by Gillian Bagwell
By early October 1660, rumors were beginning to leak about the scandal roiling around the Duke of York and the pregnant Anne Hyde that had consumed the court for so much of September. On October 7, diarist Samuel Pepys wrote that he had dined with his patron the Earl of Sandwich, “he all dinner time talking French to me and telling me how the Duke of Yorke hath got my Lord Chancellors daughter with child, and that she doth lay it do him. Discoursing concerning what if the Duke should marry her, my Lord told me that among his father’s many old sayings that he had writ in a book of his, this is one: that he that doth get a wench with child and marries her afterward it is as if a man should shit in his hat and then clap it upon his head.”
The Duke himself was starting to act as if he thought the same. He stopped the secret visits he had been making to Anne and began to think of renouncing the marriage. This bad behavior was probably due to the Iago-like whispers of his friend Sir Charles Berkeley, who argued that the marriage wasn’t valid because the King Charles hadn’t approved it beforehand, and also claimed, without a hint of truth, that he and others had slept with Anne.
Over the next two days, all but one pleaded not guilty, but Pepys was right. The first conviction was of Thomas Harrison, and the Lord Chief Baron pronounced the punishment for treason, “…that you be led to the place from whence you came, and from thence to be drawn upon an hurdle to the place of execution; and there you shall be hanged by the neck, and being alive shall be cut down, and your privy members to be cut off, your entrails to be taken out of your body, and you living, the same to be burnt before your eyes, and your head to be cut off, your body to be divided into four quarters, and head and quarters to be disposed of at the pleasure of the king’s majesty, and the lord have mercy upon your soul.” Five more of the accused were condemned the next day.
Harrison was the first to die. Pepys noted “I went out to Charing cross to see Maj.-Gen. Harrison hanged, drawn, and quartered – which was done there – he looking as cheerfully as any man could do in that condition.” Not so very cheerfully, one would imagine. “He was presently cut down,” Pepys continued, “and his head and his heart shown to the people, at which there were great shouts of joy.”
Over the next few days the trials and executions continued. By October 16 all the regicides had been condemned, and the rest of those who had already been condemned were executed. Evelyn wrote,“This day were executed those murderous Traytors at Charing Cross, in sight of the place where they put to death their natural Prince… I saw not their execution, but met their quarters mangld & cutt & reaking as they were brought from the Gallows on baskets on the hurdle, O miraculous providence of God.”
On October 11, after describing the butchering of Harrison, Pepys wrote “From thence to my Lord’s and took Capt. Cuttance and Mr. Sheply to the Sun tavern and did give them some oysters. After that I went by water home, where I was angry with my wife for her things lying about… Within all the afternoon, setting up shelfes in my study.” On October 19 he recorded, “This morning my Dining-room was finished with green Serge hanging and gilt leather, which is very handsome. This morning Hacker and Axtell were hanged and Quartered, as the rest are. This night I sat up late to make up my accounts ready against tomorrow.”
It was getting pretty bad in the neighborhood of Charing Cross. The residents complained that the air smelled of burnt bowels, and petitioned the King not to carry out further executions there. So the next two traitors were hanged at Tyburn instead.
The Parliamentary Intelligencer newspaper reported that “The friends of Mr. Carew and Mr. Hacker begg’d their respective bodies; Axtell’s Quarters are not yet boil’d; Harrison’s Quarters are not yet disposed of; Cook’s head and Harrison’s (a Councellor and Attorney) are set upon Poles on Westminster Hall; the heads of the rest upon London-bridge, and their Quarters at several Gates.”
On October 20, Pepys “dined with my Lord and Lady, where he was very merry and did talk very high how he would have a French Cooke and a Master of the Horse,” and later, “calling at Crowes the upholsterer in Saint Bartholomew – I saw the limbs of some of our new Traytors set upon Aldersgate, which was a sad sight to see; and a bloody week this and the last have been, there being ten hanged, drawn, and Quarterd.”
The King decided enough was enough, and the rest of the sentences were suspended for the time being. Charles now turned his attention back to the matter of Anne Hyde. During a bedside interrogation by a delegation of ladies and gentlemen, Anne affirmed that the child she was carrying was the Duke of York’s, that she had never been with another man, that she and the Duke were married, and that there were witnesses to prove it. Slipping in under the wire of respectability, she then gave birth to a son, the King declared her to be the Duchess of York, and James, the repentant Duke, came creeping back to her side and agreed that she was his wife after all.
On October 28 Charles consecrated five bishops. On October 29 the new Lord Mayor was installed, and the Right Worshipful Company of Merchant Taylors produced a lavish Lord Mayor’s show, with two pageants. Both Pepys and Evelyn saw the pageant at Cheapside, “with the royal Oake, & historie of his Majesties miraculous escape at Bosco-Bell &c.”
|Queen Henrietta Maria|
Sources and further reading:
Online: The Diary of Samuel Pepys - http://www.pepysdiary.com
1660: The Year of Restoration, Patrick Morrah (Beacon Press, 1960)
The Diary of John Evelyn, ed. Guy de la Bédoyère (Boydell Press, 1995; First Person Singular, 2004)
The London Stage, 1660-1800, A Calendar of Plays, Entertainments, and Afterpieces Together with Casts, Box-Receipts, and Contemporary Comment, Part I, 1660-1700, ed. William Van Lennep et al. (Southern Illinois University Press, 1963)
Pepys’s Diary, Volume I, selected and edited by Robert Latham (Folio Society, 1996)
Gillian Bagwell is the author of the upcoming novel The Darling Strumpet, based on the life of Nell Gwynn, who rose from the streets to become one of London’s most beloved actresses and the life-long mistress of King Charles II.
This is the sixth in a series of articles chronicling the events from May 1660 through January 1661, in commemoration of the 350th anniversary of the Restoration of the English monarchy, the reopening of the playhouses, which had been closed for eighteen years under Cromwell, and the first appearance of an actress on the English stage, in contrast to the old practice of boys playing women’s roles.
The Darling Strumpet
The tumultuous life of Nell Gwynn, beloved 17th century actress and royal mistress.
The September Queen
The unbelievable true escapade of the ordinary English girl who saved the King and the monarchy.
Both coming from Berkley Publishing Group in 2011.
For links to the other articles and information about Gillian’s books, please visit her website, http://www.gillianbagwell.com/