Wednesday, May 1, 2013

This Interesting Story Is Possible Of A Cragun Grandmother - Way Back.


Lady Alice Becomsawe Lisle is one of our most interesting ancestors. Her husband, John Lisle, was assassinated for his role in the execution of England's King Charles l.  Lady Alice herself was beheaded for harboring fugitives.  She was 71 years old.  Moyles Court, the ancestral home of Lady Alice, today  houses a school. Her trial and it's subsequent reversal have been a well documented part of English history.

There has also been some interest in the "haunting" by Lady Alice of Moyles Court. "The sound of her silken dress, and the tapping of her feet, were heard long afterwards in the corridors of Moyles Court, and she was also seen on several occasions riding down Ellingham Lane in a driverless coach. Although Lady Lisle has not been observed in recent years at Moyles Court, the sound of the coach and horses has been heard in recent times, riding up the drive to the house. Lady Lisle also haunts the Eclipse Inn, at Winchester, where she spent the last few days of her life whilst awaiting execution.

Moyles Court was the home of Lady Alice Lisle before she married Lord Lisle, and the home to which she returned after the assassination of her husband in Switzerland in 1664. She lived there until her arrest, on a charge of harbouring fugitives from the Monmouth Rebellion in 1685. Formerly much larger than the present building, probably surrounded by a moat, traces of which still exist on two sides, whilst a brook ran near to the house and gave an ample supply of water in case of siege.
 At St. Mary's Church, Ellingham, Lady Alice Lisle buried in the yard.

A brief history of Moyles Court
by Paul Hughes
Alice of Moyles Court fame was born about 1614. Since records of births at Ellingham Parish are only extant from the end of the 17th century, it is difficult to be exact. 
Her marriage to John Lisle in 1630 brought two eminent families of the gentry together. John Lisle (1610-1664) was the son of William Lisle of Wooton.  John was a Colonel in the Army, a prominent parliamentarian, Judiciary and an Assessor to Bradshaw at the trial of Charles I  He was MP for Winchester in 1640 and a member of the bar - the middle temple. He was a rigid puritan and a fervent politician. He was an active supporter of Parliament during the English Civil War (1642-1646) and was later made a Viscount by Oliver Cromwell. He appears to have been a prominent member of the Commonwealth serving on Cromwell's Privy Council. He was a member of the Long Parliament and had some responsibility for the execution of Charles I  although his name does not appear on the list of signatures on Charles' death warrant.

