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Reign on James II page 6


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The bishops were so scandalised at his morality, that they refused him the sacrament. On the fatal morning of the 15th they were joined by Dr. Tenison, afterwards archbishop, who united in their views, and reasoned with Monmouth with equal want of success. Before setting out for the scaffold, his wife and children came to take leave of him. Lady Monmouth was deeply moved, Monmouth himself spoke kindly to her, but was cold and passionless. When the hour arrived, he went to execution with the same courage that he had always gone into battle. He was no more the cringing, weeping supplicant, but a man who had made up his mind to die. The whole neighbourhood of the Tower was one dense mass, from ground to roof, of spectators, and he was conducted in the carriage of the lieutenant of the Tower, surrounded by an unusually numerous guard, for fear of some popular effort in his favour. At his appearance the whole crowd seemed affected with weeping and sobbing. He mounted the steps of the scaffold with a firm step, and the groans and lamentations subsiding into a deep silence, he said, "I came here not to speak but to die. I die a protestant of the church of England." But there the bishops interrupted him, saying that unless he repented of his sins, he was no member of their church. He must acknowledge the doctrine of non-resistance. Monmouth again proceeded, openly avowing his attachment to Henrietta Wentworth, and vindicating it, warmly declaring her a woman of virtue and honour, asserting that he loved her to the last, and was convinced in his conscience that their attachment was just and innocent in the sight of God.

The bishops again zealously interposed, calling upon him to renounce such perilous opinions; and even Gosling, one of the sheriffs, who forgot or appeared to forget the notorious and multiplied breaches of the marriage law by both the last and the present king, several of whose mistresses were said to be amongst the spectators, asked him if he were married to lady Henrietta, and remarked that he hoped to have heard him expressing repentance for his rebellion. "I die very penitent," calmly replied Monmouth; but this did not satisfy the bishops; they were not contented to receive a general confession of great penitence; they had a vigilant and vigorous master's eye upon them, who wanted of all things a sanction for the doctrine of non-resistance. Monmouth referred them to a paper in the Tower signed by him; they replied there was nothing in it about non-resistance, and pressed him importunately for a specific answer. Monmouth, wearied with this unfeeling pertinacity, replied, "I came to die; pardon me, my lords. I refer to my paper." They insisted that he should call his invasion rebellion. "Call it what you please," he replied. "I am sorry for invading the kingdom, I am sorry for the blood that has been shed, and for the souls which have been lost by my means; I am sorry that it ever happened."

This ought to have satisfied any men under the circumstances, but they still continued clamorously to pursue him with their persuasions. At length he began to pray, and they condescended to pray with him, but when they came to the blessing on the king, Monmouth was silent. They repeated again the words, "O Lord, save the king." He was still silent. "Do you not pray for the king?" they demanded. After a pause, he said, "Amen!" Once more they pressed him to address the soldiers and spectators, admitting that great doctrine, of which they were soon to have enough themselves. "I will make no speeches," he replied. "Only ten words, my lord." - But he turned from them with impatience, and putting into the hands of his servant a toothpick case, as a last little token of his affection to lady Wentworth, he said, "Give it to that person." He then turneŁd to Jack Ketch, and feeling the edge of the axe, said, " Here are six guineas for you, but mind and do not hack me as you did my lord Russell. My servant 'will give you more gold if you do the work well." He refused to have a cap drawn over his face, and laid his head on the block, the bishops continuing to ejaculate, "God accept your imperfect repentance!" His words to the executioner had apparently the very effect which he wished to avoid, for he trembled violently, struck him so feeble and erring a blow, that Monmouth rose up and looked at him. Twice the man struck him, but without dispatching him, and then flung down the axe in horror, exclaiming, "I cannot do it." The people yelled and groaned frightfully in indignation. The sheriff cried, "Take up the axe, man;" the people, "Fling him over the rails!" and amid this awful scene Ketch aimed two more blows at the mangled victim, and then separated the head finally with a knife. The populace were so enraged at the executioner's clumsiness, that they would have torn him to pieces if they could have come at him for the guards. Many rushed forward to dip their handkerchiefs in his blood, and the barbarous circumstances of his execution, and the unfeeling persecution of the prelatefe, did not a little to restore his fame as a martyr to liberty and protestantism. There have not been wanting those who have vindicated the bishops, as exerting only an earnest zeal for the sufferer's soul. We may, without much want of charity, ascribe a considerable amount of government subserviency to this zeal, and we are much disposed to take the same view as Charles James Fox of this extraordinary conduct: - "Certain it is that none of these holy men seem to have erred on the side of compassion or complaisance to their illustrious penitent., Besides endeavouring to convince him of the guilt of his connection with his beloved lady Henrietta, of which he could never be brought to a due sense, they seem to have repeatedly teased him with controversy, and to have been far more solicitous to make him profess what they deemed the true creed of the church of England, than to soften or console his sorrows, or to help him to that composure of mind so necessary to his situation." No stronger proof of the deep and sincere attachment of Henrietta Wentworth could have been given than was given by her. Within a few months she followed him broken-hearted to the grave. As for king Monmouth, the romance of his story continued to circulate amongst the people. Many refused to believe that it was he who had really perished on the scaffold. Impostors at different times personated him, and evon when the man in the iron mask was discovered in the Bastile, the long lapse of time did not prevent some from supposing it to be Monmouth.

