Was Anne Boleyn charged with witchcraft?

Posted By on March 15, 2019

The latest instalment in my video series “Questions about Anne Boleyn” looks at the question “Was Anne Boleyn charged with witchcraft?” something that rears its ugly head every May when I talk about the indictments of charges laid against her, Anne’s trial and her execution.

Did the charges against Anne Boleyn include witchcraft?

What about the deformed foetus and extra finger? Were they used a proof of her being a witch?

Did Henry VIII believe that Anne Boleyn had bewitched him?

And what about the men? Were they involved in witchcraft?

I examine this topic in my latest video.

I do hope you enjoy it and please do share your thoughts and opinions.

24 thoughts on “Was Anne Boleyn charged with witchcraft?”

  1. Roland H. says:

    The interesting thing about Anne and witchcraft is that she was never called a witch until the 1930s. The concept is entirely a modern 20th century one.

    My research about Anne and sorcery (in an article called ‘Anne of the Wicked Ways’) can be read at:


    1. Banditqueen says:

      Thank you, Roland, it looks like a very interesting and important article. I have downloaded it and will be reading it tomorrow.

  2. Banditqueen says:

    No, Anne wasn’t charged with witchcraft. I believe people think it was in the charges because she was condemned to be burned at the stake or beheaded at the King’s pleasure, but people don’t understand that burning was the sentence that a woman was sentenced to for murder and treason. Anne of course was accused of treason so legally should have been burned. Henry as an act of mercy commuted the sentence to beheading with a sword. In fact the death sentence for witchcraft after 1536 was hanging in England not burning.

    As the video points out both fictional and some history books claim Anne was a witch so yes, it is understandable to a certain point that some people believe it was part of the charges against her. I agree many of the later anti Anne writers said that Anne had things on her body which are said to be connected to witchcraft and Nicholas Sander was the chief of those. Anne didn’t give birth to a deformed foetus in January 1536 and again the source above is much later but is not to be taken seriously. Henry would indeed have included all of these outlandish claims in the charges against Anne but he didn’t. Four contemporary sources show that Anne had a natural but sad miscarriage, which left her vulnerable and open to enemies. Anne wasn’t a witch and nobody appears to have said so, even among the public, whore yes, witch no. It makes good fiction, but no more.

    Henry made some offhand remark in his distress after losing his son by Anne about his marriage being cursed and him being lured into the match with Anne by witchcraft or by her charms but it was reported second hand. He thought his marriage to be null and void and did indeed consult with experts on canon law as to an annulment. However, he didn’t seriously pursue this and Anne was back in favour within weeks of her miscarriage and there is no evidence that Henry seriously believed he was bewitched by Anne Boleyn. He was a grieving father and a man confused about why God still denied him sons. His ramblings were no more serious than Anne’s in the Tower of London when she was frightened and hysterical. In any case Henry couldn’t claim Anne had bewitched him in public because it would make him look a complete fool. Look at what he had done to make Anne his Queen:

    Henry had set aside a loyal, loving and long standing, popular, warrior Queen and dismissed her from Court.
    Henry had annulled his marriage to get a son by his new Queen.
    Henry had declared his true born daughter, Princess Mary as illegitimate and had dismissed her from Court because she would not accept Anne as Queen.
    Henry knew that the Holy Father was the real authority in Rome, he had defended him as such but in order to get his own way Henry had changed his mind, broken England from Rome (not the Catholic Church) and he declared the Pope heretical. He then made himself Head of the Church of England and gained power over Church and Realm.
    He had annulled his marriage to Katherine and married Anne, whom he believed would provide him with sons.
    Henry had then had laws enacted to back up his position and his new marriage and their heirs, making it treason to speak or write against his marriage to Anne and their children.
    As a result of those laws those who refused to swear oaths regarding the King’s Supremacy or to the legitimacy of his marriage were guilty of treason and executed, including Thomas More and John Fisher and the holy monks, all to protect his second marriage to his beloved Anne Boleyn. Anne wasn’t to blame for this, but Henry couldn’t brook any more opposition and the people in the years up to his marriage had taken advantage to freedom to speak by shouting out that Henry had abandoned his Queen.

    Henry had done all of this because he believed it was right, it was what the kingdom and God wanted. If he now claimed that he was all because Anne bewitched him, then all of the above was for nothing and he, Henry the Supreme One was a fool.

    I respect the work of Professor Warnicke but her premise is incorrect. She believed Nicholas Sander was correct and that Anne did have a deformed foetus, which was believed by some Church experts that a mother had lived an illicit life and that any children conceived would be deformed as a result of this behaviour. Warnicke cites two thesis on this from the mid sixteenth century. As Claire also says the men were also meant to live debauched lives. This includes homosexual relationships. Now the men may or may not have been involved with numerous ladies but the evidence is very scant and the evidence for homosexuality is virtually none existent. Henry Viii passed laws to make both what was called sodomy and maficia or killing by witchcraft capital crimes, the latter after Anne died, but these laws could have been passed earlier if it was advantageous to condemn Anne and her co accused under them. Why invent charges of treason and incest if something else just as damaging could be found? None of these things were raised at her trial and that the men were targeted because of their perverse life styles is really far fetched. However, Warnicke who does believe Anne was innocent as well as the men, is way of in any case as this all depends on Anne giving birth to a deformed foetus, which the evidence proves was not the case. I have no idea why Professor Warnicke prefers Nicholas Sander to Chapuys or others and reading her work and articles has not enlightened me even after several attempts. She has done her homework, but her hypothesis is wrong to begin with and not held up by the contemporary evidence.

    So while the idea of Anne the Witch makes good fiction and entertainment, but no she wasn’t charged with this and neither did her contemporaries seriously state or believe it of her.

