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Title: Famous Imposters
Author: Stoker, Bram
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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  New York
  _All rights reserved_

  Copyright 1910

  Set up and electrotyped. Published November, 1910


The subject of imposture is always an interesting one, and impostors
in one shape or another are likely to flourish as long as human nature
remains what it is, and society shows itself ready to be gulled.
The histories of famous cases of imposture in this book have been
grouped together to show that the art has been practised in many
forms--impersonators, pretenders, swindlers, and humbugs of all kinds;
those who have masqueraded in order to acquire wealth, position, or
fame, and those who have done so merely for the love of the art.
So numerous are instances, indeed, that the book cannot profess to
exhaust a theme which might easily fill a dozen volumes; its purpose is
simply to collect and record a number of the best known instances. The
author, nevertheless, whose largest experience has lain in the field of
fiction, has aimed at dealing with his material as with the material
for a novel, except that all the facts given are real and authentic. He
has made no attempt to treat the subject ethically; yet from a study of
these impostors, the objects they had in view, the means they adopted,
the risks they ran, and the punishments which attended exposure, any
reader can draw his own conclusions.

Impostors of royalty are placed first on account of the fascinating
glamour of the throne which has allured so many to the attempt. Perkin
Warbeck began a life of royal imposture at the age of seventeen and
yet got an army round him and dared to make war on Harry Hotspur
before ending his short and stormy life on the gallows. With a crown
for stake, it is not surprising that men have been found willing to
run even such risks as those taken by the impostors of Sebastian
of Portugal and Louis XVII of France. That imposture, even if
unsuccessful, may be very difficult to detect, is shown in the cases of
Princess Olive and Cagliostro, and in those of Hannah Snell, Mary East,
and the many women who in military and naval, as well as in civil, life
assumed and maintained even in the din of battle the simulation of men.

One of the most extraordinary and notorious impostures ever known was
that of Arthur Orton, the Tichborne Claimant, whose ultimate exposure
necessitated the employment, at great public expense of time and
money, of the best judicial and forensic wits in a legal process of
unprecedented length.

The belief in witches, though not extinct in our country even to-day,
affords examples of the converse of imposture, for in the majority of
cases it was the superstitions of society which attributed powers of
evil to innocent persons whose subsequent mock-trials and butchery
made a public holiday for their so-called judges.

The long-continued doubt as to the true sex of the Chevalier D’Eon
shows how a belief, no matter how groundless, may persist. Many cases
of recent years may also be called in witness as to the initial
credulity of the public, and to show how obstinacy maintains a belief
so begun. The Humbert case--too fresh in the public memory to demand
treatment here--the Lemoine case, and the long roll of other fraudulent
efforts to turn the credulity of others to private gain, show how
widespread is the criminal net, and how daring and persevering are its

The portion of the book which deals with the tradition of the “Bisley
Boy” has had, as it demanded, more full and detailed treatment than
any other one subject in the volume. Needless to say, the author
was at first glance inclined to put the whole story aside as almost
unworthy of serious attention, or as one of those fanciful matters
which imagination has elaborated out of the records of the past. The
work which he had undertaken had, however, to be done, and almost from
the very start of earnest enquiry it became manifest that here was
a subject which could not be altogether put aside or made light of.
There were too many circumstances--matters of exact record, striking
in themselves and full of some strange mystery, all pointing to a
conclusion which one almost feared to grasp as a possibility--to allow
the question to be relegated to the region of accepted myth. A little
preliminary work amongst books and maps seemed to indicate that so far
from the matter, vague and inchoate as it was, being chimerical, it was
one for the most patient examination. It looked, indeed, as if those
concerned in making public the local tradition, which had been buried
or kept in hiding somewhere for three centuries, were on the verge of
a discovery of more than national importance. Accordingly, the author,
with the aid of some friends at Bisley and its neighbourhood, went over
the ground, and, using his eyes and ears, came to his own conclusions.
Further study being thus necessitated, the subject seemed to open
out in a natural way. One after another the initial difficulties
appeared to find their own solutions and to vanish; a more searching
investigation of the time and circumstances showed that there was
little if any difficulty in the way of the story being true in essence
if not in detail. Then, as point after point arising from others
already examined, assisted the story, probability began to take the
place of possibility; until the whole gradually took shape as a chain,
link resting in the strength of link and forming a cohesive whole. That
this story impugns the identity--and more than the identity--of Queen
Elizabeth, one of the most famous and glorious rulers whom the world
has seen, and hints at an explanation of circumstances in the life of
that monarch which have long puzzled historians, will entitle it to the
most serious consideration. In short, if it be true, its investigation
will tend to disclose the greatest imposture known to history; and to
this end no honest means should be neglected.

            B. S.


  CHAPTER                                         PAGE
     I. PRETENDERS                                   1
          A. Perkin Warbeck                          3
          B. The Hidden King                        17
          C. Stephan Mali                           31
          D. The False Dauphins                     36
          E. Princess Olive                         49

    II. PRACTITIONERS OF MAGIC                      69
          A. Paracelsus                             71
          B. Cagliostro                             80
          C. Mesmer                                 95

   III. THE WANDERING JEW                          107

    IV. JOHN LAW                                   123

     V. WITCHCRAFT AND CLAIRVOYANCE                145
          A. Witches                               147
          B. Doctor Dee                            155
          C. La Voisin                             164
          D. Sir Edward Kelley                     175
          E. Mother Damnable                       182
          F. Matthew Hopkins                       190

    VI. ARTHUR ORTON (Tichborne claimant)          201

   VII. WOMEN AS MEN                               227
          A. The Motive for Disguise               227
          B. Hannah Snell                          231
          C. La Maupin                             235
          D. Mary East                             241

