• Susan Elaine Jones

Who got to keep the hand?

I won't even try to describe what events lead me to this little archive treasure. But it is one of those museum catalogue entries that raises more questions than it answers.


a block withered severed hand kept in a museum archive
Heydons mummified hand with text description

The text reads:

Human remains, left hand of Sir John Heydon, severed in a duel fought with Sir Robert Mansfield near Norwich, January 1600. brown skin, ?naturally mummified; cut diagonally across palm from little finger towards wrist, skin missing from back of hand; some insect holes.


Okay, but did that mean he lost the duel? Who got to keep the hand? Did they have it in a little trophey cabinet? How many generations held onto it until they gave it to the museum? Can I wedge a "wanna hold your hand?" reference in here? Or wonder if somewhere, long ago, in a galaxy far far away, Luke Skywalker's hand had a similar museum entry? Would Sir Robert Mansell/Mansfield have his own wikipedia page if it wasn't for this notorious hand? Sir John Heydon doesn't get his own page! (Though his brother Christopher does, with mentions of his own attempts at duelling and fighting with his family.) And, just to finish, may any of my human remains ending up in a museum have the addendum "some insect holes".

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