Category Archives: Crime

Assassination Crime Gunpowder Plot London Monarchy Parliament Tower Of London

The true copie of the declaration of Guido Fawkes

 

The confession of Guy Fawkes, published in December 1605. This confession corresponds to the official government position on the Gunpowder Plot, and was probably extracted under torture which renders it unreliable as an historical text. But it certainly makes for interesting reading.

 

The true copie of the declaration of Guido Fawkes, taken in the presence of the Counsellors whose names are under written.

I confesse that a practise in general was first broken unto me against his Majestie for relief of the Catholique cause, and not invented or propounded by my self. And this was first propounded unto me about Easter last. I was twelve month beyond the Seas in the Lowe Countryes of the Archdukes obeisance. Thomas Winter came thereupon with mee into Engand, and there we imparted our purpose to three other Gentlemen, namely, Robert Catesby, Thomas Percy, and John Wright, who all five [of us were] consulting together of the meanes how to execute the same, and taking a vow among our selves for secrecy. Catesbie propounded to have it performed with Gunpowder, and by making a Myne under the upper House of Parliament, which place we made choice of because Religion having been unjustly suppressed there, it was fittest that Justice and punishments should be executed there.

This being resolved amongst us, Thomas Percy hired a House at Westminster for that purpose, near adjoying to the Parliament House, and there we begun to make our Myne about 11th of December 1604. The five that first entered into the work were Thomas Piercy, Robert Catesby, Thomas Winter, John Wright, and my self. Soon after we took another unto us, Christopher Wright, having sworn him also, and taken the Sacrament for Secrecie. When we came to the very foundation of the Wall of the House, which was about three yards thick, and found it a matter of great difficulty, we tooke unto us another Gentleman, Robert Winter, in like manner with oath and Sacrament as aforesaid.

It was about Christmas when we brought our Myne unto the Wall, about Candlemass we had wrought the Wall halfe through. And whilst they were working, I stood as Sentinell to defer any man that came near, whereof I gave them warning, and so they ceased until I gave notice againe to proceede. And we seven lay in the House and had Shot and Powder, being resolved to die in that place before we should yeeld or be taken.

As they were working upon the Wall, they heard a rushing in a Cellar of removing of Coales, whereupon we feared we had beene discovered, and they sent me to go to the Cellar, who finding that the Coales were a-selling, and that the Cellar was to be let, viewing the commodity thereof for our own purpose, Percy went and hired the same for yeerly rent. We had this provided, and brought into the House twenty Barrels of Powder, which we remooved unto the Cellar, and covered the same with Billets and Faggots, which were provided for that purpose.

About Easter, the Parliament being prorogued until October next, we dispersed our selves, and I retired to the Lowe countries by advice and direction of the rest, as well to acquaint Owen with the particulars of the Plot, as also least by my longer stay I might have grown suspicious, and to have come into question. In the meantime Percy having the key of the Cellar, laid in more Powder and wood into it. I returned about the beginning of September next, and then receiving the key of Percy, we brought in more Powder and Billets to cover the same again, and so I went for a time into the Countrey until the 30. of October.

It was further resolved amongst us that the same day that this Act should have been performed, some other of our Confederates should have surprised the person of the Lady Elizabeth the Kings Daughter, who was kept in Warwickshire at the Lord Harington’s house, and presently have proclaimed her Queene, having a Project of Proclamation ready for that purpose; wherein we made no mention of altering of Religion, nor would have avowed the deed to be ours, untill we should have had power enough to make our partie good and then we would have avowed both. Concerning Duke Charles the Kings second son, we had sundry consultations how to seize on his person, but because we found no meanes how to compasse it, the Duke being kept near London, where wee had not forces enough, we resolved to serve our turne with the Lady Elizabeth.

The names of the principal persons that were made privy afterwards to this horrible conspiracy: Edward Digby, Knight. Francis Tresham. John Grant. Robert Keyes.

 

 

There are more posts on the Gunpowder Plot here

Crime Curiosities London Politics Tower Of London

The more affliction we endure

Queen’s House, Tower of London

I thought it might be interesting to share some photographs of Tudor graffiti in the Tower of London. I should point out that I am in no way a photographer, and the photos below were taken inside the Beauchamp Tower with an iPhone. As such the quality is quite poor. However the photos do convey a sense of the incredible graffiti carved into the walls; there is something very moving about these personal imprints, carved during a time of fear and, often, abject despair.

