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A dramatic change

Something happened to the British kingdoms just half a century after Bosworth. From 1536, the second “Tudor” (and his like-minded nephew James V) began to execute women for political offences, a practice unknown hitherto. There had been exceptions such as the St. Brice’s Day Massacre in 1002, although Ethelred had neither judged nor attainted his Viking population as individuals. Margery Jourdemayne had been burned in 1441  because her practice of witchcraft had encompassed treason against Henry VI, potentially in favour of his uncle.

1536 saw Anne Boleyn beheaded. In 1537 Lady Bulmer (Pilgrimage of Grace) and Lady Glamis* were both executed. Margaret, the aged Countess of Salisbury, went to the block in 1541, followed by Katherine Howard and Lady Rochford the following year. Lady Jane Grey (1554), Mary Stuart (1587), Lady Warriston* (1600, husband murder) and Lady Alice Lisle (1685, Sedgemoor) complete the set. There is a definite pattern emerging here in that there was a sudden outbreak, reflecting that the “Tudor” mindset was much less chivalric than that of their predecessors. Evidence for this is that “King Lear”, written in late Elizabethan or early Jacobean years, which included the eventual execution of Cordelia.

* Scottish cases

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8 thoughts on “A dramatic change

  1. Glamis was burned allegedly because she refused to give herself to James ,as such she was accused of being a witch by the spurned King .
    Cut from the same cloth as good King Harry .

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Peter Fletcher on said:

    Cordelia was actually killed in King Lear: she was strangled on the orders of Edmund. The message that it had been revoked got through too late.

    Like

  3. Jasmine on said:

    What was the position regarding executions of women in the rest of Europe at this time? Is it that England and Scotland were following a general trend, or were they unusual?

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    • This can be investigated further but there were two Europes in 1536 – Reformation and non-Reformation. Scotland was still in the second category so that may not help.

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