  VIII. HOAXES, ETC.                               249
          A. Two London Hoaxes                     249
          B. The Cat Hoax                          255
          C. The Military Review                   256
          D. The Toll-Gate                         256
          E. The Marriage Hoax                     257
          F. Buried Treasure                       258
          G. Dean Swift’s Hoax                     259
          H. Hoaxed Burglars                       260
          I. Bogus Sausages                        260
          J. The Moon Hoax                         262

    IX. CHEVALIER D’EON                            269

     X. THE BISLEY BOY                             283


  Queen Elizabeth as a Young Woman      _Frontispiece_
                                           FACING PAGE
  Perkin Warbeck                                     4

  Edward IV as a Young Man                          12

  Olivia Serres                                     50

  Cagliostro                                        80

  John Law                                         124

  Arthur Orton                                     202

  The Chevalier D’Eon                              270

  The Duke of Richmond                             326

  The Duchess of Richmond                          334




Richard III literally carved his way to the throne of England. It would
hardly be an exaggeration to say that he waded to it through blood.
Amongst those who suffered for his unscrupulous ambition were George
Duke of Clarence, his own elder brother, Edward Prince of Wales, who on
the death of Edward IV was the natural successor to the English throne,
and the brother of the latter, Richard Duke of York. The two last
mentioned were the princes murdered in the Tower by their malignant
uncle. These three murders placed Richard Duke of Gloucester on the
throne, but at a cost of blood as well as of lesser considerations
which it is hard to estimate. Richard III left behind him a legacy of
evil consequences which was far-reaching. Henry VII, who succeeded
him, had naturally no easy task in steering through the many family
complications resulting from the long-continued “Wars of the Roses”;
but Richard’s villany had created a new series of complications on
a more ignoble, if less criminal, base. When Ambition, which deals
in murder on a wholesale scale, is striving its best to reap the
results aimed at, it is at least annoying to have the road to success
littered with the débris of lesser and seemingly unnecessary crimes.
Fraud is socially a lesser evil than murder; and after all--humanly
speaking--much more easily got rid of. Thrones and even dynasties were
in the melting pot between the reigns of Edward III and Henry VII; so
there were quite sufficient doubts and perplexities to satisfy the
energies of any aspirant to royal honours--however militant he might
be. Henry VII’s time was so far unpropitious that he was the natural
butt of all the shafts of unscrupulous adventure. The first of these
came in the person of Lambert Simnel, the son of a baker, who in 1486
set himself up as Edward Plantagenet, Earl of Warwick--then a prisoner
in the Tower--son of the murdered Duke of Clarence. It was manifestly
a Yorkist plot, as he was supported by Margaret Duchess Dowager of
Burgundy (sister of Edward IV) and others. With the assistance of the
Lord-Deputy (the Earl of Kildare) he was crowned in Dublin as King
Edward VI. The pretensions of Simnel were overthrown by the exhibition
of the real Duke of Warwick, taken from prison for the purpose. The
attempt would have been almost comic but that the effects were tragic.
Simnel’s span of notoriety was only a year, the close of which was
attended with heavy slaughter of his friends and mercenaries. He
himself faded into the obscurity of the minor life of the King’s
household to which he was contemptuously relegated. In fact the whole
significance of the plot was that it was the first of a series of
frauds consequent on the changes of political parties, and served as a
_balon d’essai_ for the more serious imposture of Perkin Warbeck some
five years afterwards. It must, however, be borne in mind that Simnel
was a pretender on his own account and not in any way a “pacemaker” for
the later criminal; he was in the nature of an unconscious forerunner,
but without any ostensible connection. Simnel went his way, leaving,
in the words of the kingly murderer his uncle, the world free for his
successor in fraud “to bustle in.”

[Illustration: PERKIN WARBECK]

The battle of Stoke, near Newark--the battle which saw the end of the
hopes of Simnel and his upholders--was fought on 16 June, 1487. Five
years afterwards Perkin Warbeck made his appearance in Cork as Richard
Plantagenet Duke of York. The following facts regarding him and his
life previous to 1492 may help to place the reader in a position to
understand other events and to find causes through the natural gateway
of effects.

To Jehan Werbecque (or Osbeck as he was called in Perkin’s
“confession”), Controller of the town of Tournay in Picardy, and his
wife, _née_ Katherine de Faro, was born in 1474, a son christened
Pierrequin and later known as Perkin Warbeck. The Low Countries in the
fifteenth century were essentially manufacturing and commercial, and,
as all countries were at that period of necessity military, growing
youths were thus in touch at many points with commerce, industry and
war. Jehan Werbecque’s family was of the better middle class, as
witness his own position and employment; and so his son spent the
earlier years of his life amid scenes and conditions conducive to
ambitious dreams. He had an uncle John Stalyn of Ghent. A maternal aunt
was married to Peter Flamme, Receiver of Tournay and also Dean of the
Guild of Schelde Boatmen. A cousin, John Steinbeck, was an official of

In the fifteenth century Flanders was an important region in the
manufacturing and commercial worlds. It was the centre of the cloth
industry; and the coming and going of the material for the clothing of
the world made prosperous the shipmen not only of its own waters but
those of others. The ships of the pre-Tudor navy were small affairs
and of light draught suitable for river traffic, and be sure that the
Schelde with its facility of access to the then British port of Calais,
to Lille, to Brussels, to Bruges, to Tournai, Ghent, and Antwerp, was
often itself a highway to the scenes of Continental and British wars.

