1829: Thomas Maynard, the last hanged for forgery

Add comment December 31st, 2019 Headsman

The last day of the 1820s marked the last hanging for forgery in Great Britain: that of Thomas Maynard, at London’s Newgate Prison.

Maynard was charged with two other men* for forging an order of His Majesty’s Customs to pay them £1,973. They got the money and for a few months had that blessed relief from the weight of penury and debt; one of the numerous witnesses in their case described how one of Maynard’s confederates “was in difficulties in the year 1828 … I saw him in June last, when he told me his wife had 700l.”

It must have been nice, but they weren’t quite quick enough about executing their plan to sail for America.

Although the sovereign himself was the victim in this instance, British juries had grown ever more reluctant in the early 19th century to impose capital punishment for faking a document to non-violently steal some money — although there were still 218 such executions over the first 30 years of the century.

The availability of the death penalty for such a deed was repealed in 1832.

* Joseph West, who was acquitted, and Richard Jones, who was convicted only as an accessory and transported to Australia.

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1609: Captain John Harris, Captain John Jennings, and 15 other pirates at Wapping

Add comment December 22nd, 2019 Headsman

On this date* in 1609, seventeen pirates hanged at Wapping’s “Execution Dock”. Though English, a large number of them had been taken in Ireland.

Elizabethan England had cultivated a reputation for the quantity and ferocity of her buccaneers, profitably plundering Spain’s New World treasure galleons and establishing themselves as a terror in the Mediterranean and the North Atlantic — some, like Sir Francis Drake, with official blessing as privateers, and many others operating off-book knowing that a crown thirsty for specie would turn a blind eye to their business.

This sector was a rising tide that lifted many boats: commoners on the make and lords of the realm alike invested in pirating, and the proceeds washed over Britain’s wharfs to all the landlubbers who called pirates family, or who received their stolen plunder, or who sold ale to the conquering corsairs.

In 1603, the arrangement changed.

With Elizabeth’s death the crown passed to a man who disdained the profession and wanted to bring English hostilities with Spain to a close. James I had not yet even been crowned king in England when he published notice of a sea change in the piracy policy.

We are not ignorant that our late dear Sister, the late Queen of England, had of long time wars with the king of Spain, and during that time gave Licences and Commissions to divers of her, and our now Subjects, to let out and furnish to sea divers ships warlikely appointed, for the surprising and taking of the said King’s subjects’ goods, and for the enjoying of the same, being taken and brought home as lawful Prize.

We further will and command, that our men of war, as be now at sea having no sufficient commission as aforesaid, and have taken, or shall go to sea hereafter, and shall take any the ships or goods of any subject of any Prince in league or amity with us, shall be reputed and taken as pirates and both they and all their accessories, maintainers, comforters, and partakers shall suffer death as pirates and accessories to piracy, with confiscation of all their lands and goods, according to the ancient Laws of this Realm.

These are fine words for the diplomatic pouch but veteran raiders weren’t just going to throw over their only profession** and in practice James lacked the naval muscle to enforce his writ very far from English shores. Ireland, and in particular its most distant southwest province of Munster, had become a fine pirate haven jutting into Atlantic hunting-grounds, where the denizens of ports like Baltimore and Crookhaven merrily continued to welcome English sea rovers.

“Although these things happen more often in England than Ireland, by reason there is more plenty of Ports and Shipping, as also more abundance of Seamen,” wrote the English mariner Henry Mainwaring, who was alternately a pirate and a hunter of pirates.

yet in proportion Ireland doth much exceed it, for it may be well called the Nursery and Storehouse of Pirates, in regard of the general good entertainment they receive there; supply of victuals and men which continually repair thither out of England to meet with Pirates. As also, for that they have as good or rather better intelligence where your Majesty’s Ships are, than contrariwise they shall have of the Pirates. In regard of the benefit the Country receives by the one, and the prejudice, or incumber as they count it, of the other. Unto which must also be added the conveniency of the place, being that the South, the West, and the North Coasts, are so full of places and Harbours without command, that a Pirate being of any reasonable force, may do what he listeth. Besides that, many of that Nation are scarce so well reduced to any civil jurisdiction, as to make a conscience of trading with them.

And here we come to our post’s principal characters … who, it turns out, could not indeed do exactly what he listeth.

Bristol-born and ranging all the way to the Barbary Coast, Captain James Harris favored the port of Baltimore,† along Ireland’s southern coast, as a handy sanctuary where he “repaired and fresh victuald our ship” … but he should have favored it less. Having recently called there, Harris returned too soon, over the objections of his crew, who accurately warned that his name having been bandied about town was liable to attract some attention. He found an English warship waiting for his return but he was a game sport about the turn of fate that brought his end to show that he was no hypocrite since formerly, “making my felicity out of others mens miseries, while I thought prosperity at sea, as sure in my gripe, as the power to speak was free to my gontue, my actions were so imboldened, and my heart so hardned, that I held it a cowardise to dispaire to attempt, and effeminacy to pitie whosoever did perish.” Harris flung his hat to the crowd come to watch him die, and when someone shouted a question about a reprieve, he jauntily replied that he had “None, sir, but from the King of Kings.”

Preceding him at the Wapping gallows with a like prediction of eternal salvation, Captain John Jennings had a more operatic undoing when, likewise victualing at Baltimore, he insisted on taking his Irish lover aboard and triggered all the seamen’s superstitions when the pirates immediately ran into one of His Majesty’s warships, and soon thereafter barely survived a bloody scrap with two Spanish vessels that cost the pirates 10 crew members dead. The surviving crew huddled up and agreed that their rum luck “was a just judgement of God against them, in suffering their Captaine to bring his whore aboard.”

A mutiny overthrew his authority, and although it was eventually restored after the new guy proved himself a Queeg, the morale hit was obviously permanent, for much of his band deserted him the next time he put in at (again) Baltimore. With skeleton crew, he limped along the coast to the Earl of Thomond where he hoped for a hospitable reception; instead, his remaining mates betrayed him (and his last two loyal retainers) into English hands when the dissipated captain was blind drunk.

