Henry VI condemned dear Eleanor to this walk of shame that was followed by a life sentence in prison at the bottom of a dungeon on the far-away Isle of Mann. His story was that she had kept company with witches who had attempted to suck out his life force by chipping off bits and pieces from a wax dolly they’d created in his image.
Neither history or art can provide some close approximation of the truth but what we do know is that, during this more that than uncommonly miserable decade, England was a muddle of major players possessed of hard-bodied names like George, Edward, Henry, and Richard.
There were also legions of women named Eleanor who bore children to these chess pieces and then, for the most part, sat back to embroider handkerchiefs with little roses, red or white. The men, meanwhile, plotted with a similar lack of ingenuity to determine who should be king, who would be king and who died today.
Eleanor Cobham had a very minor role in which her most glaring error was that she married the Duke of Gloucester. What should have been a powerful match was fatally flawed because his name was merely Humphrey.
“The Penance of Eleanor, Duchess of Gloucester” painted by Edwin A. Abbey in 1900
Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburg, PA, USA