    1. Christine says:

      Agreed, Henry V111 had no wish for the world to let him be seen as a victim of sorcery, it would undo the image he liked to portray of himself as this strong ruler, at her trial the incest charges and plotting death against his most divine majesty were enough to garner him sympathy, but throw in the charge of witchcraft- no way, he had no wish to appear a fool on the world stage, the break with Rome and yes the creation of England’s church with himself as its head, the long wait to make Anne his queen and the abandonment of his first, all these events occurred because of a young lady in waiting at his court had been one Satans followers, he wished for sympathy not ridicule! Country women however, brought up on superstition and old wife’s tales may have heard stories of the woman their King wished to marry, young sons living in the city, maybe apprenticed to some merchant or lawyer, could have heard stories of the woman who was causing such a scandal throughout the country and Europe, the tavern houses must have been full of ribaldry about this woman the London crowds called the goggle eyed whore, ‘how is it possible she enslaved our king so much he wishes to put aside good Queen Katherine, and they she has a deformed finger surely the mark of the devil’, gossip is powerful and when young men left London to return home on vacation they must have spoken of the talk that was rife, so I think it’s possible country folk could well have believed that Anne Boleyn was a sorceress, certainly she was called a concubine by Chapyus, but he himself being a sophisticated man of the world never referred to her as a witch, her charms were not the result of devil worship but the all too familiar charms that have bewitched men for centuries, a supple willowy body, large lustrous eyes and a flowing mane of hair, her physical charms were evident in many of the men who met her, and those who knew her personally, she did not need Satans help to win a crown, the mistress of Edward 111 also was spoken of with hatred, he was known for being a fine great King and also which is rare amongst our sovereigns, he was faithful to his queen, the beloved Philippa of Hainult, yet in his later life he became prey to the charms of this one woman named Alice Perrers who was one of his queens ladies, it was said of her he was with her many a day and night, people were mistrustful of her and she was viewed with suspicion, but she never toppled the queen from her position as Anne had, and this is what makes Anne Boleyn unique, no other mistress had ever done that, (although Maria Fitzherbert was said to have married the Prince Regent it was probably just a form of a ceremony they went through), but we have to remember also it was Henry V111’s need for a prince that fuelled his desire for her, and Anne knew this and quite possibly played on it, had she been truly a witch she would have had no problem in giving the King sons, she had won a crown surely she could give him sons? The fact that she failed proves she had no special magic at all.

  3. Esther says:

    I don’t think that Henry would have charged Anne with witchcraft even if he thought she was one, so the absence of contemporary evidence doesn’t mean much. In Tudor times, witchcraft wasn’t a joke about what house Anne might have gotten (ambitious enough for Slytherin; brave enough for Gryffindor) but it was seriously Satanic.. The one thing Henry couldn’t avoid is the connection between his supremacy over the church and his desire to marry Anne … if his desire to marry was the result of witchcraft, then it was the work of Satan — and that would mean that Henry’s supremacy was also the result of Satanic influence.

  4. Christine says:

    I too own that copy of Lofts biography of Anne with the same dust jacket which I purchased many years ago whilst being a proud member of the WH.Smith book club, I had not read many books on Anne prior to that and as I turned the pages, I felt that I was reading something akin to a fairytale, Lofts was a brilliant writer and what I love about her books is that she doesn’t always give a happy ending to her heroes/ heroines, her biography on Anne has a magical feel to it as she does impress upon the reader the essence of witchcraft that Anne was said to have possessed, she writes on the courtship of Anne and Henry, ‘a whiff of magic does go through the story’, I got the feeling Lofts wanted to believe Anne was this dark sorceress who won the crown of England by witchcraft, in her historical fiction work titled ‘The Concubine’ she depicts Anne as setting fire to a leaf which when burned spelt out the name Wolsley, in a way when we read Annes history of how she became Henrys second queen, it does sound quite unbelievable that she achieved what she did, from humble lady in waiting to a powerful queen consort to becoming queen in her place, her story does read like something from the realms of fantasy and as Starkey says, ‘no woman had ever done what she had, effectively toppled a queen from her position’, she comes across as fascinating and mysterious and not too human because of it, no ordinary woman could ever have done that, to the human mind therefore Anne had to have that extra something to help her along her way, it was said of Elizabeth Woodville that she snared Edward 1V by witchcraft that her mother used, she was later charged with it but the charges were dropped, interestingly we do not hear during her lifetime of Anne herself being accused of sorcery to snare Henry, the mad nun of Kent never accused her of it, merely spouted doom and gloom about the putting away of his first wife and the havoc that would befall the kingdom if he married Anne, during her coronation as she rode through the streets of London she was heckled by some, but the words witch were never uttered, the death of her son in January 1536 was not described as unnatural and as Claire mentions, the charge of witchcraft was not in the indictments against her, so we can see that the idea of Anne being accused of witchcraft was woven out of the fantasy of the Catholic Nicholas Sander, years after her death who wished to debase her daughter Elizabeth the Protestant, the reformation that Anne was responsible for bringing to England had caused political unrest in the country, and it was sweeping through Europe, Sander had a political motive in painting Anne as a disfigured woman, he makes a point of mentioning her projecting tooth and moles, witches are depicted as gobbet toothed warty hags, (warts said to be the mark of Satan their master), he mentions her sixth finger which was not a finger at all, merely a tiny nail, then he makes a really ludicrous claim that her baby was just a lump of flesh, and by this he inferred that she had been guilty of unnatural sexual practices, what is very unsettling however is that as Bq says, Prof Warnicke an academic historian actually believe these claims and that Anne and her accused lovers had been involved in some kind of orgy, the men were sexual deviants homosexuals etc, and the deformed child was the sad result of her depraved union with her brother, oh my I could hardly believe it when I read some years ago that this respected historian actually thinks this, I find it incredible and I know many others do as well that she could ever give credence to the writings of a man who was a Catholic and was politically motivated by slandering the mother of a hated Protestant queen, no other historian gives him credence so why does Warnicke? Well we are all entitled to our opinions but she is way of the mark and unique in her assertions, the ever debatable Gregory said she based her book ‘The Other Boleyn Girl’ on Warnickes theory a claim which the Professor denies, but in the chapter where Anne gives birth to her last child she recounts how she brought forth a shapeless creature with an enlarged head atop a spindly body, it had one or no eyes from what I can remember, as shamefully I admit I bought this book when it was first published, but it was such drivel I put it at the back of the wardrobe and later gave it to my local charity shop, the head had tufts of ginger hair (a legacy from its father), and Anne was screaming hysterically to get rid of it before the king or anyone else saw it, so we can see how the idea of witchcraft steals through Annes story, Gregory’s books are read by millions and have even made in on the silver screen, as Claire mentions also in her video, Annes picture hangs in Hogwarts thus adding to the essence of magic that hangs around her, after the tragic death of the child which could have saved her life Henry in grief, said he believed his marriage was cursed as he had been bewitched into marrying her, but we must not take his words too seriously, people say things in grief and anger and as we all know, she was never accused of witchcraft nor were her alleged lovers, the charge could have been thrown in but I believe the reason it wasn’t, was not just because I believe Henry did not want to appear a fool, but because he never believed it himself, he had fallen in love with her, and men had fallen in love with women since the beginning of time, and women had fallen in love with men, when they fell out they did not accuse the other of witchcraft, it was merely an expression of his hurt feelings Henry made at the time, yet this one remark said in bitterness hundreds of years ago, has carried more weight down the centuries than any other Henry V111 has ever said during his lifetime, do we suppose wrong and did he actually mean it,? but whatever his own personal feelings towards his tragic queen she was never charged with practising the dark arts, and the idea of Anne Boleyn being a witch exists merely in fiction, she was no enchantress, she was no Melisande who turned into a serpent on certain days, she was not one of Satans handmaidens, she was the very opposite in fact, she was extremely pious and her maids were all imbued with the same piety, how is it possible anyone can believe so pious a queen can be a devil worshipper, and that her household was merely a hotbed of satanic orgies? there is the daft remark she made about a seven year drought if she were to die, she was locked up in the Tower cut of from everyone and everything, and fear made her become hysterical and she gabbled, her clever mind which could discuss theology with the most academic men of Europe was also responsible for running out of control, never tactful this was not the first time she let her mouth run away with her, maybe she had heard that Henry had said she had seduced him into marriage and sneeringly she exclaimed there would be no rain for seven years, or maybe she said it to shock the spiteful old biddies who waited attendance on her, they must have hovered together like crows and their presence had upset her, as she said the King knew she had never liked them, it must have seemed petty and vindictive to Anne for him to send them to wait on her, (her other beloved attendants like Madge Shelton and Lady Wyatt were kept at court) Anne Boleyn was not a sorceress she was no devil worshipper, she was human as you and I, she was however a very exceptional woman, remarkable ruthless sometimes to the point of vindictiveness, highly intelligent and possessed of great courage, as one observer said ‘she was as brave as a lion’, that courage guided her throughout her brief but turbulent life, and finally to the scaffold.