About 1483 or 1484, on account of the Flemish War, Pierrequin left
Tournay, proceeding to Antwerp, and to Middleburg, where he took
service with a merchant, John Strewe, he being then a young boy of ten
or twelve. His next move was to Portugal, whither he went with the wife
of Sir Edward Brampton, an adherent of the House of York. A good deal
of his early life is told in his own confession made whilst he was a
prisoner in the Tower about 1497.

In Portugal he was for a year in the service of a Knight named Peter
Vacz de Cogna, who, according to a statement in his confession, had
only one eye. In the Confession he also states in a general way that
with de Cogna he visited other countries. After this he was with a
Breton merchant, Pregent Meno, of whom he states incidentally: “he made
me learn English.” Pierrequin Werbecque must have been a precocious
boy--if all his statements are true--for when he went to Ireland in
1491 with Pregent Meno he was only seventeen years of age, and there
had been already crowded into his life a fair amount of the equipment
for enterprise in the shape of experience, travel, languages, and so

It is likely that, to some extent at all events, the imposture of
Werbecque, or Warbeck, was forced on him in the first instance, and
was not a free act on his own part. His suitability to the part he
was about to play was not altogether his own doing. Nay, it is more
than possible that his very blood aided in the deception. Edward IV
is described as a handsome debonair young man, and Perkin Warbeck it
is alleged, bore a marked likeness to him. Horace Walpole indeed in
his _Historic Doubts_ builds a good deal on this in his acceptance of
his kingship. Edward was notoriously a man of evil life in the way of
affairs of passion, and at all times the way of ill-doing has been
made easy for a king. Any student of the period and of the race of
Plantagenet may easily accept it as fact that the trend of likelihood
if not of evidence is that Perkin Warbeck was a natural son of Edward
IV. Three hundred years later the infamous British Royal Marriage
Act made such difficulties or inconveniences as beset a king in the
position of Edward IV unnecessary: but in the fifteenth century the
usual way out of such messes was ultimately by the sword. Horace
Walpole, who was a clever and learned man, was satisfied that the
person who was known as Perkin Warbeck was in reality that Richard Duke
of York who was supposed to have been murdered in the Tower in 1483
by Sir James Tyrrell, in furtherance of the ambitious schemes of his
uncle. At any rate the people in Cork in 1491 insisted on receiving
Perkin as of the House of York--at first as a son of the murdered
Duke of Clarence. Warbeck took oath to the contrary before the Mayor
of Cork; whereupon the populace averred that he was a natural son of
Richard III. This, too, having been denied by the newcomer, it was
stated that he was the son of the murdered Duke of York.

It cannot be denied that the Irish people were in this matter as
unstable as they were swift in their judgments, so that their actions
are really not of much account. Five years before they had received
the adventurer Lambert Simnel as their king, and he had been crowned
at Dublin. In any case the allegations of Warbeck’s supporters did
not march with established facts of gynecology. The murdered Duke of
York was born in 1472, and, as not twenty years elapsed between this
period and Warbeck’s appearance in Ireland, there was not time in the
ordinary process of nature, for father and son to have arrived at
such a quality of manhood that the latter was able to appear as full
grown. Even allowing for an unusual swiftness of growth common sense
evidently rebelled at this, and in 1492 Perkin Warbeck was received in
his final semblance of the Duke of York, himself younger son of Edward
IV. Many things were possible at a period when the difficulties of
voyage and travel made even small distances insuperable. At the end of
the fifteenth century Ireland was still so far removed from England
that even Warbeck’s Irish successes, emphasised though they were by the
Earls of Desmond and Kildare and a numerous body of supporters, were
unknown in England till considerably later. This is not strange if one
will consider that not until centuries later was there a regular postal
system, and that nearly two centuries later the Lord Chief Justice
Sir Matthew Hale, who was a firm believer in witchcraft, would have
condemned such a thing as telegraphy as an invention of the Devil.

In the course of a historical narrative like the present it must be
borne in mind (amongst other things) that in the fifteenth century,
men ripened more quickly than in the less strenuous and more luxurious
atmosphere of our own day. Especially in the Tudor epoch physical gifts
counted for far more than is now possible; and as early (and too often
sudden) death was the general lot of those in high places, the span of
working life was prolonged rather by beginning early than by finishing
late. Even up to the time of the Napoleonic Wars, promotion was often
won with a rapidity that would seem like an ambitious dream to young
soldiers of to-day. Perkin Warbeck, born in 1474, was nineteen years of
age in 1493, at which time the Earl of Kildare spoke of “this French
lad,” yet even then he was fighting King Henry VII, the Harry Richmond
who had overthrown at Bosworth the great and unscrupulous Richard III.
It must also be remembered for a proper understanding of his venture,
that Perkin Warbeck was strongly supported and advised with great
knowledge and subtlety by some very resolute and influential persons.
Amongst these, in addition to his Irish “Cousins” Kildare and Desmond,
was Margaret, Duchess of Burgundy, sister of Edward IV, who helped the
young adventurer in his plot by “coaching” him up in the part which
he was to play, to such an extent that, according to Lord Bacon, he
was familiar with the features of his alleged family and relatives and
even with the sort of questions likely to be asked in this connection.
In fact he was, in theatrical parlance, not only properly equipped
but “letter-perfect” in his part. Contemporary authority gives as
an additional cause for this personal knowledge, that the original
Jehan de Warbecque was a converted Jew, brought up in England, of
whom Edward IV was the godfather. In any case it may in this age be
accepted as a fact that there was between Edward IV and Perkin Warbeck
so strong a likeness as to suggest a _prima facie_ possibility, if
not a probability, of paternity. Other possibilities crowd in to the
support of such a guess till it is likely to achieve the dimensions of
a belief. Even without any accuracy of historical detail there is quite
sufficient presumption to justify guess-work on general lines. It were
a comparatively easy task to follow the lead of Walpole and create a
new “historic doubt” after his pattern, the argument of which would run

