Category Archives: Execution

Execution Monarchy

Does my hair trouble you?

These fragments come from an account of the execution of Charles I.  They take the curious form of part dialogue, part commentary.  Charles I was the first English monarch to be put on trial for treason. He was sentenced to death after being found a tyrant, murderer, traitor, and enemy to the good of the nation. His execution took place on Tuesday 30th January 1649, at Whitehall near the Banqueting House.

For clarification, the Dr Juxon who appears below was William Juxon (1582-1663), Archbishop of Canterbury.

Dr Juxon: Will your Majesty (though it may be very well known your Majesties affections to Religion, ye it may be expected that you should) say somewhat for the worlds satisfaction?

King: I thank you very heartily (my Lord, for that I had almost forgotten it).  Introth Sirs, My Conscience in Religion I think is very well known to all the world, and therefore I declare before you all that I die a Christian; according to the profession of the Church of England, as I found it left me by my Father, and this honest man, pointing to Dr. Juxon. Then turning to the Officers, said, Sirs, excuse me for this same, I have a good cause, and I have a gracious God, I will say no more. Then turning to Colonel Hacker, he said, Take care they doe not put me to pain, and Sir, this, and it please you. But then a Gentleman coming near the Axe, the King said, Take heed of the Axe, pray, take heed of the Axe. Then the King speaking to the Executioner said, I shall say but very short prayers, and when I thrust out my hands —

Then the King called to Doctor Juxon for his Night cap, and having put it on, he said to the Executioner, Does my hair trouble you? Who desired him to put it all under his cap, which the King did accordingly by the help of the executioner and the Bishop.  Then the King turning to Doctor Juxon said, I have a good Cause, and a gracious God on my side.

Doctor Juxon said, There is but one Stage more, this Stage is turbulent and troublesome, it is a short one: But you may consider, it will soon carry you a very great way: it will carry you from earth to heaven; and there you shall find a great deal of cordial joy and comfort.

The King said, I goe from a corruptible to an incorruptible Crown; where no disturbance can be, no disturbance in the world.

Doctor Juxon said, You are exchanged from a Temporal to an Eternal Crown, a good exchange.

The king then said to the executioner, Is my hair well? Then the King took off his Cloak and his George [a jewel which forms part of the insignia of the Order of the Garter], giving his George to Doctor Juxon, saying, Remember, it is thought for to give it to the Prince. Then the King put off his Doublet, and being in his Waistcoat, put his cloak on again, then looking upon the block, said to the executioner, You must set it fast.  The Executioner said, It is fast, Sir.

The King said, When I put my hands out this way, stretching them out, then—

After that, having said two or three words (as he stood) to himself, with hands and eyes lift up; immediately stooping down, laid his neck upon the Block: and then the Executioner again putting his hair under his Cap the King said (thinking he had been going to strike), Stay for the sign.  The Executioner said, Yes, I will and it please your Majesty.   And after a very little pause, the King stretching forth his hands the Executioner at one blow severed his head from his body, the head being off, the Executioner held it up, and shewed it to the people; which done; it was with the Body put in a Coffin covered with black Velvet for that purpose, and conveyed into his Lodgings there: And from thence it was carried to his house at Saint James’s, where his body was embalmed and put in a Coffin of Lead.

© 2009-2013 All Rights Reserved
Crime Execution Family Murder

A most unnatural father

These fragments come from an account of a murder committed by John Rowse in 1621. The killing of children was, as ever, regarded with abject horror, but what I find interesting about this particular account is the genuine sympathy extended to Mr Rowse, perhaps marking a move in this period towards attempts to understand mitigating circumstances and psychological torment in certain criminal cases.

This John Rowse being a Fishmonger in London, gave over his trade, and lived altogether in the Towne of Ewell, neere Nonesuch, in the County of Surry, ten miles from London, where he had Land of his owne for himselfe and his heires for ever to the value of fifty pounds a yeere, with which hee lived in good and honest fashion, being well reputed of all his neighbours, and in good estimation with Gentlemen and others that dwelt in the adjoyning Villages.

