Cipcommunity

Old Bailey – Bigamy

Old Bailey – Bigamy

Old Bailey – Bigamy Analysis The main criminal court of London from the late 17th century to the early 20th century was known as the Old Bailey. Many of the proceedings of this court are available online, and provide an insight into the London justice system from the year 1674 until 1913. However, only the years 1674 through 1700 will be observed in this instance, and only for one observed offence (though there are many listed). These proceedings, as stated, can provide a glimpse into the lives of commoners accused of crimes and brought to trial for these actions.

The observed offence for this instance is listed under “Sexual Offences,” and the subcategory is bigamy. Listed on the Old Bailey Online, there are a number of bigamy offences, and each year between 1674 and 1700 contain anywhere from one to five cases, which leads to the conclusion that the offence of bigamy is not related to any major events happening in this time frame, and that offenders commit this offence regardless of any national situation, as one might expect of most sexual crimes.

Also of note is that in most cases, there does do not seem to be any overlap, as it does not appear that anyone is accused of bigamy more than once, as can be inferred from the offence itself (i. e. one charge of bigamy in and of itself can contain multiple instances, by being married to multiple people at once, so the offence is not all that repeatable). However, as will be explored below, there is at least one person who was charged twice for bigamy, with multiple sets of husbands each time. Of the numerous case results, several will be examined and analyzed herein.

The first case occurred May 10, 1676, the defendant being a man who had for about five years last past or more…made it his business to ramble up and down most parts of England pretending himself a person of quality, and assuming the names of good families, and that he had a considerable Estate per Annum, though in Truth he was old sutor ultra Crepidam, a Knight of the Order of the famous Crispin, being originally by profession a Shomaker , and not many years since a Journyman; but on the pretensions aforesaid, where ever he came if he heard of any rich Maid, or wealthy widow at their own disposal, he…commonly succeeded to engage their easie affections. And having nveigled them to marry him, and for some small time injoy’d their persons, and got possession of their more beloved Estates, he would march off in Triumph with what ready mony and other portable things of value he could get, to another strange place, and there lay a new plot for a second Adventure. [1] This man, whose name is not listed in the entry, was accused of marrying seventeen women. However, in this case, he was only indicted for four of the counts. This man was originally a journeyman shoemaker, but, as the document says, winnowed his way into the hearts of wealthy, unsuspecting women. This man pled guilty to the charge, because “if he were found Guilty on that, he should be excluded from the benefit of his Clergy upon the rest that he should be Convicted of. [2] Looking closely at this case, it seems hard to believe that marrying multiple people, even doing so as a con artist, to deprive them of their wealth, would result in a punishment of death, even if he waived the benefit of the Clergy,[3] and instead tried for something called “Transportation,” though the document fails to clarify what that entails, but he stood “charged in the Sheriffs custody with an Action of a thousand pounds,”[4] which could be a possible debtor’s prison, possibly due to a creditor or perhaps one of the victims themselves. These aggravators of depriving the women of their wealth and the Action against him probably made this crime a felony. A punishment of murder appears to be common for a felony conviction.

The common punishment for a misdemeanor offence of bigamy seems to be that of branding. The second case to be examined is that of a Richard Boile, in October 1687. [5] Richard Boile was not accused of marrying as many as seventeen different women, as in the previous example, but only two. Boile disputed the first marriage and affirmed the second, but was ultimately found guilty of the offence. [6] The punishment was branding[7], and as has been previously stated, seems to be the most common punishment for the crime of bigamy. The punishment of branding may seem extreme, or cruel and unusual, to put it in the United States Bill of Rights terms. Not all those accused were men.

In fact, some of them were most certainly women, accused of marrying multiple husbands. The language of the case of Mary Stoakes on August 31, 1687 is just such a case. [8] Mary Stoakes was tried and both of her alleged husbands were present at the trial, and the document says that she had no evidence to bring, so “and the Court was pleased to direct the Jury that the Proof was very strenuous against her…so upon the whole she was found guilty of Felony. ”[9] This language suggests a slight misogynistic bent, such that the court was happy that they could find her guilty, and inflict the punishment of branding. A fourth case, six months after the third, appears to have the same defendant as the third.

