Category Archives: Criminology

A Barbarous Kingdom, Populated by Savages

This tale of barbarity is almost beyond belief for the date when it took place, June 21st 1786, and the location, the so-called civilised country of England. The details come from a source that I have used quite frequently before, namely “The Date Book of Remarkable Memorable Events Connected With Nottingham and Its Neighbourhood” and one other website:

The savagery of the punishment meted out on this poor young woman would be difficult to believe were it not so well authenticated. I have translated some of ye more difficult fentencef into ye moderne Englifhe:

“The victim of it was a young woman of Nottingham extraction, her mother having been a native of the town. Her name was Phoebe Harris. She was small in stature, rather stout and of good figure, with a pale complexion, and pleasing features. Her age was 30, and she lived with her husband in London. She was caught while in the act of counterfeiting coins, to which she had been introduced by her husband, who, it appeared, was an old practitioner. For this offence she was tried at the Old Bailey, and sentenced to death.
She was conducted on a subsequent day by two constables to the open space in front of Newgate, in the presence of about 20,000 spectators, where a stake had been securely fixed in the ground, about eleven feet high, and with a curved projection of iron at the top, to which was fixed a rope. The prisoner was placed on a stool, with her back to the stake, and the rope was positioned around her neck. After the priest of the gaol had prayed with her for a short time, the stool was pulled from underneath, leaving her suspended by the neck, with her feet about a foot from the ground.”

According to V. A. C. Gatrell’s book “The Hanging Tree”, Phoebe then choked noisily to death over several minutes:

“After hanging there for half an hour, the executioner put an iron chain around her upper body and fastened it to the stake with nails.”

The Date Book takes up the tale with tasteful enthusiasm:

“Two cart loads of wooden faggots were then placed round her and set on fire:

The rope speedily snapped, and the body slipped, but was sustained by an iron chain passed round her waist and the stake. In the course of three hours the corpse was entirely consumed.

The unfortunate sufferer, Phoebe, was struck with so much horror at the idea of her body being burnt, that in the night previous to her execution she was quite frantic. When she was led to the stake, she appeared languid and terrified, and trembled excessively. The awful apparatus of death evidently struck her mind with consternation, and totally incapacitated her for her last prayer.
Until midday, while the victim was still burning, the spectators were loud in their angry denouncements of the officers of the law, but as soon as the latter had left, the people in the crowd amused themselves by kicking about her ashes.

An application had been made to the Sheriffs by the respectable inhabitants of the neighbourhood, praying that the execution might take place at Tyburn, or at some small distance from them, but without avail.

The consequences were serious : several ladies were taken very unwell, and many were severely affected by the offensive smell of the burning corpse.”

The consequences were a damn sight more serious for Phoebe. The locals, NIMBYs one and all, had actually organised and sent in a petition to prevent Phoebe being executed so near to their homes. They considered such savage practices should not be carried out in areas frequented by respectable folk. Genuine world class savagery should take place in a working class area where it would be better appreciated.

Even so, 20,000 spectators isn’t a bad turn out for a respectable area. I bet somebody wished that they could have charged entrance money.

The offence of counterfeiting:

“for which Phoebe Harris suffered, was classed as High Treason. Blackstone accounts for the punishment of women for this crime being different from that of men, by stating that the natural modesty of the sex forbids the exposure and public cutting up of their bodies, and therefore they are burnt. The punishment of men for high treason was beheading, cutting the body into four parts, and burning the heart.”

Here is the ‘quartering’ bit of that terrible trio of punishments:

And executions are always an excuse for a barbecue:

Only two more women would be killed in public in this grotesque way, and the dates may well be significant. One was Margaret Sullivan on June 25th 1788 and the other was Christian Murphy on March 18th 1789.

