The headsman does it, leaving his axe to one side but wearing his black mask over his face. He is a big man with strong big hands and he takes his apprentice with him. The two of them roll a barrel of malmsey wine into George’s room and George the fool makes a joke of it and laughs with his mouth open wide as if already gasping for air, as his face bleaches white with fear.
-From The White Queen, by Philippa Gregory
Born on 21 October 1449, George Plantagenet was the brother to kings Edward IV and Richard III.
In an attempt to seize the crown for himself, George sides with Earl of Warwick to make an insurrection against King Edward. However, the plot failed and Warwick allies with Margaret of Anjou, and after a successful invasion, the once-deposed King Henry VI is put back on the throne. At this outright bypassing of George’s chance for the crown, he then goes back to his brother Edward and fights at the battles of Barnet and Tewkesbury, helping him to be restored as the King of England.
Their reconciliation does not last, as George becomes embittered by his brother Richard’s growing influence at court and his wish to marry the Duchess of Burgundy is rejected by Edward. Accused of slandering against the king and preparing a rebellion, George is finally attainted in Parliament of high treason and is executed in the Tower of London in 1478. He was 28.
The circumstances of George’s death is shrouded in mystery. Some said that he was beheaded secretly, and some said he was murdered by his brother Richard. The most widely circulated belief is that he was drowned in a butt of malmsey wine, as it is chillingly portrayed in Shakespeare’s play Richard III and Philippa Gregory’s The Cousins’ War series.
Thanks to the exhumation of his body, we can rule out that George was beheaded. His head was found to be intact with his body confirming that he was not killed in the traditional method of execution of nobility at that time.
A butt of wine is an amount enough to drown a man, equaling 105 gallons, and the fumes from an open butt alone can knock someone unconscious. If George drowning in wine is nothing but a rumour, then a possible explanation of this would be that it had originated from a humourous reference to George’s reputation as a heavy drinker. Another possibility is that his dead body was sent to the Tewkebury Abbey in a barrel of wine for burial, similar to the case of Horatio Nelson’s body being sent home in a barrel of brandy.
The evidence to shed clearer light on the circumstances of George’s death is still to be found. Meanwhile, have a closer look at this portrait of Margaret Pole, the daughter of Duke of Clarence. Can you see a barrel on her charm bracelet on her right hand?
May 21, 2018 at 01:11
Ahhh I’m related to this guy…
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July 13, 2016 at 19:27
There’s no evidence if George was drowned in a butt of Malmsey wine or not. Probably not.
July 11, 2022 at 07:18
No evidence? His daughter wore the charm with a wine barrel for the rest of her life. Why? Then his remains do not indicate beheading. Finally there is the story of his drowning itself. Do you have any evidence of similar weight to suggest an alternative?
August 26, 2015 at 12:15
why were clarence’s bones not tested for DNA to compere against Richard’s skeleton recently found in the car park. I have seen George and the Duchess’s skeletons in a glass case in the crypt at Tewksbury and they are perfectly sound?
October 1, 2013 at 07:02
Margaret’s father, George plantagenet was executed and drowned malmsey wine in 1478 his son, edward and daughter were both executed by the same fate in 1499 and 1541 by beheading tradtration of the method in England
February 7, 2018 at 10:15
Did you even read the article?