Beauchamp Tower stands adjacent to the above building in the Tower complex. Its proximity to what had been the Lieutenant’s Lodgings made it an ideal place to hold high-profile prisoners in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Some of its more famous occupants include Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, imprisoned for a year in the Tower in 1553, and Sir Philip Howard, Earl of Arundel, who died at the Tower after ten years of incarceration. The upper and lower floors of Beauchamp Tower are littered with personalised graffiti, now carefully preserved behind perspex screens.

Beauchamp Tower
Robert Dudley’s initials?
Earl of Arundel




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Crime Monarchy Murder Witchcraft

They should kiss the Devil’s buttocks

 

Today’s post comes from a contemporaneous account of the North Berwick Witch Trials, which took place in Scotland in 1591-2. The case was an overnight sensation since it featured the attempted murder of King James VI (later James I of England) by witchcraft.

 

Agnis Sampson, which was the elder Witch, was taken and brought to Haliriud house before the Kings Maiestie and sundry other of the nobility of Scotland, where she was straitly examined, but all the persuasions which the Kings maiestie used to her with the rest of his counsell, might not provoke or induce her to confesse any thing, but [she] stood stiffely in the deniall of all that was laide to her charge. Whereupon they caused her to be conveied awaye to prison, there to receive such torture as hath been lately provided for witches in that country.

By due examination of witchcraft and witches in Scotland, it hath latelye beene found that the Devill doth generally marke them with a privie marke. The Witches have confessed themselves that the Divell doth lick them with his tung in some privy part of their bodie before he doth receive them to be his servants, which marke commonly is given them under the haire in some part of their bodye, whereby it may not easily be found out or seene, although they be searched. Generally, so long as the marke is not seene by those which search them, the parties that hath the marke will never confesse any thing. By special commandment this Agnis Sampson had all her haire shaven off in eache parte of her bodie, and her head thrawen [twisted] with a rope according to the custome of that Countrye, being a paine most greevous, which she continued almost an hour, during which time she would not confesse any thing untill the Divels marke was found upon her privities, Then she immediately confessed whatsoever was demanded of her, and justifying those persons aforesaid to be notorious witches.

The saide Agnis Tompson was after brought againe before the Kings Maiestie and his Counsell, and being examined of the meetings and detestable dealings of those witches, she confessed that upon the night of Allhallows Eve last, she was accompanied as well with the persons aforesaide, as also with a great many other witches, to the number of two hundred. And that all they together went by Sea each one in a Riddle or Cive, and went in the same very substantially with Flaggons of wine, making merrie and drinking to the kerke of North Barrick in Lowthian, and that after they had landed, tooke handes on the land and danced this reill or short dance, singing all with one voice

Commer goe ye before, commer goe ye,
Gif ye will not goe before, commer let me

Agnis Tompson confessed that the Divell being then at North Barrick Kerke attending their comming in the habit or likenes of a man, and seeing that they tarried over-long, he at their comming enjoyned them all to a pennance, which was, that they should kisse his Buttockes, in signe of duetye to him: which being put over the Pulpit barre, everye one did as he had enjoyned them: and having made his ungodly exhortations, wherein he did greatlye enveighe against the King of Scotlond, he received their oathes for their good and true service towards him, and departed: which done, they returned to Sea, and so home againe.

The witches demanded of the Divel why he did beare such hatred to the King, who answered, by reason the King is the greatest enemy he hath in the worlde: all which their confessions and depositions are still extant upon record. Agnis Sampson confessed before the Kings Maiestie sundrye thinges which were so miraculous and strange that his Maiestie saide they were all extreame lyars, wherat she answered, she would not wishe his Maiestie to suppose her words to be false, but rather to beleeve them. And thereupon, taking his Maiestie a little aside, she declared unto him the verye wordes which passed betweene the Kings Maiestie and his Queene at Upslo in Norway the first night of their mariage. Where at the Kinges Maiestie wondered greatlye, and swore by the living God, that he believed that all the Divels in hell could not have discovered the same: acknowledging her words to be most true, and therefore gave the more credit to the rest.

