17th Century Witch Hunter

Matthew Hopkins was born in Wenham Magna, Suffolk, England. He was a Folk Figure, becoming England’s notorious “Witchfinder General,” active during the English Civil War. He was said to have exploited the fear and unrest of the times for his personal gain. Little is known of his early life and his birthdate (1619) is only […]

via 17th Century Witch Hunter, Matthew Hopkins — ReginaJeffers’s Blog

The Witch Finder General

Witchfinder General

Mathew Hopkins son of a vicar became known throughout history as the Witch-Finder General, and was responsible for a reign of terror throughout England, between 1644 and 1647, with his fellow Witch-Pricker John Sterne.

Hopkins first victim was Elizabeth Clarke, whose mother had been hanged as a witch.  She was thrown into prison on the charge of witchcraft, and John Sterne interrogated her in an effort to extract a confession.

Found about her naked body were three teats, which should not be upon the body.  She was then kept awake for three days and three nights until she finally confessed…  She implicated Anne West, Rebecca West, Anne Leech, Helen Clarke and Elizabeth Gooding all condemned as witches.

Overnight, Hopkins the Witch-Finder General had created a lucrative career, as his services were called upon.  His victims were often than not, the old, the poor and defenceless members of the community.

Torture was illegal in England, but Hopkins and Sterne took little notice of that … for they wanted confessions, by any means possible.  His victims would be thrown into prison, stripped naked, beaten, starved and kept awake for days.  If that wasn’t enough to obtain a confession of being a witch, the body would be pricked, looking for spots that didn’t bleed; the mark of the Devil. His favourite and favoured methods, was to bound them and throw them into the water, if they floated, they would be guilty.

By the spring of 1645, Hopkins had witnessed nineteen witches brought to trial and executed at Chelmsford by 17th July.

Hopkins and Sterne believed they were offering a service to many communities who called them in.  During his time as a witch-hunter he was responsible for the execution of some 300 reported, convicted witches.

Wikipedia Image

My Life: Anne Boleyn

Anne BoleynMy name is Anne Boleyn, and I was born in 1501 to parents: Sir Thomas Boleyn, who would become Earl of Wiltshire and Ormonde and Lady Elizabeth Howard at Blickling Hall in Norfolk.

Much of my early years, I lived within the house of Louis XII of France, who was married to King Henry VIII’s sister Mary.  Upon the death of Louis, I remained in France, becoming a lady in attendance to Claude, the new French Queen, for the next six years.

Whilst my sister Mary Boleyn already in attendance to the French Queen, but when Louis XII died, returned to England with Mary Tudor.

In 1521, I returned to England, and took up the position as maid of honour to Katherine of Aragon, wife of Henry VIII, as arrangements were being made for my marriage to the heir of Ormonde, sadly that marriage never took place.

On the rebound, took up with Henry Percy, but Cardinal Wolsey put a stop to our romance; can’t a girl have any fun.  I went on to make a close friend of Sir Thomas Wyatt the poet, at a time when he and his wife were separated.

In 1526, I had a secret affair with King Henry VIII, as my sister had done, many years earlier.  I told him, if he wanted more of me, I would no longer be his mistress; I wanted his hand in marriage and the title of Queen.  It was that or nothing.

In 1527, Henry my Henry started down the long road, to have his marriage to Catherine of Aragon annulled … then I would become his new wife and Queen.

In 1528 I was permitted to attend court in my own right, gaining favour and hatred among some members of court, based on my suggestions of religious reforms.

Henry proved to be head over heels in love with me, and it was plain to see, as he lavished me with fine clothes and jewellery.  I knew this was done to humour me, as the legal wrangling’s continued in his quest for annulment from Catherine.

On the 1st September 1532, Henry VIII made me the Marquess of Pembroke, and in October I attended meetings between Henry and the French King at Calais.

Although I had resisted Henry romantic requests, how could I say no to my king, and in December of 1532, I told him I was with child.  On the 25th January 1533 we were secretly married.

On the 23rd May the marriage between Henry and Catherine was officially proclaimed as invalid by the Archbishop.  For Henry had broken his ties with the Catholic Church by passing an Act of Supremacy, declaring himself the head of the “Church of England” which so outraged the Pope.

