Here’s David, on his way to Smithfield…
“It's the past's side dishes – the plates of sheep's eyes – that really set you to wondering.
Like this partial catalogue of Elizabethan capital crimes. Partial because I've left out the main dishes, the murder and treason dishes.
What kind of law was it that hanged John Felton for nailing the Pope's Bull to the Bishop of London's Palace? That was in 1570. In that same year two young men – their crime has come down to us, their names haven't – were hanged for debasing coins.
Pour encourager les autres? Or because that was just the way it was? Or what? Makes you wonder.
As does a soldier's being executed in 1563 for drawing his weapon without orders. Or two Dutch Anabaptists burnt at Smithfield in 1575. Or, in that same year, goldsmith Thomas Greene hanged for clipping coin.
Five years later William Randall was strung up for conjuring.
In 1581 a man was hanged for begging by a license "signed by the Queen's own hand counterfeited".
Two years later Elias Shackar was hanged for spreading seditious literature.
That clearly didn't encourager because a couple of years later Thomas Awfeld and Thomas Weblie swung for publishing seditious matter.
In 1586 an unnamed witch was burnt at Smithfield.
In that same year, just down the road (at Tyburn) a woman was executed for adultery.
And pop goes another witch in 1586. This time there's a name: Jone Cason.
1586 was the annus horribilis for the Foule family. Mrs. Foule was robbed. Mr. Foule was hanged. For robbing his wife.
Henry Elks swung for counterfeiting the Queen's signature. He fought the law and the law won in, you guessed it, 1586.
Three seminary priests were hanged at Tyburn.
When you wander you wonder.”
David's haunting Smithfield again this Sunday. Join him at St Paul's Tube Station (exit 2) for The London of Shakespeare & Dickens at 2pm.
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