    1. Banditqueen says:

      Yes, the practice of magic and especially sorcery or witchcraft to cause harm to people, livestock or crops was taken with real seriousness and when the law allowed, drew the harshest punishment, including death. Henry was in the middle of making such harm punished by hanging as it was seen as murder. Sorcery itself had always been looked upon with fear and those who practiced it the servants of Satan. Folk magic or natural magic was mildly tolerated as long as it was used for good, such as healing and blessings and mixed with religious practice remarkably well from the twelfth century onwards. Holy superstition hovered on the border at times but was tolerated. Certain practices were of course frowned upon and discouraged and if investigation showed they had been harmful then the law allowed for harsh punishments and death. Casting a spell on someone to get them to marry you was enslaving them and Satanic and as it involved the crown, treason. Anne wouldn’t need to be charged with anything else as it could all be assigned to the use of witchcraft. She might have been charged with necromancy or divining the King’s horoscope and therefore his death, of enslavement of his soul and mind in order to gain the throne and now the use of magic to kill him with her conspiracy of evil. Use of her sexual charms to entice others to join her in sexual romps and Satanic worship would not be beyond the imagination when also adding adultery, for good measure. Just about anything the poor lady was accused off could easily have been incorporated in a capital offence of treason and witchcraft. Anne’s prediction in the Tower of not raining until she was set free would be taken as evidence of her guilt because witches could make the crops fail, bring up storms and rain and hail, cause a man to be impotent and cause livestock to die among other things, just with a look. By the way a number of Medieval texts say that it was believed that any woman could do that if she was menstruating as menstrual blood had the power of life and the power of death. So lads watch out or your manhood may fall off around us! Ha! I know this is really serious, but believe me when you are in a room full of women in University and that comes out for the first time, the laughter shakes the building. O.K. yes, this was extremely serious and dangerous stuff, not only because it was taken so seriously at the time, but because it did cost the lives of so many people, the majority of them totally innocent and the vast majority women. I have seriously studied many experts on the subject and the numbers widely vary from one million plus to more realistic estimates of 60,000 to 100,000 based on trial records, but the fact remains hundreds of thousands of people, some noble, some living on the edges of society died horrible and cruel deaths in the flames or by hanging on the word of a disgruntled neighbour, all over Europe and then Africa, Australia and America as the population moved there from Europe. The belief in witchcraft is as ancient as mankind but it was not as feared as it was in later Christian Europe. It was both treated with fear and respect but not in the same way, those who practiced it were priests or priestesses and communed with nature and black magic was as much to be avoided as it was later and punished as harmful to the community. However, it was used in battle against enemies or to combat those regarded as processed by demons. It was a belief restricted to an elite few and mixed with their religious and social authority as leaders in their ancient community and the power of the ancestors ran through them. However, now it was something different to be feared as evil and corruption and those who practiced it, servants of the Devil to be feared and reviled. It was seen as someone using their power to attack the entire community, not just the individual or individuals who claimed they had been victims of witches magic. It was almost like a disease and transmitted from person to person, there were rarely one or two witches, but several witches, spreading like an epidemic. People heard the local magistrates were in the area to look for sorcery and the numbers rose quickly to accuse everyone else of being a witch. People saw everything, people turning into various animals, hares, cats, birds, black dogs, their cows died of spells, not bad weather or disease, crops went bad, people flying and the spirit or shape of somebody visiting them and tormenting them. Those accused stood on the edges of society, lived alone or displayed odd behaviour or were deformed. However, those involved in healing may be accused if the person they treated died or they became worse and even pillars of the community became victims of witch fever. It didn’t take very long for a trial involving one or two people to escalate to the crazes of the seventeenth century and in Germany there were entire villages were only one or two women were left alive. It was not just a superstition of the lower and uneducated classes, it was something most educated people feared and believed in as well and which those with the most education wrote tomes on how to catch, identify and try a witch. The original word in Exodus 22 was to mean sorcerer, not the Latin malfica which is feminine for witch, the exhortation in Chronicles and Deuteronomy are also gender neutral. The female therefore was linked to witchcraft and harm from the Early Medieval period onwards. The height of these crazed periods stem mainly from the fourteenth century to the eighteenth century, although cases exist before and in the nineteenth century. I believe the last person executed here was in the early 1700s but elsewhere much later.