After the battles of Barnet and Tewkesbury in 1471, Edward IV had
but little to contend against. His powerful foes were all either
dead or so utterly beaten as to be powerless for effective war. The
Lancastrian hopes had disappeared with the death of Henry VI in the
Tower. Margaret of Anjou (wife of Henry VI) defeated at Tewkesbury,
was in prison. Warwick had been slain at Barnet, and so far as fighting
was concerned, King Edward had a prolonged holiday. It was these years
of peace--when the coming and going of even a king was unrecorded with
that precision which marks historical accuracy--that made the period
antecedent to Perkin’s birth. Perkin bore an unmistakable likeness to
Edward IV. Not merely that resemblance which marks a family or a race
but an individual likeness. Moreover the young manhood of the two ran
on parallel lines. Edward was born in 1442, and in 1461, before he
was nineteen, won the battle of Mortimer’s Cross which, with Towton,
placed him on the throne. Perkin Warbeck at seventeen made his bid for
royalty. It is hardly necessary to consider what is a manifest error
in Perkin’s Confession--that he was only nine years old, not eleven,
at the time of the murder of Edward V. Nineteen was young enough in
all conscience to begin an intrigue for a crown; but if the Confession
is to be accepted as gospel this would make him only seventeen at the
time of his going to Ireland--a manifest impossibility. Any statement
regarding one’s own birth is manifestly not to be relied on. At best
such can only be an assertion _minus_ the possibility of testing whence
an error might come. Regarding his parentage, in case it may be alleged
that there is no record of the wife of Jehan Warbecque having been
in England, it may be allowed to recall a story which Alfred, Lord
Tennyson used to say was amongst the hundred best stories. It ran thus:

    A noble at the Court of Louis XIV was extremely like the King,
    who on its being pointed out to him sent for his double and asked

    “Was your mother ever at Court?”

    Bowing low, he replied:

    “No, sire; but my father was!”

Of course Perkin Warbeck’s real adventures, in the sense of dangers,
began after his claim to be the brother of Edward V was put forward.
Henry VII was not slow in taking whatever steps might be necessary
to protect his crown; there had been but short shrift for Lambert
Simnel, and Perkin Warbeck was a much more dangerous aspirant. When
Charles VIII invited him to Paris, after the war with France had broken
out, Henry besieged Boulogne and made a treaty under which Perkin
Warbeck was dismissed from France. After making an attempt to capture
Waterford, the adventurer transferred the scene of his endeavours
from Ireland to Scotland which offered him greater possibilities for
intrigue on account of the struggles between James IV and Henry VII.
James, who finally found it necessary to hasten his departure, seemed
to believe really in his pretensions, for he gave him in marriage
a kinswoman of his own, Catherine Gordon, daughter of the Earl of
Huntly--who by the way was re-married no less than three times after
Perkin Warbeck’s death. Through the influence of Henry VII, direct
or indirect, Perkin had to leave Scotland as he had been previously
forced from Burgundy and the Low Countries. Country after country
having been closed to him, he made desperate efforts in Cornwall, where
he captured St. Michael’s Mount, and in Devon, where he laid siege
to Exeter. This however being raised by the Royal forces, he sought
sanctuary in Beaulieu in the New Forest where, on promise of his life,
he surrendered. He was sent to the Tower and well treated; but on
attempting to escape thence a year later, 1499, he was taken. He was
hanged at Tyburn in the same year.

Pierrequin Warbecque’s enterprise was in any case a desperate one
and bound to end tragically--unless, of course, he could succeed
in establishing his (alleged) claim to the throne in law and then
in supporting it at great odds. The latter would necessitate his
vanquishing two desperate fighting men both of them devoid of fear or
scruples--Richard III and Henry VII. In any case he had the Houses of
Lancaster, Plantagenet and Tudor against him and he fought with the
rope round his neck.

An Act of Parliament, 1 Richard III, Cap. 15, made at Westminster
on the 23 Jan., 1485, precluded all possibility--even if Warbeck
should have satisfied the nation of his identity--of a legal claim to
the throne, for it forbade any recognition of the offspring of Lady
Elizabeth Grey to whom Edward IV was secretly married, in May, 1464,
the issue of which marriage were Edward V and his brother, Richard. The
act is short and is worth reading, if only for its quaint phraseology.

  _Cap XV._ Item for certayn great causes and consideracions
    touchynge the suretye of the kynges noble persone as of this
    realme, by the advyce and assente of his lordes spirituall and
    temporal, and the commons in this present parliament assembled,
    and by the auctorite of the same. It is ordeined established
    and enacted, that all letters patentes, states confrymacions
    and actes of parlyament of anye castels seignowries, maners,
    landes, tenementes, fermes, fee fermes, franchises, liberties,
    or other hereditamentes made at any tyme to Elizabeth late wyfe
    of syr John Gray Knight; and now late callinge her selfe queene
    of England, by what so ever name or names she be called in the
    same, shalbe from the fyrst day of May last past utterly voyd,
    adnulled and of no strengthe nor effecte in the lawe. And that
    no person or persons bee charged to our sayde soveraygne lord
    the Kynge, nor to the sayde Elyzabeth, of or for any issues,
    prifites, or revenues of any of the sayde seignowries, castelles,
    maners, landes, tenementes, fermes or other hereditamentes nor
    for any trespas or other intromittynge in the same, nor for anye
    by suretye by persone or persones to her or to her use--made by
    them before the sayde fyrst daie of May last passed, but shalbe
    therof agaynste the sayd Kynge and the sayde Elizabeth clerly
    discharged and acquyte forever.[1]

