1719: Lt. Edward Bird, ungentlemanly

Add comment February 23rd, 2019 Headsman

Three hundred years ago today, a bad-tempered brute called Lieutenant Edward Bird found he could not buy his way out of a noose.

This man’s journey to the halter began in a bagnio, where he was supposed to be relaxing but instead threw such a fit over the servants’ delay in drawing a bath that the master and mistress of the house were roused in the middle of the night to quell him — for (per the trial record) “I have seve[ral] of consideration in my House” being perturbed by the racket. To this Lt. Bird replied by immediately running servant Samuel Loxton through with his sword, killing him instantly; it’s a good job that the owners were both there together, along with another servant, for all were needed to subdue the guest as he ranted threats to murder all the rest of them. At least, that was their evidence against him; Bird’s story was that they attacked him first, and he had dispatched poor Mr. Loxton in self-defense.

At the time, ordinary criminal prosecutions were privately initiated, and so it fell to the servant’s poor widow Diana to bring the case against Edward Bird.

Although not of high estate, Bird had the werewithal to make himself less accessible to Diana Loxton’s justice than the average footpad or highwayman — first using actual or feigned illness to slow-walk his arraignment from October of 1718 to January of 1719, then calling to his defense “several Persons of Credit and Worth” who attested “his Reputation and peaceable demeanour, [and] who gave him a very good Character.”

Despite his condemnation he must have called on these same reserves of social capital liberally in the subsequent five weeks, for that diligent Ordinary of Newgate named Paul Lorrain was exasperated to find that he could barely get a word in edgewise so preoccupied was his charge with his more corporeal affairs:

I found him always so busie, sometimes in Writing, and at other times with Company, that I could hardly have any Opportunity to speak to him of his Future State. Nevertheless I endeavour’d to prepare him for his great Change, and for a better Life, by perswading him sincerely to repent of all the Sins he had committed in this, and earnestly to pray for GOD’s Pardon and Mercy, through the infinite Merits of CHRIST: Which if he did not now he had time; for it, I desir’d him seriously to consider what might become of him to all Eternity. To this he seem’d to give a little Attention; but something coming into his Mind which he said he must do presently, he desir’d me to leave him; saying, he would send for me another time, when he was at leisure. Accordingly he did, but when I came to him, I found he had not sent for me to pray by him, or discourse him about Divine Matters, but only to shew me the Draught of a Paper which he said he had prepar’d by the help of a Friend, and which he intended to publish. Upon this, after I had (as he desir’d I should) read it, I told him plainly, that the Drift of that Paper, being to insinuate he had not Justice done him at his Trial, he must not think that the World would believe him to be (as he endeavour’d to appear) innocent of the Murder he Was condemn’d for.

Bird did indeed publish such a document. His potentially most compelling juridical claim was one that would strike the modern reader as an utter irrelevancy, but that went to the heart of system of private prosecutions: Bird argued that Samuel Loxton was a bigamist and thus Diana Loxton nee Seedwell as his second wife had no standing to harry him in the courts. This of course entailed besmirching the reputation of the victim and his surviving family and in-laws; with his life on the line, Bird was bold enough to put out payola for dirt on the Loxtons, and even to feel out Diana Loxton herself for the price of her cooperation.* Call it a bit of blood money, payment to be rendered in guineas for reputation.

It’s hard to gauge how much traction this appeal ever gained with the elites in a position to spare Bird’s life. Surely with a more pliable prosecutor he might have had a hand to play: to his grief, he discovered that Diana Loxton was a foe whose tenacity ran quite a bit deeper than his purse.

The London Saturday’s Post reported on February 21 that the incensed widow “presented a petition to his Majesty when he came from Chappel, setting forth the many Difficulties which she laboured under to bring the said Lieutenant to Justice; His Majesty, moved at her just Complaint, ordered a Cabinet Council to meet the next Day, and the Deputy Recorder of London to attend, in order to re-examine the Matter; when the Board, shocked at the wicked Artifices that had been made use of to obstruct the Course of Justice, his Majesty … was pleased to order a Warrant to be made out for the Execution of the said Criminal on Monday next at Tyburn.”

Bird fought his losing corner to the end, even resorting to poisoning and stabbing himself on the eve of his hanging in an attempt to cheat the gallows. All was for naught.

Carried to Tyburn in a comfortable mourning coach where he tarried an hour with his mother (plus three other, all of whom, says Lorrain, “could work no Good on him”), Bird one last time “inveigh’d against Diana Loxton, saying, that if he had time, he could prove she was the second Wife of the Deceas’d, and therefore had no Right to bring an Appeal. He ask’d for a Glass of Wine at the Tree, and being told there was none, he desired a Pinch of Snuff, which was given him.” (London Post Boy, Feb. 21-24, 1719) Then with a salute to the health of his gathered gentlemen friends, who would within the hour claim his body to protect it from the scalpels of ravenous doctors, Lt. Bird was noosed up and turned off, dragged down by the weight of all those unspent gratuities still a-pocket.

* e.g., Powell’s Weekly Journal, Feb. 14-21 1719, speaking of the widow’s outraged reaction to “an Account of that Trial come out, seemingly calculated for the Advantage of the Criminal, and with all the Disadvantages on the side of the Prosecution, by the means of a Printer, who, it is to be feared, did not shut his Eyes against Bribes, as she has done.” She insists against any public suspicion of “being privy to any Intercession that is said to be making in Favour of the Murtherer of her deceased Husband, and to giv[ing] Ear to any Terms of Accommodation with the hateful Cause of his Death, by way of Premium and Reward, in Exchange for his Blood” for these “are Actions so abhorrent to her Nature and unalterable Affection for his dear Memory, as not to be passed by without the utmost Protestations of her Innocence … she has Knowledge of some Application intended to be made to her for putting a Stop to the Prosecution of the Lieutenant before Trial; and a Relation can bear her Witness, that she was offered 100 Guineas to make interest with her to take 2000 l. for that End”; likewise another servant, Loxton claims, turned down “a considerable yearly Estate to be settled upon him and his Children for ever” and instead testified against Lt. Bird, while a charwoman in the Loxton house was offered and refused 40 quid for “swearing any thing scandalous relating to the said House.”

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1718: Avram Lopukhin, Peter the Great’s brother-in-law

Add comment December 8th, 2018 Headsman

On this date in 1718, Tsar Peter the Great had his brother-in-law beheaded.

