1690: Oxford student sues for chicken-carving slur

In 1690, the chancellor’s court at Oxford University heard a defamation dispute between two Exeter College students: John Colmer and John Crabbe. According to the plaintiff Colmer and his witnesses, Crabbe had been telling malicious and dishonest stories about Colmer for several weeks. Colmer produced witnesses to support his claims, including the respected scholar and future Bishop of Peterborough, White Kennett.

According to their testimony, most of Crabbe’s “slanderous tales” told of Colmer’s alleged promiscuity and “brutish lust”. One story spread by Crabbe was that Colmer had been present at:

“..a supper with the Earl of Warwick [where] he represented to his Lordship the obscene parts of a woman, by the cutting of such a figure from the flesh of a roasted fowl.”

Crabbe also produced witnesses in his defence, though most were exposed as homeless prostitutes. Unsurprisingly, the chancellor’s court ruled in Colmer’s favour.

Source: Oxford University archives, Chancellor’s Court papers, folio 56, 1690.