On the 1st June 1533, I was crowned Queen of England by the then Archbishop of Canterbury; Thomas Cranmer at Westminster Abbey.

On the 7th September 1533, Princess Elizabeth was born, not the son he desired, his future heir.  I was pregnant in January 1534 and again in 1535, but neither child survived.

I could see it in his eyes, he was not pleased, no son, no heir, and I wondered how long it would be before I was to be replaced.

On the 30th April 1536, my friend of many years Mark Smeaton was arrested and tortured.  Then Sir Henry Norris was arrested and sent to the Tower of London, then my own brother George Boleyn; Lord Rochford was arrested.

Fear ran through my veins, wondering when they would come for me.  On the 2nd May 1536, I was arrested and charged with adultery, incest and plotting to murder my husband … and sent to the Tower.

It didn’t stop there, Sir Francis Weston and William Bereton were arrested and charged with adultery, and found guilty on 12th May 1536.  For their supposed crime they were hanged at Tyburn, cut down whilst barely alive; disembowelled and quartered.

On the 15th May 1536, myself and my brother George were put on trial at the Great Hall in the Tower of London … found guilty on trumped up charges of incest, witchcraft, adultery and conspiracy against the King.

On the 17th May 1536 George was executed on Tower Hill and on the 19th May 1536, I was executed.

The bodily remains and head of Anne Boleyn were placed in an arrow chest, and buried in the Chapel of St.Peter ad Vincula adjoining Tower Green.

In 1864, a sentry at the Tower of London challenged a headless figure, believed to have been Anne Boleyn, and his bayonet passed right through her; the sentry fainted in shock.

At another time, the Captain of the Guard, observed a light source radiating from the locked Chapel Royal in the White Tower.  He peered down into the chapel, witnessing a procession, with Anne Boleyn at the head.

There have been many sightings of Anne Boleyn in the vicinity of the White Tower and the Chapel of St.Peter ad Vincula, within the walls of the Tower of London … her final resting place.

Anne Boleyn’s ghost, has been seen dressed in white, carrying her severed head and arriving by coach, driven by headless horsemen and headless horses to Blickling Hall on the anniversary of her execution: 19th May each and every year.

Her ghost is said to glide around the halls and rooms of Blickling Hall by night and fade by daybreak.

Her ghost also appears at Hever Castle each and every Christmas Eve, drifting across the gardens.

Anglo-Scottish Wars

William Wallace - Robert the Bruce

William Wallace and Robert the Bruce – Edinburgh Castle

The Anglo-Scottish Wars were a series of military conflicts which took place between England and Scotland in the latter part of the 13th and early 14th centuries… Scottish Independence Wars.

With the death of King Alexander III of Scotland in 1286, the heir to the Scottish throne was Margaret, aged just four (known as the Maid of Norway).

In 1290, Margaret travelled to her new kingdom, and shortly after arriving on the Orkney Islands, she died leaving a country in crisis, as who would be their next King or Queen.

king edward I

King Edward I

Thirteen potential rivals for the throne stepped forward.  The Guardians of Scotland, feared a civil war, and called upon King Edward I of England to select a new ruler for them.  On the 17th November 1292 John Balliol was named King of Scotland and crowned shortly afterwards at Scone Abbey.  John Balliol, King of Scotland swore homage to King Edward of England on the 26th December at Newcastle-Upon-Tyne.

A Scottish Council of War was convened, consisting of four bishops, four earls and four barons in 1294.  This delegation negotiated an alliance with King Philip IV of France.  The Auld Alliance was agreed that outlined set terms, being that the Scots would invade England if England invaded France.  In return Scotland would receive support from France.

An outraged Edward discovered the Franco-Scottish treaty, his response was to invade Scotland and defeat them at the Battle of Dunbar on the 27th April 1296.  John Balliol was forced to abdicate his position as King; he no longer had control over his citizens.  Edward had the Stone of Destiny moved to London on the 28th August.  Parliament was convened at Berwick, where Scottish nobles paid homage to King Edward I of England.

