plotbunnies

the mystery of the missing penis

I got an idea for NaNoWriMo this year from an article that I saw the title of when it was posted on Medievalists.net, so naturally I had to go back to find it again as November swiftly approaches. The articles section on Medievalists.net is extremely dangerous, like if TV Tropes and Cracked had a baby who specialized in medievalism and had significantly higher standards for citations, so I ended up with the article I was looking for, dozens of other articles that are more or less pertinent to saga-era Iceland, and still more articles that are completely irrelevant to my current project but that I want to read anyway.

And then there was the article that I downloaded and read immediately, entitled "Murder, Mayhem and a Very Small Penis: Motives for Revenge in the 1375 Murder of William Cantilupe, Great-great Nephew of St. Thomas of Hereford". The first part of the paper is actually a great medieval murder mystery, although I skimmed it this part heavily on my first reading as I was looking to see where the very small penis came in, so to speak. And it did not disappoint. (Well, it did not disappoint me.)

Prior to being murdered, this William Cantilupe had an older brother, Nicholas, who married one Katherine Paynel, only to have her abandon him and return to her confused family five days later, alleging that her new husband completely lacked genitalia and that she would be burned at the stake if it could be proved otherwise. Naturally, Katherine's father blamed her for the problem, saying that "she was stupid and she knew not what she should do," but she continued to pursue her legal options, including being sent back to live with him twice for periods of two years each in an attempt to fulfill one of the requirements to receive an annulment for impotence.

The ensuing court case was messy. Nicholas was supposed to undergo a physical examination to determine the status of his penis. He "strenuously resisted" this, instead opting instead to coerce an oath from his wife attesting to his manhood by showing her the wall he intended to chain her to if she didn't swear it. The court was not particularly impressed by this maneuver and granted the annulment in the absence of Nicholas and his alleged penis, but oddly enough, the fact that he had managed to dodge the physical examination gave him sufficient grounds to receive permission to appeal his case to the pope, although it is unclear what he thought he would accomplish there, given that presumably the pope would also demand to see his penis, it being the crux of the matter.

His appeal came to an end when he died en route to Avignon, and nothing further was ever discovered regarding his penis. I know! After all that! The author hypothesizes that he may have had congenital adrenal hyperplasia. I mean, he was clearly hiding something.

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