1902 Encyclopedia > Today in History > Boy William's body is found, Czar Paul assassinated, and more

Today in History - March 24
• Boy William's Body Is Found
• Czar Paul Assassinated

-- Compiled by James Finlayson-Bald

The crucifixion of William of Norwich (image)

The crucifixion of William of Norwich depicted on a rood screen in Holy Trinity church, Loddon, Norfolk

On this date:

1144—The Martyrdom of the Boy William, a cautionary tale. The body of a twelve-year-old boy, pecked by ravens and nibbled by fretful porpentines, was discovered by a rustic in a natch of viper's bugloss in Thorpe Wood, just outside Norwich. It was identified by a priest as his wife's nephew William, who, at age 8, had been apprenticed to a skinner in Norwich. A few days earlier the boy had been taken to his mother by a man purporting to be the cook of the Archdeacon of Norwich, and he persuaded her, with a gift of three shillings, to allow the boy to abandon his apprenticeship in favour of upward social mobility — pot-boy in the Archdeacon's house. On being told of her son's mysterious death his Mama went mafficking through the streets of Norwich, crying aloud that "the Jews had murdered her son," (a Mother Knows!). A few days later a synod of local clergy formally accused the Jews of the murder, but when the Bishop sought their arrest for trial by ordeal, the Sheriff reminded him that, as the Jewish people in England were the personal property of the King, they could hardly be tried by His Courts. The Jews were then housed in Norwich Castle until the fuss died down. Meanwhile the monk, Thomas of Monmouth, to whom we are indebted for this edifying tale, stimulated by a series of visions established a cult of St. William which was so successful for the tourist trade that the Prior of St. Pancras in Lewes tried to buy the body but the ecclesiastical authorities of the diocese shrewdly refused to part with an object of money-spinning veneration. William of Norwich, Martyr, still appears on the calender.

1801—Czar Paul of Russia was assassinated. He'd been crazy as a jaybird for years and Counts Pahlen, Panin and General Bennigsen broke into his bedroom and tried to compel him to sign an instrument of abdication. Paul was miffed by this and offered some resistance, whereupon one of the assassins struck him with a sword, and he was then strangled and trampled to death.

1916—Enrique Granados, Spanish composer, returning from New York, was drowned when his ship, Sussex, was torpedoed by a German submarine in the English Channel.

1976—Ernest Howard Shepard, the original illustrator of A. A. Milne's "Winnie-the-Pooh" and Kenneth Grahame's "Wind in the Willows," died at the age of 96.

Olive Schreiner, novelist (1855-1922).

FEUDALISM: It's your Count that votes. - York University graffito.

The above article was written by James Finlayson-Bald.
Edited and illustrations added by David Paul Wagner.

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