William Wallace killed an English sheriff in 1297 and revolts broke out across Scotland.  Wallace’s force defeated the English on the 11th September at the Battle of Stirling Bridge.  In the October Scottish forces raided parts of Northern England.


William Wallace

William Wallace was appointed Guardian of Scotland, in the March of 1298.  In the July Edward invaded Scotland defeating Scottish forces at the Battle of Falkirk.  A defeated William Wallace was forced into hiding.

Further English campaigns took place by Edward in the years 1300 and 1301, which led to a truce between England and Scotland.

Stirling Castle was captured by English forces in February of 1304, and Scottish nobles were expected to pay homage to Edward.  The rebellion by Scottish forces against the English was all but over, and the final nail in the coffin was the capture of William Wallace on the 5th August 1305, betrayed by John de Mentieth, a Scottish knight.

William Wallace was escorted to London on the charge of treason.  He was brought before the authorities charged with treason and atrocities against civilians in war, and crowned with an oak garland, meaning he is the King of the outlaws.

His response was “I could not be a traitor to Edward, for I was never his subject.”  Wallace implied that John Balliol was his King.

On the 23rd August 1305 he was removed to the Tower of London having been found guilty of all charges against him, and stripped naked and dragged through the city streets.  He was then hanged, stopping just short of death, drawn and quartered; an English medieval ritual to ensure one could not rise again on Judgement Day.

His head was dipped in tar and placed on a pike on London Bridge.  The remaining four parts of his body were displayed separately in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Berwick-upon-Tweed, Stirling and Perth.

William Wallace was seen by the Scottish people as a true martyr of Scotland, and as a symbol of the struggle for independence.  What he had started continued on after his death.

Robert the Bruce and John Comyn, two surviving claimants of the Scottish Throne, quarrelled before the High Altar of Greyfriars Kirk in Dumfries. Ending with the killing of John Comyn and Robert the Bruce, crowned King of Scotland in 1306.

Edward despatched an army to avenge John Comyn’s death and destroy Robert the Bruce.  On the 19th June English and Scottish forces met at the Battle of Methven Park, and defeated by the English.  Robert the Bruce barely escaping with his life, fled into hiding as an outlaw.

Robert the Bruce

Robert the Bruce

On the 10th May 1307, Robert the Bruce led Scottish forces against the English at the Battle of Loudon Hill, and were victorious.  On the 7th July King Edward I died aged sixty-eight.

Over the next seven years, Robert the Bruce established Scottish rule in north and western parts of Scotland, capturing many English held towns and castles across Scotland.

On the 24th June 1314, King Edward II forces met the Scots at the Battle of Bannockburn, and suffered heavy losses.

In 1320 Scottish nobles sent the Declaration of Arbroath to Pope John XXII, affirming Scottish Independence from England.

King Edward II

King Edward II

In 1322, Edward II raided Scottish lowlands and in 1323 a truce had been agreed by the two countries; England and Scotland.

King Edward II was deposed and murdered at Berkeley Castle, to be succeeded by his fourteen year old son Edward III.

The year 1328 was a joyous time in Scottish history.  The peace treaty known as the Treaty of Edinburgh-Northampton was signed, recognising an Independent Scotland with Robert the Bruce as King.  Robert the Bruce had achieved what William Wallace had believed in.

On the 7th June 1329, Robert the Bruce died and the Scottish crown passed to his four year old son King David II.

On the 12th August 1332, Edward Balliol son of John Balliol and disinherited Scottish nobles invaded Scotland, by landing in Fife.  Edward’s army defeated Scottish forces at the Battle of Dupplin Moor and was crowned King of Scotland at Scone on the 24th September.

Scots who were loyal to King David II, attacked Balliol at Annan, and defeated his forces.  Balliol escaped and fled by horse to England, joining up with Edward III.  In the April an English force laid siege to Berwick.

On the 19th July 1333, Scottish forces made an attempt to relieve the town of Berwick, but sadly they were defeated at the Battle of Halidon Hill, and subsequently Berwick was captured by the English.  By now much of Scotland was under English occupation.