      What Anne could have been accused of would have involved her consulting an expert to draw up charts for the King, based on his birthday and star signs and diving his health and fate and possibly his time of death. She could have been accused of mixing herbs which were poisonous or which may make him ill or impotent. She might be accused of speaking with the dead or the Devil or of using magic to kill him. She may have been accused of making a potion to enslave him and making him fall in love with her and other spells to keep him under her control. Henry under her control obviously then did everything designed to marry her and put England under her control, including his break from Rome and annulment of his beloved Katherine. Although it sounds far fetched, there is a precedent. Eleanor Cobbam and her husband were accused of treason by way of witchcraft and she was further accused of contacting the dead and causing impotency and plotting to kill the King. The woman that she got her herbs from was burned to death and Eleanor, a noble woman was imprisoned for life in various castles. Anne could have been framed to be the woman who turned a righteous and well loved King from his popular and well loved wife and child and captured his heart through witchcraft and he did everything to please her because he lost his will to refuse. Satan it was believed could control the minds and will of men and women and turn them to carry out his evil purposes and to capture the will of anyone they influenced. Thus Henry fell in love with Anne and married her by her will, he left the obedience to the Church and Rome by her will and he made himself Head of that Church by her will. Anne was blamed for the deaths of a number of good men like Thomas More and others by Henry, in a moment of anger and by others too. Henry could have claimed she caused him to execute them by her evil power as well. The language of the indictments falls short of calling Anne a witch but the language they use “procurement to her evil purposes” is suggesting Anne used her sexual power to get her alleged lovers to do what she wanted. Sexual language and seduction are also used in witchcraft trials, having the accused physically touching demons or the Devil, usually on his private parts and having sex with him, so the two crimes are not uniquely exclusive.

      Henry could have brought such charges but he didn’t. Not only did he not believe Anne had done such a thing but he would have looked totally insane and ridiculous. His entire reality, everything we have already done to make Anne Queen and he had put his country through for the sake of male heirs were according to him and his world view based on findings in the Holy Bible, rooted firmly in the Hebrew Scriptures and in theological arguments. To say Anne had bewitched him was to admit he had his mind taken over by Satan and Anne was the source. Esther summed it up perfectly, in that the link between his love and marriage with Anne and his Supremacy was very real and couldn’t be denied. Everything was rooted now in this and he would be saying his Supremacy was rooted in Evil and his love based on the lies of the “Father of lies” and yes, also Satanic. He would look like a servant of Satan as much as Anne and seriously one who was totally enslaved and processed. Henry would be more than a laughing stock, he would be feared as one who had surrendered to the Evil One. He would be reviled, not pitied and he may have faced open rebellion and demand that he was exercised and repentance demanded to free him. Anne’s death would be seen as part of that cleansing and ritual salvation. Henry, in other words, again as Esther says, really could not bring charges of witchcraft against Anne, not without accusing himself of demonic procession.

  5. Michael Wright says:

    Academics should know better than to put something forward as fact that cannot be backed up by some kind of documentary evidence.

  6. Christine says:

    That’s very interesting Bq thanks for that last post, I was aware of the myths surrounding menstruating women like a touch could turn milk sour, but not that they were considered capable of whipping up storms, it’s very interesting reading about the old tales and it’s laughable when we think how green they were years ago, yes the art of black magic was considered very serious years ago and people had a genuine fear of witchcraft, the early settlers in America sought to escape religious intolerance and persecution of so called witches, but unfortunately they took it overseas with them and the Salem witch trials were famous in their day and people remember them still, not only in America but throughout the world.

    1. Banditqueen says:

      The Puritans took their beliefs with them because they were still people of their time and they were in a new and frightening land. They didn’t stop being people of the seventeenth century or farmers or those of plain belief and dress and they didn’t know how to cope with the extreme climatic conditions that they found. The first settlers got the best land and were more fertile and became richer and the lead citizens. Those who arrived later or who had less found themselves with less fertile land found the winter the hardest. They were partly cut off from the native people, although they traded with them and it was prosperous in the town, but there were social and economic problems, the new Vicar demanded more fire wood than they provide him with his contracted agreement, there was a lot of jealousy between certain families and a particularly terrible winter provided for the perfect conditions for sorcery and accusations to grow. Of course we know that in the case of Salem, this all started with children and a game gone wrong. Being involved in some form of mischief and forbidden activity, the girls realised that they were in trouble and faked hysterical illness to get out of it. The priest saw them and said it was illness but the doctor said he believed it was demonic. When the girls came out of it, they accused their neighbours and that was the beginning. The girls became superstars going from place to place to identify witches. In addition to the 100 or so people rounded up in Salem, of whom 29 people were executed, many more were rounded up across the county, but Salem was the highest number killed. Once these crazed paranoid events began there was no stopping them because people were often afraid of being accused themselves as well as them being opportunistic times to get rid of people you didn’t like as you may get their land or goods as a reward. Accused witches named other witches under pressure and torture, they were threatened, they were walked and not allowed to sleep, they were kept awake and questioned and ended up imagining they did see strange things and animal familiars because their mind saw them. They were held in what we would call stress positions and deprived of light and even food for days. Many died in crowded cells and women were stripped and poked and prodded for the Devil’s teets, which were any mark on the body that didn’t bleed or cause pain. Warts on the intimate parts of the body were particularly suspicious. The pricker often used trick knives that had retractable blades which meant of course things didn’t bleed. The accused may be swam to fund evidence of witchcraft, but those who lived were then sent for trial. The accused was encouraged to confess and repentance was sometimes rewarded but while in Salem, those who confessed were spared, under English law those who confessed should have actually hung as well as those who refused but were found guilty. The accused were also asked to name their fellow witches and many did in the hope of mercy. This was how these things escalated. It was absolutely terrifying and it was horrible and the poor victims were totally helpless.