* The key source on this event is “The Lives, Apprehensions, Arraignments and Executions of the 19 late Pyrates, namely, Capt. Harris, Jennings, Longcastle, Downes, Haulsey, and their companions, as they were severally indited on St. Margret’s Hill, in Southwark, on the 22 of December last and executed the Friday following.” The title implies, wrongly, that the pirates were tried on Friday the 22nd and executed on Friday the 29th; in fact it is explicit right in the text that Captain Jennings “from a free and vnburthened heart, a patient mind and willing steps, I goe out of my chamber in the Marshalstes, the Friday morning being the two and twenty day of December to make my death-bed at Wapping.”

** Besides freebooting, English privateers were also keen to obtain new commissions from the Low Countries in the latter’s long-running revolt against Spain. But whether licensed or no, most regular sailors were scarcely in a position to hang up their cutlasses. “Those that were rich rested with what they had,” Captain John Smith wrote about the aftermath of James’s settlement with Spain. “Those that were poore and had nothing but from hand to mouth, turned Pirats; some, because became sleighted for those for whom they had got much wealth; some for that they could not get their due; some, all that lived bravely, would not abase themselves to poverty; some, vainly, only to get a name; others for revenge, covetousness, or as ill.” Plus ça change
.
† Baltimore figures in our story as a pirate-friendly landing; however, it’s most famous in buccaneering annals as the target for an infamous 1631 raid by Algiers corsairs, who carried off most of the villagers as slaves . See The Stolen Village: Baltimore and the Barbary Pirates.

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1709: Thomas Smith, Aaron Jones, Joseph Wells, and John Long

Add comment December 16th, 2019 Paul Lorrain

(Thanks for the guest post to Paul Lorrain, the Ordinary of Newgate and a pioneer through these ordinary’s accounts of true crime printed ephemera. -ed.)

The ORDINARY of NEWGATE his Account of the Behaviour, Confessions, and Last Speeches of the Malefactors that were Executed at Tyburn, on Friday the 16th day of December, 1709.

AT the Sessions held at Justice-Hall in the Old-Baily, on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, being the 7th, 8th, and 9th instant, Eight Men, who were found guilty of Death, received their Sentence accordingly. Four of them are now order’d for Execution: The other Four are respited from it by HER SACRED MAJESTY’s most gracious Reprieve, which I hope, and here heartily intreat them, that they will take care to improve to the Glory of God, the Benefit of their Neighbour, and their own Temporal and Eternal Good.

While they were under this Condemnation, I constantly visited them, and had them brought up every day, both in the Morning and Afternoon, to the Chapel in Newgate; where I pray’d with them and instructed them in the Word of God, and in the Duties of Christianity; which they had so much neglected. They seem’d to be very serious and attentive to what I then deliver’d to them, for their Instruction and the Comfort of their Souls.

On the Lord’s Day the 11th instant, I preach’d to them and others there present, both in the Morning and Afternoon, upon part of the Epistle for the Day, viz. 1 Cor. 4. the former part of the 5th Verse; the Words being these, Therefore judge nothing before the time, untill the Lord come; who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the Counsels of the hearts.

Which Words, with their Context, I first explain’d in general; shewing, That by them the Apostle do’s not mean, that no Judgment should be pass’d upon the open Actions of Men; for it is plain, from Reason and the revealed Will of God, that Evil-doers are to be judged and punished by the Magistrate, according to their wicked Deeds, when they come to be known and prov’d by sufficient Evidence. But for those things that are hidden and secret, and of which it is utterly impossible for such as do not know the Hearts of Men, to make a Judgment, they ought not to be meddled with, nor Sentence pass’d upon them by Men, who are absolutely ignorant of them. And therefore they must wait for the time which God has appointed for the bringing forth those hidden Things of Darkness both to Light and to Judgment, when He shall think fit to judge the World; which He will certainly do one day; and that too, in Righteousness, by that Man (i.e. Christ Jesus) whom He has ordain’d; whereof He has given assurance unto all Men, in that He has rais’d Him from the dead; as the Apostle speaks, Acts 17. 31.

Having enlarg’d on this, I then proceeded to discourse upon these two Particulars.

I. The Necessity and Certainty of a Judgment to come.

II. The Strictness and Severity of that Judgment, which shall be most terrible to impenitent Sinners.

And to these I added some Directions how Men (by Faith and Repentance) might provide against the severity of that Judgment, and avoid their final and eternal Condemnation.

In the Conclusion of both these Discourses, I apply’d my self with particular Exhortations to the Condemned; and then dismiss’d them for that time, with a Prayer, That God would be pleas’d to seal those Truths upon their Souls, which in his Name, and by his Spirit, I had deliver’d to them; and that He would render them effectual to their everlasting Salvation. This I mention to satisfie those inquisitive Persons who are often asking, What method or means I use, or can be us’d, to bring those sorts of Men to Christ, and dispose them for Eternal Life.

As I publickly taught these poor unhappy Creatures, how they might be made happy, so I had some private Discourses with ’em, wherein such of ’em as are now appointed for Death, made the following Confessions to me, viz.