In 1334, King Philip VI of France offered King David II of Scotland and his court asylum in France.  They felt they had no option but to accept the offer, and in the May put foot on French soil.

King Edward IIIIn 1337 King Edward III of England made a formal claim to the French throne, and he knew it would be rejected, so he will be remembered as the English King who started the Hundred Years War with France.

With Edward’s forces in France, Scotland was free of large English forces, giving Scots the chance to regain their lands.

After many years of fighting in which many of Scotland’s nobles had perished in battle, it was time for King David II to return home and take charge of his kingdom.  True to his ally Philip VI, David led raids into England around 1341, forcing Edward to pull back troops from France to reinforce the borders in the north.

David invaded England, capturing Durham in 1346, before being defeated on the 17th October at the Battle of Neville.  The Scots suffered heavy losses and King David was captured and imprisoned in the Tower of London.  Edward Balliol commanded a small force, and charged with reclaiming Scotland.

Edward Balliol relinquished his claim to the Scottish throne in 1356 and died in 1365.

The General Council of Scotland by way of the Treaty of Berwick agreed to pay a ransom of 100,000 marks for King David in 1357. Heavy taxation was imposed on its people, to pay the ransom.

In 1363 David made a pact with London; should he die childless the Scottish throne would pass to King Edward III of England.  This was rejected by the Scottish Parliament, preferring to pay ransom at all costs.  On the 22nd February 1371, David died and was succeeded by his cousin Robert II, grandson of Robert the Bruce and first Stuart ruler of Scotland.

Scotland went on to retain its Independence until 1707, when the Treaty of Union created a single kingdom of Great Britain.

King Edward III died on the 21st June 1377, and the balance of the ransom died with Edward.

(Image) William Wallace & Robert the Bruce: Pininterest
(Image) King Edward I – II – III: Wikipedia
(Image) Robert the Bruce: Wikipedia
(Image) William Wallace: Wikipedia

Patriotism is not Enough: Edith Cavell

Edith Cavell - Hospital

Edith Cavell

Few people catch the heartfelt thoughts of one so brave, but one-hundred years ago, during the early part of the First World War (1914-1918).  Edith Cavell sacrificed her life for her fellow man, and became an English Martyr for her beliefs.

I don’t think anyone expected that the German Military Prussian officers would actually have her executed.  Yet she was gunned down in a hail of bullets, for assisting allied soldiers out of Belgium, and home to Britain, on 12th October 1915.  Following the end of the war she was moved to her final resting place in the grounds of Norwich Cathedral, and since that day a small Rememberance Service has been held by her graveside, each and every year.

We should not forget the price she paid; her life!

On the 4th December 1865, in the quiet Norfolk village of Swardeston, 4½ miles south of Norwich, an English Martyr was born; Edith Louisa Cavell.  Neither Louisa her mother or her father the Reverend Frederick Cavell, could have imagined as they held their child for the first time, she would be executed during the First World War, for doing her duty as a nurse.

In her early years Edith was tutored by her father, and later educated privately.  At 16 she left home to attend firstly Norwich High School and other schools including Laurel Court, until she was 19, and had become fluent in the French language, this was a factor which would shape her future.

In 1886, the Reverend Powell of Steeple Bumstead in North Essex, appointed Edith as governess to his children.  In 1890, she was forced to seek new employment, when the children reached an age, where they no longer needed a governess.  This led to short term appointments, working for prominent families in the banking industry.  She was remembered for having a good sense of humour and kindness to all children in her care.

In her mid twenties, she was left a small legacy, and for the first time travelled around Europe.  Whilst visiting Austria, she visited a Free Hospital which had impressed her so much, that she endowed part of her legacy to it.

Upon the recommendation of Margaret Gibson, head teacher at Laurel Court, Edith was appointed as governess to the children of Mr & Mrs Paul Francois; a prominent lawyer in Brussels.