  7. Christine says:

    Salem reminds me of a very famous case in England that occurred in 1613 and known as the Pendle Witches, it happened in Pendle Hill Lancashire and you can visit the house which was lived in by Elizabeth Demdike and her family, in fact a paranormal television crew ‘Most Haunted’ visited the place and were said to have made contact with Elizabeth and her daughter, the conclusion was that she was not a nice woman at all and her spirit made one of the crew very ill, however the story began in all innocence when Elizabeths daughter was on her way to market and she met a travelling man who sold pins, pins were said to help cure some ills and were known as a love charm, whatever altercation took place the man refused to sell her any and after that he became paralysed down one side, we know this to have probably been a stroke and it could have been the stress of the argument that triggered it, but events then took a sinister turn as the whole family were investigated and the daughter, (I think her name was Alice Nutter) admitted to being involved in devil worship however she could have just been pleased with all the attention as it was said she believed she herself had cursed the traveller, so causing his illness, it was very famous in its day and ten members of the family were accused of sorcery but two were acquitted, the rest were hung, Elizabeth Demdike apparently had been thought of as a witch for many years, but she was probably like many of them merely a harmless old woman who was involved in herbal treatments, and just gained a reputation in the neighbourhood for eccentricity, it was her daughter who seemed to revel in all the attention, we can scoff at this now in our enlightened age but it was very real as Bq mentions, it was something Elizabeth 1st took most seriously too, as in 1562 Parliament passed a bill that anyone who was involved in the conjugation of sorcery and by doing so, caused death were to suffer death themselves, and as we know King James blamed witchcraft on the storms that batted the ships that carried his new bride Anne of Denmark to England, Matthew Hopkins became known as a most feared witch hunter and even has a film about him, the 17th c was a very terrifying time to live in as the puritans took hold especially, I’m just so glad I didn’t live then as I read once that if you were left handed you were also under suspicion, left being the complete antithesis of right, which is just and natural and I’m left handed so I wouldn’t have had much of a chance!

  8. Banditqueen says:

    The Pendal witch trial is the perfect example of how something can escalate out of nothing. Jennett, the nine year old daughter of the local wise woman, Alice Device, as you say was doing as children do and begging, she saw a peddler and asked him for some pins, which she could then sell for pennies, but he refused so as a petulant child Jennett cursed him and the story says he fell into a fit. He probably had an inconvenient stroke. The story gets messy from here onwards but Jennett panicking she admitted everything, claiming it was her spells who had done the damage. An overly enthusiastic magistrate hit the farm one night and there gathered were all the people one would want to round up as trouble and they were having a party when the raid came. Also accused was her grandmother Old Demdyke (Elizabeth Southerland) and her brother and other friends, family and neighbours. The trial was a sensation with Jennett getting up on the table and openly accusing her mother and family of being witches. She went on and on, her mother screaming at her to be quiet and see sense but to no avail. She was the star of the show and accused her mother and grandmother of everything one imagines of witchcraft. Her mother and grandmother and other family were hung as were her neighbours. All this on the word of a child, which was madness and against all legal and theological protocol and advice as kids are not reliable witnesses. 1612 Pendle was notorious even by witch trial standards. Ten people out of twenty were tried at Lancaster and nine hung and the others tried and hung at York. They were accused of child murder, kidnapping, poisoning and several horrible things. A number of those accused and killed were in their 80s.

    James vi and first was an intelligent and well educated King with a family and an enquiring mind. He was also interested in witchcraft and statescraft and he was a hands on monarch. “Daemonologie”wasn’t a typical guide to how to find a witch as the Malleus or other texts, but it was a way to determine the guilty from the innocent. Children as witnesses were not encouraged but could be called as exceptions during witch trials if they were directly affected and he discouraged spectral evidence, claims that x had flown into the bedroom of y and tormented them while physically at home. Magistrates didn’t always took any notice and that partly happened here as it did in Salem but in Pendle you had the star witness of course. Tracy Boreman has studied an unusual case in 1619 in the Midlands from the Castle of Francis Manners of Belvoir, whose children died from a case of witchcraft. Well, obviously not really but that is what he believed when his sons died soon after he dismissed his servant Joan Flowers and her two daughters for theft. They were arrested for causing the deaths of his two sons as an act of revenge and hung. The tale is inscribed above their tombs. This was a rare and yet startling case as the trials were dying out. A reissue of Demonology was blamed. James I didn’t always feel as he did when he wrote his book about witchcraft and he jailed a woman who claimed she could identify a witch by looking at them when she pointed out the same person twice, the person had been cleared as not being a witch the first time around. He was involved in the interrogations and he also took an interest in a case which was thrown out.

    The Bewitching of Anne Gunter started with a game of football. She was a young girl given to shows of hysterical illness and attracting attention and her family was involved in an on going feud with another in the town. During the football two of the sons of the rival family were killed or seriously injured, which was not unusual for these free for all affairs. No action was taken and Anne fell ill. Her father said it was in revenge and made a complaint. He accused members of the other family of witchcraft and they blamed her of the same thing. The Kings Circuit Judges sent the case to the Privy Council. It was heard in the Star Chamber and Anne’s father summoned for fraud. Anne was examined and there was nothing wrong with her. King James intervened, calling it a case of revenge after the accident and all parties were fined and forced to make amends and Anne Gunter was given a good marriage. For once James had seen through these trials and the way they were used as revenge on your neighbours.

    The case you refer to was how it all began, with that terrible storm as James brought his bride back from Denmark and his and Anne’s ship was affected more than the others by the storms. More than 200 women were rounded up and accused, although I don’t know how many were killed. The Berwick trial began with the arrest of a well respected midwife, Agnus Sampson and a healer, Gilly Duncan, who were interrogated by James himself in 1589. After days of torture, the women spoke of a conspiracy of witches meetings to kill the King, the psychological torture had so damaged their minds that they believed their tormentors lies. James was obsessed with witchcraft and in Scotland, although not all under him, some 4000 women were burned to death for this frightening alleged crime. James had of course encountered a host of men interesting in studying witchcraft as a science and other on the edge scientific practitioners at the Danish Court where he spent quite some time. His interest might be viewed as bordering on the obsessive or even unhealthy.

    The Essex Witch trials under Elizabeth I launched the real madness in England but James imported the crazed era which saw hundreds of women hung in England. It was to be men like Matthew Hopkins, a self appointed fanatic, calling himself the invented name of Witchfinder General who caused havoc and terror across East Anglia and Kent in the 1650s and who claimed the lives of over 1000 women. I don’t know which version of the death of Matthew Hopkins is true but I really do hope it was the most horrific one.

