Great Tower (later known as the ‘Tower of London’), which he built to dominate the city, but he later moved into Edward the Confessor’s old palace at Westminster, depicted in the Bayeux Tapestry – though like most monarchs until John, he spent little time in England. His son William Rufus began rebuilding the palace and his huge Westminster Hall, dating from 1097–9, was the largest in Europe and is still in use today. For centuries, the rest of the palace grew piecemeal around it, several times being devastated by fire, which eventually caused Henry VIII to abandon it as a royal residence and move to the nearby Palace of Lesser Hall. The present huge edifice which houses Parliament, was the result of almost total rebuilding after the fire of 1834, Westminster Hall being virtually the sole survivor of the Norman structure, together with the crypt of St Stephen’s Chapel, which was the first home of the House of Commons.

The palace was only yards from the Confessor’s great abbey, between it and the river. In those days, before the Thames was confined within embankments, it was much wider and shallower, being fordable at low tide just above the palace at Horseferry. The whole area was marshy, often flooded, so Westminster was built on a gravel bank, known as Thorney Island because it was covered in brambles. A number of streams drained the marshes, such as the Tyburn, which formed the southern boundary of the Westminster settlement.

A small town grew up around the abbey and palace, which was less than two miles from the walled city of London. From Westminster, a country road passed through the village of Charing and along the Strand, past the New Temple of the Knights Templar to Ludgate, just across the Holbourn stream, later called the Fleet.

The exact topography of Westminster in the twelfth century is not precisely known, but archaeologists are still discovering traces, such as those found between 1991 and 1998 during excavations for the extension of the Jubilee Underground line. In addition to the many clerks, court officials and tradesmen who lived there, some of the Ministers of State had town houses, though others lived in the palace itself.

What is clear is the economic and political divide that existed between Westminster and the city, as it does to this day. The former was an administrative and monastic centre, whilst the fiercely independent city was the commercial hub of England, with the competition and jealousies between them never far below the surface. In the Middle Ages, the city was sometimes for, and sometimes against, the reigning monarch, as when they supported King Stephen against Empress Matilda or the barons against King John.

Relations with government were not always easy: the city demanded the right to appoint its own mayor in 1193, and in 1194 they did not accept the imposition of the coroner system, their two sheriffs carrying out these functions in the city and the county of Middlesex. At a distance of over 800 years, it is unclear how the jurisdiction of the Coroner of the Verge, around which this Crowner John story revolves, clashed with these other entrenched interests, but it seems likely that he did not have an easy time.

The Coroner of the Verge dealt with all cases within a twelve-mile radius of the court, wherever that might be on its frequent procession around England. Later, this office became known as ‘The Coroner to the Royal Household’, which in very recent times came into the public eye in relation to the controversial inquest into the death of Princess Diana.

One of the problems of writing a long series of historical novels, of which this is the thirteenth, is that regular readers will have become familiar with the background and the main characters and may become impatient with repeated explanations in each book. On the other hand, new readers need to be ‘brought up to speed’ to appreciate some of the historical aspects, so a Glossary is offered with an explanation of the medieval terms used, especially relating to the functions of the coroner, one of the oldest legal offices in England.

Any attempt to use ‘olde worlde’ dialogue in a novel of this early period would be as inaccurate as it would be futile, for in the late twelfth century, most people would have spoken Early Middle English, quite incomprehensible to us today. The ruling classes would have used Norman-French, while the language of the Church and virtually all writing was Latin. Few people could read and write, literacy being virtually confined to the few people who were clerics in holy orders. Only a minority of these clerics were ordained (bishops, priests and deacons), most being in ‘minor orders’, unable to celebrate mass, take confessions and give absolutions. These were clerks, lectors, sub-deacons and doorkeepers and there were even more ‘lay brothers’ who performed the menial work of religious institutions.

All the names of characters in the book are authentic, who are either actual historical persons or taken from the court rolls of the period. The only money in circulation would have been the silver penny, apart from a few foreign gold coins known as ‘bezants’. The average wage of a working man was about two pence per day and coins were cut into halves and quarters for small purchases. A ‘pound’ was 240 pence (100p) and a ‘mark’ 160 pence (66p), but these were nominal accounting terms, not actual currency.

 
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