The brother of Peter’s discarded first wife Eudoxia Lopukina, our man Avram Fedorovich Lopukhin (Russian link) had neatly installed himself as a grey eminence of the rebellious Tsarevich Alexei.

It was to this youth Alexei that Old Russia turned its hopes while Peter westernized and modernized the empire. Someday Peter would die, and Alexei would inherit, and the clawback would begin.

Lopukhin foresaw a place of power for himself in Alexei’s Russia. He was an old guard boyar prince, formerly an influential courtier, and he had the blood and the ear of the tsarevich.

That also meant he would share the fate of the tsarevich.

What a disaster for Lopukhin when the truculent Alexei made bold enough to outright break with his father by fleeing Russia — but what was even worse was when Alexei returned.

Investigating the matter as a treason, the famously pitiless Peter did not spare his own child from torture and death; still less would he pardon the others in Alexei’s circle whom his inquisitions revealed to be scheming to overturn Peter’s life’s work, if not his very life.

Seditious correspondence and torture-adduced accusations implicated Lopukhin as just such a figure, and he was tossed into the dungeons of Peter and Paul Fortress to face interrogations, knouting, and execution.

Made to confess to desiring the death of the sovereign, Lopukhin had his head publicly on December 8. It was mounted afterwards on a pike overlooking a public market, and his body exposed on a wheel, until the tsar suffered his kinsman’s remains to be interred in the Lopukhin family crypt the following March.

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1717: The witch-children of Freising

1 comment November 12th, 2018 Headsman

On this date in 1717 a witch hunt in the Bavarian town of Freising concluded with the beheading of three beggar children as magicians.*

The accusations of other kids in the city against two youths named Andre and Lorenz got the snowball rolling with the aid of adults credulous enough to believe the pubescent warlocks could conjure piglets and mice.

Andre and Lorenz, naturally, then supplied confessions and additional accusations, as a result of which several more children aged 9 to 14 were arrested, all of them cajoled and tortured towards symoptic allegations. Thirteen-year-old Andre eventually hanged himself; Lorenz and two others were put to sword and fire on November 12, 1717.

Notably, two other boys were spared execution but forced to watch their fellows’ fate. One of those, Veit Adlwart, would stand at the center of a second Kinderhexenprozess in Freising that claimed eight boys and three adults in the early 1720s. Veit Adlwart was put to death on December 15, 1721.

* Street children were at great risk of catching the witch stigma given the wrong place at the time.

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1714: Geczy Julianna, the White Woman of Locse

Add comment September 25th, 2018 Headsman

On this date in 1714, Geczy Julianna was executed in the marketplace of Gyor as a traitor.

“The White Woman of Locse” — which is also the title of an 1884 romantic novel about her live by Mor Jokai — this woman allegedly betrayed that place* into the hands of imperial Habsburg troops during Hungary’s unsuccessful 1703-1711 rebellion. Sober historians view her as simply a person trusted to serve as the emissary between the garrison and its Habsburg besiegers which role would eventually entail her communicating the defenders’ surrender.

She salvaged her reputation for posterity — and set herself up for torture and execution — by paying the betrayal forward to the empire when she destroyed a number of documents sought by the imperial marshal Janos Palffy that could have incriminated Kuruc nobles in plotting for a renewal of hostilities.

“How can a woman sacrifice her whole country for a kiss, and then sacrifice her handsome head for the same country?” Jokai mused of his paradoxical subject. “What reconciles the heaven and hell in the character of a woman?”

* Formerly part of Hungary’s northern reaches, this town today resides in Slovakia.

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1718: Purry Moll and Elizabeth Cave

Add comment August 6th, 2018 Headsman

Tyburn on this date three hundred years ago saw the hanging of two women, both transgressors of the booming capital’s purported sexual mores.

The Ordinary of Newgate Paul Lorrain favored Mary Price (alias Purry Moll) and Elizabeth Cave for the occasion with “A Dehortation from living after the Flesh, that is, after the carnal Desires and sinful Lusts of our Corrupt Nature, which brings forth Death, even Eternal Death.”

Purry Moll‘s sinful Lusts didn’t really have that much to do with her crime; it’s just that she and her husband had walked away from an unedifying union after the banns of marriage were already published. It seems that her post-hubby lover upon putting out to sea had left her a tobacco box as a mark of his affection but — and this gets a little tangled — her mother‘s lover had snatched the box. Moll, clearly in a domestic passion which the scarce words on file at the Old Bailey hardly even attempt to convey, strangled to death a three-year-old girl who was the daughter of mom’s lover. (But not by mom.)

So grief-stricken was she that she insisted on pleading guilty despite the court’s repeated admonition that “if she confess’d it she must be hang’d: To which she replied, if she did confess it, she confess’d nothing but the Truth.”

With her was a woman “about 40 Years of age” of whom the Ordinary noticed — and his narrative is unfortunately truncated by a missing page — “her Face to be extreamly disfigur’d, even to that degree as to have her Nose and Lips eaten up (as it were) with the foul Disease.” Ms. Cave confirmed that “she had been a very lewd Woman, debauch’d.”

She was, in fact, a whore, as would be obvious to any 18th century cad by the cursory narration of her trial: a fellow named Sampson Barret “depos’d, that going through Drury Lane at about 11 o’Clock at Night, there was 6 or 7 Women kind standing together, who divided and made a Lane for him to go through them” whereupon Elizabeth Cave followed him and picked his pocket.

Now, with apologies to the children’s rhyme, there’s really only one reason a guy would be traversing Drury Lane at 11 o’clock at night and that he’d bump into six or seven women on his way … and baked goods weren’t the reason.

This street was a hub of London’s vigorous sex trade. Pronging off “the great thoroughfare running east from the Royal Exchange, along Fleet Street, to St. James’s Park, linking the financial and trade centre of the City with the political power base of aristocratic West London,”* Drury Lane channeled into the far less reputable Covent Garden and from the 17th century had developed into the heart of the red light district that earned this zone the sobriquet “great square of Venus.”

Here, tarts offered their wares amid the bustle of theaters and taverns, often pursuing their profession under the guise of a nominally legitimate street-hawking occupation such as flower-selling.** But little pretense was necessary: from the mid-18th century there was even an annual catalogue of area working girls, Harris’s List of Covent Garden Ladies which by the end of its run in the 1790s was selling 8,000 copies per year. So great a boon was sex work to the economy that a German visitor half-joked that if suppressed, “London would soon be depopulated; the fine arts would be frightened away; one half of the inhabitants would be deprived of subsistence.”