    I have visited Pendle a few times, it’s only 40 minutes away and been in the witch cell at Lancaster Castle, which is dark and the guide locks you in with a lot of other people and it’s very spooky and you can hear everyone breathing heavily and they leave you there for a few moments. The other cell is below ground and damp and smells. It is good that we now know more or less for certain were the raids took place and the village has not changed much. The Devil’s Cauldron, a dark rocky natural hole really does look like somewhere people might have practiced black magic but it was actually a quarry. It pre dated the times of the events and in truth nobody knows what those moors were used for. Pre historic remains were found up there and all kinds of weird rituals are connected to the place. In fact the woods and hills were rich sources of minerals and plants so the women probably did get their supplies there, but there is no truth to the tales of Satanic ritual or coverns, girls dancing naked or anything else, despite the fact that even now the media report this because the place is wild and stormy. The media then had nothing better to do than report rubbish and it’s still at it.

    1. Ann says:

      I too live near Pendle although much closer and have grown up with this sad tale and have a great interest in it. It was actually Alison Devices who was begging and accused of cursing the peddler John Law, .Alison lived at Malkin Tower with her widowed mother Elisabeth, brother James, younger sister Jennett and grandmother Elisabeth Southern(Old Mother Demdike.It was Jennet who gave damning evidence against her family and the others accused with them including Alice Nutter a respectable farmers widow whose involvement in the affair still remains a mystery. Malkin Tower has never been located or its location accurately identified although recent archaeology activity carried out on land at Malkin Tower Farm has revealed the remains of a dwelling but nothing conclusive. Most Haunted is very entertaining but you have to take it with a pinch of salt

      1. Christine says:

        Hi Anne how interesting that you live there, you are lucky.

        1. Banditqueen says:

          Yes, I would love to move much closer but we can’t move at present. However, it’s not far by car. Very lovely area.

  9. Christine says:

    On television they showed a programme of the trial of the Pendle witches, and I remember the narrator saying Jeanette blurted out in the dock accusing her mother of sorcery and all sorts, she wouldn’t shut up and her mother was shouting back at her, we can imagine the chaos with the shocked faces and the judge and jury staring at them both, it was interesting as after the trial and executions of the accused, Jeanette disappeared from the records for many years, but than a document was discovered with her name being one of many who were put to death for witchcraft, it was not known if that was the Jeanette Demdike (not sure if that’s the correct spelling) of Pendle witches fame, but there’s a good possibility that it was, maybe the trial and deaths of her family and neighbour’s unhinged her a little, and her eccentricity gave rise to rumour especially of her connection with Elizabeth Demdike, maybe she could have dabbled in Satan worship as a result of her ordeal as a child, it makes one shudder at the intolerance and ignorance of the world back then, I bet that was creepy being locked in the dark cell, especially since it was the witches cell, I visited some caves a few years ago in Kent but cannot remember the name, they also featured in the ‘Most Haunted’ programme, they turned the lights of and we were in utter darkness, it’s the history of the place that gets you scared, nothing happened however but it was frightening enough with dozens of other people around, cannot conceive being there on ones own, there have always been theories about that great monument to the ancient world – Stonehenge, it could have been there for all sorts of reasons, fertility rites perhaps or sacrificial rites, the possibilities are endless, maybe it was a kind of devil worship, much of the ancient world is shrouded in mystery and I think with Stonehenge we will never get to know the real truth, unfortunately.

  10. Banditqueen says:

    I didn’t mention Most Haunted and I agree you do have to take it with a pinch of salt. I believe I mentioned the testimony of Jennett in my post but thanks for your further information about Malkin Tower. The information I was referring to was from a reputable documentary, but as you say the “experts” often get things wrong so thanks for your information about the archaeological dig. The rest of the information was from original sources. Yes, you are correct it was Alison Devices who made the detailed confession to laming John Law and also to being involved with her old grandmother in the harming of the cow they were supposed to heal, to child murder and to harming others. It is all in her confessions. Jennett as you say made the damning charges in Court. Devices was accused with Old Chattox or Anne Whittle, of causing the deaths of several people, including Robert and Anthony Nutter, of giving her soul to the Devil several years earlier and Alice Nutter of killing Henry Milton, but pleaded innocent. Old Chattox also incriminated Old Demdike or Elizabeth Southern the grandmother because that is what happened in these trials. The accused confessed to just about everything thrown at them because that was how it was, they were intimidated, deprived of sleep and interrogated and treated cruelly to make them believe that they had done harm. If they had treated people and those people died it was easy to blame them as the actual cause wasn’t known. I have read the confessions and the records, many of which are on line and the full account by the clerk of the Court, Thomas Potts “The Wonderful Discovery of Witches in the County of Lancaster” the best version being the modernised text by Robert Poole. The confessions are very extensive and people wanted to believe them, the accused were terrified and it is little wonder that these vulnerable women and James Devices, the brother of Alison, who confessed to bewichment and murder as well as sacrilege. His grandmother had asked him to steel the communion bread, which he didn’t, because this was sometimes used in healing magic. In total the ten people hung from twenty accused were found guilty of causing death by witchcraft of sixteen people. A second trial took place of the Salmsesbury Witches, four of whom were released without charge but the others, three women accused of killing by placing nails near or on their persons or in them, after the bodies were found to be clear, were acquitted by the same judge. It’s a pity he didn’t have the same reason when it came to the others.