1. Thomas Smith, condemn’d for a Burglary by him (and others with him) committed in the House of the Right Honourable the Earl of Westmorland,* and taking Goods from thence to a very great Value, in October last. He confess’d that he was concern’d in the Robbery, but not in the Burglary: That indeed he was in the House, but did not break it open; for it was so before he broke out of the Goal at Chelmsford in Essex, where he was a Prisoner. This is all he would confess as to this particular Matter. But as to the general Course of his Life, he acknowledg’d it to have been very bad indeed, though perhaps not so bad as some have represented it, and the generality of the World believ’d it to be. For he had never robbed any House in his Life (saving that Honourable Lord’s above-mentioned) and, That he never did wrong any Person (as it was so-much reported) at Highgate, or Hampstead, or any other Place thereabouts; but all the Facts that he ever was guilty of, were committed in London, Southwark, and Westminster: And, That those Facts were only the taking off Boxes, Trunks, & suchlike things, from behind Coaches or Wagons, and Handkerchiefs, &c. out of Peoples Pockets in the Streets: Of which sorts of Facts he had committed many; so many that he could not remember them all; neither was it (said he) necessary for him to name them, as being of no use to the Persons he had thus wrong’d, to whom he could not make any Amends or Satisfaction, but by asking their Pardon, which he did. He further said, That he was a Cooper by his Trade; That he was born at Highgate, and was now about 33 years of age; the most part of which time he had spent very ill, though his Mother and other his Friends and Relations (who are very honest) were not wanting in their giving him good Advice, which he did not follow; and for that he is now to suffer; the Providence of God having justly brought him under this Condemnation for the punishment of his wicked Deeds in this World; which Puuishment he pray’d might not be extended to the next. He added, that he had served the Crown at times for some years past, both by Sea and Land ; and that by that Service, and his Trade, (which was not a Bricklayer, as some would have it, but a Dry-Cooper) he might have maintain’d himself, and lived comfortably, had he been honest. He wish’d, that other ill Livers might take Warning by him, and be wiser and honester than he had been. He said, he was sorry he ever injur’d any Man, and now was unable to make any Reparation for those Injuries he had done to his Neighbour. He also declar’d, That he forgave all those that had been the Cause of his Ruin, and, That he dy’d in Charity with all the World. I asking him (as I was desir’d) how he made his escape out of the Goal at Chelmsford, he told me, That he broke the Ridge of the House, and so open’d himself a Passage, and went away by one of the Clock in the Morning on the 12th day of October last, unknown to any-body, and was in London on the 14th.

2. Aaron Jones, condemn’d for two Burglaries and a Murther; viz. First, for breaking open and taking by Night several Goods out of the House of Mr. John Moss at Hampstead, on the 30th of June last: Secondly, for another like Robbery committed in the House of Mr. William Heydon, on the 11th of October last: And Lastly, For the Murther of one Lamas, about Marybone, as he was walking that way with Mr. Moss the day after the first Robbery, i. e. the 1st of July, when the said Mr. Moss and Lamas there met with this Jones, and another Person concern’d with him, of whom mention shall be made hereafter, who were then (both of them) carrying away some of the Goods stoln out of Mr. Moss’s House the Day before. He deny’d both the Buglaries and the Murther, and seem’d to be very stubbon and obstinate in that his Denial; tho’ at the same time he confess’d, That he had formerly been guilty of small Thefts, as the stealing of Poultry, and such things; and, That he had been a very lewd and wicked Person; for which he asked God’s Pardon and theirs whom he had offended. He said, he was a poor Labouring-man , who came up some few years since to London for Work; That he was about 33 years of age, born at the Devizes in Wiltshire; and, That he once little thought he should ever come to such an End: But having forsaken God, God had forsook him, and left him to himself; and for his Neglect of Christian Duties, and following ill Courses, God had suffer’d him to fall by this shameful Condemnation.

3. Joseph Wells, condemn’d for the last-mention’d Facts of two Burglaries and Murther by him committed in conjunction with the aforesaid Aaron Jones. He (like his Accomplice) positively deny’d his being guilty of either of those Facts. But confess’d, he had not lived that honest Life which his good Parents had taught him; and, That he had sometimes (tho’ not in great Matters) defrauded and wrong’d his Neighbour; and (to his grief) could not make any manner of Reparation, but he was now severely punish’d, and he look’d upon that Punishment as inflicted on him by Almighty God for all his past Failures. He said, he was about 30 years of age, born at Cobley near Old-Stratford in Warwickshire; and, That he was a Black-Smith by his Trade, which he had follow’d pretty constantly both in the Country, and here. He outwardly appear’d to be very sensible of the Wrath of God upon Sinners, and cry’d for Mercy; but what his inward Thoughts were, God Almighty only knows.

4. John Long, condemn’d for assaulting and robbing upon the Queen’s High-way near Tyburn, Mr. John Nichols, and Mr. William Cure, taking from them, viz. from Mr. Nichols 36 Guineas, and from Mr. Cure 12 Guineas, a Silver-Watch, and several other Things, on the 19th day of November last. He deny’d these Facts at the first, and persisted long in that denial, and protestation of his Innocence in that Matter; but at the same time he confess’d, That though he was but a Young-man (not 20 years old) yet he had done many ill things, and been very loose in his Life and Conversation for which he craved God’s Pardon; being grieved at his heart, that he had been so wicked. He said further, That he was born of good Parents, at Leeks in Nottinghamshire; That he was a Stonecutter and Bricklayer , by his Trade, and, That he listed himself about a Twelvemonth ago. This is the substance of what he said to me before he went to Tyburn. Of which Place when I come to speak (at the end of this Paper) I will say more of him,

This Day being appointed for the Execution of these Malefactors, they were all carry’d from Newgate (in two Carts) to Tyburn, where I attended them for the last time. There I exhorted them again to stir up their Hearts to God in Faith and Repentance, and clearing their Consciences of all things they were to declare to the World, before they dy’d. I asked Jones and Wells, What they now said to the Robberies and Murther for which they were come to suffer in this Place; and, Whether they knew any thing (as I had asked before in Newgate) of the Murther of Mr. Dudley Carlton, or of any other Murther. To which they answer’d me, That they never were concen’d in the Murther of Mr. Carlton, neither knew who had committed it, nor any thing of it. As for the Crimes for which they were to suffer, Wells said, He was guilty of the Burglary, but not of the Murther of John Lamas. Jones (tho’ I press’d him much and long, to speak the Truth concerning those Burglaries, and that Murther of Lamas) he would not say any thing, but this only, That he would tell me no more Lies, and, That all he had to confess to Man, was, that he had been a great Sinner, and done too many ill things in his Lifetime. By which Answer he seem’d tacitely to own, that he had committed both the Burglaries, and the Murther, for which he was to die.

Then I asked Thomas Smith, Whether he still persisted in his Denial of the Burglary for which he was condemned, or would acknowledge it now (as it greatly concerned him to do). To which he reply’d, That he had nothing more to say in the matter than he had said already; which was, That the House was broke open long before he went into it.

Lastly, as for John Long, who had all the while deny’d the two Robberies for which he was condemned, he own’d them here; saying, That he was guilty of them, and pray’d God and the World to forgive him. He cry’d very bitterly, wished he had lived a better Life: And both he and the other three desired all Offenders to take Warning by them, and see that they do not by their wicked ways follow them to this Place.