In the “Morning” plate of William Hogarth‘s Four Times of the Day cycle (above), men rendezvous with prostitutes outside a notorious Covent Garden dive, Moll and Tom King’s Coffee House.

We catch an interior glimpse of this same environment in plate three of Hogarth’s A Rake’s Progress, wherein said rake frolics at a Covent Garden brothel (below).

Unsurprisingly, venereal diseases such as that suffered by Elizabeth Cave were quite common among the more proletarian pros to be found at an hour to midnight on Drury Lane; nevertheless, they had no shortage of customers.

If Cave did indeed rob this passing john, it was unfortunate for her that she took currency. In order to save small-time criminals from the gallows, juries routinely applied “pious perjury” to downrate the value of stolen objects below the absurdly low one-shilling (12-pence) threshold for felony larceny; such maneuvers were obviously impossible when it was actual shillings that had been pilfered.

* The trade spilled aggressively out upon that same august thoroughfare, which was the route Defoe alluded to when complaining in the 1720s of “being in full Speed upon important Business, [and] have every now and then been put to the Halt; sometimes by the full Encounter of an audacious Harlot whose impudent Leer shewd she only stopp’d my Passage in order to draw my Observations to her; at other times by Twitches on the Sleeve. Lewd and ogling Salutations; and not infrequently by the more profligate Impudence of some Jades, who boldly dare to seize a Man by the Elbow and make insolent Demands of Wine and Treats before they let him go.” (Source)

** “Flower girl” consequently developed into a euphemism for a tramp. One literary artifact of this history is Eliza Doolittle of the G.B. Shaw play Pygmalion and its musical adaptation My Fair Lady: it’s never overtly stated in the text, but because Eliza begins as a Covent Garden flower girl her virtue is implicitly suspect … hence her repeated insistence, “I’m a good girl I am!”

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1714: Eleven at Tyburn, amid recidivism

Add comment July 16th, 2018 Headsman

On this date in 1714, the Tyburn gallows groaned with eleven felons … luckless small-timers, most of them (as we shall see) repeat offenders, whom Executed Today retrieves here in its repeatedly offending eleventh year.

As we sometimes do, we’ll be channeling the words of the Newgate Ordinary, friend of the site Paul Lorrain. His “ACCOUNT OF The Behaviour, Confessions, and Last Speeches of the Malefactors that were Executed at Tyburn, on Friday the 16th of July, 1714” can be enjoyed in full here.

Lorrain begins by noting that “Nineteen Persons, viz. Fifteen Men, and Four Women,” caught death sentences at the most recent sitting of the grim blackrobes, but “Seven of the Men, and One of the Women, having obtain’d HER MAJESTY‘s Reprieve (which I pray GOD they may have Grace duly to improve) Eleven of ’em are now order’d for Execution.”

Those fortunate eight, consider ’em the reserve army for future hangmen. Many of the remaining eleven had in their own time been recipients of such a reprieve and had failed to duly improve, as Lorrain notes repeatedly in his summations below (we’ve linked their antecedent crimes where we could find them in the invaluable Old Bailey Online.)

1. Ann Edwards, condemn’d for two Burglaries; viz. First, for breaking open and robbing the Lodgings of Mr. James Moody; and, Secondly, for doing the like in those of Mr. Emmanuel Francisco; taking out of the former a Pewter Dish, and 3 Plates; and out of the latter several Goods of Value; both which Facts she committed at the same time, and in the same House, on the 30th of May last. She said, she was 36 Years of Age, born at Preston in Lancashire; That she had, for these 15 Years past, liv’d in the Parish of St. James Westminster, and other Neighbouring Parishes, and there serv’d in the Capacity of a Cook (and sometimes in that of a House-keeper) in several good Families; That (besides the Facts she was now condemn’d for) she had done many ill things in her Life-time, and was about two Years ago burnt in the Hand, and order’d to the Work-house, where she remain’d a Twelvemonth, according to the Order of the Court; and being afterwards Discharg’d, but not Reform’d, she soon return’d to her former evil Course, and thereby brought her self to this Untimely and Shameful Death. She said, she heartily repented of all the Sins she ever committed, and desir’d me to pray to GOD for her poor Soul, overwhelm’d with Grief. This I promis’d her I would do, and withal instructed her to pray for her self, and pacify the Wrath of GOD, and obtain His Mercy; which (upon her true Repentance) she would certainly find, through the Merits and Mediation of the Saviour of all Men, especially of them that believe, as the Apostle tells us, 1 Tim. 4.10.

2. William Dyer, who pleaded to a Pardon at the Old-baily on the 12th of August, 1713, was now brought again under Condemnation for two new Facts by him committed, viz. First, for breaking open the House of Mr. John Palmer of Edmonton in Middlesex, taking thence a Gown and Petticoat, with other Goods, on the 13th of June last; and, Secondly, for doing the like in the House of Mr. John Blunt of the same Place, on the 23d of the same Month. He said, he was born in that Parish of Edmonton, and had been a Domestick Servant in several good Families thereabouts, and in London. He confess’d, he had robb’d some of his Masters, both while he liv’d with them, and afterwards; and that particularly since he had obtain’d his Pardon, instead of answering the easy Condition of it, which was, That he should transport himself out of the QUEEN’s Dominions in Europe,* within 6 Months after (which he had 2 or 3 times fair Opportunity to have done) he return’d to his wicked Practice of robbing Houses in his Neighbourhood, and elsewhere; so that, tho’ he pretended he would honestly apply himself to his Business of Carpentry (a Trade he had formerly serv’d part of his Apprentiship to) yet his chief Employment, ever since his Discharge out of Newgate in August last, had been Robbing and Stealing, and doing suchlike Mischiefs, to the great Prejudice of the Publick: And herein his Wickedness and Impiety advanc’d so far, as not to spare even the Curate of his own Parish, whose House he broke open and robb’d in January last, about which time also, he said, he stole a black Mare out of the Grounds of Mr. John Allen in that Parish, for which One William Huggins was try’d at the Old-baily in February following. This William Dyer could read well, and had been carefully instructed in the Principles of the Christian Religion, by those worthy Persons he had serv’d; but yet, for all that, he prov’d desperately Wicked, and was like to have committed Murder, in attempting to shoot the Man that apprehended him. He seem’d, in all his Carriage under this Condemnation, to be unsincere and obstinate; and I must needs say this of him, That he gave me very little Signs of true Repentance for a great while; for when I examin’d him in private, he refus’d to make a free Confession of the many ill things he had done, the discovery whereof might have been of Use and Satisfaction to those honest Persons he had so basely wrong’d; but instead of clearing his Conscience by such a Confession; he said, He had declar’d too much already, and would say no more. Being ask’d how Old he was, he answer’d me, That he could not exactly tell, but thought he might be about 28 Years of Age. As I was discoursing him in private, shewing him the Necessity of doing what I advis’d him to, in order to avoid the severe and terrible Judgments of GOD, and obtain his Mercy, and the Pardon of his Sins, I observ’d him to fleer and snigger, mixing Tears and Laughter together; wherein (as indeed in his whole Deportment) he discover’d both a great Weakness, and Indisposition of Mind; but at last his Confession to me seem’d to be sincere, and Repentance true.