Agnis Tompson, by the Divels persuasion should have intended and put in execution the Kings Maiesties death in this manner: She confessed that she tooke a blacke Toade, and did hang the same up by the heeles, three daies, and collected and gathered the venome as it dropped and fell in an Oister shell, and kept the same venome close covered, until she should obtaine any parte or peece of linen cloth, that had appertained to the Kings Maiestie, and shirt, handkercher, napkin or any other thing which she practised to obtaine. And the said Agnis Tompson by her depositions since her apprehension saith, that if she had obtained any one peece of linen cloth which the King had worne and fouled, she had bewitched him to death, and put him to such extraordinary paines, as if he had beene lying upon sharp thornes and endes of Needles.

Moreover she confessed that at the time when his Maiestie was in Denmarke, she tooke a Cat and christened it, and afterward bound to each parte of the Cat, the cheefest partes of a dead man, and severall joyntes of his body, and that in the night following the saide Cat was conveyed into the midst of the sea by all these witches sayling in their riddles or Cives as is aforesaide, and so left the saide Cat right before the Towne of Lieth in Scotland. This done, there did arise such a tempest in the Sea, as a greater hath not beene seene: which tempest was the cause of the perrishing of a Boate or vessell comming over from the towne of Brunt Island to the towne of Lieth, wherein was sundrye jewelles and riche giftes, which should have been presented to the now Queen of Scotland.

Againe it is confessed that the said christened Cat was the cause that the Kinges Maiesties Ship at his coming forth of Denmarke had a contrary winde to the rest of his Ships, which thing was most strange and true, as the Kings Maiestie acknowledgeth, for when the rest of the Shippes had a faire and good winde, then was the winde contrarye and altogether against his Maiestie: and further the saide witche declared, that his Maiestie had never come safelye from the Sea, if his faith had not prevailed above their intentions.

As is clear from the account, Agnes Sampson was tortured in prison prior to her confession. She was probably forced to wear a scold’s bridle – an iron device which was fitted over the head and had sharp clamps which crushed the tongue, and sometimes spikes which poked into the face. She was also deprived of sleep, chained to the wall of her cell, and abused. It was only after extreme torture that Agnes confessed to witchcraft. She was eventually strangled and burned alive for her supposed crimes. Estimates suggest that up to four thousand people in Scotland were executed for witchcraft through the late sixteenth and seventeenth century.


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Crime Death Execution

Witches are hanged, or sometimes burned

These fragments come from William Harrison’s A Description of Elizabethan England (1577), and form an intriguing survey of Elizabethan crime and punishment. The images are taken from a 17th Century collection of prints (right click and open in a new tab for larger image).

In cases of felony, manslaughter, robbery, murder, rape, piracy, and such capital crimes as are not reputed for treason or hurt of the estate, our sentence pronounced upon the offender is, to hang till he be dead. For of other punishments used in other countries we have no knowledge or use; and yet so few grievous crimes committed with us as elsewhere in the world. To use torment also or question by pain and torture in these common cases with us is greatly abhorred, since we are found always to be such as despise death, and yet abhor to be tormented, choosing rather frankly to open our minds than to yield our bodies unto such servile haulings and tearings as are used in other countries. And this is one cause wherefore our condemned persons do go so cheerfully to their deaths; for our nation is free, stout, haughty, prodigal of life and blood, and therefore cannot in any wise digest to be used as villains and slaves, in suffering continually beating, servitude, and servile torments. No, our gaolers are guilty of felony, by an old law of the land, if they torment any prisoner committed to their custody for the revealing of his accomplices.

The greatest and most grievous punishment used in England for such as offend against the State is drawing from the prison to the place of execution upon an hurdle or sled, where they are hanged till they be half dead, and then taken down, and quartered alive; after that, their members and bowels are cut from their bodies, and thrown into a fire, provided near hand and within their own sight, even for the same purpose.