Whilst educating Margarite; Georges; Helene and Eveline Francois, so began her association with Belgium. Each summer she returned to Swardeston the family home, and it is here she fell in love with Eddie her second cousin. They were never married, as he’d feared he had inherited a nervous illness.  Her time in Belgium was short lived, for in June 1895, news reached her, that her father was seriously ill, forcing her to resign her post and return home, and nurse him back to good health.  It was during these months, whilst nursing her father, she realised there needed to be a change in her future, no longer a ‘governess’, but a nurse.  In the December of 1895, she started work at the Fountains Fever Hospital in south-west London, and was accepted in April 1896, for nursing training at the London hospital in Whitechapel.  Her early years must have been a gruelling introduction, as both poverty and poor health, were always high on the agenda.  By 1903 she was Assistant Matron at Shoreditch Infirmary.

Edith Cavell Portrait

Dr Antoine Depage a leading surgeon, responsible for Belgium’s first training school for nurses, appointed Edith Cavell to the post of Matron in 1907.  The Belgium people at that time considered it a disgrace for a woman to work. Their views changed when the Queen of Belgium broke her arm, and called upon the training clinic for assistance.  Overnight nursing became an accepted career for women, with an influx of many new nurses.  By the time Europe found itself at war in August 1914, the college and clinic were well established.

Whilst visiting her widowed mother in 1914, news reached her that the Germans had invaded Belgium on route to France, hastily she returned taking charge of the Red Cross Hospital in Brussels.  The invading forces cornered the Belgium population including Edith, and by the autumn of 1914, only the south-east sector remained in Allied hands.

Edith as a protected member of the Red Cross sacrificed her conscience to help some 200 allied soldiers.  Through a network, she secretly nursed and aided their escape via neutral Holland to safety in Britain.  She always knew she risked execution if she was caught.  The network was compromised, and Edith was arrested on the 5th August 1915 along with other members.

Whilst being interrogated Edith, was alleged to have ‘confessed’ to her part in nursing and assisting the escape of Allied troops, and was detained in solitary confinement prior to her trial.  The German Military Authorities; Prussian officers, found Edith guilty of spying.  Appeals were put forward for clemency by Brand Whitlock, the United States Ambassador to Brussels at that time.  His request for clemency was denied, and the German authorities pronounced the death sentence on the 8th October, and Edith was shot by a firing squad on the 12th October 1915.

Edith said to an English chaplain before her execution.  “I realise patriotism is not enough, I must have no hatred or bitterness towards anyone.”

A life spent caring for others came to an abrupt halt by a hail of bullets.

The violent execution of such a devoted woman, brought outrage from Britain and the allied countries.

Following her execution in Belgium, she had been hurriedly buried beneath a plain wooden cross, which is now located at St.Mary’s Church in Swardeston, along with a stained glass window in the east dedicated to her.

On the 13th May 1919, her body was exhumed, and brought to St.Paul’s Cathedral where a memorial service was held in her honour.  A special train from Liverpool Street Station to Norwich Station had been laid on, complete with military escort, an honour usually bestowed on royalty.

Edith Cavell - Norwich

Edith carried through Norwich’s streets

Her body was carried through the streets of Norwich, as crowds welcomed home an English Martyr.  She was buried in the grounds of Norwich Cathedral, just outside the south wall, in a spot known as ‘Life’s Green,” on the 15th May 1919.

Edith Cavell GraveThe simple grave is kept bright with colourful and fresh flowers, all year round, as a mark of respect to one so brave… Norfolk’s English Martyr; Edith Cavell.

Carried Through Norwich: Norfolk Women in History.

Edith Cavell: Wikipedia

Reformist & Prison Angel: Elizabeth Fry

Elizabeth Fry by History's Heroes

Elizabeth Fry

For it was on the 21st May 1780, Elizabeth Fry was born to John and Caroline Gurney, a prominent Quaker banking family in Norwich.  Little did they know as they held their child for the first time, she would grow up and lead a movement into penal reforms of the prison system.

In 1798, after hearing the American Quaker, William Savery preach, Elizabeth started concentrating her energies on those in need.  Over the next few years, collected old clothes for the poor, visited the sick, and taught local children to read in her home.

On the 19th August 1800, Elizabeth married Joseph Fry, a partner in Gurney’s Bank.  For it wasn’t until 1813, when Elizabeth visited Newgate Prison at the suggestion of Stephen Grellet, that her life was to take a new direction.

