Edmund Howard was the younger brother of Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk and father of Henry VIII’s ill-fated fifth queen, Katherine Howard. While looking through “Lisle Letters” edited by Muriel St. Clare Byrne, I came across a letter that was like none I’ve ever come across before.
Howard was always in debt, and more than likely was the “black sheep” of his family. Even so, he held the position of Comptroller of Calais. The following letter is not dated but the one prior to it in the book is dated the Spring of 1535.
Lord Edmund Howard to Lady Lisle (Honor Glenville)
Madame, so it is I have this night after midnight taken your medicine, for the which I heartily thank you, for it hath done me much good, and hath caused the stone to break, so that now I void much gravel. But for all that, your said medicine hath done me little honesty, for it made me piss my bed this night, for the which my wife hath sore beaten me, and saying it is children’s parts to bepiss their bed. Ye have made me such a pisser that I dare not this day go abroad, wherefore I beseech you to make mine excuse to my Lord and Master Treasurer, for that I shall not be with you this day at dinner. Madame, it is showed me that a wing or a leg of a stork, if I eat thereof, will make me that I shall never piss more in bed, and though my body be simple yet my tongue shall be ever good, and especially when it speaketh of women; and sithence such a medicine will do such a great cure God send me a piece thereof.
Translating the Letter
Okay, so….did you laugh like I did when I first read the letter? Never, in all my research, have I come across a letter so blatant and honest. What I gathered from the letter is that Lady Lisle gave Edmund Howard some type of remedy for kidney stones. The remedy worked so well that it made him wet the bed – which his wife was not too pleased about. Then he mentions something about eating a wing or leg of a stork to cure the bed wetting. All of this is quite interesting and one would normally think it a bit unseemly to be put in a letter. But I guess he needed a good excuse to miss out on the dinner with the Master Treasurer which may have been Sir William Fitzwilliam.
Byrne, Muriel St. Clare, (ed.) The Lisle Letters