    [1] In the above memorandum no statement is made regarding Jane
        Shore, though it may be that she had much to do with Perkin


The personality, nature and life of Sebastian, King of Portugal,
lent themselves to the strange structure of events which followed
his strenuous and somewhat eccentric and stormy life. He was born in
1554, and was the son of Prince John and his wife Juana, daughter of
the Emperor Charles V. He succeeded his grandfather, John III, at
the age of three. His long minority aided the special development
of his character. The preceptor appointed to rule his youth was a
Jesuit, Luiz-Goncalvoz de Camara. Not unnaturally his teacher used his
position to further the religious aims and intrigues of his strenuous
Order. Sebastian was the kind of youth who is beloved by his female
relatives--quite apart from his being a King; and naturally he was
treated by the women in a manner to further his waywardness. When he
was fourteen years old he was crowned. From thence on he insisted on
having his way in everything, and grew into a young manhood which was
of the type beloved of an adventurous people. He was thus described:

“He was a headstrong violent nature, of reckless courage, of boundless
ambition founded on a deep religious feeling. At the time of his
coronation he was called ‘Another Alexander.’ He loved all kinds of
danger, and found a keen pleasure in going out in a tempest in a small
boat and in actually running under the guns of his own forts where his
commands were stringent that any vessel coming in shore should be fired
on. He was a notable horseman and could steer his charger efficiently
by the pressure of either knee--indeed he was of such muscular vigour
that he could, by the mere stringency of the pressure of his knees,
make a powerful horse tremble and sweat. He was a great swordsman, and
quite fearless. ‘What is fear?’ he used to say. Restless by nature he
hardly knew what it was to be tired.”

And yet this young man--warrior as he was, had a feminine cast of
face; his features were symmetrically formed with just sufficient
droop in the lower lip to give the characteristic ‘note’ of Austrian
physiognomy. His complexion was as fine and transparent as a girl’s;
his eyes were clear and of blue; his hair of reddish gold. His height
was medium, his figure fine; he was vigorous and active. He had an
air of profound gravity and stern enthusiasm. Altogether he was, even
without his Royal state, just such a young man as might stand for the
idol of a young maid’s dream.

And yet he did not seem much of a lover. When, in 1576, he entered
Spain to meet Philip II at Guadaloupe to ask the hand of the Infanta
Isabella in marriage, he was described as “cold as a wooer as he
was ardent as a warrior.” His eyes were so set on ambition that mere
woman’s beauty did not seem to attract him. Events--even that event,
the meeting--fostered his ambition. When he knelt to his host, the
elder king kissed him and addressed him as “Your Majesty” the first
time the great title had been used to a Portuguese king. The effect
must have come but little later for at that meeting he kissed the
hand of the old warrior, the Duke of Alva, and uncovered to him. His
underlying pride, however, was shewn at the close of that very meeting,
for he claimed equal rights in formality with the Spanish king; and
there was a danger that the visit of ceremony might end worse than it
began. Neither king would enter the carriage in which they were to
proceed together, until the host suggested that as there were two doors
they should enter at the same time.

Sebastian’s religious fervour and military ambition became one when
he conceived the idea of renewing the Crusades; he would recover the
Holy Land from the dominion of the Paynim and become himself master of
Morocco in the doing of it. With the latter object in his immediate
view, he made in 1574, against the wise counsels of Queen Catherine,
a _sortie de reconnaissance_ of the African coast; but without any
result--except the fixing of his resolution to proceed. In 1578 his
scheme was complete. He would listen to no warning or counsel on the
subject even from the Pope, the Grand Duke of Tuscany, or the Duke of
Nassau. He seemed to foresee the realization of his dreams, and would
forego nothing. He gathered an army of some 18,000 men (of which less
than 2,000 were horsemen) and about a dozen cannon. The preparation was
made with great splendour--a sort of forerunner of the Great Armada. It
seemed to be, as in the case of the projected invasion of England ten
years later by Spain, a case of “counting the chickens before they were

Some indication of the number of adventurers and camp followers
accompanying the army is given by the fact that the 800 craft ordained
for the invasion of Morocco carried in all some 24,000 persons,
inclusive of the fighting men. The paraphernalia and officials of
victory comprised amongst many other luxuries: lists for jousts, a
crown ready for the new King of Morocco to put on, and poets with
completed poems celebrating victory.

At this time Morocco was entering on the throes of civil war. Muley
Abd-el-Mulek, the reigning Sultan, was opposed by his nephew, Mohammed,
and to aid the latter, who promised to bring in 400 horsemen, was the
immediate object of Sebastian. But the fiery young King of Portugal had
undertaken more than he was able to perform. Abd-el-Mulek opposed his
18,000 Portuguese with 55,000 Moors, (of whom 36,000 were horsemen)
and with three times his number of cannon. The young Crusader’s
generalship was distinctly defective; he was a fine fighting man, but
a poor commander. Instead of attacking at once on his arrival and so
putting the zeal of his own troops and the discouragement of the enemy
to the best advantage, he wasted nearly a week in hunting parties and
ineffectual manœuvring. When finally issue was joined, Abd-el-Mulek,
though he was actually dying, surrounded the Portuguese forces and cut
them to pieces. Sebastian, though he fought like a lion, and had three
horses killed under him, was hopelessly beaten. There was an attendant
piece of the grimmest comedy on record. The Sultan died during the
battle, but he was a stern old warrior, and as he fell back in his
litter he put his finger on his lip to order with his last movement
that his death should be kept secret for the time being. The officer
beside him closed the curtains and went on with the fight, pretending
to take orders from the dead man and to transmit them to the captains.