NB. That the Facts for which this William Dyer was formerly condemn’d were, viz. the breaking open and robbing the House of Mrs. Elizabeth Wiser, taking thence a Silver Mugg, and a Spoon, on the 15th of February, 1711-12: And likewise for stealing Ribbons and other Goods out of the House of Mr. Charles King, on the 27th of June, 1712. Of both which Facts he was convicted at the Sessions held at the Old-baily in July following.

3. Margaret Stevenson alias Sarah Williams, alias Susan Rogers, alias Susan Lambeth, which last was her right Name; Condemn’d for Stealing a Piece of green Persian Silk of the value of 3 l. out of the Shop of Mr. John Johnson, on the 25th of May last. She said, she was near 28 Years of age, born at Hamersmith in Middlesex; That she coming to London young, was bound to a Seamstress in Chick-lane, with whom she serv’d the full time of her Apprentiship, viz. 7 years; That she afterwards work’d for her self, and for a great while together liv’d an honest Life; but at last falling into bad Company, was thereby corrupted, and enticed into the commission of several Things, which at first were very much against her Conscience, tho’ (thro’ Custom) became easie to it at last; but she now found by her woful Experience, that, soon or late, Sin brings always along with it unspeakable Sorrow and Misery. She own’d that she was justly condemn’d; and, that she had been so before, and receiv’d Mercy (which, to her great Grief now, she had taken no care to make good use of); for, she having formerly obtain’d the QUEEN’s Free Pardon, which she pleaded at the Old baily on the 12th of August last, under the Name of Sarah Williams, she did soon after return to her evil Course of Life, changing her Name indeed, but not her Manners. NB. The Fact for which she was formerly Condemn’d and Pardon’d, was, the Stealing 60 Yards of Persian Silk out of the Shop of Mr. William Ball, on the 8th of June, 1713.

4. Robert Cook, alias Hedgley, which was his right Name, Condemn’d for Breaking the House of Mrs. Mary Mellers, and stealing thence 8 Pewter-Dishes, 40 Plates, and other Goods, on the 13th of May last. He said, he was about 24 Years of age, born at Hoddesdon in Hartfordshire; and, That while in the Country, he was employ’d in Husbandry: Afterwards he came to London, and being prest to Sea, serv’d above 7 Years on board the Lenox, the Boyne, the Monmouth, and other Men of War. He confess’d, he had been a great Offender; That in May last was Twelve-month he was whipt for a Felony he had committed about that time; and, That the Sentence now pass’d upon him was very just, and he readily submitted to it, praying GOD to fit him for his great Change. He likewise confess’d, That he committed a Robbery in a House at Islington, about 9 months ago, taking thence some Pewter, a Coat, a Hat, &c.

5. Thomas Davis, Condemn’d for being concern’d in the same Fact with Robert Cook, last mention’d. He said, he was 23 Years of age, born at Shrewsbury: That he came up to London about 8 Years ago, and was bound Apprentice to a Waterman for 7 Years, which Time he serv’d faithfully; and being out of it about 6 months since, ply’d for himself. He confess’d the Fact for which he was condemn’d, but said it was his first; and I could not disprove it, but told him, ‘Twas pity he ever enter’d upon such a Course as this, which seldom fails of ending in Destruction.

6. George Horn, Condemn’d for a Robbery committed jointly by him and Thomas Perkins, on the Person of Mr. Thomas Gamball, from whom they took a Coat, a Hat, and a Shirt, with 11 s. and other Goods, upon the QUEEN’ Highway, between Clerkenwell and Islington, on the 25th of May last. He said, he was 23 Years of age, born in the Parish of Allhallows in Thames-street, London; and by his Trade was a Lighterman, that us’d to carry Corn, Wood, &c. He confess’d, That once he was burnt in the Hand for a Felony which he committed about 2 Years ago, and afterwards went to Sea , where he serv’d sometimes on board several Men of War, and at other times in Merchantmen. I found him of a very harden’d Disposition, that could not be brought, but with much difficulty, to a sense of his great Duty and Spiritual Interest, being at first regardless of his present miserable state, and of the Means of preventing his falling into that which is infinitely worse, viz. the State of the Damned. I did what I could to rouze him up to a due Consideration of the Danger he was in; to awaken in him a just Fear, and excite him to a sincere Love of GOD.

7. Thomas Perkins just before-mention’d, as being concern’d with the said George Horn in the Robbery committed on Mr. Gamball. He said, he was about 20 Years of Age, born in the Parish of St. James Clerkenwell: That he went to Sea, and was a Servant to a Commander of one of HER MAJESTY’s Men of War; and afterwards returning home, was bound for 7 years Apprentice to his own Father, a Smith; That his Father dying when he had but three Years to serve, he left off that Occupation, and went to Sea again; and there being employ’d for about 2 Years, he at last return’d to his Trade of Smithery, working Journey-work with One that had formerly serv’d his Father: That falling into bad Company, he (when in Drink) was perswaded to assist George Horn in the Commission of this Robbery he is now to die for: And tho’ he confest he had been an ill Liver, yet he said, he never was Guilty of any such Fact before.