Untill at the last he married a very honest and comely woman, with whom hee lived quietly and in good fashion some six months, till the Divell sent an instrument of his, to disturbe their Matrimoniall happinesse: for they wanting a Maidservant, did entertain into their house a Wench, whose name was Jane Blundell, who in short time was better acquainted with her Masters bed than honesty required, which in time was found out and knowne by her Mistris, and brake the peace, in such sort, betweene the said Rowse and his Wife, that in the end, after two yeeres continuance, it brake the poore womans heart, that she dyed & left her Husband a widdower, where he and his Whore were the more free to use their cursed contentments, and ungodly embracements.

Yet that estate of being unmarried was displeasing to him, so that he tooke to wife another woman, who for her outward feature, and inward qualities was every way fit for a very honest man, although it were her hard fortune to match otherwise.

With this last Wife of his he lived much discontented, by reason of his keeping his lewd Trollop in his house, so that by his dayly Riot, excessive drinking, & unproportionable spending, his estate began to be much impoverished, much of his Land morgag’d and forfeited, himselfe above two hundred pounds indebted, and in processe of time to be (as a lewd liver) of all his honest neighbours rejected and contemned.

His estate and credit being almost past recoverie wasted and impaired, he forsooke his Wife, came up to London with his Wench, where he fell in league with a corrupted friend; who (as he said) did most courteously coozen him of all that ever he had, & whom at this time I forbeare to name; because it was John Rowse his request before his execution, that he should not be named in any Booke or Ballad. This false friend of his (as he said) did perswade him to leave his Wife for altogether, and did lodge and boord him and his paramore certaine weekes in his house, and afterward caused him and her to be lodged (having chang’d his name) as Man and Wife in an honest mans house neere Bishopsgate, at Bevis Marks, where they continued so long, till his money was gone, (as indeede he never had much, but now and then small petty summes from his secret friend aforesaid) and he being fearefull to bee smoak’d out by his Creditors, was counselled to leave his Country, and depart for Ireland; and before his going over-Sea, his friend wrought so, that all his Land was made ouer in trust to him, and Bonds, Covenants, and Leases made, as fully bought and sold for a summe of two hundred and threescore pounds.

In Ireland he stayd not long, but came over againe, and was by his friend perswaded to goe into the Low Countries: which he did, never minding his Wife and two small Children which he had by her, having likewise a brace of bastards by his Whore (as some say) but he said that but one of them was of his begetting. He came over againe into England to his too deare friend, demanding of him his Bonds and Leases of his Land which hee had put him in trust withall.  But then his friend did manifest himselfe what he was, and told him plainly, that he had no writings, not any Land of his, but what hee had dearely bought and paid for. All which (Rowse replyed unto him) was false, as his owne Conscience knew.

These (or the like) words, in effect passed betwixt Rowse and his Friend (Trusty Roger) which entring at his eares, pierced his heart like Daggers; and beeing out of money and Credit, a man much infamous for his bad life, indebted beyond all possible meanes of paiment; a perjured wretch to coozen himselfe, having no place or meanes to feede or lodge, and fearefull of being arrested, having so much abused his Wife, and so little regarded his Children, being now brought to the pits brim of desperation, not knowing amongst these calamities which way to turne himselfe, hee resolved at last to goe home to Ewell againe to his much wronged Wife, for his last refuge in extremitie.

The poore Woman received him with joy, and his Children with all gladnesse welcomed home the prodigall Father, with whom he remained in much discontentment and perplexitie of minde: the Divell still tempting him to mischiefe and despaire; putting him in minde of his better estate, comparing pleasures past with present miseries, and hee resolving that hee had beene a man in that Townem had beene a Gentlemans companion, of good Reputation and Calling, that hee had Friends, Lands, Money, Apparell, and Credit, with meanes sufficient to have left for the maintenance of his Family, and that now he had nothing left him but poverty and beggery, and that his two Children were like to be left to go from doore to doore for their living.