On July 14th 1789, the French people finally grew tired of a legal system presided over by a spoilt brat of a king and driven by an arrogant and self-serving nobility. It is not without significance that they attacked the Bastille prison as their first target. Neither is it without significance that the revolutionaries were keen to use a more humane method of execution, namely the Guillotine. Here is a charming painting of the Terror in full swing, with some lovely details if you look carefully, especially the little doggie. I couldn’t find Wally but I think I might have found his head :

I believe the judges back in London may well have noticed the developments in France, because when Sophia Girton was convicted of counterfeiting in April 1790, her execution by being strangled and burnt in public was postponed, as Parliament decided that hanging would be a better way to execute women.

Sophia was not hanged though. She was exiled to Australia where she made a new life for herself, admittedly in the most appalling of conditions:

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The kings of slavery, and the queens (2)

Last time I promised you a quiz. Well, it’s not the kind of quiz they would broadcast on television, but let’s give it a go.
In 1710, if you ever saw an African slave who belonged to the Royal African Company, how could you tell?

Easy…he would have the letters ‘RAC’ burned into his chest with a branding iron like the ones they use in cowboy films with cattle. I couldn’t find a photograph of that, but I did manage to find one with some branding irons on. These are actual branding irons for slaves, not cattle:

Here is the second question which is a little bit more difficult.
If you ever saw an African slave with the letters ‘DY’ branded on his chest, what did it mean?

If you’ve been paying attention, though, it’s not that difficult. It meant ‘Duke of York’. It meant he was owned by the Duke of York, who later succeeded to the throne and became King James II.

An extra special bonus question. When the Duke of York became King James II, what did he have the slaves’ chests branded with?  Was it ‘J2’?

No, it wasn’t, he continued with ‘DY’. And I couldn’t trace it, but I would presume that his eventual successor, Queen Anne didn’t have ‘QA’ on her slaves but stuck to ‘RAC’.  And the money rolled in:

And more to come. Lots more:

It’s just that branding people on the chest with a red hot piece of metal reminds me rather uncomfortably of one other way of marking your racial inferiors:

Forty years later, the British were awarded the monopoly on selling slaves to the Spanish for the next three decades. This monopoly was sold on to the famous “South Sea Company”. They dealt in turn almost exclusively with the Royal African Company. Here is their coat of arms. Look at the happy slaves, all set for a spot of weekend hunting, don’t you know?

Only a year after the Spanish deal was set up, Queen Anne owned 22½% of the shares in the Royal African Company. That means she owned more than a fifth of the British slave trade, the largest slave trade in the world at the time. She was quite possibly the biggest slave dealer on the planet.
When she died, King George I became king. He wasn’t happy owning a fifth of the British slave trade.

It wasn’t enough, so he increased his shareholding and made himself Governor of the whole sorry business. A business which transported around 64,000 slaves to the Americas in 15 or so years. George III carried on with the family business, accused by a slightly hypocritical Thomas Jefferson of waging “cruel war against human nature itself”.
There was some opposition to the Royal African Company though. Across the country, small businesses spoke out against the Company’s activities in the slave trade and especially, against their monopoly. In their campaign, they used the motto, “We want the freedom to traffic slaves too”. Smaller businesses, smaller boats, but there’s still money to be made:

But let’s not kick our lovely royal family too much. Instead. let’s look at the case of Christopher Codrington.  Christopher Codrington was the owner of a slave plantation in Barbados in the early 1700s. He died, presumably without children, in 1710. Being a pious man, who did he bequeath it to?

Correctamundo! The Church of England. I bet they shrieked in disgust. Threw their hands in the air and shouted “Free the Slaves! Free the Slaves!” Well, not exactly. They kept the slave plantation. They kept the slaves, and indeed, they kept the money. And there was lots of it:

It was used to finance the Society for the Propagation of the Christian Religion in Foreign Parts.