It was expected that Grey would be executed immediately after Monmouth, but he was spared, undoubtedly for sufficient reasons. His estate was entailed on his brother, and would have gone to him immediately on his death; but Rochester was to have a large sum out of it if he was allowed to live, and this saved him. "The earl of Rochester," says Burnet, " had sixteen thousand pounds of him, others had smaller shares. He was likewise obliged to tell all he knew, and to be a witness in order to the conviction of others, but with this assurance, that nobody was to die upon his evidence."

Whilst these things were going on in London, the unfortunate people in the west were suffering a dreadful penalty for their adherence to Monmouth. Feversham was called to town, and covered with honours and rewards, though It was notorious that he had done nothing towards the victory. Buckingham even declared that he had won the battle of Sedgemoor in bed. In his place was left one of the most ferocious and unprincipled monsters that ever disgraced the name of soldier. This was colonel Kirke, who had been governor of Tangier until it was abandoned, and now practised the cruelties that he had learned in his unrestrained command there. In that settlement, left to do his licentious will on those in his power, he has left a name for arbitrary, oppressive, and dissolute conduct, which in ordinary times would have insured his death. He here commanded the demoralised soldiers that he had brought back with him, and who, whilst they were capable of every atrocity, were called Kirkels lambs, because, as a Christian regiment sent against the heathen, they bore on their banner the desecrated sign of the lamb. His debauched myrmidons were let loose on the inhabitants of Somersetshire, and such as they could not extort money from, they accused on the evidence of the most abandoned miscreants, and hanged and quartered, boiling the quarters in pitch, to make them longer endure the weather on their gibbets. The most horrible traditions still remain of Kirke and his lambs. He and his officers are said to have caused the unhappy wretches brought in, who were not able to pay a heavy ransom, to be hanged on the sign post of the inn where they messed, and to have caused the drums to beat as they were in the agonies of death, saying they would give them music to their dancing. To prolong their sufferings, Kirke would occasionally have them cut down alive and then hung up again; and such numbers were quartered, that the miserable peasants compelled to do that revolting work, were said to stand ankle deep in blood. All this was duly reported to the king in London, who directed lord Sunderland to assure Kirke that "he was very well satisfied with his proceedings." It was asserted in j London that in the single week following the battle, Kirke butchered a hundred of his victims, besides pocketing large sums for the ransom of others, yet he declared that he had not gone to the lengths which he was ordered to do. On the 10th of August he was sent for to court, to state personally the condition of the west, James being apprehensive that he had let the rich delinquents escape for money, and the system of butchery was left to colonel Trelawny, who continued it without intermission, soldiers pillaging the wretched inhabitants, or dragging them away to execution under the forms of martial law. But a still more sweeping and systematic slaughter was speedily initiated under a different class of exterminators - butchers in ermine.