The fate of Sebastian was sealed in that battle. Whether he lived or
died, he disappeared on 5 August, 1578. One story was that after the
battle of Alcaçer-el-Kebir, his body stripped and showing seven wounds
was found in a heap of the slain; that it was taken to Fez and there
buried; but was afterwards removed to Europe and found resting place
in the Convent of Belen. Another story was that after a brilliant
charge on his enemies he was taken in, but having been rescued by Lui
de Brito he escaped unpursued. Certainly no one seemed to have seen
the King killed, and it was strange that no part of his clothing or
accoutrements was ever found. These were of great splendour, beauty and
worth, and must have been easily traceable. There was a rumour that on
the night following the battle some fugitives, amongst whom was one of
commanding distinction, sought refuge at Arzilla.

Alcaçer-el-Kebir was known as the “Battle of the three Kings.” All the
principals engaged in it perished. Sebastian was killed or disappeared.
Abd-el-Mulek died as we have seen, and Mohammed was drowned in trying
to cross the river.

The dubiety of Sebastian’s death gave rise in after years to several

The first began six years after Sebastian’s successor--his uncle,
Cardinal Henry--was placed on the throne. The impostor was known as the
“King of Penamacor.” The son of a potter at Alcobaca, he established
himself at Albuquerque, within the Spanish borders, somewhat to the
north of Badajos, and there gave himself out as “a survivor of the
African Campaign.” As usual the public went a little further and said
openly that he was the missing Don Sebastian. At first he denied the
soft impeachment, but later on the temptation became too great for him
and he accepted it and set up in Penamacor, where he became known as
the “King of Penamacor.” He was arrested and paraded through Lisbon,
bareheaded, as if to let the public see that he in no way resembled the
personality of Sebastian. He was sent to the galleys for life. But he
must have escaped, for later on he appeared in Paris as Silvio Pellico,
Duke of Normandy, and was accepted as such in many of the salons in the
exclusive Faubourg St. Germain.

The second personator of Sebastian was one Matheus Alvares, who having
failed to become a monk, a year later imitated the first impostor, and
in 1585 set up a hermitage at Ericeira. He bore some resemblance to the
late king in build, and in the strength of this he boldly gave himself
out as “King Sebastian” and set out for Lisbon. But he was arrested
by the way and entered as a prisoner. He was tried and executed with
frightful accessories to the execution.

The third artist in this imposture appeared in 1594. He was a Spaniard
from Madrigal in Old Castile--a cook, sixty years old (Sebastian would
have been just forty if he had lived). When arrested he was given but
short shrift and shared the same ghastly fate as his predecessor.

The fourth, and last, imposture was more serious. This time the
personator began in Venice in 1598, calling himself “Knight of the

As twenty years had now elapsed since the disappearance of Sebastian,
he would have changed much in appearance, so in one respect the
personator had less to contend against. Moreover the scene of endeavour
was this time laid in Venice, a place even more widely removed in the
sixteenth century from Lisbon by circumstances than by geographical
position. Again witnesses who could give testimony to the individuality
of the missing King of twenty years ago were few and far between. But
on the other hand the new impostor had new difficulties to contend
against. Henry, the Cardinal, had only occupied the Portuguese throne
two years, for in 1580 Philip II of Spain had united the two crowns,
and had held the dual monarchy for eighteen years. He was a very
different antagonist from any one that might be of purely Portuguese

In the eyes of many of the people--like all the Latin races naturally
superstitious--one circumstance powerfully upheld the impostor’s
claim. So long ago as 1587, Don John de Castro had made a seemingly
prophetic statement that Sebastian was alive and would manifest himself
in due time. His utterance was, like most such prophecies of the
kind, “conducive to its own fulfilment;” there were many--and some of
them powerful--who were willing at the start to back up any initiator
of such a claim. In his time Sebastian had been used, so far as it
was possible to use a man of his temperament and position, by the
intriguers of the Catholic Church, and the present occasion lent itself
to their still-existent aims. Rome was very powerful four centuries
ago, and its legions of adherents bound in many ties, were scattered
throughout the known world. Be sure these could and would aid in any
movement or intrigue which could be useful to the Church.

“The Knight of the Cross”--who insinuated, though he did not state
so, that he was a Royal person was arrested on the showing of the
Spanish Ambassador. He was a born liar, with all the readiness which
the carrying out of such an adventure as he had planned requires. Not
only was he well posted in known facts, but he seemed to be actually
proof against cross-examination. The story he told was that after the
battle of Alcaçer-el-Kebir he with some others, had sought temporary
refuge in Arzilla and in trying to make his way from there to the East
Indies, he had got to “Prester John’s” land--the semi-fabled Ethiopia
of those days. From thence he had been turned back, and had, after
many adventures and much wandering--in the course of which he had been
bought and sold a dozen times or more, found his way, alone, to Venice.
Amongst other statements he alleged that Sebastian’s confessor had
already recognised and acknowledged him; but he was doubtless ignorant,
when he made the statement, that Padre Mauricio, Don Sebastian’s
confessor, fell with his king in 1578. Two things, one, a positive
inference and the other negative, told against him. He only knew of
such matters as had been made public in depositions, and _he did not
know Portuguese_. The result of his first trial was that he was sent to
prison for two years.

