In 1613 Henry, Lord Ros, eldest son of the Earl and Countess of Rutland, ‘sickened very strangely’. Within months, the boy was dead. His younger brother, Francis Manners, then fell ill with similar symptoms, possibly caused by epilepsy. Over the next few years eminent physicians were called in, but the child did not improve. In March 1620 he too died, leaving the Earl of Rutland with no direct male heir to succeed to his title and estate at Belvoir Castle.
By that time a dramatic development had taken place. During the previous year three local women, Joan Flower and her daughters Phillipa and Margaret, had been arrested on suspicion of procuring the death of Lord Ros through enchantment. Joan died before coming to trial, but her daughters were executed in