After this, I pray’d for them all, and sung some Penitential Psalms with them, I made them rehearse the Apostle’s Creed; and when they had spoken to the Standers-by, That they would pray to GOD for their departing Souls; I returned to Prayer again; and having recommended them to their Creator and Redeemer, and to the Spirit of Grace; I left them to their private Devotions, for which they had some time allotted them.

Then the Cart drew away, and they were turn’d off; they all the while calling mightily upon GOD, to forgive their Sins, and have Mercy upon their Souls.

This is all the Account here to be given of these Dying Persons, by me, PAUL LORRAIN, Ordinary of Newgate .

Friday, Dec. 16. 1709.

ADVERTISEMENT.

Books set forth by Paul Lorrain, Ordinary of Newgate .

A Guide to Salvation, or the Way to Eternal Bliss: Being a Collection of Meditations and Prayers, suited to the Exercise of a Devout Christian. Printed for W. Meadows at the Fann in St. Paul’s Church-yard, 1709.

The Last Words of the Lady Margaret de la Musse: And, The Dying man’s Assistant. Both Printed for, and Sold by John Lawrence at the Angel in the Poultry.

A Preparation for the Sacrament: with Moral and Divine Maxims. Printed for B. Aylmer at the 3 Pidgeons in Cornhil.

ROBERT WHITLEDGE, who formerly lived at the Bible in Creed-Lane, is removed to the Bible and Ball in Ave-Mary-Lane, near Ludgate, where all Booksellers and others may be furnisht with Bibles and Common-Prayers of all Sorts, with Cuts or without, Ruled or Unruled, Bound in Turky Leather or Plain. Mr. Sturt’s Cuts Curiously Engrav’d; also other fine Cutts fitted for all Sizes and Common-Prayers. The Welsh Bible, Welsh Common-Prayer, and Welsh Almanack. The Duty of Man’s Works of all Sizes. The Duty of Man in Latin. Latin and French Common-Prayers. Tate and Brady’s New Version of Psalms, with the New Supplement. Dr. Gibson on the Sacrament. The Statutes at large, in Three Volumes. Washington and Wingate’s Abridgment of them. The Lord Clarendon’s History of the Rebellion in Folio and Octavo. The New Translation of AEsops Fables. Also Bp. Beveridge’s Works, in 5 vol. And Dean Stanhope on the Epistles and Gospels, in 4 vol. All which Books and Cuts are likewise Sold by J. Baker in Mercers-Chapel, in Cheapside.

Lately publish’d for the Use of Schools,

Vocabularium Latiale; or, a Latin Vocabulary in two parts. The First being a Collection of the most usual and easie Latin words, whether primitive or derivative; with their signification in English, after the order of the Eight parts of Speech, giving a Specimen of each, and most naturally shewing the gender, increase, declension and motion of Nouns and Pronouns, with the Conjugation-Preterperfect Tense and Supine of Verbs both Simple and Compound. The Second, shewing the variation and declining of all the declinable parts, both regular an irregular. By Tho. Dyche, School-Master in London, Author of a new Spelling-book, entitul’d, A Guide to the English Tongue. Printed for S. Butler, at Bernard’s-Inn-Gate, in Holbourn, J Holland, near St. Paul’s Church-yard, and A. Collins, at the Black-Boy in Fleet-street. Price 1 s.

Memoirs of the right Villianous John Hall, the late famous and Notorious Robber. Pen’d from his Mouth some time before his Death. Containing the exact Life and Character of a Thief in General. As also a lively Representation of Newgate, and its Inhabitants, with the Manners and Customs observed there. The Nature and Means by which they commit their several Thefts and Robberies, and the Distinctions observed in their respective Functions. To which is added, the Cant generally us’d by those Sort of People to conceal their Villanies; and Rules to avoid being Robb’d or Cheated by them. Usefully set forth for the Good of the Publick, at the Instance of many honest People. The third Edition, with large Additions, and a Description of Ludgate, the two Compers, and other Prisons for Debt.

The wooden World dissected in the Character, of, 1. a Ship of War; 2. a Sea-Captain; 3. a Sea-Lieutenant; 4. a Sea Chaplain; 5. The Master of a Ship of War; 6. The Purser; 7. The Surgeon; 8. The Gunner; 9. The Carpenter; 10. The Boatswain; 11. a Sea-Cook; 12. a Midship-man; 13. The Captain’s Steward; 14. a Sailor. By a lover of the Mathematicks. The Second Edition, corrected and amended by the Author. Price bound, 1 s.

The Satyrical Works of Petronius Arbiter, in Prose, and Verse. In three Parts. Together with his Life and Character, written by Mons. St. Evremont; and a Key to the Satyr, by a Person of Quality. Made English by Mr. Wilson, Mr. Burna by, Mr. Blount, Mr. Brown, Captain Ayloff, and several others. And adorn’d with Cuts. To which is added, the Charms of Liberty; a Poem, by the late Duke of Devonshire.

All 3 Sold by B. Bragge, at the Raven in Pater-noster-row.

London Printed, and are to be Sold by Benj. Bragge, at the Raven in Pater-noster-Row.

* The Earldom of Westmorland still exists to this day and the same family as our crime victim here still holds it: it belongs now to Anthony David Francis Henry Fane, the 16th Earl of Westmorland.

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Entry Filed under: 18th Century,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,England,Execution,Guest Writers,Hanged,Murder,Other Voices,Theft

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1499: Edward, Earl of Warwick, the last Plantagenet claimant

Add comment November 28th, 2019 Headsman

On this date in 1499, the Plantagenet prince Edward, Earl of Warwick lost his head — and his once-mighty house lost its last direct male successor to its claim upon kingship.

A lagging casualty of the Wars of the Roses, little Ted was only three when he lost his old man to a treason charge and a butt of malmsey. The same blade dangled close to Edward’s neck throughout his few years, for he became a potential royal claimant after his young cousins, the Princes in the Tower, were killed off in 1483.