    We have to remember the background to many of these later trials were the religious changes of Elizabeth I and James I and the ordinary people had now to go to the Protestant Church and attend services. If they didn’t go, they had to pay heavy fines and if they didn’t pay they faced imprisonment. Numerous people refused to go and the local sheriff and magisterial records show reasons for this, there being no priest, no real sacrament, no proper vestments as people raised in Catholic homes had understood. Even now, in the traditional Catholic northern and Midlands families passed down their Catholic customs and beliefs or at least kept them alive in other ways, mixed at times with nature. Cunning folk were of great value in rural areas and Old Chattox and Old Demdyke had served their communities for decades as such as had their families. Magistrates were now required to make a list of Rescuants in their district and question them. Roger Nowell was appointed by the King and according to Professor Ronald Hutton, these magistrates were often lax and he only became involved because of another crime. Old Chattox was seen wearing jewellery from the Demdyke home after apparently breaking in and stealing goods to the value of £20. She was questioned and accused Alison Devices of bewitching her but no further action was taken at this time, despite her being questioned. She was begging one week later when the unfortunate events regarding the peddler happened. Nowell was under pressure to investigate further. He was made aware of the complaints regarding John Law and he was also told of other accusations about these families. Alison Devices was arrested and Nowell took further action by raiding Malkin Hall because he knew the family and others had called a meeting. This was on Good Friday, April 6th and we don’t actually know what they did there, some accounts say they were celebrating and having a party, others that a priest was present but this is unverified and Nowell thought it was a coven. Most probably it was to discuss how to proceed, given that poor Alison had been upset and arrested and everyone was in danger. Everyone present was arrested and questioned, interrogated and confessions and cross accusations followed. Jennet was used to incriminate her family but she can’t really be blamed as she was a child of nine and she was most probably terrified. She wasn’t particularly well treated by the rest of the family but once in the hands of bullying men and officials, she would be manipulated into giving her testimonials against them. Her mother screaming, her family upset and crying, this child thrust up onto a table and we don’t know what was said to her. As a child of nine she was too young to hang but as the daughter, sister and granddaughter of known and infamous witches, who were condemned, she would be an outcast. This way she may have been provided for by the authorities. We don’t actually know for certain what happened to Jennett, but ten years later a woman of the same name was charged with witchcraft in the same area. A ten year old boy was the star this time but she wasn’t hung. Jennett gave an avid description of the Good Friday gathering including hearing both prayers and spells and basically confirmed all of the horrible things everyone was accused off. There was very little independent evidence and the controversial confessions and this very lively display by a nine year old child is all that condemned them. But that was how it was with witchcraft and heresy, what evidence could you bring but what a witness saw and heard and wild claims of changing into black dogs and birds. These were about deviation from the establishment, from the established religious beliefs, which marked out the hours of the days and which now were gone. This was about a state which wanted to control your soul and ordinary people who wanted to fight back by doing what they had done for centuries. I don’t for one moment believe these women had killed or harmed anyone. The male dominated paradigm had bullied them into believing that they had and terrorized them into false confessions. A few men were also charged, as here with James Devices and another young man but they were usually connected to the accused woman, as a spouse or sibling or other family members. The vast majority of those indicted for witchcraft were women, vulnerable ones on the whole, although as demonstrated, those of good religious and noble standing were not immune.

    1. Banditqueen says:

      Just something which occurred to be regarding Eleanor Cobbam, that many of the things she was accused of using sorcery were applied to Anne but using her lovers and treason. Yes, Anne wasn’t accused of witchcraft but she was accused of using her sexual magnetism to lure her alleged lovers to do her bidding and to conspire to kill the King. She procured the men and then had them agree with her that Henry must die and was accused according to the King of being with 100 men and of plotting to poison Mary and Henry Fitzroy, his son and brother. Anne was so out of control sexually and so much in control of the men as a result of her wild sexual ways that the men could not resist her or anything that she wanted from them. Anne was painted as the aggressor, as depraved and incest was added to make that more believable. Although it wasn’t actually in the indictment, it could be implied that she was planning to kill the King, having become pregnant with the child of her lover and then, having married her lover, to rule with him at her side until this “heir” came of age. Sex was a weapon and Anne was using it to commit the capital crimes of treason and regicide, if one took the absurd charges against her to their ultimate conclusion. In the same way Eleanor Cobbam, second wife to the Duke of Gloucester, Humphrey, alongside him was accused of plotting to kill the young King, Henry vi, through using his horoscope and treasonous necromancy, which involved consultation with a medium. A group of men had been arrested and confessed but said that they acted on the orders of the ambitious Duke. Humphrey had annulled his marriage to his first wife, the high born noble woman, Jacqueline of Hanault in 1428, a few years after he and Eleanor became lovers. After the death of John, Duke of Bedford, the couple were heirs to the throne and they were accused of predicting that the young King would die of a life threatening illness. Eleanor used charms and herbs but for recreational purposes and it was believed that she used them in order to get pregnant. This was in 1441 and she fled to sanctuary, avoiding a direct charge of treason but she was charged with witchcraft and heresy instead. Marjorie Jourdemayne was one of those questioned from the life of Eleanor before her marriage and she accused her of asking her (MJ) for for love potions in order to capture the heart of Humphrey, which of course, Eleanor denied. This is very similar to what Henry was believed to have said about Anne Boleyn in his madness as he grieved for the loss of their unborn son. Using witchcraft to marry the heir to the throne would have been treason, just as Anne doing the same to Henry would also be witchcraft and treason. In another sense the story of these two women has another thread because as Henry had his lawful first marriage was annulled so was the first marriage of the Duke of Gloucester in order to marry his lady love. The Pope had confirmed his annulment, but Henry was unable to find a way to annul his marriage to Katherine and like Humphrey, Henry had no sons. Eleanor said she used the potions in order to help her conceive but she was found guilty and was sentenced to public penance and imprisonment for life. The others were hung drawn and quartered or burnt to death for treason and witchcraft. Just as they had used the tools of the Devil it could be argued, Anne had used another tool of the Evil One, criminal sexual intercourse and adultery to entice her alleged lovers to commit high treason. Of course, Anne wasn’t accused of witchcraft, but the crimes she was accused off and the sins of adultery and incest brought together were also capital offences, resulting in horrific deaths for everyone if found guilty. In the case of Anne, she too suffered death, but by a swordsman from Calais and her five conspirators were also beheaded. All six were innocent and all six were sacrificed because a man wanted another wife. I would think that had Anne really been a witch she could have devised a spell which didn’t suddenly run out, leaving her openly vulnerable three years into her marriage.

      Duke Humphrey died in about 1447 but did nothing to help his wife and he escaped any charges as the highest ranking male relative of King Henry vi he was spared all of the suffering his wife and the others went through and he remained quiet. He was most likely murdered, but that has never been established. Eleanor died in Beaumaris Castle in 1452. Afterwards the status of high born ladies didn’t always protect them from the death penalty for treason, although Anne Boleyn and Kathryn Howard would be the first and only Queens executed in England, both of them wives of Henry Viii. Even Margaret Beaufort, condemned and attained by Parliament was spared by Richard iii who refused the attainment as an act of mercy and regard for her noble status as well as her sex, when she plotted with Elizabeth Woodville and Buckingham against him to put her son on the throne.