But those two years of prison improved his case immensely. In that
time he learned the Portuguese language and many facts of history.
One of the first to believe--or to allege belief, in his story, Fray
Estevan de Sampayo, a Dominican monk, was in 1599, sent by the Venetian
authorities to Portugal to obtain an accredited description of the
personal marks of King Sebastian. He returned within a year with a
list of sixteen personal marks--attested by an Apostolic notary.
Strange to say the prisoner exhibited every one of them--a complete
agreement which in itself gave rise to the new suspicion that the list
had been made out by, or on behalf of, the prisoner. The proof however
was accepted--for the time; and he was released on the 28th of July,
1600--but with the imperative, humiliating proviso that he was to quit
Venice within four and twenty hours under penalty of being sent to
the galleys. A number of his supporters, who met him before he went,
found that he had in reality no sort of resemblance to Sebastian. Don
John de Castro, who was amongst them, said that a great change in
Sebastian seemed to have taken place. (He had prophesied and adhered
to his prophecy.) He now described him as a man of medium height and
powerful frame, with hair and beard of black or dark brown, and said
he had completely lost his beauty. “What has become of my fairness?”
the swarthy ex-prisoner used to say. He had eyes of uncertain colour,
not large but sparkling; high cheek bones; long nose; thin lips with
the “Hapsburg droop” in the lower one. He was short from the waist
up. (Sebastian’s doublet would fit no other person.) His right leg
and arm were longer than the left, the legs being slightly bowed like
Sebastian’s. He had small feet with extraordinarily high insteps; and
large hands. “In fine,” Don John summed up illogically, “he is the
self-same Sebastian--except for such differences as resulted from years
and labours.” Some other particulars he added which are in no way
helpful to a conclusion.

The Impostor told his friends that he had in 1597, sent a messenger
from Constantinople to Portugal--one Marco Tullio Catizzone--who had
never returned. Thence he had travelled to Rome--where, when he was
just on the eve of being presented to the Holy Father, he was robbed of
all he had; thence to Verona and so on to Venice. After his expulsion
from Venice he seems to have found his way to Leghorn and Florence, and
thence on to Naples, where he was handed over to the jurisdiction of
the Spanish Viceroy, the Count of Lemos, who had visited him in prison,
and who well remembered King Sebastian whom he had seen when in a
diplomatic mission. The Viceroy came to the conclusion that he bore no
likeness at all to Sebastian, that he was ignorant of all save the well
known historical facts that had been published, and that his speech
was of “corrupt Portuguese mingled with tell-tale phrases of Calabrian
dialect.” Thereupon he took active steps against him. One witness who
was produced, recognized in him the real Marco Tullio Catizzone, and
Count de Lemos sent for his wife, mother-in-law and brother-in-law,
all of whom he had deceived and deserted. His wife, Donna Paula of
Messina, acknowledged him; and he confessed his crime. Condemned to the
galleys for life, Marco Tullio, out of consideration of a possibility
of an error of justice, was so far given indulgence by the authorities
that he did not have to wear prison dress or labour at the oar. Many
of his supporters, who still believed in him, tried to mitigate his
lot and treated him as a companion; so that the hulk at San Lucar, at
the mouth of the Guadalquiver became a minor centre of intrigue. But
still he was not content, and adventuring further, he tried to get
money from the wife of Medina-Sidonia then Governor of Andalusia. He
was again arrested with some of his associates. Incriminating documents
were found on him. He was racked and confessed all. And so in his real
name and parentage, Marco Tullio, son of Ippolit Catizzone of Taverna,
and of Petronia Cortes his wife, and husband of Paula Gallardetta
was executed. He had, though of liberal education, never worked at
any occupation or calling; but he had previously to his great fraud,
personated other men--amongst them Don Diego of Arragon. On 23rd of
September, 1603, he was dragged on a hurdle to the Square of San Lucar;
his right hand was cut off and he was hanged. Five of his companions,
including two priests, shared his fate.

But in a way he and the previous impostors had a sort of posthumous
revenge, for Sebastian had now entered into the region of Romantic
Belief. He was, like King Arthur, the ideal and the heart of a great
myth. He became “The Hidden King” who would some day return to aid his
nation in the hour of peril--the destined Ruler of the Fifth Monarchy,
the founder of an universal Empire of Peace.

A hundred years ago, the custom in British theatres was to finish
the evening’s performance with a farce. On this occasion the tragedy
had been finished two centuries before the “comic relief” came. The
occasion was in the French occupation of Portugal in 1807. The strange
belief in the Hidden King broke out afresh. A rigorous censorship
of Sebastianist literature was without avail--even though its
disseminators were condemned by the still-existing Inquisition. The old
prophecy was renewed, with a local and personal application--Napoleon
was to be destroyed in the Holy Week of 1808, by the waiting Sebastian,
whose approach from his mysterious retreat was to be veiled with a
thick fog. There were to be new portents; the sky was to be emblazoned
with a cross of the Order of Aviz, and on March 19th a full moon was
to occur during the last quarter. All these things were foretold in an
_egg_, afterwards sent by Junot to the National Museum. The general
attitude of the French people towards the subject was illustrated by
a remark in an ironical manner of one writer: “what can be looked for
from a people, one half of whom await the Messiah, the other half Don
Sebastian?” The authority on the subject of King Sebastian, M. d’Antas,
relates that as late as 1838, after the crushing of a Sebastianist
insurrection in Brazil certain still believing Sebastianists were to
be seen along the coast peering through the fog for the sails of the
mythical ship which was to bring to them the Hidden King who was then
to reveal himself.



