Anne Turner, struggling with the gambling debts of her dead husband, is desperate to support her
children. She can expect no help, much less a proposal of marriage from her aristocratic lover. Little
does she suspect that becoming the companion of Frances Howard, daughter of the Earl of
Suffolk, will make her the scapegoat in a poison conspiracy that racks the court of James I of England. More
Little does ANNE TURNER suspect when she applies for a position as companion to FRANCES HOWARD, daughter of the Earl of Suffolk, that she will become the unwitting accomplice in one of the most publicized poison cases in British history. Anne’s deceased husband, court physician to Elizabeth I, had a gambling addiction, which has left Anne and her three children in dire financial straits. She expects that her long time lover, Sir Arthur Mainwaring, will soon marry her and legitimize their children, but hope fades when he temporizes even after inheriting a considerable sum of money.
Anne becomes chaperone to young Frances, who is engaged to marry the Earl of Essex. Anne ultimately realizes that her charge has no intention of remaining faithful to her spouse when Frances conducts an illicit affair with Prince Henry and later with King James’s favorite, Scotsman ROBERT CARR.
Frances obtains an annulment of her marriage to Devereux on the grounds of his impotence and plans to marry Carr. There is one impediment: Carr’s best friend, satirist SIR THOMAS OVERBURY, who doesn’t approve of Frances, spreads rumors about her lack of virtue, thereby angering her.
She and Carr convince the king to imprison Overbury in the Tower on the charge of insubordination. When he continues to make trouble for Frances by writing letters threatening exposure of affairs, Frances enlists the help of her uncle, the powerful Earl of Northampton. She persuades Anne to obtain poison and arranges to have it administered to Overbury.
Anne believes she has no choice but to help Frances, who is contributing to the support of Anne’s children. She obtains small doses of the poison instead of the lethal amount ordered by Frances. Anne hopes to frighten the satirist, not kill him, but Frances has other plans. Unbeknownst to Anne, Frances convinces her uncle to hasten Overbury’s demise by ordering his suffocation.
Frances and Carr marry with the king’s blessing, but in time Carr loses favor with King James. A foppish Frenchman replaces Carr in the King’s inner circle. Two years later, when Overbury’s poisoning is investigated, the minor players to the deed including Anne are found guilty and hanged, while the king pardons the chief perpetrator, Frances. Anne goes to her death believing that she was an accomplice to Overbury’s murder.
It is only years later that Overbury’s father learns the truth and searches out Anne’s daughter to reveal her mother’s innocence and make financial restitution.
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