Being thus tormented and tost with restlesse imaginations; hee seeing dayly to his further griefe, the poore case of his children, and fearing that worse would befall them hereafter, hee resolved to worke some meanes to take away their languishing lies, by a speedy & untimely death, the which practise of his (by the Divels instigation and assistance) he effected as followeth.

To bee sure that no body should stop or prevent his divellish enterprise; hee sent his Wife to London in a frivolous errand, for a riding Coate: and she being gone somewhat timely, and too soone in the morning, both her Children being in bed and fast asleepe, beeing two very pretty Girles, one of the age of sixe yeeres, and the other foure yeeres old, none being in the house but themselves, their unfortunate Father, and his ghostly Counsellor, the dores being fast locked, hee having an excellent Spring of water in the Cellar of his house in which hee purposed to drowne his poore innocent children sleeping: for he going into the Chamber where they lay, took the yongest of them named Elizabeth forth of her bed, and carried her down the Stayres into his Cellar, and there put her in the Spring of Water, holding downe her head under that pure Element with his hands, till at last the poore harmelesse soule and body parted one from another.

Which first Act of this his inhumane Tragedy being ended, hee carried the dead corps up three payre of stayres, and laying it downe on the floore, left it, and went down into the Chamber where his other Daughter, named Mary, was in bed; being newly awaked, and seeing her father, demanded of him where her Sister was? To whom he made answer that he would bring her where she was. So taking her in his armes, hee carried her downe towards the Cellar: and as hee was on the Cellar stayres, shee asked him what he would doe, and whither he would carry her? Feare nothing, my Child (quoth hee) I will bring thee up againe presently: and being come to the Spring, as before hee had done with the other, so hee performed his last unfatherly deed upon her, & to be as good as his word, carried her up the stayres & laid her by her sister; that done, he laid them out, and covered them both with a sheete, walking up and downe his house, weeping and lamenting his owne misery.

The miserable Mother of the murdered Children said that her heart throbbed all day, as fore-boading some heavy mischance to come: and having done her businesse that shee came about to London, as soone as shee came home, she asked for her Children, to whom her Husband answered that they were at a neighbours house in the Towne. Then said she, I will goe thither to fetch them home. No quoth he, I will goe my selfe presently for them. Then said his wife, let the poore woman that is heere goe and bring them home. Then her Husband told her that hee had sent them to a Kinsmans of his at a Village called Sutton, foure miles from Ewell, and that hee had provided well for them, and prayd her to bee contented and feare nothing, for they were well. These double tales of his, made her to doubt somwhat was amisse: therefore shee intreated him for Gods sake to tell her truely where they were. Whereupon he said, If you will needs know where they are, goe but up the staires into such a Chamber, and there you shall finde them. But in what a lamentable perplexity of mind the poore woman was when shee perceived how and which way they lost their lives, any Christian that hath an heart of flesh may imagine.

Presently the Constable was sent for, who tooke him into his custody, who amongst other talke, demanded of him why and how hee could commit so unnaturall a fact, as to murder his Children? To whom he answered, that he did it, because he was not able to keepe them, and that hee was loth they should goe about the Towne a begging: and moreover, that they were his owne, and being so, that hee might doe what hee would with them, and that they had their lives from him, and therefore he had taken their lives from them, and was contented to lose his life for them: for he was sure that their miseries were past, and for his part, he had an assured hope to goe to them, though they could not come to him.

So being had before a Justice, his Examination was very briefe; for he confest all the whole circumstances of the matter freely; so that he was sent to the common Prison of Surry, cal’d the White Lyon, where hee remained fourteene or fifteene weekes a wonderfull penitent Prisoner, never, or very seldome, being without a Bible or some other good booke meditating upon; and when any one did but mention his Children, he would fetch a deep sigh, and weepe, desiring every one to pray for him and upon his owne earnest request, he was praide for at Pauls Crosse, and at most of the Churches in London, and at many in the Country, and at the Sessions holden at Croydon, the latter end of June last, he made such free confession at the Barre, declaring the manner of his life, his odious Drinking, his abominable Whoring, his cruell Murther, and the false dealing of his deceitfull friend, which was the cause of his finall wracke: with which Relations of his pronounced, with such vehemency and protestations, he moved all that heard him to commiseration and pitie.

