2 September 1685 – Alice Lisle
Dame Alice Lisle (or Lyle) lost her head today in 1685 after she was found guilty of housing treasonous individuals.
The aristocrat was caught up in the Monmouth Rebellion (aka the pitchfork rebellion) – a West Country uprising staged during the Restoration against the newly re-established monarchy.
Indeed it was waged by Charles II’s illegitimate son James Scott – 1st Duke of Monmouth, who was trying to overthrow his uncle, who was also a James, but who had a loftier title – king.
Things came to a head at the Battle of Sedgemoor where Monmouth was swiftly defeated. Of course James II was really hacked off and took quick action by deciding to hack off Monmouth head – literally as it took a number of chops. But we’ve already covered Monmouth’s story – you’re here to find out about Lisle.
Well she was embroiled up to her neck too. In fact her first hubbie – John Lisle – was a judge who had been instrumental in the overthrow of Charles I. So she wasn’t new to regicidal retribution.
It comes as no surprise therefore that when Dame Lisle was caught harbouring key insurgents, the law came down hard…on her neck.
Of course her sentence was rife with controversy. She pleaded that she had no idea what was going on and that she had blissfully and ignorantly opened her doors and offered shelter in the spirit of neighbourliness. Yet this argument failed to win the woman on the brink of being a septuagenarian her freedom.
Instead, the 67-year-old’s original sentence was to set the tone for Jeffreys’ power-crazed reign of bloody terror. She really felt the heat of his wrath after he doled out a sentence of being burned at the stake. But Lisle was a lady and burning was primarily aimed at laymen and women.
So she appealed and got it ‘commuted’ to a simple beheading in keeping with her station. In a final indignity, Lisle was axed right there in the market place at Winchester on this day in 1685.
According to Anthony Whitaker in his book ‘The Regicide’s Widow: Lady Alice Lisle and the Bloody Assize’, she has the dubious honour of being the last woman to be beheaded in England.