8. James Powell, alias Ashwood, alias Bowen, alias Neale, which last was his right Name. This Malefactor had formerly receiv’d Sentence of Death, being then try’d by the Name of James Ashwood, and obtain’d a Pardon on condition he should (which he did not) transport himself out of the QUEEN’s Dominions in Europe, and pleaded to it accordingly on the 12th of August, 1713; and now was Condemn’d again for a Burglary, viz. for breaking open the House of Mr. Tho. Hulls, and taking from thence Two Guinea’s, and Thirty Shillings in Silver, on the 15th of May last. He said, he was about 20 Years of Age, born in the Parish of St. Martin in the Fields, and was bound Apprentice to a Perriwig-maker in that Parish; but his Master dying, and so being left to himself, presently fell into ill Courses, which he was now sensible he could not well have left off (so far he was engag’d in them) if this Death had not put a stop to his wicked Career.

9. Charles Goodall, alias Goodale. This Malefactor likewise had formerly receiv’d Sentence of Death, for stealing a Silver Cup and other Goods out of the House of Mr. John Beale, on the 6th of November, 1711, and obtain’d a Pardon on condition he should (but like the abovesaid James Powell did not) transport himself out of the QUEEN’s Dominions in Europe: Which Pardon he pleaded on the 6th of June, 1712; as he did to another (and that a Free one) on the 12th of August, 1713; and now was Condemn’d again for breaking open the House of Mr. Albion Thompson, and taking thence a Coat, and several other Goods of Value, on the 17th of May, 1714. He said, he was about 19 Years of Age, born in the Parish of St. Giles in the Fields; but, when very young, his Parents remov’d to that of St. Clement-Danes, and there he liv’d with them, and by them was brought up to School very carefully; but did not improve his Time as he might have done; for he betook himself to ill Courses, and so Corrupt he was, that tho’ after his Pardon he had resolv’d to lead a better Life, (which for a time he did, at his Father’s House) yet it was not long before he return’d again to his wicked Ways, that brought him to this his Untimely End: A Matter which, upon reflection, was a great Grief to him, and ought to be an effectual Warning to other loose Livers, as he had (and confest himself to have) been; for which he earnestly implor’d GOD’s Mercy, and the Pardon of all whom he had any ways offended.

10. Mary Billingsby, alias Brown, Condemn’d for trepanning Judith Favero, an Infant, into a By-place near Hoxton, and there stripping her, and putting her in fear of her Life. She said, she was about 18 Years of Age, born at Norwich, and had liv’d 3 Years in George-yard in Shoreditch, and was there imploy’d in Doubling of Worsted . At first she deny’d the Fact, but afterwards confest it, saying, That Poverty had driven her to it: Upon which I told her, This was a very bad Excuse; and, That if she had been an honest and diligent Person, she might have supply’d her Wants otherwise than by such unlawful Means, and such too as were most base and cruel. I found her very ignorant, not being able so much as to Read, nor give an Account of any Thoughts she had of the World to come, and what would become of her there; till she was taught, That by the Merits of CHRIST, embrac’d by Faith and Repentance, (which I particularly explain’d to her) she might be sav’d.

11. Robert Porter, alias Sandey, Condemn’d for breaking open the House of Mr. James Deluce, and taking thence a Wastcoat, two Wigs, and three lac’d Hats, on the 2d instant. He said, he was 16 Years of Age, born in the Parish of Stepney, and for some small time serv’d a Weaver there; but leaving his Master’s Service, went a pilfering. I found him very obstinate and untractable, unwilling to confess any ill thing he had done; yet when I told him, That he had formerly been convicted of a Felony, and for it order’d to the Work-house, out of which he made his Escape, he own’d all this to be true, but would say no more; nor at first receive such proper Instructions and Admonitions, as were given him, in order to bring him to Repentance and Salvation: But at last finding himself in the Death-Warrant, and so having no further Hope of Life here, he appear’d more concern’d for his Soul than before: I was not wanting in making Use of this Opportunity to bring him (if possible) to a thorough Sence of his past sinful Life, his present sad Condition, and his future Eternal State, from which he was not far off, and which would be a State either of Happiness or Misery to him, according as he did or did not sincerely repent of his Sins. This (with several pressing Exhortations I us’d to this purpose) seem’d to make some kind of Impression upon his obdurate Heart: But whether they melted it indeed into that true Repentance, which alone is available to Salvation, I shall not take it upon me here to determine: but advise them, who walk in the same wicked Paths, to repent sooner and better.

As was his wont (except perhaps with Catholic convicts who tended to give him a cold shoulder) the chaplain exercised his office all the way to Tyburn

to which they were this Day carried from Newgate in 4 Carts, [where] I attended them for the last time, and endeavour’d to perswade them throughly to clear their Consciences, and strive more and more to obtain GOD’s Grace, that they might make a good End in this World, and be receiv’d into that State of Bliss and Glory in the next, which shall have no End. To this purpose I earnestly spoke to them, and pray’d for them: Then I made them rehearse the Apostles Creed, and sing some Penitential Psalms; and finally recommending their Souls to the boundless Mercy of our Good and Gracious GOD, I withdrew from them, leaving them to their private Devotions, for which (and for their speaking to the People to take Warning by them) they had some little Time allow’d them: After this the Cart drew away, and they were turn’d off, calling all the while upon GOD, to have Mercy on their departing Souls.

Note, That William Dyer did particularly confess, That he had committed the following Robberies, viz. 1st, he robb’d a House and a Shop at Tottenham, 2dly, the Reverend Mr. Butto’s House; 3dly, Mr. Allen of a Mare at Edmonton in Middlesex; 4thly, Mr. Coward’s House at Waltham-stow; 5thly, Mr. Huvet’s House; and 6thly, Mr. King’s in the Parish of Greenstead; 7thly & lastly, the House of Mr. Reynolds at Stanford-rivers in Essex. These he said, were (as far as he could remember) all the Houses he had broken and robb’d, &c. (besides those he stood Condemn’d for) since his Discharge out of Newgate in August last; and, That he never robb’d on the Highways, nor ever committed Murder.

This is all the Account I here can give of these Malefactors; Four of of whom, together with Five others mention’d in my former Papers, make up Nine out of Fifty-four that pleaded the QUEEN’s Pardon in August last, who (by new-repeated Offences) brought themselves to this shameful End: Which I pray GOD may be such a Warning to those that remain, that they never return again to their Sins and Follies, but lead such a Course of Life as may be comfortable to them in this World, and (through Mercy) advance them to unspeakable Joys and Comforts in the World to come.

PAUL LORRAIN, Ordinary .

Friday, July 16. 1714.

