|Trial of Alice Lisle 1685 - Diary of Events|
|1649||King Charles I is murdered by decapitation in Whitehall, on the
orders of an illegal 'High Court' set up by Cromwell's satraps. One
of the principal architects of this 'trial' is John Lisle a rebel lawyer,
who signs the 'death warrant'. Contemporary pictures shew him
sitting on the right hand of Bradshaw the 'Lord President'. His wife
Alice is widely reported to have rejoiced at the murder.
|Note by TFPL: John Lisle’s signature is not on the copy of the
Execution warrant sold by the House of Lords.
|1660||King Charles II is restored to the throne. The regicides of Charles I
are ordered to give themselves up. Lisle has fled to Switzerland.
There, at Lausanne, he is murdered by an Irish Knight. He is
nonetheless attainted of treason by the new Parliament. The King
however does not proceed against Lisle's wife Alice, but even
allows her the estate at Moyle's Court, despite the attainder. She
now professes loyalty to the Crown.
|Note by TFPL: Moyle’s Court was owned by Alice’s father White
Beckonshaw, so it had never really been John Lisle’s property.
Alice was co-heir of her father with her younger sister Elizabeth
who married Sir Thomas Tipping of Wheatfield, Oxon.
|1685||With James II on the throne, the west country 'Dissenters' rebel;
notably, but not only the Cromwellians, led by the Duke of
Monmouth, bastard son of Charles I.
|Monday 6th July||Battle of Sedgemoor. Rebels flee, mainly across the south.|
|Friday 24th July||A man named Dunne at Warminster is asked by small dark man to
go to Moyle's Court to request accommodation from 'The Lady
Lisle' for Hicks. Hicks has been named on a warrant for his
preaching, as well as being a traitor from Monmouth's army.
|Saturday25th July||Dunne persuades a man named Barter from the Fovant area to act
as guide to Moyle's Court. They go there and see Carpenter, Alice
Lisle's bailiff. Dunne tries to hand him a letter. Carpenter refuses to
have anything to do with it, sending him to Lisle, and later denies
knowledge of the letter. She agrees to the request, arranging for
Hicks to come following Tuesday evening. Barter is paid 2/6d (12
½ p) by Dunne.
|Note by TFPL: the 12 ½ p would be perhaps £20 in today’s money.|
|Sunday 26th July||Dunne & Barter return home. Dunne tells Barter the men are
rebels, and boasts of the funds they possess. He also admits that
he has hidden them for ten days, sending them out at night
because that is when the troops come to search for rebels. At the
trial he denies this. Barter is not happy about this.
|Monday 27th July||In the morning Barter reports these proceedings to Colonel
Penruddock(e). He has arranged to meet Dunne with the rebels,
on or near Salisbury Plain at 9-11 am on Tuesday. Penruddock
arranges to catch them and orders a servant to observe them. He
is the son of Colonel Sir John Penruddock who fought very bravely
in the Salisbury attack during the 1645 Royalist rising and was
beheaded at Exeter on the orders of a Cromwellian 'court' presided
over by Windham, which apparently included Alice Lisle's late
|Tuesday 28th July||At 7 am three men come to Dunne; these are Hicks Nelthorp and
the unknown small dark man who first approached Dunne. Fours
later all but the small man set out via Deveral, Chilmark, and Sutton
to Salisbury Plain meeting Barter as guide Barter is ordered to use
a different way from Fovant to Moyle's Court. As this would prevent
Penruddock from capturing the rebels he refuses and is dismissed.
A man named Fane from Marton is fetched by Dunne to shew a
secret way, different from the way taken on Saturday. The use of
this way prevents Penruddock from taking them, as his servant is
watching the other route. Barter is paid off with five shillings(25p)
8miles from Moyle's Court, then reports to Colonel Penruddock.
