A House in Gross Disorder: Sex, Law, and the 2nd Earl of Castlehaven

Front Cover
Oxford University Press, USA, Sep 23, 1999 - Law - 216 pages
2 Reviews
Sex, privilege, corruption, and revenge--these are elements that we expect to find splashed across today's tabloid headlines. But in 17th century England, a sex scandal in which the 2nd Earl of Castlehaven was executed for crimes so horrible that "a Christian man ought scarce to name them" threatened the very foundations of aristocratic hierarchy.In A House in Gross Disorder, Cynthia Herrup presents a strikingly new interpretation both of the case itself and of the sexual and social anxieties it cast into such bold relief. Castlehaven was convicted of abetting the rape of his wife and of committing sodomy with his servants. More than that, he stood accused of inverting the natural order of his household by reveling in rather than restraining the intemperate passions of those he was expected to rule and protect. Herrup argues that because an orderly house was considered both an example and endorsement of aristocratic governance, the riotousness presided over by Castlehaven was the most damning evidence against him. Castlehaven himself argued that he was the victim of an impatient son, an unhappy wife, and courtiers greedy for his lands. Eschewing simple conclusions about guilt or innocence, Herrup focuses instead on the fascinating legal, social and political dynamics of the case and its subsequent retellings.In prose as riveting as the moral and legal dramas it depicts, A House in Gross Disorder reconsiders a scandal that still speaks to contemporary anxieties about sex, good governance, and the role of law in regulating both.

What people are saying - Write a review

A house in gross disorder: sex, law, and the 2nd Earl of Castlehaven

User Review  - Not Available - Book Verdict

Charged with rape and sodomy, the 2nd Earl of Castlehaven was convicted and beheaded in London in 1630. But as Herrup argues in this very scholarly study, the court was concerned with sodomy more as ... Read full review

User Review - Flag as inappropriate

I odered this book for family research reasons mostly about the mervyn family and audley family
This can be a bit of a dry read ,but none the less ,a compelling come back read.
It wasnt his his
crimes but that he allowed his subordinate servants to have power in sexual
senarios even above their masters .the aristocracial jurors who tried him were outraged at this
scandal and to stop this presedent made an example of him and punished him very harshley even though he may have been totally framed by his family ,never the less he showed extreme weakness
of judgements through -out
Mervyns sold to their inlaws and went to Tyrone county in Ireland . I am descended from Deborah
Mervyn daughter of sir Henry Mervyn and Christian Touchet (Audley)
can anybody help me get a photograph of fonthill gifford abbey 1700ad as on the cover of this book


Castlehaven Redux

Other editions - View all

Common terms and phrases

References to this book

All Book Search results »

About the author (1999)

Cynthia Herrup is Professor of History and Law, Duke University. She is the former editor of the Journal of British Studies and the author of The Common Peace: Participation and the Criminal Law in 17th Century England. She lives in Durham, North Carolina.

Bibliographic information