A PEPYSIAN GARLAND - online book

Black-letter Broadside Ballads Of The years 1595-1639

Home Main Menu Singing & Playing Order & Order Info Support Search Voucher Codes

Share page  Visit Us On FB

Previous Contents Next
A warning for wives
Pepys, i, 118, B.L., four woodcuts, four columns.
This ballad has not previously been included in any list of Martin Parker's works. It is an adequate news-story in verseā€”though hardly, as Parker professes, "in tragicke stile." There is a remarkable similarity between the murders committed by Mrs Francis, of this ballad, and Mrs Da vies, of Nos. 49 and 50. The following account of the crime, as Professor Kittredge reminds me, is given in Jeaffreson's Middlesex County Records (m, 26):
8 April, 5 Charles I. True Bill that, at Cowcrosse co. Midd. on the said day, Katherine Francis, late the wife of Robert Francis alias Katherine Francis late of the said parish spinster, assaulted the said Robert then her husband, and then and there murdered him by stabbing him with a pair of scissors in the neck, so that he then and there died instandy.
Marriage seems to have entailed many dangers to husbands of this period. John Rous, in his Diary for December 13, 1632 (ed. Camden Society, p. 76), notes that "A woman was burned in Smithfield December 13, who in a falling-out with her husband, stabbed him in the necke with a knife; so that, following her doune a payer of stayers, and crying out to stay her, he died at the bottome of them immediatly." Richard Smyth's Obituary (ed. H. Ellis, Camden Society, p. 8) records that on December 12, 1634, "A taylor's wife, for killing her husband, [was] burnt in Smith-field." Many other crimes of this nature are enumerated in a book called The Adultresses Funerall Day: In faming, scorching, and consuming fre: OR The burning downe to ashes of Alice Clarke late of Vxbridge in the County of Middlesex, in West-smithfield, on Wensday the 20. of May, 1635. for the unnaturall poisoning of Fortune Clarke her Husband. . . By her daily visiter H. G[oodcole]. in life and death (British Museum, 6495. c. 38).
Burning was the usual mode of inflicting the death penalty on women who were convicted of petty treason. For other offences, such as theft (to the proper amount), murder, and witchcraft, English women were freely hanged (cf. No. 76). Lucy Cole, for example, who poisoned her master, Anthony Trott, was in November, 1605, acquitted on the charge of [petty] treason, which would have involved burning, but convicted of murder and sentenced to be hanged (Jeaffreson, op. cit. 11, 9). See Nos. 14, 49 and 50, where the crimes mentioned were petty treason. Strangulation may sometimes have preceded the actual burning, but was not (if ballads
Previous Contents Next