Warwick was all of eight years old at that moment. When he was 10, he was shut up in the Tower of London by Henry VII, never really to leave it again.* “Being kept in the Tower from his tender age, that is to say from his first year of the king [i.e., of Henry VII’s reign] to this fifteenth year, out of all company of men and sight of beasts, in so much that he could not discern a goose from a capon,” in the words of chronicler Edward Hall. Some historians have taken that to mean that Edward was was mentally disabled, but under the circumstances, who wouldn’t be?*

It was cold and eminently practical mistreatment, for this boy however innocent in his own person was the potential champion of the Yorkists. In 1487, an abortive rebellion arose in Warwick’s name, with a 10-year-old kid named Lambert Simnel presented as a faux-Edward. Henry crushed the rebellion and was obliged to make his proofs to the populace by parading the real Edward around London which was at least a rare excursion outside the Tower walls for the tween hostage.**

Pretenders tossed the boy prisoner hither and yon on the currents of fortune. The next one to have a go at Henry, a Low Countries twerp named Perkin Warbeck who claimed to be one of the lost Princes in the Tower, mounted landings in the mid-1490s, vainly hoping to spark a general revolt. After he was finally captured in 1497, he wound up in the Tower with poor Warwick. Warbeck persuaded the desperate youth upon a desperate course — or was it by the intentional policy of that scheming king to dispose of a threat and thereby cinch that famously ill-fated Spanish marriage so productive of clientele for our grim annals? A century-plus later, Francis Bacon described in History of the Reign of King Henry VII the popular suspicion that had attached to this convenient tying up of loose ends:

it was ordained, that this winding-ivy of a Plantagenet should kill the true tree itself. For Perkin, after he had been a while in the Tower, began to insinuate himself into the favour and kindness of his keepers, servants to the lieutenant of the Tower Sir John Digby, being four in number; Strangeways, Blewet, Astwood, and Long Roger. These varlets, with mountains of promises, he sought to corrupt, to obtain his escape; but knowing well, that his own fortunes were made so contemptible, as he could feed no man’s hopes, and by hopes he must work, for rewards he had none, he had contrived with himself a vast and tragical plot; which was, to draw into his company Edward Plantagenet earl of Warwick, then prisoner in the Tower; whom the weary life of a long imprisonment, and the often and renewing fears of being put to death, had softened to take any impression of counsel for his liberty. This young Prince he thought these servants would look upon, though not upon himself: and therefore, after that by some message by one or two of them, he had tasted of the earl’s consent; it was agreed that these four should murder their master the lieutenant secretly in the night, and make their best of such money and portable goods of his, as they should find ready at hand, and get the keys of the Tower, and presently let forth Perkin and the earl. But this conspiracy was revealed in time, before it could be executed. And in this again the opinion of the King’s great wisdom did surcharge him with a sinister fame, that Perkin was but his bait, to entrap the earl of Warwick.

… Howsoever it were, hereupon Perkin, that had offended against grace now the third time, was at the last proceeded with, and by commissioners of oyer and terminer arraigned at Westminster, upon divers treasons committed and perpetrated after his coming on land within this kingdom, for so the judges advised, for that he was a foreigner, and condemned, and a few days after executed at Tyburn; where he did again openly read his confession, and take it upon his death to be true. This was the end of this little cockatrice of a King, that was able to destroy those that did not espy him first. It was one of the longest plays of that kind that hath been in memory, and might perhaps have had another end, if he had not met with a King both wise, stout, and fortunate.

And immediately after was arraigned before the Earl of Oxford, then for the time high steward of England, the poor Prince, the Earl of Warwick; not for the attempt to escape simply, for that was not acted; and besides, the imprisonment not being for treason, the escape by law could not be treason, but for conspiring with Perkin to raise sedition, and to destroy the King: and the earl confessing the indictment, had judgment, and was shortly after beheaded on Tower-hill.

This was also the end, not only of this noble and commiserable person Edward the earl of Warwick, eldest son to the duke of Clarence: but likewise of the line male of the Plantagenets, which had flourished in great royalty and renown, from the time of the famous King of England, King Henry the second. Howbeit it was a race often dipped in their own blood. It hath remained since only transplanted into other names, as well of the imperial line, as of other noble houses. But it was neither guilt of crime, nor treason of state, that could quench the envy that was upon the King for this execution: so that he thought good to export it out of the land, and to lay it upon his new ally, Ferdinando King of Spain. For these two Kings understanding one another at half a word, so it was that there were letters shewed out of Spain, whereby in the passages concerning the treaty of marriage, Ferdinando had written to the King in plain terms, that he saw no assurance of his succession, as long as the earl of Warwick lived; and that he was loth to send his daughter to troubles and dangers. But hereby, as the King did in some part remove the envy from himself; so he did not observe, that he did withal bring a kind of malediction and infausting upon the marriage, as an ill prognostic: which in event so far proved true, as both Prince Arthur enjoyed a very small time after the marriage, and the lady Catharine herself, a sad and a religious woman, long after, when King Henry the eighth his resolution of a divorce from her was first made known to her, used some words, that she had not offended, but it was a judgment of God, for that her former marriage was made in blood; meaning that of the earl of Warwick.

* The situation reminds of little Tsar Ivan VI in the 18th century, although that Russian prince was held from an even younger age, under even more oppressive conditions.

** Being only a figurehead, the pretend Warwick ironically enjoyed great mercy compared to the real one. Simnel was installed in Henry’s kitchens instead and lived out a comfortable life in the royal household.

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1615: Anne Turner

2 comments November 15th, 2019 Headsman

For Sommersett must love Essex faire wife
by wich his deerest servant lost his life.
losse upon losse, all things grow cleane contrary
and thus our sinfull times themselves doe vary.

From a 17th century libel

On this date in 1615, Anne Turner hanged at Tyburn for a shocking society murder remembered as the Overbury Affair.

Turner was quite a character herself, but her journey to the pages of Executed Today begins in the bedsheets of the nobility. In fact, events revolve around a marriage alliance between two families of notable beheadings, in the persons of Frances Howard — the grandsondaughter of Queen Elizabeth’s enemy Thomas Howard (beheaded 1572) — and Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex — son of Queen Elizabeth’s lover also named Robert Devereux (beheaded 1601).

‘Twas often that noble pairings were cynical, loveless expediencies but this union exceeded most in its deficiencies.