* At the time, this was still a generic sentence of exile (note that the onus is on the prisoner to “transport himself” out of Great Britain). Our hanging-date, however, arrives barely three years distant from the opening of organized mass convict transportation to the Americas, which would continue until the American Revolution. This era is covered in detail by Early American Crime author and occasional Executed Today guest-blogger Anthony Vaver, author of Bound with an Iron Chain: The Untold Story of How the British Transported 50,000 Convicts to Colonial America.

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1718: A horse thief and two travelers, “the worst rideing that ever I rid”

Add comment June 4th, 2018 Headsman

This date’s post brings us back to one of our regular wells, James Kelly’s Gallows Speeches From Eighteenth-Century Ireland … and the days when a life was cheaper than a horse.

The three men hanged together on this date all concurred in their stories that only one of them stole the horses in question and the other two merely thumbed rides on his extra mounts as passing travellers. Whether or not this is true or was simply their common play for a potential ⅔ pardon posterity obviously has no way of determining.

The Last Speech and Dying Words of
Daniel O Neal, Edmond Mc. Guire, and Henery Graham

who was Executed near St. Stevens Green, on Wednesday June the 4th 1718.

Good Christians,

I was Born in the North of Ireland, of very good honest Parents, who brought me up very Tenderly, and never speard any Cost to Instruct and bring me up in the fear of God, Alas! all was in vain, for tho’ I took all the care that I could to attain to Learning but at the end I prov’d very Careless of the fame, for I neglected both the laws of God and Man, or else I had never been brought to this shameful End, it is true I was taken up for the Stealing of three Horses, and two Mares, and these my fellow Sufferers along with me, but as I shall Answer the great God, they Die Innocently, for as I was Riding along the Road, I overtook these my fellow Sufferers who seeing me leading 4 Horses asked me if I would let them ride, I tould them they should, now as I am a dying Man this is all they knew of it, which grives me to the Heart, and indeed I am more sorry for their Death, than my own.

I freely forgive all the World, and I beg forgiveness of all those whom I ever offended, I am now about six and thirty Years of Age, I die a [sic] of the Church of England, and the Lord have mercy on my Soul, Amen.

This is my true Speech and no other

Daniel O Neal

The Speech of Edmond M’Guire.

Good Christians,

I Was born in the North of Ireland, of Poor, but honest Parents, who with their Industry, Care and Labour, brought me to these Years, during which time, I behav’d my self true and honest in the World, and endeavour’d very hard for my Bread; but I being born to hard Fortune, I was taken up by one Mr. Legg, for being concern’d in stealing of three Horses and two Mares; ‘tiw true I had one of the aforesaid Beasts under me, but the way I came by it was in the manner following: I having been in Dublin for some time, was willing to return home to my Wife and Children, and overtaking Daniel O Neale, my fellow Sufferer; he having the Cattle abovemention’d, I ask’d him if he wou’d let me Ride, he said he wou’d oblige any Traveller as much as he could, and so bid me Mount one of the Horses, which I did, and was very thankful to him for his kindness; but to my great Sorrow, it has prov’d the worst rideing that ever I rid in my life: Now as I am a dying Man, I was never guilty of Stealing the value of two Pence in all my Life: nor had I any Hand in stealing those Beasts which I am to Dye for. I forgive all the World, as I hope to be forgiven. I am about 40 Years of Age, and Dye a Roman Catholik, and the Lord have Mercy on my Poor Soul. Amen, Amen.

The Speech of Henry Graham.

Good Christians,

I was born in the North of Ireland, of very honest Parents, who was very tender over me, and brought me up in the fear of GOD as much as in them Lay; but Fortune has been very Cruel to me, or else I had never came to this Place, for I liv’d with my Parents will I came to get a Wife; and indeed it was my Fortune to get a poor honest Girl, who endeavour’d very honest for her Bread as well as I, but the World frowning upon me, I went and listed in the Army, where I behav’d myself as became a good Subject, at lenth [sic] I was broak, and so return’d home to my Wife again, but my Business calling me home to Dublin, to my great Sorrow I went there, but having finish’d my Business, I was going home again, where unfortunately I met with Daniel O. Neal, and Edmond M’Guire a Riding along the Road, to whom I said, pray let me Ride, and indeed, they freely comply’d, but I had not Rid long before we were all taken and committed to Goal, and from that brought to Dublin, so Try’d and found Guilty of the same, and now brought to [t]his Place to end my life, now as God is my Judge, before whom I hope to appear in short time, I had neither Art nor Part in stealing of the said Horses, or any of them, and I die in Charity with all Men, and do freely forgive those who Swore away my Life as I hope to be forgiven, I am about 30 years of Age. I die a Protestant and the Lord have mercy on my Soul.

Henry Graham.

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1715: Jeremiah Meacham, “mightily distressed”

Add comment April 12th, 2018 Headsman

Jeremiah Meacham was hanged in Rhode Island on this date in 1715 for a double murder committed during a disturbing psychotic break.

In the execution sermon below by Newport Rev. Nathaniel Clap, he attributes what we would today take as clear mental health problems to the man’s disinterest in attending church — for, “while, he was generally esteemed exemplarily exact in his Dealings, and punctual to his Promises, about his Worldy affairs … he seldom or never seemed altogether free from some terrible reflections upon his Conscience, for his Apostasy from God. And it hath been thought that his Convictions about some Concerns of his Soul, mixed with some vexations about his Affairs in the World, brought him into a grievous hurry, which by degrees boil’d up into a sort of a raging fury: And keeping out of the way of suitable directions for his Soul, his troubles of mind grew so intolerable, that he told some, that he was weary of his life.”

Things grew so uncomfortable with him, that he loved not Home; he thought that all his Neighbours looked strangely upon him; he pretended that he feared some body designed mischief against him, and that he should be slain. Every day seemed unto him as if it would be the last day of his life: And he asked of others, if they knew of no contrivance against him.

The Day before he committed his Murders, he appeared mightily distressed, walking about in a very great agony, a great part of that day, chusing to be at the Neighborbours. But on the said day of his Murders (22 d., 1 m.) he got and sat upon his House, with a Penknife in his hand, for several hours, if discoursing sometimes with those that came near him, seeming afraid some or other would hurt him; Others feared more that he would hurt himself; none seemed much to fear that he intended any hurt to any body else. And he declar’d, that he would hurt neither Man, Woman nor Child, if they would let him alone.

