Wednesday 6 July 2011

Bloody Assizes + 326

This day…..326 years ago saw the last battle (touch wood!) fought on English soil.    The rebel army of Charles II’s illegitimate Protestant son, the Duke of Monmouth, was decisively defeated by the forces of his uncle, the Catholic King James II, at Sedgemoor in Somerset.

The battle was followed by a ferocious campaign of repression in the West Country.   The royalist commander set up a line of gibbets along the road to Bridgwater, and hanged a captured rebel from each one.   Monmouth was found disguised as a shepherd and beheaded.

Next Colonel Percy Kirke, and his fearsome soldiers ironically nicknamed ‘Kirke’s Lambs’, summarily executed another 100 during the course of a week, before he was recalled for being too lenient.   So in early September, Judge Jeffreys set out on his ‘Bloody Assizes’.

Jeffreys’s speciality was abusing and terrifying defendants and any witnesses who spoke up for them – ‘lying, snivelling, canting Presbyterians’ and that kind of thing.    Altogether, he hanged more than 300, and had more than 800 transported.     Three years later, James II was fleeing the country, as he was deposed by William of Orange.

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