Lord chief justice Jeffreys, the most diabolical judge that ever sate on the bench, now rendered furious by nightly debauch and daily commission of cruelties, in his revels, hugging in mawkish and disgusting fondness his brutal' companions, in his discharge of his judicial duties passing the most barbarous sentences in the most blackguard and vituperative language, in whose blazing eye, distorted visage, and bellowing voice raged the unmitigated fiend, was now sent forth by his delighted master to consummate his vengeance on the unhappy people whom the soldiers had left alive and cooped up in prison. He was already created baron of Wem, dubbed by the people earl of Flint, and, the lord-keeper just now dying, he was promised the great seal if he shed blood enough to satisfy his ruthless king. Four other judges, Montague, the chief baron, Levinz, Watkins and Wight, were associated with him, rather for form than for anything else, for Jeffreys was the hardened, daring, and unscrupulous instrument on whom James confidently relied. Amid the scenes of horror already enacted, and the still worse to come, we must do two men the justice to testify that they dared to raise their voices against the wickedness and barbarity of this blood-thirsty king. Poor old lord- keeper Guildford, brow-beaten, thwarted, and insulted by Jeffreys, before retiring from his office to die, dared to speak out to James on the illegality and monstrosity of the proceedings of the soldiery in Somersetshire; and bishop Ken, though the rebels had stripped the lead from his cathedral at Wells, and grievously defaced its shrines and images, yet notwithstanding he rendered the last hours of Monmouth bitter by his religious zeal, did all in his power to obtain mercy for, and to mitigate the sufferings of the outraged people in his diocese.

Jeffreys' bloody campaign, as it was then and always has been termed, both from its wholesale slaughter and from the troops which accompanied him throughout the circuit - a name constantly used by the unfeeling king himself- - was opened at Winchester on the 27th of August, and commenced with a case of hitherto unexampled ruthlessness. Mrs. Alice Lisle, or, as she was generally called, lady Alice, her husband, one of the judges of Charles I., having been created a lord by Cromwell, was now an infirm and aged woman, deaf, and lethargic. Her husband had been murdered, as we have related, by the royalists, as he was entering the church at Lausanne. Lady Alice was known far and wide for her benevolence. Though her husband was on the other side, she had always shown active kindness to the followers of the king during the civil war, and on this account, after her husband's death, his estate had been granted to her. During the rebellion of Monmouth her son had served in the king's army against the invader; yet this poor old lady was now accused of having given a night's shelter to Hicks, a nonconformist minister, and Nelthorpe, a lawyer, outlawed for his concern in the Rye House plot. They were fugitives from Sedgemoor, and the law of treason was, and it appears yet is, that he who harbours a traitor is liable to death, the punishment of a traitor. Mrs. Lisle had no counsel, and pleaded that though she knew that Hicks was a presbyterian minister, she did not know that they were concerned in the rebellion, and there was no direct proof of the fact. The jury was exceedingly unwilling to condemn a woman of such known kindness of heart, who was merely accused of showing the same favour to these men that she had uniformly shown to royal fugitives, and asked Jeffreys whether it was as much treason to harbour Hicks before conviction as after. Jeffreys replied that it was, but neither he nor the four judges sitting on the same bench told them, which was equally true, that the traitor must be convicted before the receiver of the traitor can be brought to trial. "A provision," says Sir James Mackintosh, "so manifestly necessary to justice, that without the observance of it, Hicks might have been acquitted of treason after Mrs. Lisle had been executed for harbouring him as a traitor."

The peasant who had led the fugitives to her house, was brought as the reluctant witness against her. This poor man, thus led up to destroy so good a woman, was unwilling to speak. Jeffreys stormed, swore, and cursed him in such style, that he was totally confounded. As he stood speechless, Jeffreys roared out, "Oh, how hard it is for the truth to come out of a lying presbyterian knave!" As he could only mutter some unintelligible words, Jeffreys went on: - "Was there ever such a villain on the face of the earth? Dost thou believe there is a God? Dost thou believe in hell fire? Of all the witnesses that I ever met with, I never saw thy fellow." The man being still more frightened, Jeffreys screeched, "I hope, gentlemen of the jury, that you take notice of the horrible carriage of this fellow. How can any one help abhorring both these men and their religion? A Turk, is a saint to such a fellow as this; a Pagan would be ashamed of such villainy. Oh, blessed Jesus! what a generation of vipers do we live among!"

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Pictures for Reign on James II page 6

Great Seal of James II
Great Seal of James II >>>>
James Receiving the French bribe
James Receiving the French bribe >>>>
Monmouth Advancing on Taunton
Monmouth Advancing on Taunton >>>>
Flight of Monmouth
Flight of Monmouth >>>>
Reception of Monmouth by the ladies of Taunton
Reception of Monmouth by the ladies of Taunton >>>>
Burning of Elizabeth Gaunt
Burning of Elizabeth Gaunt >>>>
William of Orange
William of Orange >>>>
Monmouth exchanging clothes with a shepherd
Monmouth exchanging clothes with a shepherd >>>>

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