After he came down from his House top into his Chamber, he kept there most part of the Afternoon of that day, until after Sun set; and then his Wife, and her Sister, upon his invitation, going up to him, urging of him to go down with them, or striving with him to keep him from hurting of himself; it seems that then he struck his Wife in her throat with his Pen-knife: and then struck her and her Sister down with an Ax (that he had carried up, and he had also Charged his Gun; but made no use of that, in his Murders) how many blows he gave them is not known: But the dreadful marks of several remained on their miserably mangled Bodies.

When he had murdered them, he stood watchfully upon his Guard, with his Ax in hand, threatning all that offered to come up Stairs; knock’d one man down with his bloody Ax. Others endeavouring to apprehend him, by breaking up the Chamber Floor under him, & the Roof over him; he laboured to defend himself, as if against the worst Enemies. And when they carried some Fire, flaming to light their way before them, he snatch’d away the Fire, and laid it among some combustible matter, and got ready more, and quickly kindled a great Fire in the midst of the Chamber, as if he chose rather to Burn himself alive, and the dead Bodies with him than to be taken …

At some time or other, in these hurries it seems, he had cut his own throat; but fearing that death would not come soon enough that way, and finding that he could not bear burning to death; it was thought, he was willing to try, if he could dash himself to pieces, by throwing himself out at the Window; by which he also hurt his head, if no other part of his Body; but his Wounds were near healed, before he came to Dye.

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1715: Ann Wright, branded

Add comment February 2nd, 2018 Headsman

On this date in 1715, a longtime petty thief named Ann Wright — or was it Martha Wright? or Ann Hutchins? or Elizabeth Jolly? — hanged at Tyburn.

In the absence of modern trappings like a standing police force, criminal dossiers, and systematic record-keeping — innovations that lay decades into the future — small-time criminals could float at the margins for the duration of many years and many offenses by relying on the forgetfulness of the legal apparatus: with nothing but a casual alias, one might hope to appear over and over again as a new offender.

Here we see Ordinary of Newgate Paul Lorrain deploy his own investigative acumen to trace for us one woman’s career, a very much more penetrating biography of an Early Modern commoner than we can usually access. We can see from his account of offenses — for how many crimes must Lorrain be omitting in this register? — that he was greatly aided by Wright’s own body which bore the mark of our Old Offender’s repeated brandings. That included scars earned during the brief period from 1699 to 1707 when brands could be applied to an offender’s cheeks, a fate which apparently befell Ann Wright on no fewer than five occasions.*

By the time he came to Wright’s terminal adventure, Rev. Lorrain had held the post of ministering to convicts for fifteen years and could probably boast as expert an acquaintance with London’s criminal underworld as any square; whether he knew Ann Wright on sight or knew her by reputation, he knew her.

Ann Wright, condemn’d for breaking the Lock of Eliz. Barrot’s Chamber-Door, with an intent to rob her, on the 30th of October last. She was about 38 Years of age, and liv’d in the Parish of St. Dunstan, Stepney. She would hardly confess her self guilty of the Crime for which she was justly Condemn’d; neither did she readily acknowledge, that she had done several other Facts of the like heinous nature, and was an old Offender: But when I laid before her, and charg’d her with diverse Burglaries and Robberies, which I knew she had committed, then she could not deny her being Guilty of them.

Here I shall give the Reader a Particular of some of those wicked Facts of hers, and the several Punishments she receiv’d for them, the Time when, and the various Names she went by.

1st, She was (under the Name of Martha Wright) Burnt in the Cheek at the Old-Baily, on the 10th of July, 1702, for entring the House of Mr. James Gee, and taking thence 4 Muslin-Neckcloths, 2 Holland-Aprons, a Hol-Smock, a Cloth-coat, Wastcoat and Breeches, with diverse other Goods, on the 2d of the said Month of July.

2dly, She was (under the Name of Ann Rebel alias Ann Hutchins, which latter, as she said, was her Maiden-Name) also Burnt in the Chek at the Old-Baily, on the 11th of September, 1702, for Robbing the House of Mr. Joseph Lineum, on the 7th of August before, and taking thence 6 Hempen-Aprons, 6 Dowlas-Shirts, 6 Smocks, &c.

3dly, She was again (under the same Name of Ann Hutchins) Burnt in the Cheek, at the Old-Baily, on the 9th of July, 1703, for stealing 5 ounces of China-Silk from Mr. John Sheppard, and other Silks from Mr. Nathanael Wichel, on the 19th of May before.

4thly, She was in like manner (under the Name of Ann Hutchins) Burnt in the Cheek, at the Old-Baily, on the 2d of June, 1704, for stealing 4 Buck-Skins from Mr. Tho. Boddington, on the 4th of May preceding.

5thly, She was (under the Name of Elizabeth Jolly alias Hodges, which latter she said was her Husband’s Name) again Burnt in the Cheek, at the Old-Baily, on the 17th of January, 1704/1705, for stealing 16 yards of Silk, a Stuff-Gown and Petticoat, 12 ells of Holland, 26 yards of Lace, and diverse other Goods of Mr. Edward Kenworthy’s, on the 14th of June, 1704.

6thly, She was (under the Name of Eliza. Wright) on the 6th of July, try’d at the Old-Baily, and order’d to be whipt, for stealing a Silver-Spoon and a Cambrick-Handkerchief, from Mr. Anthony Moreing, on the 17th of June before.

7thly, She was (under the Name of Ann Hicken) Burnt in the Hand, at the Old-Baily, on the 26th of February, 1707/1708, for stealing 10 ounces of Silver Orrice-Lace, and 12 ounces of Gold-Lace, from Mrs. Margaret Tiplady, on the 3d Day of the same Month.

8thly, She was again (under the Name of Ann Hutchins) Burnt in the Hand at the Old-Baily, on the 9th of July, 1708, for Robbing Mrs. Mary Collier’s House, and taking from thence 1 pound 15 ounces of Raw-Silk, on the 26th of the preceding June.

9thly, She did (under the Name of Ann Hodges alias Hodgkins) receive Sentence of Death, at the Old-Baily, on the 6th of May, 1709, for Breaking the House of Mr. John Marsh, and taking from thence a Psalm-book, two Cloth-Coats, a Diaper Table-cloth, 10 Napkins, and several other things, on the 11th of April before; for which having obtain’d a Reprieve, and afterwards a Pardon, which she pleaded in Court at the Old-Baily, on the 8th of December, 1710, (at which time she was order’d to the Bridewell of Clerkenwell for 2 Years) she no sooner had her Liberty (which she got by breaking out of that House of Correction) but she return’d to her former wicked Way of Robbing. So that,

10thly, She was again (under the Name of Ann Hutchens) Burnt in the Hand at the Old-Baily, on the 12th of April, 1711, for stealing 4 Holland-Smocks that hung up a drying in the Yard of Mr. William Baker, on the 28th of March preceding.