Mary Stokes, having been formerly convicted of bigamy, appeared to be at it again, marrying at least two more men. [10] The Court’s opinion was “that she was an idle kind of a Slut, for she would get what money she could of them, and then run away from them: She was found guilty of Felony. ”[11] The punishment for this felony, as has been mentioned previously, was death. Not all cases listed ended in guilt. Mary Dakins was tried on September 6th, 1682, and found Not Guilty. [12] Mary Dakins “disowned the latter Marriage, saying her Husband prosecuted maliciously on purpose to take away her Life to espouse one he loved better. ”[13] The jury deliberated over this and reasoned that Mary Dakins was Not Guilty. [14]

Taken independently, these cases may seem like they are merely individual criminal cases. However, they can be taken as being representative of the criminal court system in London at the time. The cases show a cross section of defendants, verdicts, and punishments for one type of offence. From the language used in the entries on the Old Bailey Proceedings Online, it can be inferred that the proceedings might not always have been exactly “fair,” especially noting the first Mary Stoakes case. As has been previously mentioned, there seems to be somewhat of a misogynistic bent to the proceedings, which could stem from strict Protestant religious values.

The religious values of many people at the time also suggest somewhat of a theocratic skew to the listed documents. The tone of the documents does suggest a religious skew, as they take on a somewhat moralistic tone. It is easy to see how the United States adopted many practices of the British legal system, but has gone down a slightly different path. ———————– [1] Old Bailey Proceedings Online (www. oldbaileyonline. org, version 6. 0, 20 April 2011), May 1676, trial of person (t16760510-1). [2] Ibid. [3] Ibid. [4] Old Bailey Proceedings Online (www. oldbaileyonline. org, version 6. 0, 20 April 2011), May 1676, trial of person (t16760510-1). [5] Old Bailey Proceedings Online (www. oldbaileyonline. org, version 6. , 21 April 2011), October 1687, trial of Richard Boile (t16871012-39). [6] Ibid. [7] Ibid. [8] Old Bailey Proceedings Online (www. oldbaileyonline. org, version 6. 0, 21 April 2011), August 1692, trial of Mary Stoakes, alias Adams (t16920831-12). [9] Ibid. [10] Old Bailey Proceedings Online (www. oldbaileyonline. org, version 6. 0, 21 April 2011), December 1693, trial of Mary Stokes, alias Edwards (t16931206-14). [11] Ibid. [12] Old Bailey Proceedings Online (www. oldbaileyonline. org, version 6. 0, 21 April 2011), September 1682, trial of Mary Dakins, Alias Wilson (t16820906a-8). [13] Ibid. [14] Ibid. Articles from Old Bailey/Bibliography Old Bailey Proceedings Online (www. oldbaileyonline. org, version 6. , 21 April 2011), May 1676, trial of person (t16760510-1). ________________________________________ Sexual Offences > bigamy, 10th May 1676. Amongst which we must reckon the trial of that much talkt of person charged by common Fame with having Seventeen Wives, though to do him Right it must be acknowledged that he was Indicted only for four , and being Arraigned upon the first, knowing what punctual proof there was prepared both of the Ministers that performed the Ceremony and others, and that if he were found Guilty on that, he should be excluded from the benefit of his Clergy upon the rest that he should be Convicted of, therefore being well tutor’d in hat Skill, which not a fresh man in that University is ignorant of, He very frankly at once pleaded Guilty to that and all other Indictments within the benefit of Clergy, and so prevented all farther disquisition of the circumstances, and we are sorry were are forced to fail the Readers expectations in a Relation which would certainly have been very rare and divertiseing; But not wholly to disappoint their curiosity we hope we may insert what could gather from the most credible Reports concerning him, which is, that for about five years last past or more he has made it his business to ramble up and down most parts of England pretending himself a person of quality, and assuming the names of good families, and that he had a considerable Estate per Annum, though in Truth he was old sutor ultra Crepidam, a Knight of the Order of the famous Crispin, being originally by profession a Shomaker , and not many years since a Journyman; but on the pretensions aforesaid, where ever he came if he heard of any rich Maid, or wealthy widow at their own disposal, he would very formally make Love to them, wherein being of handsome taking presence, and Master of a voluble insinuating tongue, he commonly succeeded to engage their easie affections.

And having inveigled them to marry him, and for some small time injoy’d their persons, and got possession of their more beloved Estates, he would march off in Triumph with what ready mony and other portable things of value he could get, to another strange place, and there lay a new plot for a second Adventure, but was at last discovered in the West, and apprehended, and at the great charge of the Prosecutor brought up by Habeas Corpus hither, but however subtilly he behaved himself heretofore, I conceive he fail’d in his politicks, when being brought to the Bar and demanded what he could say for himself why judgment should not pass upon him, whereas ’tis believed he might have had the benefit of the Clergy, he obstinately waived that, and insisted for Transportation, which being not thought convenient to be granted, because he stood charged in the Sheriffs custody with an Action of a thousand pounds, he thereupon received sentence with the rest to be hang’d . Old Bailey Proceedings Online (www. oldbaileyonline. org, version 6. 0, 21 April 2011), October 1687, trial of Richard Boile (t16871012-39). ________________________________________ Richard Boile, Sexual Offences ; bigamy, 12th October 1687. Richard Boile , was Tryed for Marrying one Loveday Billing , at a place called Wainstead, on the 5th of August, 1685, and she being yet alive, Married one Susannah Moise , the 29th of Janu. 1687 at Dukes Place .