So, according to Law and Justice, he was there condemned and judged (for the murthering of his two Children) to be hang’d; which Judgement was executed on him at the common Gallowes at Croydon, on Munday the second day of June.’

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Crime Execution Murder Women

The Last Speech and Confession of Sarah Elestone

These fragments come from the last speech and confession of Sarah Elestone who was burned to death for killing her husband in 1678.

‘In Three-Faulken-Court, over against St. Margarets-hill, in Southwark, lately lived one Sarah Elestone, the late Wife of Thomas Elestone, a Felt-maker: a man very laborious in his calling, aged about forty years, and his Wife forty-six years old.  They lived many years very contentedly, she assisting him in his calling in what she was able, till such time as falling into the acquaintance of some lewd women, she was drawn to commit that filthy sin of drunkenness, which after a little practising of it, she became harden’d in it, and learn’d to swear by her Maker and to prophain the Lords Day, and hate good men.  Such an alteration there was perceived in her, that several of her Husbands acquaintance desired him to do all that he could to reclaim her, telling him also that it was his duty, to which he answered That he hoped God would turn her from these evil courses, but he for his part could do no good with her, for she was so obstinate, that the more he said to her the worse she was.  So that seeing he could not prevail by fair means, he sought some other way, as keeping her bare of money, but then she ran him in debt, and took up money at the Tally-shops, he having notice of it, told them if they trusted her any more he would not pay them: upon which she resolved of another way, which was to sell her goods, which she did by degrees, till they had scarce a Chair to sit on, or a bed to lye on.  This so perplexed her Husband, that he resolved to beat her out of this wicked course, and to that end did sometimes chastize her with blows, which she was not wanting to repay. So much was their fury sometimes, that their neighbours hath been forced to part them at all hours in the night.

In this like manner they lived for some years, which so troubled and disturbed the patience of the man; that oft he hath been heard to wish himself dead, or that he had been buried alive that day he was married to her, and she wicked and graceless soul would many times in cold blood threaten him, that at one time or other she would kill him; which proved to be too true, for she having been out with her Gossips, and having got a cup too much as it was thought, comes and finds her husband at work. She demands some money of him, and withall tells him That if he will not give her some presently she would be the Death of him. He seeing her in that condition, took her and thrust her down stairs, and shuts the door, and to work again.  Within a little time after when he thought her heat was over, he goes down in his shift as he was at work, intending to drink. She meets him at the stairs foot, and with one side of a pair of sheers gave him a mortal wound on the breast, of which he immediately dyed, upon which she presently fled. Her Husband being quickly found, Hue and Cry was made after her, and that night about twelve a clock she was taken by the Old-street Watch, to whom she confessed the fact, she had her Tryal at the Marshalses at the Assizes, beginning on the 22 day of March, last past, where she was condemned by Law to be burn’d to ashes for this horrid and bloody crime.

After sentence was past, she begged some time to sit and prepare her self, which was granted, as also to two other Malefactors. During her imprisonment she hath had several Ministers to visit her who laid open the haniousness of her sins, especially that of Murther.  She for the most part seemed but little concerned, many times talking of other things when they prayed for her, but a day or two before her Execution it pleased God to awaken her and to discover her sins unto her, and the need she stood in of an interest in the Lord Jesus. Which made her the willinger to dye, finding that it was according both to the Law of God and Man: and hoping that the Lord Jesus would have mercy on her poor sinful Soul. Now she loved good men, good discourse, and often cryed out what should she do to be saved: when she came to the place of Execution and beheld the Fagots, she cryed, O Lord for Jesus sake let this be my last burning. O that God would give me an assurance of the pardon of my sins, and blot out the black lines of my sins with the Red lines of Christs blood. Her last words were to exhort all good people to fear God, to keep the Sabbath-day, to refrain idle company, to have a care how they take the Name of the Lord in vain.  Thus with a few Ejaculatory Prayers, she concluded with that saying Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another.  Having thus said, the Executioner doing his Office, stopped the Atropos of her Speech, and her body was consumed to ashes in the Flames.’