Dunne and company arrive at Moyle's Court at 9-10 pm. And are
fed in a room in the presence of Alice Lisle. There is conversation
about the war and about Nelthorp.
|Note by TFPL: 25p is perhaps £40 in today’s money.|
|Wednesday 29th July||Colonel Penruddock with soldiers besets Moyle's Court in the early
morning. After they have knocked for half an hour, Carpenter the
bailiff comes to the door. He confesses that there are strangers
there, and points out where the strangers lie, begging the colonel
not to tell Lisle that he has given this away. The soldiers search in
the malthouse finding Hicks and Dunne; the latter in a hole and
Alice Lisle appears later. Chided for harbouring the rebels she
denies all knowledge of it. Penruddock accuses her of harbouring
another, and says he will trouble her no further if she will give him
up. She again denies it, but on a further search the soldiers
discover Nelthorp hiding in a hole by the chimney. Nelthorp has
been named as a traitor in a proclamation. Lisle is arrested with
Hicks and Nelthorp.
|Thursday 27th Aug
|Trial of Mrs Lisle for harbouring Hicks commenced at Winchester
Castle. This is the first trial of the 'Bloody Assizes'. It is also the
only one for which there are minutes of the proceedings. It lasts six
hours into the evening. Lisle is convicted. The point of law is raised
that Hicks, who was named in the charge sheet as having been
harboured, had not yet been convicted of treason. Jeffreys
overrules the plea; a ruling which is still valid and often quoted in
court in modern times.
|Friday 28th Aug 1685||Lisle sentenced to be burned that afternoon. Burning is customary
for a female traitor, as it avoids the bloodiness and indecency of the
hanging sexual mutilation drawing and quartering awarded to male
traitors. Under Protestant government it was also customary for the
hangman to secretly strangle the victim once the smoke from the
faggots started to rise. Winchester divines intercede. Burning
respited to 2nd September. She petitions the King. He commutes
the burning to beheading, and grants head and body to her family.
Correspondence between Lisle and Nelthorp comes to light which
suggests Lisle's guilt. She complains that this should not be
considered as it was not available in court.
|Wed 2nd September
|Lisle beheaded in the afternoon in Winchester market place.|
|(Dec 1688)||Note by TFPL: The Bloodless revolution: James II deposed.|
|1 William and Mary
(1686) TFPL: [sic]
|Following the invasion by William of Orange who usurps the Throne
assisted by the Whigs, a campaign of denigration of James II and
the Tories commences, including the reversal,of attainders suffered
by rebels under his reign. Lisle's attainder is reversed by private Act
of the Whig Parliament. A process of near canonisation by the
Whigs follows in which Alice Lisle 'was innocent and was judicially
murdered.' This is difficult to reconcile with the trial proceedings but
as, until the last century most histories were written by Whig
historians this hyperbole is still in print and widely believed. It has
improved in the telling to the point where the jury are said to have
thrice acquitted her! All the proceedings shew is that the jury were
uncertain as to whether the evidence shewed that she knew Hicks
had been in the (Monmouth) army. Jeffreys strongly indicated that
it did which was indeed the case. It has also been alleged that she
slept through the trial and could not hear what was said.
The proceedings tell us that she was allowed a 'prisoner's friend'
Matthew Brown, to stand by her, assist her, and to ensure that she
knew what was said. In these circumstances it is difficult to see
how she could have been asleep or unaware of what was said.
She also put up a spirited if less than honest defence, even raising
a point of law, and interrupting Jeffreys. Much has been made of
Jeffrey's bullying of Dunne. Dunne's behaviour in lying
prevaricating and insolently standing mute while he thought up
different answers justified a little bullying! There are not a few
judges in our own times who have behaved in this way towards
witnesses without damaging their careers. One thinks of Goddard,
Melford Stevenson, and a certain Law Lord who no longer sits on
criminal cases, to name but a few.
|Moyle's Court lies at Ellingham, a few miles north of Ringwood on the A338 about a mile
and a half to the east of the road. Alicia Lisle lies buried (both head and body) in a tomb in
Ellingham village churchyard. Here she is styled 'Alicia Lady Lisle'. Her title was not of
course recognised once the rebellion was overturned for her husband's 'title' as Viscount
Lisle was granted illegally by Cromwell in 1658. She was again known simply as 'Mrs Lisle'
or 'Dame Lisle'. The village church has memorials to her family.
|Copyright © 2001 P.Roberts|