They married so young — 13 to 14 years old as they tied the knot — that they were initially kept apart to prevent them sleeping together but this failure to consummate developed into firm policy. Devereux was impotent with her — even though, per Francis Bacon’s investigation, “before and after the marriage, he hath found an ability of body to know any other woman, and hath oftentimes felt motions and provocations of the Flesh, rending to carnal copullation” — and Howard seemingly systematically refused him. (Devereux was elsewhere heard to note that his virility failed because his wife “reviled him, and miscalled him, terming him a cow, and coward, and beast.”)

By that time — we’re into 1613 here — the missus was also intentionally trying to force an annulment of the marriage, so that she could pursue love and power with the king’s young favorite, Robert Carr. Both spouses agreed that their union had never been consummated, a fact “verified” by a panel of matrons who inspected the wife’s bits to confirm the presence of the hymen. Frances was veiled during this humiliating spectacle to preserve her modesty and/or identity, as widely believed rumor held that she’d swapped in a ringer to pass the exam.

This maide inspected;
But fraud interjected
A Maid of more perfection:
The midwives did her handle,
While the Kn[igh]t held the candle
O there was a clear inspection!

While Frances was orchestrating all this, her lover’s close friend Sir Thomas Overbury was energetically counseling that youth against the match, going so far as to write one of the classics of Jacobean poetry, “A Wife”, expounding on the preferred virtues of such a partner in an apparent attempt to underscore to his chum Frances Howard’s conspicuous want of them, e.g.

Where goodnesse failes, ’twixt ill and ill that stands:
Whence ’tis, that women though they weaker be,
And their desire more strong, yet on their hands
The chastity of men doth often lye:
Lust would more common be then any one,
Could it, as other sins, be done alone.

Long story short, the mistress won the struggle over the valuable Robert Carr and her powerful family arranged to sideline Overbury by means of a royal appointment to Russia. When Overbury refused the post, the outraged King James had him locked up in the Tower of London for his impertinence; Overbury soon died there, and Frances Howard and Robert Carr tied the match before 1613 was out.

Carr should have listened to that poem.

It was no more than months ere that gentleman was being eclipsed in King James’s favor by George Villiers, and his eroding status licensed the interest of court enemies in the surprise death of Carr’s friend.

Suspicions of foul play soon appeared vindicated, and we come at last at this point to our gallows-fruit Anne Turner, a wealthy woman in the train of Frances Howard, for the evidence developed by Bacon indicated that Turner acted as Howard’s agent in arranging for Overbury’s guards to poison him off.

The affair was the ruin of her patron, who was convicted along with her prized new husband.* Both of these blueblooded types were spared, but no such mercy obtained for the four commoners who had been the Lady’s instruments.

Turner, who did a brisk business in saffron supplying the royal court its fashionable yellow accoutrements, arranged for “tarts and jellies” procured from a sinister chemist to be delivered to the men at the Tower for ministration to the imprisoned poet. Really it was just as Overbury had tried to warn Carr:

A passive understanding to conceive,
And judgement to discerne, I wish to finde:
Beyond that, all as hazardous I leave;
Learning and pregnant wit in woman-kinde,
What it findes malleable, makes fraile,
And doth not adde more ballast, but more saile.

She, the chemist, and both Overbury’s jailer and the governor of the Tower of London would all four suffer execution on distinct occasions for doing the Lady Howard’s bidding in this matter. Turner’s hanging at Tyburn had a classic dash of showmanship: both the victim and the executioner were pointedly dressed in the yellow saffron ruffles whose lucrative traffic had empowered Anne Turner with the werewithal to corrupt the king’s dungeon. The design fell speedily out of fashion.

Our intrepid assassin, however, had the consolation of a vigorous literary afterlife as her character became a fixture of the 17th century theater. (So did Overbury’s.)

The Overbury Affair’s rich text touching power, gender, commerce, revenge, social climbing, print culture, and murderous intrigue has continued to fascinate new audiences ever since then, intermittently refreshed by many new volumes both fiction and non-.

* Frances Howard confessed the plot — accurately, as it is generally understood. Robert Carr never did, and he’s often been read as a plausible naif, blind to his pretty new wife’s vengeful treatment of his former bosom friend.

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1769: Six at Tyburn, “most of them, sir, have never thought at all”

Add comment October 18th, 2019 Headsman

The sixfold Tyburn hanging on this date in 1769 — all six men condemned for non-homicide property crimes.*

The acquitted Giuseppe Baretti.

We notice them best for their proximity to an altogether more prominent trial: that of the Italian emigre and scholar Giuseppe (Joseph) Baretti, which would take place two days later, on Friday, October 20.** A society fixture whose gift to posterity was setting down (or inventing) that legendary murmur of the beaten-but-unbowed Galileo, “eppur si muove”, Baretti had lived in London for many years and was well-known to the local elites … but in these days he would fear for his stately neck on account of stabbing a man to death during an October 6 brawl in the Haymarket.

This street and the district to which it gave its name lay a quarter-mile to the west of Coventry Garden (op. cit.) and was part of the same vast zone of street prostitution and other underbelly delights. What the great linguist meant to get up to ’round “Hell Corner” will have to be guessed at but in the course of his business he smacked a woman — after, so Baretti said, “she clapped her hands with such violence about my private parts, that it gave me great pain.” Upon this outrage, several young toughs accosted him, and where the innocent reader might perceive chivalry, Baretti’s defenders asserted a common setup for calculated mayhem. “It is a common case there, I am sorry to say it,” a judge testified. “There is seldom a woman that attacks a man, but they have two or three men behind them, ready to pick your pocket, or to knock you down.” Baretti knifed one of this gaggle, mortally.

Joining the local magistracy in Baretti’s corner was fellow dictioneer Samuel Johnson, who presented himself at the Old Bailey to offer evidence on behalf of his colleague.

Doctor Johnson. I believe I began to be acquainted with Mr. Baretti about the year 53 or 54. I have been intimate with him. He is a man of literature, a very studious man, a man of great diligence. He gets his living by study. I have no reason to think he was ever disordered with liquor in his life. A man that I never knew to be otherwise than peaceable, and a man that I take to be rather timorous.