Now for the scary quiz question. If you worked for the said organisation, and you owned lots of slaves who might run away, clearly you needed to brand them on the chest, so they could be reclaimed after they had been recaptured. What did you use? Surely not the whole name? Of course not. What about “SPCRFP”? No, not at all. The Christian slave owners just branded “Society” across their slaves’ chests. Actually, SPCRFP would have been one letter shorter.

Actually, they probably used these as well:

The Christian slaves were, actually, slaves who didn’t last too long. Despite their obvious value to the company SPCRFP, by 1740, the death rate among the slaves newly purchased by the Church was up to 40%. Four out of every ten were dead within three years of purchase.
And it wasn’t just the SPCRFP who were trying to cash in. Other members of the church fancied a bit of the cash. All you had to do was get your Bible, cross out the bit about “Ye cannot serve God and mammon”, buy a few shares in your local slavery business and away you go.

This is Woodville K Marshall who is Emeritus Professor of History at the University of the West Indies:

He stated clearly and unequivocally:

“”It was not so much the SPG that the Church should be apologising for, as the activities of the individual parsons who kept plantations and slaves for sheer profit.”

Except that nobody apologises nowadays for slavery, because they risk being sued. Despite all their wealth, wealth dripping from them as they walk along, the descendants of the slavers will never say sorry. And let me make the point again, the same point I made in a previous post:

“The tragedy, of course, is that those individuals today have little, if anything, in common with their slave owning ancestors from so many years ago. On the other hand, they have inherited their wealth. What have they done to make amends for their slave owning ancestors? Built a school in the Windward Islands? Built a hospital in Barbados? Sponsored cataract operations in Jamaica?”


This Accident and Emergency Unit in Jamaica was built by the Scotia Bank Foundation, Canada’s third largest bank.  But why not by the individual rich men and women who are the present day descendants of those slave traders?

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The kings of slavery, and the queens (1)

I have written quite a bit about slavery and its evils, but after that shock of finding out that my cherished heroes of stage and screen were the wealthy descendants of wealthy people who owned slaves, I had one more shock in store:


I found out that the Kings and Queens of England were involved in the slave trade. I knew that even now the modern royals have their dubious dark corners. What kind of man, for example, deludes a little girl into giving Hitler salutes?

How did the witnesses of the illegal killing of a rare Hen Harrier feel when no charges were brought?

I knew how unbelievably rich Cornwall could make you, even if it is one of the poorest counties in the country. I knew that if anybody in the county died without a will and no heir could be found, everything went to Prince Charles:

I knew from the Daily Mirror how one royal “required his chef to cook his eggs for three minutes; the chef usually boiled several batches to ensure they fit his precise preferences.” :

But slavery? Apparently, it began with Queen Elizabeth the First. She gave her royal support to Sir John Hawkins, the sea captain, who was one of the first to men to make a profit from transporting Africans to the Americas.
Then there were the Royal Adventurers into Africa, a company set up in 1662 to trade slaves. It involved the brother of King Charles II, namely the Duke of York, and the sister of King Charles II, Princess Henrietta, and the Queen Mother, Henrietta Maria, and Queen Catherine of Braganza and the Duke of Albermarle, Lord Arlington, Lord Ashley, Lord Berkeley, the Duke of Buckingham, Lord Craven, Lord Crofts, and Lord Sandwich and Baron Tom Cobley and all. In total, there were four royals, four barons, two dukes, five earls, seven knights and a marquess. And Samuel Pepys. And the so-called “philosopher of liberty” and “Father of Liberalism”, John Locke. By 1665 they were making £200,000 per year from slaves between them. (£6.5 billion today). The slaves didn’t make anything at all:

The Royal Adventurers into Africa were given a monopoly on the slave trade for a thousand years but ceased trading in 1672. That same year, King Charles II gave a monopoly on dealing in slaves to the Royal African Company. The Royal African Company (the name might have some significance here) was owned by his brother, His Royal Highness, James, Duke of York. Also involved were Sir George Carteret, Sir John Colleton, Lord Craven,  Lord Shaftesbury, 15 Lord Mayors of London, 25 Sheriffs of London and the so-called “philosopher of liberty” and “Father of Liberalism” and “lover of hard cash”, John Locke, whose ancestor had been a slave trader.
By 1680, they were transporting around 6,000 slaves a year to new homes in the West Indies and the same annual number to North America….

