Notable Historical Trials II – Alice Lisle

I recently finished this chapter in the Folio Society’s collection of historical trials.  This trial is part of the “Bloody Assizes”, where after an abortive rebellion by the Earl of Monmouth, James II dissipated his support amongst the Protestant nobility by conducting a number of treason trials in the country near where Monmouth’s army was defeated.

Alice Lisle was accused of harboring a pair of refugees from the final battle to help them escape pursuit.  While the protestations of unknowingness are a bit strained, still it was not uncommon to give some slack for women who did such things, since they were considered ‘the gentler sex’ and not part of politics as such.  The trial reads strangely for our ears since the judge is the prosecutor, and the punishment of burning alive seems a little much.  In the end it was commuted to death by sword by the king, but, again, James made no friends by savagely going after the remnants of a rebellion that was almost comical in its ineptness.

This would be remembered three years later, and the next attempt to unseat the King would work bloodlessly. The judge in this trial was imprisoned and died in custody.


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