Q. Was he addicted to pick up women in the street?

Dr. Johnson. I never knew that he was.

Q. How is he as to his eye-sight?

Dr. Johnson, He does not see me now, nor I do not see him. [both men were nearsighted -ed.] I do not believe he could be capable of assaulting any body in the street, without great provocation.

Johnson, however, was sanguine about his timorous pal’s potential execution. The very eve the big trial — and the day after the hanging that provides the excuse for this post — Johnson plied his gallowsshadowing familiar James Boswell with this unsentimental appraisal of human fellow-feeling:

l mentioned to him that I had seen the execution of several convicts at Tyburn, two days before, and that none of them seemed to be under any concern. JOHNSON. “Most of them, sir, have never thought at all.” BOSWELL. “But is not the fear of death natural to man?” JOHNSON. “So much so, sir, that the whole of life is but keeping away the thoughts of it.” He then, in a low and earnest tone, talked of his meditating upon the awful hour of his own dissolution, and in what manner he should conduct himself upon that occasion: “I know not (said he), whether I should wish to have a friend by me, or have it all between GOD and myself.”

Talking of our feeling for the distresses of others; — JOHNSON. “Why, sir, there is much noise made about it, but it is greatly exaggerated. No, sir, we have a certain degree of feeling to prompt us to do good: more than that, Providence does not intend. It would be misery to no purpose.” BOSWELL. “But suppose now, sir, that one of your intimate friends was apprehended for an offence for which he might be hanged.” JOHNSON. “I should do what I could to bail him, and give him any other assistance; but if he were once fairly hanged, I should not suffer.” BOSWELL. “Would you eat your dinner that day, sir?” JOHNSON. “Yes, sir; and eat it as if he were eating with me. Why, there’s Baretti, who is to be tried for his life to-morrow, friends have risen up for him on every side; yet if he should be hanged none of them will eat a slice of plum-pudding the less. Sir, that sympathetick feeling goes a very little way in depressing the mind.”

I told him that I had dined lately at Foote’s, who showed me a letter which he had received from Tom Davies,† telling him that he had not been able to sleep from the concern he felt on account of “This sad afair of Baretti,” begging of him to try if he could suggest any thing that might be of service; and, at the same time, recommending to him an industrious young man who kept a pickle shop. JOHNSON. “Ay, sir, here you have a specimen of human sympathy; a friend hanged and a cucumber pickled. We know not whether Baretti or the pickle man has kept Davies from sleep: nor does he know himself. And as to his not sleeping, sir; Tom Davies is a very great man; Tom has been upon the stage, and knows how to do those things: I have not been upon the stage, and cannot do those things.” BOSWELL. “I have often blamed myself, sir, for not feeling for others as sensibly as many say they do.” JOHNSON. “Sir, don’t be duped by them any more. You will find these very feeling people are not very ready to do you good. They pay you by feeling.”

* One burglar, one forger, and four highway robbers.

** The Old Bailey Online web page puts the trial date on October 18, which is flatly erroneous; it appears to be an algorithm’s conflation for a package of various proceedings spanning “Wednesday the 18th, Thursday the 19th, Friday the 20th, Saturday the 21st, and Monday the 23d of October.”

† A Scottish bookseller, writer and actor, Tom Davies introduced Boswell and Johnson.

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1732: Edward Dalton, brotherly hate

Add comment October 9th, 2019 Headsman

On this date in 1732, Tyburn groaned with 13 men (no women) hanged en masse for various crimes — the most eye-catching of whom per the account of the ubiquitous Newgate Ordinary is surely

Edward Dalton, 26 Years of Age, Born in London, [and] Brother to James Dalton the famous Robber and Evidence, who was Executed last Year, as was thought upon the false Evidence of the infamous Waller

We have previously met in these pages that villainous brother, James Dalton. Jemmy was a serial robber and highwayman as sure as hemp is strong, but part of the lethal charge laid against him came courtesy of this “infamous Waller” who made his bones as an unscrupulous thief-taker, offering testimony fit to swing other fellows in order to secure reward purses.

James Dalton even in acknowledging several other charges that were plenty enough to hang him took violent exception to the mugging alleged by John Waller — for the latter was

a Man of a vile Character, that he was a common Affidavit Man, and was but lately, before the time charg’d in the Indictment, come out of Newgate himself; that though he himself had done many ill Things, and had deserv’d Death many times, yet not for this Fact, he being Innocent of it; and said, the Prosecutor was as great a Rogue as himself, and there was never a Barrel the better Herring

About a year later — with the elder Dalton already in his tomb — the magistrates came to the same conclusion in a different case, convicting Waller for perversion of justice “for endeavouring to defraud John Edlin of his good Name, his Life, his Goods, and Chattels, by making before Mr. Justice Gifford, on the 28th of January last, a false Information in Writing, by the Name of John Trevor, charging the said Edlin and another Person with assaulting him the said Waller on the Highway.”

Waller was condemned to stand in the pillory as a result — a punishment that under the brickbats of the London mob could easily exceed ritual shaming and imperil life and limb. At least seven people died in the pillory in the 18th century. One of them was the hated Waller, upon whom Edward Dalton visited his brother’s revenge after the stool pigeon had stood exposed for only “about two or three Minutes.” That’s when, according to a witness, Dalton and a goon named Serjeant Griffith(s) (“very honest in all his Dealings, and never wrong’d any Body” but given to a “particular Pleasure in mobbing and pelting Persons appointed to stand upon the Pillory”)

got upon the Pillory Board, Griffith took hold of Waller’s Coat, and Dalton of the Waisthand of his Breeches, and so they pulled his Head out of the Pillory, and he hung a little while by one Hand, but pulling that Hand out they threw him on the Pillory-board. [William] Belt took him up and endeavoured to put him in again, but the hung-an-Arse, upon which Belt gave him a Knock or two over the Back, with his Hand, (for I can’t say that he had any Weapon) and I believe to get him into the Pillory, but the other two Prisoners and a Chimney Sweeper laid hold of Waller, and stripped him as naked as he was born, except his Feet, for they pulled his Stockings over his Shoes and so left them; then they beat him with Collyflower-stalks, and threw him down upon the Pillory-board. The Chimney-Sweeper put something into his Mouth, and Griffith ramm’d it down his Throat with a Collyflower-stalk. Dalton and Griffith jumpt and stampt upon his naked Body and Head, and kick’d him and beat him with Artichoke and Collyflower-Stalks, as he lay on the Pillory-Board. They continued beating, kicking, and stamping upon him in this manner, for above 1/4 of an Hour, and then the Mob threw down the Pillory, and all that were upon it. Waller then lay naked on the Ground. Dalton got upon him, and stamping on his Privy Parts, he gave a dismal Groan, and I believe it was his last; for after that I never heard him groan nor speak, nor saw him stir.