The English Civil War was devastating for the people of England. There was a division of support throughout the country. Those who supported the King, Charles Stuart, were known as Royalists or Cavaliers and those who opposed the King were known as Parliamentarians or Roundheads. This conflict between Crown and Parliament permeated throughout the land, divided regions, North from South, West from East, father from son, mother from daughter, sister from brother. A whole host of communities, relatives, neighbours and friends on good terms before the war were now enemies. The argument usually revolved around loyalty to one's King or to one's God. Politics and Religion became entwined and were for many historians the real cause of the outbreak of the war. I do not wish to discuss this theme any further since there is a wealth of information from this period of history. My intention for mentioning the conflict is simply this; the Lisle household also became a divided one. The father was for Parliament whilst the son was for the King. This put Alicia in the middle of a very awkward situation. She was not interested in or involved in politics. She was a religious woman but not a fanatical Puritan, disliking many rituals at her own church in Ellingham. As for Alicia, her sentiments about the execution of Charles I are made clear by her comment that she 'shed more tears for Charles I than any woman then living did'. Lady Lisle did not share the extreme views of her husband, and was much grieved at the King's death. 
It would appear that Lady Lisle did not grieve too deeply over her husband's death. According to Burnett, quoted in the Salisbury Journal, 'She was not easily reconciled to her husband on account of his association with the regicides.' After her husband's death she lived quietly as a widow at Moyles Court and showed some sympathy with the dissenting ministers in their trials and ordeals during Charles II's reign.
The Presbyterians were disappointed with the Restoration. The Cavalier Parliament preserved the Church of England for which Charles I had died. Moreover, the Clarendon Code persecuted nonconformist ministers, forbidding them from all public office. The Act of Uniformity 1662 authorized a new edition of the prayer book and many Puritan teachers were dismissed from office for refusing to use it. The Conventicle Act was introduced making it a crime to worship anywhere but in a Church of England church. Furthermore, the Five Mile Act stopped nonconformist clergy living within a five mile radius of a town or old parish. The reign of Charles II, far from being merry, was an unhappy time for many sincere Christians like Alicia Lisle.
Charles II was married to Catherine Braganza of Portugal. She did not bear him any children and as a result James, Charles' Catholic brother, was due to succeed him. There was support for Charles' illegitimate son, James, Duke of Monmouth, to become King instead of James. The Duke's mother, Lucy Walter, had been one of Charles' mistresses. After the death of Charles in 1685 and the succession of James to the throne, the Duke of Monmouth, who was in Holland, plotted to overthrow James II.
Alicia Lisle spent the first week of July in London during the Monmouth rebellion, but some days later returned to Moyles Court. 'On 20th July 1685 she received a letter from John Hickes, the dissenting minister, asking her to shelter him.' Hickes had fled the battle of Sedgemoor seeking refuge from the King's Army. Unbeknown to Alicia, he was a Monmouth man!
The two fugitives were found after a search of Moyles Court by Penruddock's soldiers. Hickes was found in the malthouse and Nelthorp in a hole by the chimney in one of the rooms which presumably is the cupboard hole situated in the present staff room at Moyles Court School. Lady Alicia was arrested and conveyed to Winchester for trial before Judge Jeffreys. Hickes and Nelthorp were taken to Glastonbury and after trial were hung, drawn and quartered.
On 27 August 1685, she was tried by special commission before Judge Jeffreys at Winchester, on the capital charge of harbouring Hickes, a traitor. No evidence respecting Hickes' offences was admitted, and in spite of the brutal browbeating by the judge of chief witness, Dunne, no proof was adduced wither that Mrs. Lisle had any ground to suspect Hickes of disloyalty or that she had displayed any sympathy with Monmouth's insurrection. She made a moderate speech in her own defense. The jury declared themselves reluctant to convict her, but Jeffreys overruled their scruples, and she was ultimately found guilty, and on the morning of the next day (28 Aug) was sentenced to be burnt alive the same afternoon. Pressure was, however, applied to the judge, and a respite till 2 Sept. was ordered. Lady Lisle petitioned James II (31 Aug) to grant her a further reprieve of four days, and to order the substitution of beheading for burning. The first request was refused; the latter was granted. Mrs. Lisle was accordingly beheaded in the market-place of Winchester on 2 Sept. and her body was given up to her friends for burial at Ellingham. On the scaffold she gave a paper to the sheriffs denying her guilt and it was printed 1685 with the "Last Words of Colonel Rumbold" and in "The Dying Speeches . . . of Several Persons".

The Last speech of Madam LISLE, beheaded at Winchester, September 1685
Gentlemen, Friends and Neighbours,
It may be expected that I should say something at my Death, my Birth and Education being near this Place ; my Parents instructed me in the Fear of God ; and I now die of the reformed Religion ; always being instructed in that Belief that if Popery should return into this Nation, it would be a great Judgement. I die in Expectation of Pardon of my Sins, and Acceptation with the Father, by the imputed Righteousness of Jesus Christ : He being the End of the Law for Righteousness to every one that believeth. I thank God, thro' Christ Jesus, I depart under the Blood of Sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel ; God having made this Chastisement an Ordinance to my Soul. I did as little expect to come to this Place on this occasion, as any person in this Nation ; therefore let all learn not to be high-minded, but fear. The Lord is a Sovereign, and will take what Way he seeth best to glorify himself by his poor Creatures ; I there for humbly desire to submit to his Will, praying of him, that in Patience I may possess my Soul.
The crime was, my entertaining a Non-conformist Minister, who is since sworn to have been in the Duke of Monmouth's army. I am told, if I had not denied them, it would not have affected me : I have no Excuse but Surprise and Fear ; which I believe my Jury must make use of to excuse their Verdict to the World. I have been told, That the Court ought to be Council for the Prisoner : Instead of Advice, there was Evidence given from thence, which (tho' it was but Hearsay) might possibly affect my Jury. My Defence was such as might be expected from a weak Woman ; but such as it was, I never heard it repeated again to the Jury.
But I forgive all persons that have wrong'd me ; and I desire that God will do so likewise. I forgive Colonel Penruddock, altho' he told me, He could have taken those Men, before they came to my House.
As to what I expected for my Conviction, that I gave it under my Hand that I discours'd with Nelthrop ; that could be no Evidence to the Court or Jury, it being after my Conviction and Sentence.
I acknowledge his Majesty's Favour in revoking my Sentence ; and I pray God he may long reign in Peace, and that the true Religion may flourish under him.
Two things I have omitted to say, which is, That I forgive him that desir'd to be taken from the Grand Jury, and put upon the Petty Jury, that he might be the more nearly concern'd in my Death ; and return humble Thanks to God, and the reverend Clergy, that assisted me in my Imprisonment.
  Sept 85.

To see a very interesting timetable of the events of the trial of our ancestor, Lady Alice/Alicia Lisle, see this website:

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