Sometimes, if the trespass be not the more heinous, they are suffered to hang till they be quite dead. And whensoever any of the nobility are convicted of high treason by their peers, that is to say, equals (for an inquest of yeomen passeth not upon them, but only of the lords of parliament), this manner of their death is converted into the loss of their heads only, notwithstanding that the sentence do run after the former order. In trial of cases concerning treason, felony, or any other grievous crime not confessed, the party accused doth yield, if he be a noble man, to be tried by an inquest (as I have said) and his peers; if a gentleman, by gentlemen; and an inferior, by God and by the country, to wit, the yeomanry (for combat or battle is not greatly in use), and, being condemned of felony, manslaughter, etc., he is eftsoons hanged by the neck till he be dead, and then cut down and buried. But if he be convicted of wilful murder, done either upon pretended malice or in any notable robbery, he is either hanged alive in chains near the place where the fact was committed (or else upon compassion taken, first strangled with a rope), and so continueth till his bones consume to nothing. We have use neither of the wheel nor of the bar, as in other countries; but, when wilful manslaughter is perpetrated, beside hanging, the offender hath his right hand commonly stricken off before or near unto the place where the act was done, after which he is led forth to the place of execution, and there put to death according to the law.

As in theft therefore, so in adultery and whoredom, I would wish the parties trespassing to be made bond or slaves unto those that received the injury, to sell and give where they listed, or to be condemned to the galleys: for that punishment would prove more bitter to them than half-an-hour’s hanging, or than standing in a sheet, though the weather be never so cold.

Manslaughter in time past was punishment by the purse, wherein the quantity or quality of the punishment was rated after the state and calling of the party killed: so that one was valued sometime at 1200, another at 600, or 200 shillings. Such as kill themselves are buried in the field with a stake driven through their bodies.

Witches are hanged, or sometimes burned; but thieves are hanged (as I said before) generally on the gibbet or gallows, saving in Halifax, where they are beheaded after a strange manner, and whereof I find this report. There is and has been of ancient time a law, or rather a custom, at Halifax, that whosoever does commit any felony, and is taken with the same, or confesses the fact upon examination, if it be valued by four constables to amount to the sum of thirteen-pence-halfpenny, he is forthwith beheaded upon one of the next market days (which fall usually upon the Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays), or else upon the same day that he is so convicted, if market be then holden. The engine wherewith the execution is done is a square block of wood of the length of four feet and a half, which does ride up and down in a slot, rabbet, or regall, between two pieces of timber, that are framed and set upright, of five yards in height. In the nether end of the sliding block is an axe, keyed or fastened with an iron into the wood, which being drawn up to the top of the frame is there fastened by a wooden pin (with a notch made into the same, after the manner of a Samson’s post), unto the midst of which pin also there is a long rope fastened that cometh down among the people, so that, when the offender hath made his confession nd hath laid his neck over the nethermost block, every man there present doth either take hold of the rope (or putteth forth his arm so near to the same as he can get, in token that he is willing to see true justice executed), and, pulling out the pin in this manner, the head-block wherein the axe is fastened doth fall down with such a violence that, if the neck of the transgressor were as big as that of a bull, it should be cut in sunder at a stroke and roll from the body by a huge distance. If it be so that the offender be apprehended for an ox, oxen, sheep, kine, horse, or any such cattle, the self beast or other of the same kind shall have the end of the rope tied somewhere unto them, so that they, being driven, do draw out the pin, whereby the offender is executed. Thus much of Halifax law, which I set down only to shew the custom of that country in this behalf.

Rogues and vagabonds are often stocked and whipped; scolds are ducked upon cucking-stools in the water. Such felons as stand mute, and speak not at their arraignment, are pressed to death by huge weights laid upon a board, that lieth over their breast, and a sharp stone under their backs; and these commonly held their peace, thereby to save their goods unto their wives and children, which, if they were condemned, should be confiscated to the prince. Thieves that are saved by their books and clergy, for the first offence, if they have stolen nothing else but oxen, sheep, money, or such like, which be no open robberies, as by the highway side, or assailing of any man’s house in the night, without putting him in fear of his life, or breaking up his walls or doors, are burned in the left hand, upon the brawn of the thumb, with a hot iron, so that, if they be apprehended again, that mark betrayeth them to have been arraigned of felony before, whereby they are sure at that time to have no mercy. I do not read that this custom of saving by the book is used anywhere else than in England. Pirates and robbers by sea are condemned in the Court of the Admiralty, and hanged on the shore at low-water mark, where they are left till three tides have overwashed them. Finally, such as having walls and banks near unto the sea, and do suffer the same to decay (after convenient admonition), whereby the water entereth and drowneth up the country, are by a certain ancient custom apprehended, condemned, and staked in the breach, where they remain for ever as parcel of the foundation of the new wall that is to be made upon them, as I have heard reported.

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