      Witchcraft was used all too conveniently used to charge women who were thought to be lustful, sinful and deceitful in any case, in order to bring down powerful Houses or to attack a powerful woman in order to defeat an enemy. Richard Neville Earl of Warwick put the captive mother of Elizabeth Woodville, Jacquetta Woodville, wife of Sir Richard Wydeville, widow of the Duke of Bedford, when he rebelled against King Edward iv and put her on trial for witchcraft, although the case collapsed because she had been a friend of the exiled Queen Margaret of Anjou. One of these ridiculous charges was that her and her daughter had used two figures tied together, in a form sympathetic magic, in order lure Edward into marriage. Warwick had been working with France for an alliance for Edward when the nineteen year old King announced his marriage to Elizabeth and now Warwick had rebelled and taken Jacquetta as a hostage. It was another way of manipulation in order to gain support and submission. Susan Higginbotham has written an excellent article on the Woodville witchcraft traditional accusations and Philippa Gregory takes the nonsense rather too seriously, making them part of her novels and she goes too far, making all the women witches and using it for everything. This is were fiction and fact mix and we have to very carefully sift the sources and weed out the truth and interpret it as best we can based on the evidence and contemporary texts.

      1. Christine says:

        Philippa Gregory would do that, she loves to distort fact with fiction.

        1. Michael Wright says:

          I still read stuff where she is cited as a source. Drives me nuts.

        2. Banditqueen says:

          I think Christine has watched the White Queen so she will know how that had the whole female side of the House of York/Woodville apart from the matriarch of the House of York, Cecily, dabbling in witchcraft just about every time life took a turn downwards or to ensure it all went to plan. We particularly see Jacquetta show Elizabeth Wydeville show to make a binding spell and hey presto King Edward is hers, then hey presto, a spell to keep him, one to get pregnant, one to make it rain and stop Jasper Tudor and his army, then E W takes on the mantle herself, in the end showing Princess Elizabeth of York how to make a spell to curse the sons and grandsons of the House of Lancaster. Yeah, that actually defeated the object as she has promised Elizabeth to Henry Tudor. In the White Princess, which was just a load of rubbish, not even well acted, which had me fuming from the outset, the theme continues as EW cursed her own grandson and Elizabeth takes a potion to abort the child, which doesn’t work, oh and Henry raped his future wife. E W from her banishment in a local convent, then they acted as retirement homes for the rich and pious, she makes more trouble and spells, causing Margaret of York, Archduchess of Flanders to lose her daughter, Mary in a fall from her horse, an historic event which happened years earlier. She also continues to dabble and magic continues to flow over the objection of her daughter who is finally more sensible. PG is somewhat obsessed, probably to an unhealthy degree but her fans think she is the voice of all history so what can one do but reveal the truth. I read her books, they mostly make good stories, but the White Princess was in Oxfam, with a warning inside by me, five days later. I think it sold the moment it went on the shelf. I know it probably should have gone in the bin but as a book lover I couldn’t do it. And someone will read it but also my handwriting on the front title page “If you read this book please note much is not a true description of history, many events in it didn’t happen, the rape scene for one, witchcraft for another and please read with an enlightened mind and explore the truth for yourselves”. PG is for entertainment not history and I am glad there are others here who share that view. Fiction is great, an author can put things as they want, but they should let the audience know it was just an idea. It us amazing when you see a serious academic biography reviewed by a number of people who clearly don’t have a clue a put “Enjoying this novel but not as good as Philippa Gregory”; the fact they are calling it a novel tells me all I need to know about their intelligence.

  11. Christine says:

    I watched about 15 mins of it last year and thought I cant watch anymore of this, after her book about the Boleyn sisters I knew her reanactment of the life of Elizabeth Woodville would be just as bad, I remember last year discussing the rape scene and I thought it was such a slur on Henry V11, his own mother had quite possibly been raped by his father ( at twelve years old for a man to try to get his wife pregnant even though it was legal, the fact remains she was just a child and I find that deed by Jasper Tudor selfish and unforgivable, her life was put at risk and that of her child, and I believe Henry V11 grew up with a good deal of respect for women after all he must have been told of his traumatic birth, if not by his mother than those close to her, he also promised to marry Elizabeth of York after victory at Bosworth, and he did not renage on that, would such a man resort to rape? Miss Gregory’s novels are more like Victorian bodice rippers, Henry V11 has to appear more interesting so he becomes a rapist, it’s all for effect, and his beautiful young wife who was lauded during her lifetime and after her death for being a good queen consort, becomes a handmaiden of Satan sticking pins in wax effigies and chanting no doubt round a cauldron, while gaseous green fumes fill the air, She becomes like Morgan le Fey and I feel Gregory should ditch the events of the Medieval and Tudor world and the real people who inhabited it, and instead focus on the legends of King Arthur as they are just fables, she would be good at that!

    1. Banditqueen says:

      I think you mean Edmund Tudor, but yes, Margaret Beaufort was only twelve and he was about twenty six, but although it was legal for marriage, with an under age bride, he would have been exhorted by the Church and others to wait a couple of years, fourteen being a more appropriate age to consummate the marriage. Edmund didn’t wait and he can only have raped the poor girl in order to get a son as soon as possible. Given what had happened to young Margaret, King Henry Tudor, would hardly rape his own wife to be. I am pretty certain that she tried to get him to wait on the marriage of her grandchildren, especially Margaret, who married King James iv when she was thirteen or so. Margaret B certainly wouldn’t encourage Henry to rape Elizabeth of York. Some people believe that they may have slept together before the wedding as Prince Arthur was born eight months later and he treated his wife with respect and he appears to have had some affection for her. They made a good marriage and Henry didn’t mistreat her. There is no evidence of any witchcraft.

      I completely agree, PG should really write fantastic stories as it is all she writes in any case and King Arthur with Morgan Le Fay would be perfect.

  12. Christine says:

    Yes that’s it Edmund was Henry V11’s father, I think it’s disgusting what he did to his poor child bride, no wonder she made a big deal about royal mothers to be years later, carefully planning the birthing chamber and having no men present, after her own horrendous experience she wanted it to be as calm and peaceful as possible for future mothers to be.

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