And next time, an exciting quiz…

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What do you do with your Freed Slaves ? (6)

Last time we looked at two individuals whose families made huge fortunes from the ending of slavery when they were compensated for the slaves they had to release:

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If you are intrigued by these revelations, then you should go and read the much fuller story here, where the journalists of the Daily Mail have done a splendid investigative job, and uncovered many famous people of today with a hideous skeleton in their cupboard. It really is worth five minutes of your attention. You may well be quite shocked. I was.

The tragedy, of course, is that those individuals today have little, if anything, in common  with their slave owner ancestors from so many years ago. On the other hand, they have inherited the wealth. What have they done to make amends? Built a school in the Windward Islands? Built a hospital in Barbados? Sponsored cataract operations in Jamaica?

Back in the nineteenth century, one added advantage for the ex-slave owner was the fact that now the slaves were free, there was no reason for him to provide his new workers with food and, indeed, he might even have been able to charge them rent for their hovel.

And let’s not think either that all the slaves in the plantations were black. I was pretty amazed to find that Irish people, usually so-called fallen women, were transported to Barbados and other West Indian islands:

white slaves

Let’s finish with a couple of pictures of a memorial in St Mary’s Church in Nottingham. It bears proud witness to a brave young Englishman, Lieutenant James Still, who gave his life in the cause of ending slavery. He was in one of the many Royal Navy warships which blockaded the coast of West Africa to prevent slave ships taking even more of the population away to a life of unhappiness:

image one

Here’s the next bit:

image two

The third bit is in a very dark area indeed, and I have done my best with it. The top two lines, half obscured should read “and who, withering like….” Lower down, a line should start with “That he was characterised…..” and lower still, “How beloved a son…”

And don’t forget that some of those apparent ‘S’ may be ‘F’ :

P1530664

And this link here is even more fun. There is a website about the British slave trade, and here is the link to the home page

If you click on the words on the right hand side, for example, (“commercial, cultural, historical, imperial, physical, political”) you can see where the slave money was reinvested or who improved their lot in life.
If you go to the search facility, you can even find out how much money the person received.

I live in Nottingham, and when I first moved here, the area I lived in was called “Carrington”. The city’s station is in Carrington Street. Here is the Edwardian shopping centre at one end:

carrington_street_t

But what is the origin of this? Why Carrington Street? And why was the area where I used to live called “Carrington”?

Was it possibly something to do with Robert Smith, 1st Baron Carrington ? I couldn’t find a picture of that gentleman but here is his son, the 2nd Baron Carrington:

-p 2nd_Baron_Carrington

The 1st Baron Carrington, Robert Smith, used to live at Dulcote Lodge in  Nottinghamshire. In the West Indies, he kept 268 slaves. He was paid £4908 eight shillings and five pence by the taxpayer to free them.

I felt quite sick when I read how much money that man eventually accumulated. And who his descendents were.

This, of course, is the answer to the problem:

Am_I_not_a_man

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Vive l’Empéreur !!

I watched a fantastic programme, or rather series of programmes, last winter on BBC2, I think it was. They were so good that I bought the book:

cover

They were all about Napoleon.
I had always wondered why the British hate Napoleon so much and the French love him. Why the British call him names and the French name streets after him.
Both the programmes and the book were by Andrew Roberts:

andrew-roberts
He did a great job at explaining exactly why this situation has arisen.

It was because on the one hand, the England of the Napoleonic era had always prided itself on being full of free men, free to say what they wanted, to go where they wanted and so on. With a parliament and a monarch beloved by all, bless him, who never interfered in the running of an almost perfect society. Deep down though, the English knew that this portrait of their land was a complete load of rubbish.

