Wednesday, August 09, 2017

"Wicked practise & sorcerye": The Witches of Belvoir

Before I went off to Shropshire for a week - hence my break from blogging - we visited the tombs of the Earls and Dukes of Rutland in Bottesford church.

There I wrote that one of the tombs has some dark history attached to it.

That tomb is the grandest one in the church: the tomb of Francis Manners, the sixth Earl, and his two wives and children.

And you will see above that the inscription on the tomb attributes the deaths of two of those children to "wicked practise & sorcerye".

Witchcraft tells the story behind this:
The Witches of Belvoir were three women, Joan Flower and her two daughters, Margaret and Philippa, who were accused of witchcraft in eastern England around 1619. The story has many classic elements of witchcraft trials, and much of the evidence revolved around various alleged familiar spirits. 
A Bottesford woman named Joan Flower and her two daughters, Margaret and Philippa, were employed as servants by the Earl and Countess of Rutland at Belvoir Castle near Grantham, Lincolnshire. 
Joan Flower in particular was unpopular and feared in the local community. She was an unkempt woman, with sunken eyes and a foul mouth, who boasted of her atheism, and of consorting with familiar spirits. 
Margaret was dismissed from the castle for stealing and, not long after, the Earl’s whole family became sick, suffering extraordinary convulsions. Although most of the family recovered, the eldest son, Henry, Lord Ross, died, and the Earl and Countess became convinced that Joan Flower and her daughters were to blame. 
All three women were arrested at Christmas of 1617 (or 1618) and were taken to Lincoln jail, where they were examined.
Joan Flower died in prison and her two daughters were tried, convicted of witchcraft and hanged.

A dreadful tale of the sort I came across some years ago at Husbands Bosworth.

The only positive factor I can see is that Joan's familiar was a cat called Rutterkin. And you have to admit that is a terrific name for a cat.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Today they would be examined for a mental illness by a professional.

Back in the day they would be called mad and accused of witchcraft.