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Showing posts from January, 2021

Elizabeth Frances of the Chelmsford Witch Trials

Elizabeth Frances couldn't seem to stay out of trouble during late 1500s England, having been convicted of witchcraft at least twice before finally meeting her fate at the end of a rope in 1579. The details of the trials are well-documented, due to being a series of important trials in the history of witch hunts and executions. Multiple women died during what's been called the Chelmsford Witch Trials, and Elizabeth Frances was one of them. She wasn't the first to die, and she wasn't the last -- but what made her stand out from the numerous accused, convicted and executed women was that she was a noted repeat-offender. If Elizabeth Frances was truly a witch, and not one of the countless falsely-accused, then she truly didn't mind skirting the law during an era in which practicing the craft could mean the end of your life. In the first Chelmsford trial of 1566, Elizabeth confessed to using a pet cat that she named "Satan" as a familiar in the practice of wit

Robert Hikkes and John Cans of Norfolk

  In 1465, Robert Hikkes and John Cans of Norfolk were arrested for using witchcraft to aide in treasure-hunting. Court documents say that the two men cast a spell and summoned a spiritum aerialem (also known as an air spirit). It was alleged that this so-called air spirit pointed out a direction for the two men to look, and they did find over 100 shillings amid a hidden trove of treasure.  Robert and John told their confessors that they made a pact with the demonic spirit, promising to give it a sacrifice of a "Christian man" in exchange for its help. However, they didn't go through with their end of the deal. Instead, John Cans and Robert Hikkes slaughtered a rooster and gave it a "Christian name," in order to trick the spirit. Documents from the era do not elaborate on what name they gave the rooster. The court found both men guilty of using witchcraft -- but they also convicted them of unlawfully taking goods as treasure without regard to "royal owners

Alice Huntley of Southwark

Alice Huntley was one of several people accused of witchcraft between the years 1480 and 1515 in England, with quite a bit of well-documented evidence against her. She was accused of burying items associated with witchcraft around her property, as well as "images" of sorcery. Her accuser, a chaplain named John Knyght, declared that she was using witchcraft to attack the king and the church. Documents do not state what happened to Alice after her arrest, but it should be noted that her accuser was arrested not long after she was.  Genealogy of Alice Huntley Alice Huntley was married to John Huntley. They had two natural sons named George Huntley and Henry William Huntley. George sired a son named John, and Henry William sired no known children. When researching to see if you're a descendant of Alice Huntley, the following surnames may be of interest: Carne, Foster, Abrahall and -- of course -- Huntley.  References Religion and the Decline of Magic: Studies in Popular Belie

Johanna Beverly

 In 1481, London, a woman by the name of Johanna Beverly was brought to court on charges that she used witchcraft to compel two other witches to win the love of two different men -- one of whom was named Robert Stanton. The court documents from the time state that one of the two witches associated with Johanna nearly killed the other -- though specific details on this aren't entirely known.  Johanna Beverly was accused of being a "common harlot," and a vicious woman who resorted to use of poisons when her magical incantations failed her. Her husband, who is not named in court documents, reportedly "lived in terror" of Johanna, and wanted to live apart from her. It seemed that her conviction in court allowed him the opportunity to escape from their marriage.  Little else is known about this witch trial, but given the time and location of the trial -- as well as the severe charges hurled against her -- it is likely that Joanna Beverly was put to death or imprisone

Jack Cade: The Rebel Witch of Sussex

 Jack Cade is a truly mysterious and intriguing figure in witchcraft history -- as well as world history in general.  Cade was a notorious rebel who attempted to overthrow the English patriarchy during 1450. During a span of just three months, Cade oversaw an orchestrated revolt, intending on taking down Henry VI. Over the course of this brutal rebellion, Cade lost around 200 men, ultimately falling to the might of Henry's military. He was considered a treasonous rebel, but that wasn't all. Jack Cade was considered a witch who directly used baneful magic in his endeavor to dismantle English rule. According to parliamentary documents, Jack Cade -- also known as Jack or John Mortimer -- "summoned the devil in the form of a black dog" in his home. He was also found to be in possession of books containing spells and witchcraft references. Jack died after he was wounded during a skirmish, which marked the end of his historic rebellion.  To call Jack Cade mysterious is a bi

Isabella Brome and Mariot de Belton

  Isabella Brome was an English woman in Durham, England during the 1440s. Not much is known about her, other than the one court document which names her and another woman named Mariot de Belton as witches. According to the document, Brome and her accomplice were accused of telling women that they could use witchcraft to procure husbands for them. Both Brome and Belton were made to argue against the accusations that they were committing the crime of sortilege (another word for witchcraft). Fortunately for both women, they were eventually acquitted and were not punished for the crimes they were accused of committing. Nonetheless, even though they were deemed innocent women, their names have lived on in the collective documentation of witch trials to this day. Genealogy of Isabella Brome While there isn't a lot known about Isabella, her genealogy is easy to trace. She married twice, and between her two marriages she produced at least six children.  Anne Denton (or Dinton) mothered at

Margery Jourdemain: The Fertility Witch of Westminster

 Margery Jourdemain was the wife of a yeoman and a witch during the 1400s in England. She was known to have closely associated with courtiers and women of higher means due to her ability to aide in fertility -- as well as her ability to end unwanted pregnancies. Her popularity and presence as a sort of cunning woman wasn't entirely short-lived, either. In fact, she managed to get away with practicing what society considered witchcraft for well over a decade.  According to Parliamentary documents from the time, she and two men were arrested under suspicion of practicing witchcraft in 1430. She was convicted of sorcery and sentenced to imprisonment -- until her husband managed to save up enough money to bond her out. Unfortunately for Margery, this endeavor took the man around two years. She was ultimately released from prison, though she went right back to work as a fertility witch and abortionist for courtiers and women of status. This time, she managed to get away with her line of

Joan of Navarre

  Joan, or Joanna, of Navarre, was the Queen of England during the reign of King Henry IV. When she married Henry during the early 1400s, he already had children from a previous marriage -- including his son Henry V, who would inherit the throne following his death. Henry V would prove to be a truly greedy king who had no qualms with targeting his own stepmother. He prosecuted her for witchcraft with the accusation that she'd used it to target him directly with malice. Through doing so, he was able to take possession of all of her wealth and property. It was easy for King Henry to go after the woman, for she was already not liked by the English. This was due to her being Spanish-Basque born. In their eyes, their queen was not true English royalty, and so when she was accused of using witchcraft to kill her stepson, her imprisonment was not met with opposition. According to 15th century Parliamentary documents, a friar by the name of John Randolph confessed that he was an accomplice

Sir Robert Tresilian: The Secret Witch of King's Bench

Sir Robert Tresilian was a chief justice of the King's Bench in England during the late 1300s. During the height of his life he was a wealthy banker, lawman and fierce loyalist to King Richard II. He was notably executed due to his allegiance to the abdicated king, and his involvement in conflicts with the Lords Appellant. However, few know that his execution was carried out in a particularly violent way due to a discovery made after his conviction in court. It turned out, to the surprise of the King's Bench, Sir Robert was a witch . On February 19, 1388, Sir Robert Tresilian was led to the Tower of London by armed guards to be executed by hanging -- a standard mode of execution, which was usually quick and efficient. However, once he was knelt before his captors, Tresilian is said to have uttered a brazen confession as his final words. “While I carry a certain something around me, I am not able to die.”  This piqued the suspicion of those around him, and he was immediately he