They knew that Napoleon was a child of the Enlightenment, the fullest and finest flowering of ideas in the history of Mankind:

stamp-napoleon-france

Napoleon wanted to export the values of the Enlightenment across Europe. And the British wanted none of it. That’s why they coughed up £65,000,000 over the years, paying for countries such as Austria and Russia to attack and annihilate him, without any English lives being lost:

wallpaper_cossacks_2_
The British saw Napoleon as a direct threat to “England’s Green and Pleasant Land”.

A “Green and Pleasant Land” where the rich seized the poor’s common land and called it their own.

Where Corn Laws prevented hungry poor people from eating bread made from cheap imported foreign wheat, so that rich English farmers could stay wealthy.

Where all of the people in charge of anything, the army, the navy, the government, everything, was a nobleman and had a title:

house-of-lords4[1]

And parliament was full of greedy men elected by unbelievably tiny numbers of voters. This practice made use of “Rotten Boroughs” and Pocket Boroughs”. Here are two of the “Four Prints of an Election” by William Hogarth.  You can see them in greater detail here.

This is the “Election Entertainment“:

chairing

This one is called “Chairing the Members”:

election enter
Next time, we will look at the achievements of Napoleon. They are many and apply to so many different fields, from giving a mole catcher a more important job to making the arrangements to educate young women:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Six Kings and Two Queens (3)

So why is this rambling windbag of a tale called Six Kings and Two Queens ?

Well, the hero, John Deane, the entrepreneur, the sea captain, the ex-cannibal, the ex-poacher, the ex-deer stealer and the ex-butcher’s apprentice lived a very long life. And when he eventually succumbed, Captain Deane, as the locals all called him, was buried in the churchyard at Wilford:

john deane tombxxxxxx

He had lived through the reigns of six kings and two queens.

He was born during the reign of Charles II. To me, Charlie looks a real sleeze of a man. He couldn’t keep his hands off Nell Gwynne’s oranges and he appears to me to be just the type to be arrested by the police for having inappropriate images on his computer:

charles II

And here is History’s most famous orange seller, Charles’ mistress Nell Gwynne. This was his own personal pin-up:

gwynn

Next came James II. Here he is. He was chucked out eventually because he was a Roman Catholic, and because of this, the Protestant nobles thought that he would eventually want to be an absolute monarch and then they would all have to work for a living:

James_II_(1685)

The Glorious Revolution of 1688 brought in William and Mary:

william_and_mary

Is is just me, or does Mary look like a man?

Queen Anne was definitely not a man. She had seventeen children but, poor woman, none of them survived to become adults:

annexxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

No silly jokes about her. She is too sad a person for that. All of her weight gains came from what must have been more or less continuous pregnancies.

Enter George I, a German who spoke little or no English:

King_George_I_

Like all of the Hanoverians, George I hated his son and his son hated him. Here is George II. He was the last English king to lead his troops into battle, at Dettingen in 1743. He galloped so fast his wig blew off:

george II

George III was mad, mad, mad. He lost the American colonies, of course. Perhaps they thought they would be better off without a registered lunatic in charge?

King George III

George III  was the last monarch of John Deane’s long life. Six and out, to borrow a cricketing phrase.

Mr Spielberg, I have the film script for all of this nearly half finished…

 

 

 

 

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Six Kings and Two Queens (2)

Hopefully, you have already read the first part of the blood soaked story of Captain John Deane and the wreck of The Nottingham Galley on the ice cold, wind swept rocks of Boon Island, just off the coast of New Hampshire:

cheat

The Date-Book of Remarkable and Memorable Events connected with Nottingham and its neighbourhood by John Frost Sutton does not disappoint with its continuation of the story.

Captain Deane returned to Nottingham where he wrote a bestselling book about the tragedy. Surprisingly, he was the hero.

