Friday, 31 August 2012

Killing your husband in Tudor England

During the sixteenth century, to kill one's husband was punishable as 'petty treason' instead of 'murder' - a more serious crime, for which the penalty was death.

Agnes Cotell (ex.20 February 1523)
Agnes was married to John Cotell and during the summer of 1518 they were staying in the household of a widowed Wiltshire landowner by the name of Edward Hungerford of Heytesbury. On the 26th July 1518, John Cotell died. By 28th December 1518, Agnes and her two servants were in residence at the Hungerford estate of Farleigh Castle, and Agnes and Edward were married soon after.
On 24th January 1522 Edward Hungerford died, and left everything in his will to Agnes; "the residue of all..goodes, detts, catalls, juells, plate, harnesse, and all other moveables whatsover they be", while his son Walter from his first marriage received nothing - the will was dated 14th December 1521.
It was then revealed that her first husband John Cotell had been murdered; "by the procurement and abetting of Agnes", her servants William Mathewe and William Ignes had strangled John with a neckerchief and then burnt his body in the kitchen furnace of Farleigh Castle. It is likely that Agnes had her first husband killed in order to marry the second, also it is possible that Edward Hungerford was a participant or at least was aware of the murder, as it took place in his house, the body was disposed of in his kitchen fire and no charges came against Agnes in his lifetime.
On the 25th August 1522 the three were indicted for murder and brought to trial on the 27th November 1522. William Mathewe was found guilty of murder, and Agnes of inciting and abetting murder. They were both hanged at Tyburn on 20th February 1523, and Agnes was buried at Grey Friars Church in London. William Ignes avoided punishment by claiming benefit of the clergy, however he was later hanged for bigamy.

Farleigh Castle

Alice Brigandine (ex.14 March 1551)
Alice Brigandine, daughter of the shipwright who built the Mary Rose, married Thomas Arden of Faversham, Kent (1508-February 14,1551). Arden had a daughter, Margaret (b.1538), from a previous wife. By 1550, Alice had a lover named Thomas Mosby. She wanted to marry him,  and so she plotted to murder her husband. She tried and failed to poison him, then asked a neighbor, John Grene, to hire someone who would do it for £10. Grene hired “Black Will,” but his first attempt failed. More conspirators, George Shakebag and Arden’s servant, Michael Saunderson, were brought into the plot; Saunderson having been promised marriage to one of Mosby’s kinswomen. More attempts were made and all failed. Mosby even challenged Arden to a duel, but Arden refused to fight. Alice, Mosby, Grene, Saunderson, Shakebag, Will, and Alice’s maid, Elizabeth Stafford, met at the house of Mosby’s sister, Cecily Ponder, to devise a new plan.
On February 14th 1551, they killed Arden in his parlour while he was playing a game of backgammon. With company arriving for supper, Alice cleaned up the blood and hid the body in the cellar. During supper, she and Cecily Ponder declared surprise that Arden was not yet home, and Arden’s daughter Margaret entertained the company with music. Then, after the guests left, with the help of Margaret, Elizabeth Stafford, and Cecily Ponder, Alice dragged the corpse out of the house and put it in her neighbor’s field, hoping that the authorities would conclude that Arden had been murdered by robbers. Unfortunately, footprints in the snow led them straight back to Alice. She was tried, convicted, and burnt to death in Canterbury. Mosby and his sister were hanged. Michael Saunderson was hanged in chains. The maid was burnt for killing her master. Grene and Mosby were not captured at once, but were eventually arrested and executed.  

Home of the Arden's


Ann Saunders (ex.13 May 1573)
On March 25, 1573, George Saunders, a wealthy London merchant-tailor, was murdered near Shooter's Hill. At the time of the murder, his wife Ann was pregnant and gave birth soon after. The murderer, George Browne, was in love with her and hoped to marry her, and so had killed her husband. Browne swore that Ann knew nothing of the plot, and she maintained her innocence throughout her trial, but just before she was hanged as an accessory, she confessed her guilt. 

Eulalia Glanfield (ex.1591)
Eulalia expected to marry George Strangwich, who took over her father's merchant business when he retired. Instead, her parents forced her to wed the widower Thomas Page from Plymouth. Eulalia tried several times to poison Thomas but was unsuccessful. She and Strangwich persuaded two of her servants, Priddis and Stone, to kill Page for money. On February 11, 1591. Eulalia had just given birth and kept to her chamber. Page was in his own room and there the murderers entered and broke his neck. Once he was dead, Eulalia sent Priddis to fetch Page's sister, Mrs. Harris. She claimed her husband had died of the disease known as “the Pull,” but Mrs. Harris was suspicious and sent for the authorities, who arrested Priddis. Eventually, the truth was discovered and all four participants were executed.     

Anne Welles (ex.28 June 1592)
Anne was courted by rival goldsmiths of London, John Brewen and John Parker. When Brewen realized he was unlikely to win, he asked Anne to return the gifts he had given her. When she refused, he had her arrested. Meanwhile, Anne had gotten pregnant by Parker but he refused to marry her. She offered to marry Brewen if he would withdraw the charges against her and the two were married. This revived Parker's interest and he said that he would marry her if she killed her husband. Her first attempt to poison him was made after they’d been married only three days. After their wedding, she vowed not to live with Brewen until he got another house; she spent her nights in her own lodgings and even continued to go by her maiden name. Brewen ate poisoned sugar sops she gave him and he fell violently ill. When Brewen died, it was put down to natural causes and the child she had was assumed to be Brewen's. For the next two years, she maintained a relationship with Parker, but he still refused to marry her. When she again fell pregnant, they were overheard arguing and eventually the truth came out about her husband's murder. After Anne's second child was born, she was tried and convicted of Brewen's murder and sentenced to be burned at Smithfield, after watching Parker being hanged.  

Mary Perkins (ex.1609)
In 1609 in Worcester, Mary Perkins was convicted of poisoning her husband, and was sentenced to be burnt to death. As an added punishment, Mary herself was ordered to buy the required items used to make the fire, and the iron links to be used on her, and to pay the six men tending to the fire. 

John Bellamy, Strange, Inhuman Deaths; Murder in Tudor England
Kate Emerson, A who's who of Tudor women

No comments:

Post a Comment