Upon a visit to the prison, she was horrified by the site; upwards of 300 women and children, housed together in cramped conditions.  They slept on the floor, in the clothes they stood up in, no bedding or night-clothes supplied.

From that day forth she became a regular visitor to Newgate Prison, supplying the inmates with clothes.  In the early day’s a school and chapel was established, and later compulsory sewing duties, as administered and supervised by Matrons.

In 1817, Elizabeth Fry and Thomas Buxton formed the association for the Improvement of the Female Prisoners in Newgate.

The following year Thomas Buxton, was elected an MP, and promoted Fry’s work in the House of Commons, and she in turn was invited to give evidence at a Committee on London Prisons.  She expressed her concerns about the cramped conditions she had personally witnessed.  Where young, old, hardened criminals and first time offenders had to share the same cells or dormitories together.  Although the committee accepted her views, they strongly disapproved of some of her comments, including her views on capital punishment. One part of the law, allowed prisoners convicted of 200 minor offences, could be executed, which brought her into direct conflict with the ruling body.

Lord Sidmouth, campaigned against Fry’s comments, that they could harm the existing prison system, and her suggestions that women prisoners should not be executed, took away the fear of punishment, for the hardened criminal element.  Sir Robert Peel, replaced Lord Sidmouth as the new Home Secretary in 1822, and with a more sympathetic ear introduced reforms, including the 1823 Gaols Act, and regular visits by a Prison Chaplain.

By this time the exploits of Elizabeth Fry, had made her a household name up and down the country.

In 1824, whilst on holiday in Brighton, she was alarmed by the large number of beggars on the streets, and discovered poverty was ripe in the town.  Being well known for her reform of prisons, she started the Brighton District Visiting Society, attracting many volunteers from all walks of life.  Very soon more of these societies, were springing up in towns the length and breadth of the country, offering help and assistance to the poor.  Fry campaigned for the homeless in London, promoted the reform of workhouses and hospitals.

In 1840, she started a training school for nurses at Guy’s Hospital, where they tended to their patients spiritual and physical needs.  A group of her nurses went with Florence Nightingale, when she attended to the wounded during the Crimean War.

On the 12th October 1845, she died, having become a symbol of compassion and justice, following a few years of declining health, and was buried at the Society of Friends graveyard at Barking.

Her achievements will be further recognised, when her portrait appears on a new series of £5.00 notes, due to be issued during the spring-summer of 2002.

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Simon de Montfort: Origins of Parliament

Houses of Parliament

Houses of Parliament

  • On the 15th June 1215, the Magna Carta was signed at Runnymede.
  • On the 18th October 1216, King John dies at Newark Castle, and was buried at Worcester Cathedral. His nine year old son, becomes his successor and is crowned King Henry III of England.  Henry’s England is ruled by Regents until he becomes of age to rule.
  • 1254 was the first time, that each county in the land, was represented at Parliament, and they could have their say.
  • In the April of 1258, Barons confront the king whilst holding Parliament at Westminster, unhappy in the way he governs… calling for reforms.
  • In the June of 1258, the king is forced to accept the “Provisions of Oxford” act, which saw control of his kingdom passed to a council of fifteen. The kings and barons swore an oath to uphold the Provisions of Oxford act, and would meet three times a year to discuss any issues.
  • In the October of 1259, the council carried out further reforms in local government, and introduced new laws.
  • In 1261, Henry III regained his powers, as the act was axed. Simon de Montfort was not happy, and left England for France in 1262.  He returns in the April of 1263, and goes to war against Henry.
  • In the May of 1264, Simon de Montfort takes on the army of Henry III, wining a decisive battle, and capturing Henry III and his son Edward, at the “Battle of Lewes.”
  • In the years 1264-65, Simon de Montfort ruled England and controlled the king.
  • Simon de Montfort, calls representatives of counties and towns to attend Parliament in 1265.
  • On the 4th August 1265, Simon de Montfort is defeated in battle by Edward, son of Henry who had escaped his clutches. Simon dies at the “Battle of Evesham.”

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