The First Mate, Christopher Langman, did exactly the same. He wrote his own book where he was the hero.

Two very different stories, with each author accusing the other of being a liar and a cheat.

According to Stephen Erickson, the controversy lasted for a good while. It was essentially the two boat owners, the Deane brothers, versus the members of the crew.  John Deane in particular, was to become an eighteenth century spin doctor for the rest of his life, telling and re-telling the story with himself as its hero, over and over again, to whoever would listen.

Books were written in the immediate local area, such as Great Shipwrecks of the Maine Coast by Jeremy D’Entremont.

book

The same events were related in Great Storms and Famous Shipwrecks of the New England Coast by the aptly named Edward Rowe Snow. The most recent book is Boon Island: A True Story of Mutiny, Shipwreck, and Cannibalism by Stephen Erickson and Andrew Vietze.  And Boon Island by Kenneth Roberts turned the story into a novel:

book novel

Modern authors have added to the drama with suspicions of insurance fraud and the allegation that The Nottingham Galley could have arranged beforehand with French privateers to be captured for financial gain.
Most interesting perhaps is the Wreck of the Nottingham Galley published by the Book Arts Studio at the University of Maine at Machias. This contains everybody’s two cents’ worth, with five significant histories of events: Captain John Deane’s original account; the crew’s rebuttal; Cotton Mather’s rendition; a sensationalized, anonymous narrative; and John Deane’s expanded final account.

wreck of the npottingham gaslley

As if all that controversy, from 1711 to the present day, were not enough, according to The Date-Book of Remarkable and Memorable Events connected with Nottingham and its neighbourhood:

“….a very sad and fatal affair arose. Dr Jasper Deane, the brother of Captain John, resided in Fletcher-gate. He had embarked considerable property in The Nottingham Galley, and whenever he met his brother, the Captain, he yelled at him so long and loud about the cause of his serious financial loss, that they finally just avoided each other’s company.
At length their animosity appeared to subside, and under the condition that the subject of the shipwreck should not be brought up, the Captain met the Doctor at a party. There was every appearance of a restoration of friendship on both sides. No mention was made of The Nottingham Galley, and instead of separating, the Captain agreed to accompany his brother back to his house. Unhappily, the Doctor’s stifled feelings broke free, and in Fletcher-gate he again gave way to prolonged and bitter abuse of his brother. They had nearly reached his door when the Doctor assumed a threatening attitude, the Captain pushed him away with his open hand, and the Doctor fell. He ruptured a blood vessel, and died immediately. Whether the rupture was caused by excitement or the fall could not be ascertained.”

In 1714, Captain Deane commanded a ship of war in the service of the Czar of Muscovy, which he retained until 1720. We know this Czar of Muscovy better as Peter the Great. the founder of the Russian Navy:

Peter_der-Grosse_1838

Captain Deane was subsequently British Consul at the ports of Flanders and Ostend, until 1738, when he retired to Wilford near Nottingham with a handsome pension. Wilford was a live wire sort of place in 1740. In actual fact, the man you can see fishing in the River Trent in this picture is still there to this very day. He is a kind of Flying Dutchman figure, cursed by his wife never to come home from his fishing for the rest of eternity:

wiklford ferrry

The Date-Book hasn’t finished the tale yet:

“The retired Captain built the two neat dwellings near the entrance of the village from the ferry. The one nearest the river was the one he occupied first; the other, very similar in appearance, was erected afterwards:”

his house the palazzo
“In 1748, whilst walking in his own grounds in broad daylight, the Captain was attacked by a robber, who plundered him of everything valuable he had about him, even to the sleeve buttons from his wrists. The despoiler, whose name was Miller, was apprehended, and a few months afterwards he was executed.”

Miller was hanged in public on a wooden gallows. This execution would have taken place on the Forest Recreation Ground as I have previously described in my article “Gun Battle on Derby Road

One more bit to the story…..

 

 

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