William Belt was acquitted in this affair, but both Edward Dalton and Serjeant Griffith went to Tyburn’s gallows on October 9, 1732.

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1912: Sargent Philp

Add comment October 1st, 2019 Headsman

The junction between workplace, home, identity (here masculinity), social welfare (or the lack thereof), and partner violence has rarely been so poignantly encapsulated as in the case of Sargent Philp — whose October 1, 1912 hanging for the embittered slaying of his wife is spotlighted by our friends at Capital Punishment UK.

33 year old Philp had been married to 35 year old Rose for 11 years and they had six children ranging from seven months to nine years. Philp was to loose [sic] his right eye in an accident at work and in the early 1900’s there was no compensation for industrial injury and no social security. He was fired as he could no longer do his job. This caused serious financial hardship for the family and in June 1912 Rose took her baby and moved in with her sister, Alice, at 31 Morby Road in the Old Kent Road area of London.

Philp went right round the bend to stalker territory trying to get Rose back: the wife’s understandable insistence on his securing a home played to his ear like the dunning of creditors, until a madness of possessiveness subsumed every familial tenderness.

According to the British National Archives,

Sargent Philp saw Rose Philp several times after the Police Court proceedings, and he told her that he wanted her back, however, she said that she wouldn’t come back until he had a home.

On one visit to Rose Philp’s mother’s house, Sargent Philp said, ‘If she has done this to get money out of me, she is mistaken’, and then added words to the effect that he would rather swing or go to the gallows.

… on Friday 26 July 1912 at about midday … [Rose] came into the kitchen where her sister was already, with Sargent Philp standing at the door, and Sargent Philp said, ‘I’ve got some news for you’, to which Rose Philp asked, ‘Have you got any work?’. Sargent Philp then replied, ‘I’ve got a job to go to on Monday, a good job’, but Rose Philp replied, ‘That’s no news, you are always getting good jobs’. Sargent Philp then asked, ‘Will you come back to me?’ and Rose Philp replied, ‘When you get a home’.

Sargent Philp then ran at Rose Philp, but she dodged round the table and called out for her sister to get a policeman. The sister then ran out for help and Rose Philp ran out of the house and along the street and then into an area of the next house, followed by Sargent Philp who had a shoemaker’s knife in his hand.

He was soon after seen leaning over her as she lay on the ground in the area of the next house. He had cut her throat, severing her windpipe and jugular with a stabbing motion. Rose Philp also had a cut on the left side of her jaw, a severe cut on her left wrist, and several cuts on her left hand and fingers.

Sargent Philp was then at once seized by two men, and he said, ‘I’ve done it, and meant to do it, and if her mother had been here I’d have done her the same. She has been the cause of all my trouble’.

The mother came up a few minutes after, and Sargent Philp repeated either to her or the sister, ‘If you had been here, I should have done you the same’.

It was noted that as Sargent Philp was seized by the two men as he was leaning over Rose Philp, he appeared to have started an attempt to cut his own throat, but his hand was seized.

Other remarks that he was said to have made included, ‘I told you what I would do, and I have done it’, and ‘I don’t care. I am glad I’ve done it. You don’t know what I have been through’.

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1791: George Dingler, proved guilty

Add comment September 19th, 2019 Headsman

“every man is presumed to be innocent till proved guilty …”

-Whig barrister William Garrow, coining a soon-to-become-foundational juridical catchphrase in his unsuccessful defense of wife-murderer George Dingler, who was hanged at Tyburn on 19 September 1791

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1588: Eight Catholics after the defeat of the Spanish Armada

Add comment August 28th, 2019 Headsman

On this date in 1588, Elizabethan England celebrated the defeat of the Spanish Armada with Catholic gallows spread throughout London, claiming eight souls in all.

It was earlier that August that English pluck, Dutch reinforcements, and the Protestant Wind had connived to see off that great Spanish fleet and the prospect of Catholic and continental domination.

Although Catholics were liable for life and limb throughout these years it’s hard to put down the large-scale public hangings (some with full drawing-and-quartering pains) of priests and laymen down to coincidental timing, particularly given the unusual choice to distribute them to several gallows all around London. Here, surely, was a triumphant gloat for the furtive adherents of the old faith to ponder.

The Catholic Encylcopedia’s entry on the Venerable Robert Morton, a priest who was put to death at Lincoln’s Inn Fields, surveys the carnage:

At the same time and place suffered Hugh Moor, a layman, aged 25, of Grantham, Lincolnshire, and Gray’s Inn, London, for having been reconciled to the Church by Fr. Thomas Stephenson, S.J. On the same day suffered (1) at Mile End, William Dean, a priest (q. v.); and Henry Webley, a layman, born in the city of Gloucester; (2) near the Theatre, William Gunter, a priest, born at Raglan, Monmouthshire, educated at Reims; (3) at Clerkenwell, Thomas Holford, a priest, born at Aston, in Acton, Cheshire, educated at Reims, who was hanged only; and (4) between Brentford and Hounslow, Middlesex, James Claxton or Clarkson, a priest, born in Yorkshire and educated at Reims; and Thomas Felton, born at Bermondsey Abbey in 1567, son of B. John Felton,* tonsured 1583 and about to be professed a Minim, who had suffered terrible tortures in prison.

Another priest, plus four additional lay Catholics, quaffed the same bitter cup on August 30.

* No relation, however, to the executed assassin John Felton forty years on: that man’s father made his way in the world hunting Catholic recusants to inform upon.

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