In 1597 a Royal pamphlet was published about werewolves, the classification of demons, witches and black magic. It explained and endorsed the reasons for persecuting witches in a Christian society under the rule of law. It included methods of discovering witches and told the ‘misinformed populace’ of the practices, the implications and dangers of sorcery.
The earliest recorded mention of the stocks being used as a form of punishment was 4700 years ago. ‘He puts my feet in the stocks.’ Job 33:11.
It is alleged that a copy of this letter was found amongst Thomas Cromwell’s possessions after his execution. Its authenticity is doubted because Anne was closely guarded and it would have been difficult to conceal such a letter. However the letter does have a ring of authenticity:
Before her execution Anne Boleyn heard Mass and took Holy Communion for the last time. She declared her innocence before and after taking the Eucharist before witnesses. This is important because She believed, like all sixteenth century people, that if she lied on the Eucharist that she would be condemned to hell.
This was a very cruel way to die and it was used to convince a prisoner who refused to give a plea of innocent or guilty to change their mind. If no plea was given then a trial could not take place. Pressing took place inside prisons like Newgate or the fleet. The accused was laid on a table and had another table put on top of them. Then lead, rocks and weights were put on until they either decided to plea or were crushed to death.
The prison guards or ‘Keepers’ fed the victim with ‘Three morsels of barley bread without drink for the first day and as much filthy water as they like if they survived to the next day.’
In the aftermath of the queen’s arrest, the King exhibited the behaviour of a man, who at the very least, wanted to believe his wife was guilty. He spent time being rowed up and down the river Thames on his Royal barge with loud music playing and surrounded by many court ladies. He grew a manly beard shortly Anne’s arrest and was never seen without it again. The full faced, larger than life and intimidating portraits of Henry with his legs outstretched and eyes staring at the viewer were all painted after Anne was dead.
For centuries Speakers corner in Hyde park has been the place where Londoners have stood on boxes and practised their right of free speech. Today some speakers talk complete nonsense to make the crowd laugh, others tell smutty jokes and some shout their political or religious views to the London crowd who boo or applaud.
It was on this site close to Marble Arch where the infamous Tyburn hanging tree once stood and it was at the foot of these gallows that the tradition of free speech began.
It was at Tyburn that condemned prisoners gave their last speech on the gallows before their death making the area an ideal place for public debate and discussion. From this hanging tree culture speakers corner evolved into what it is today and the right of free speech was born.
The first hanging here was in 1108 and the very last was in 1759. After this date the gallows were moved inside Newgate prison. The local people were very angry about the dismantling of the tree as hanging days had always been public holidays for the labouring classes which sometimes drew crowds of over 200,000 people.