© 2009-2012 All Rights Reserved

Death Elizabeth Execution London

Horrid kinds of incontinencies

These snippets of gossip and history about the ‘chief Fortresse or Tower of London’ date from the 1650s.

William of Normandy the Conquerer was the first erector of the Tower of London. The first part that was built was the great square and White Tower (although black to some) which was about the year 1078. It stood naked and single without other buildings a good while. It was by some injury of the Heavens and violence of tempests sore shaken and some part tumbled down, which was repaired by Henry the first, who also caused a Castle to be built under the said White Tower on the South side towards the Thames. The first Keeper of the Tower of London was call’d Constable Ostowerus. About the beginning of the Raign of Richard the first, William Longshank, Bishop of Ely, enclos’d the Tower of London with an outward Wall of stone embattail’d, and also caused a deep ditch to be cast about the same. The Lion Tower was built by Edward the fourth. Frederick the Emperor having sent a present of three Leopards, they were first kept at Woodstock, but afterwards all such wild Beasts, as Lions, together with Leopards and Linxes, have been kept in that part of the Tower.

The first gold that was coin’d in the Tower was in the raign of Edward the third and the peeces were called Florences. In the year 1458 there were Jousts and Tournements in the Tower. Anno 1478 the Duke of Clarence was drowned in a Butt of Malmsey within the Tower, and five years after the young Edward the fifth with his Brother were by the practises of Richard the third, stifled there betwixt two fetherbeds, as the current story goes. Queen Elizabeth, wife to Henry the 7th, died in the Tower anno 1502 in Child-birth, and the year before there was running at tilt there. The Chappel in the high white Tower was burnt Anno 1512. Queen Anne Bullein was beheaded in the Tower 1541 and a little after the Lady Katherine Howard, both Wifes to Henry the eight. In Henry the eights time the Tower was ever and anon full of prisoners, among others, Sir Thomas More, Lord Chancellor of England, was clap’t there close Prisoner: and they took away from him all his Books.  The young Lady Jane was beheaded there not long after, and upon the Scaffold she made a most ingenious Speech full of pity, That she came thither to serve for an example to posterity, that innocence cannot be any protection against greatness, And that she was come thither not for aspiring to a Crown, but for not refusing one when it was offered Her.

Queen Elizabeth may be said to have gone from the Scaffold to the Tower. In her dayes Robert Earl of Essex lost his head in the Tower, which he might have kept on many years longer had he not been betrayed by the Lady Walsingham; to whom after the sentence of condemnation he sent a Ring, which the Queen had given him as a token that she would stick to him in any danger. The Lady delivered not this ring, and being a little after upon her Death-bed, she desired to speak with the Queen, and having disburdended a great weight which lay upon her Conscience for that act, the Queen flung away in a fury, and never enjoyed herself perfectly after that, crying O Essex, Essex. And this Earl was the last who was executed within the walls of the Tower.

In King James’s time, for 22 years, there was no blood spilt in the Tower or upon Tower-hill, only Sir Gervase Elwayes was hanged there. The Earl of Castlehaven was brought from the Tower to be executed for horrid kinds of incontinencies in Charles the firsts time; afterwards in the raign of the long Parliament, and ever since the Tower of London has had more number of Prisoners than it had in the compasse of a hundred years before.

This stately Tower of London serves not only for a Gaol to detain prisoners, but for many other uses. It is a strong Fort or Citadel, which secures both City and River, it serves not only to defend but to command either, upon occasion. It serves as a royal Rendezvous for Assemblies and Treaties. It is the Treasurey for the Jewels and Ornaments of the Crown.  It is the place for the Royal Mint and Coynage of Gold and Silver. It is the chiefest Magazin and Armory, or Arsenal for the whole Land. There, only, is the Brake or Rack, usually call’d the Duke of Exeters Daughter, because he was the first inventor of it.

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