As for the second Marriage he owned it, but denyed the first, whereupon the Witnesses were sworn for the King, who gave Evidence that the Prisoner had a long time Courted Billing, and that he had used Endeavours to get her Father’s Consent to Marry her, but he being Averse to it, the Prisoner had confessed he had Married her privately, and was Married by one Usher an Irish Minister, and further that he had lived with her in Lodgings as her Husband, publickly owning her to be his Wife, had a Child by her, and in his Letters to her Father, some of which were produced in Court, he had subscribed himself his dutiful Son, and executed Conveyances with her Name in them as his Wife, and his own Witnesses proving that he offer’d her mony to disclaim the marriage that instruments purposing a disclaim of the marriage were desired to be sign’d by her, which she refused, with many other Circumstances in Words and Writing, and he only insisting that there was no Certificate appeared, or any person who Married them, or saw them Married, to give Testimony against them, he was upon the many probable Circumstances and his own former Confession of the first Marriage. &c. found guilty of the Felony. [Branding. See summary. ] Old Bailey Proceedings Online (www. oldbaileyonline. org, version 6. 0, 21 April 2011), August 1692, trial of Mary Stoakes, alias Adams (t16920831-12). ________________________________________ Mary Stoakes, Sexual Offences > bigamy, 31st August 1692.

Mary Stoakes, alias Adams , was Indicted and Tryed for Marrying two Husbands , the first Named Tho. Adams , whom she Married at St. James Dukes Place, on the 15th of July, in the Fourth Year, of the Reign of the Late King James; which was fully proved by several concurring Evidence. The second person she Marryed was one William Carter , whom she Married on the 12th of July , in the Fourth Year of the Reign of our Sovereign Lord and lady King William and Queen Mary, in the Minories; which was also fully proved upon her; and that she had Married them, and changed her Name of Adams and Carter, into that of Elliot, and gave out that she was a Maid, and had an Estate; all which was

Look’d upon to be a Cheat; and the Court was pleased to direct the Jury that the Proof was very strenuous against her; besides both the Husbands were in Court. She could say but little, and had no Evidence; so upon the whole she was found guilty of Felony. [Branding. See summary. ] Old Bailey Proceedings Online (www. oldbaileyonline. org, version 6. 0, 21 April 2011), December 1693, trial of Mary Stokes, alias Edwards (t16931206-14). ________________________________________ Mary Stokes, Sexual Offences ; bigamy, 6th December 1693. Mary Stokes, alias Edwards , was tried for marrying two Husbands; the first named Thomas Adams , to whom she was married on the 15th of July, five years ago at St.

James’s Duke-place ; the second was one Sebastian Judges , to whom she was married the 5th of November last, at the same place ; The Evidence to prove both the Marriages, swore it plainly against her, that she had married one William Brown besides, and that she stay’d with Judges but one night, and run away in the morning; and she stayed 8 days with Adams; afterwards she was married to one William Carter , which made four in all; after that she was taken at the Red-Lyon in Bishopsgate-street; she said that she was advised that she might safely marry another Husband, having been convicted before for marrying two Husbands about half a year ago: Upon the whole it appeared, that she was an idle kind of a Slut, for she would get what money she could of them, and then run away from them: She was found guilty of Felony. [Death. See summary. ] Old Bailey Proceedings Online (www. oldbaileyonline. org, version 6. 0, 21 April 2011), September 1682, trial of Mary Dakins, Alias Wilson (t16820906a-8). ________________________________________ Mary Dakins, Sexual Offences ; bigamy, 6th September 1682. Mary Dakins, Alias Wilson , was Tryed for having two Husbands, viz.

Wilson , and Hambleton , the former being the prosecutor, and the latter not appearing to Wilson, as he declared she was first Married, it being about 7 years since, and that to the latter she had not been Married above a year, but she being asked what she could say for her self, utterly disowned the latter Marriage, saying her Husband prosecuted maliciously on purpose to take away her Life to espouse one he loved better, and he on the other-side produced her Examination, taken before a Justice of Peace for the County of Middlesex, in which she had confessed both Marriages, but she utterly denied it; so that the Jury upon hearing both Parties, brought her in not Guilty .