11thly, She was (under the Name of Ann Hodges) Burnt in the Hand at the Old-Baily, on the 28th of February, 1711/1712, for Stealing a Coat, Wastcoat, and Breeches, Linnen, Gold-Rings, and other Goods, of Mrs. Susannah Butterwick, on the 12th of the same Month.

12thly, and Lastly, (to mention no more of these sad Particulars) She was again (under the Name of Ann Hodges, alias Jenkins, alias Jeatzin) Burnt in the Hand, at the Old-Baily, on the 2d of May, 1712, for a Felony, in stealing Pewter and other Goods out of the House of Mr. John Simmonds, on the 5th of the ‘foregoing March.

All these her notorious Facts, of which I had taken a particular Account, I laid before her, together with some others she had been try’d for, but acquitted of, for want of positive Evidence to convict her, tho’ there was no great reason to doubt her being guilty of ’em: And moreover, I put her in mind of her having frequently broke out of the Workhouse, to which she had several times been sent, for her Correction and Amendment; the former whereof she would not receive, nor bring her self to the practice of the latter, but plainly shew’d her ill Disposition and wicked Desire of returning (as she did so fast as she could) to her sinful Course of Life; of which I exhorted and press’d her to make a free Confession, and repent. Whereupon she acknowledg’d her Guilt in these Matters, saying, (in general) That she had done many ill things, but her discovering them in particular (were she able fully to do that) would be now of no use to the World. Having some just Suspicion that she had been concern’d in Facts committed in Surrey, and try’d for them in that County, I put the Question to her, which she answer’d in the Negative, thinking (I suppose) that those Facts could not so easily be known to me, being done not only at a distance, and in a County where I have nothing to do, but also under Names which she thought fit at times to take and shift, as suited best her Occasions of disguising her self, and concealing Who and What she was. I found her all along very stupid, and insensible both of her sad Condition, and the Cause of it. When I examin’d her in private, she was very sullen, spoke but few (and those angry) Words, and shed fewer Tears: What her inward Thoughts were, I can’t tell; but she gave little sign of true Repentance. As I observ’d her in that harden’d Temper, so I told her, That she behav’d her self just as I had seen others do, who were guilty of Murder, whom (above all other Sinners) the Devil does what he can to hinder from repenting; and therefore I must needs plainly say this to her, That I was afraid she had been concern’d in some Bl[oo]dy Fact or other; for she seem’d to me to be more than a common Sinner. To this she answer’d, That she never committed any Murder in her Life. No? said I to her; Did you never kill a Bastard-Child, to hide your Shame when you were in Service? (for I knew she had been a Servant in some Families in and about London.) At this Question she startled, and after a Pause (not without some discomposure) said, She was very clear of that Crime. However I gave her to understand I greatly suspected she was not, for she had been a very wicked, lewd, and debauch’d Woman; and so I offer’d her some ghostly Advice herein. Then I further ask’d her, Whether she knew any thing of the Murder of Esq. Hanson and Mr. Carlton, who (some Years ago) were found murder’d, viz. the first near the Vinegar-house beyond Moorfields, and the other between Rosemary-branch and Cambray-house, in Islington Parish. To which she reply’d, That she had indeed heard of those Murders, but was not in the least concern’d in ’em, nor knew who had committed them. This is all I could get from her, who (as I observ’d with great Concern) instead of making a right use of the long Time and good Instruction she had under this Condemnation, seem’d (all the while) to have nothing so much at Heart as getting a Reprieve, and avoiding this Death; tho’ I endeavour’d to make her sensible, there was no manner of ground for her Hope of Life in this World; and, that if she were wise she would (as ’twas infinitely better she should) seriously consider her sad and miserable Condition by reason of her Sins, and so by all the Acts of Repentance she was capable of exerting, prepare herself for her great Change that was approaching and inevitable. And this important Consideration I urg’d to her, to the very last.

At the Place of Execution (whither both she and George Hynes were this Day carried from Newgate in a Cart, and where I attended them for the last time) she seem’d to be much dejected and sorrowful; and no Wonder, for she had great Cause to be so. Hynes likewise cry’d bitterly, lamenting and bewailing his past sinful Life. Here I gave them proper Admonitions; and after I had pray’d, and sung some Penitential Psalms with them, and made ’em rehearse the Apostles Creed, I advis’d, that they would (and accordingly they did) desire the Spectators to pray for them, and take Warning by their Fall; To keep the Sabbath-day, serve God, and live honestly. Then I withdrew from them, recommending their Souls to God, and leaving them to their private Devotions, for which they had some Time allotted. After this the Cart drew away, and they were turn’d off, crying all the while to God for Mercy, Pardon, and Salvation.

* We’ve previously seen that London authorities didn’t mind applying the brand several times to a habitual offender.

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1716: Stefan Cantacuzino, Wallachian prince

1 comment January 21st, 2018 Headsman

On this date in 1716, the Ottomans extinguished their Wallachian (Romanian) client king — and with him native rule on that soil.

The Cantacuzino family has bequeathed Romania no small quantity of notables down to our present time. Our man Stefan Cantacuzino (English Wikipedia entry | Romanian) got the throne of the Ottoman satellite principality of Wallachia via intriguing against a cousin whom the Ottomans deposed and executed in 1714. That guy is a saint today for refusing to convert to save his life.

Stefan Cantacuzino aimed perhaps at a more secular apotheosis, tipping the Austrians to Turkish battle plans as the frontier slid into war between those empires. Who knows what reverential murmurs would attend his name had he been able to attach the Danubian Principalities to Christendom?

But considering that summary death at the command of dissatisfied sultans was an occupational hazard for Wallachian princes, he can’t have been surprised to find the bowstring around his own neck instead.

“With him terminated the rule of the native princes,” notes this 19th century history — and began that of “the so-called Phanariote governors,” a class of Greek magnates initially resident in Istanbul. The Porte’s arbitration among these as deputies for Wallachia enabled it to maintain much better control of the troublesome province than entrusting succession to the treacherous local boyars.

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