Stefan Mali (Stephen the Little) was an impostor who passed himself
off in Montenegro as the Czar Peter III of Russia, who was supposed
to have been murdered in 1762. He appeared in the Bocche di Cattaro
in 1767. No one seemed to know him or to doubt him; indeed after he
had put forth his story he did not escape identification. One witness
who had accompanied a state visit to Russia averred that he recognized
the features of the Czar whom he had seen in St. Petersburg. Like all
adventurers Stefan Mali had good personal resources. An adventurer,
and especially an adventurer who is also an impostor, must be an
opportunist; and an opportunist must be able to move in any direction
at any time; therefore he must be always ready for any emergency. The
time, the place, and the circumstances largely favoured the impostor
in this case. It is perhaps but fair to credit him with foreknowledge,
intention, and understanding of all that he did. In after years he
justified himself in this respect and showed distinctly that he was a
man of brains and capable of using them. He was no doubt not only able
to sustain at the start his alleged personality, but also to act under
new conditions and in new circumstances as they developed themselves,
as a man of Czar Peter’s character and acquired knowledge might have
done. Cesare Augusto Levi, who is the authority on this subject, says,
in his work “_Venezia e il Montenegro_”: “He was of fine presence and
well proportioned form and of noble ways. He was so eloquent that he
exercised with mere words a power not only on the multitude but also on
the higher classes.... He must certainly have been in St. Petersburg
before he scaled Montenegro; and have known the true Peter III, for
he imitated his voice and his gestures--to the illusionment of the
Montenegrins. There is no certainty of such a thing, but he must,
in the belief of the Vladika Sava have been a descendant of Stefano
Czernovich who reigned after Giorgio IV.”

At that time Montenegro was ruled by Vladika Sava, who having spent
some twenty years in monastic life, was unfitted for the government of
a turbulent nation always harassed by the Turks and always engaged in
a struggle for bare existence. The people of such a nation naturally
wanted a strong ruler, and as they were discontented under the sway of
Sava the recognition of Stefan Mali was almost a foregone conclusion.
He told a wonderful story of his adventures since his reported death--a
story naturally interesting to such an adventurous people; and as he
stated his intention of never returning to Russia, they were glad to
add such a new ally to their fighting force for the maintenance of
their independence. As the will of the people was for the new-comer,
the Vladika readily consented to confine himself to his spiritual
functions and to allow Stefan to govern. The Vladika of Montenegro
held a strange office--one which combined the functions of priest and
generalissimo--so that the new division of the labour of ruling was
rather welcome than otherwise to the people of a nation where no man
ever goes without arms. Stephen--as he now was--governed well. He
devoted himself fearlessly to the punishment of ill-doing, and early
in his reign had men shot for theft. He established Courts of Justice
and tried to further means of communication throughout the little
kingdom, which, is, after all, little more than a bare rock. He even
so far impinged on Sava’s sacred office as to prohibit Sunday labour.
In fact his labours so much improved the outlook of the Montenegrins
that the result brought trouble on himself as well as on the nation in
general. Hitherto, whatever foreign nations may have believed as to the
authenticity of Stephen’s claim, they had deliberately closed their
eyes to his new existence, so long as under his rule the little nation
of Montenegro did not become a more dangerous enemy to all or any of

But the nations interested grew anxious at the forward movement in
Montenegro. Venice, then the possessor of Dalmatia, was alarmed,
and Turkey regarded the new ruler as an indirect agent of Russia.
Together they declared war. This was the moment when Fate declared
that the Pretender should show his latent weakness of character. The
Montenegrins are naturally so brave that cowardice is unknown amongst
them; but Stephen did not dare to face the Turkish army, which attacked
Montenegro on all the land sides. But the Montenegrins fought on till
a chance came to them after many months of waiting in the shape of a
fearful storm which desolated their enemies’ Camp. By a sudden swoop
on the camp they seized much ammunition of which they were sadly in
want and by the aid of which they gained delivery from their foes.
The Russian government seemed then to wake up to the importance of
the situation, and, after sending the Montenegrins much help in the
shape of war material, asked them to join again in the war against the
Turks. The Empress Catherine in addition to this request, sent another
letter denouncing Stephen as an impostor. He admitted the charge and
was put in prison. But in the impending war a strong man was wanted
at the head of affairs; and Sava, who now had the mundane side of
his dual office once more thrust again upon him, was a weak one. The
situation was saved by Prince George Dolgourouki, the representative
of the Empress Catherine, who, with statesmanlike acumen, saw that
such a desperate need required an exceptional remedy. He recognized the
false Czar as Regent. Stephen Mali, thus restored to power under such
powerful auspices, once more governed Montenegro until 1774, when he
was murdered by the Greek player Casamugna--by order, it is said, of
the Pasha of Scutari, Kara Mahmound.

By the irony of Fate this was exactly the way in which the real Czar,
whose personality he had assumed, had died some dozen years before.

This impostor was perhaps the only one who in the history of nations
prospered finally in his fraud. But as may be seen he was possessed of
higher gifts than most of his kind; he was equal to the emergencies
which presented themselves--and circumstances favoured him, rarely.


On 21 January, 1793, Louis XVI of France was beheaded in the Place de
la Revolution, formerly Place de Louis Quinze. From the moment his head
fell, his only son the Dauphin became by all constitutional usage, his
successor, Louis XVII. True the child-king was in the hands of his
enemies; but what mattered that to believers in the “Divine Right.”
What mattered it either that he was at that moment in the prison of
the Temple, where he had languished since August 13, 1792, already
consecrated to destruction, in one form or another. He was then under
eight years of age, and so an easy victim. His gaoler, one Simon, had
already been instructed to bring him up as a “sansculotte.” In the
furtherance of this dreadful ordinance he was taught to drink and swear
and to take a part in the unrighteous songs and ceremonies of the Reign
of Terror. Under such conditions no one can be sorry that death came to
his relief. This was in June, 1795--he being then in his eleventh year.
In the stress and turmoil of such an overwhelming cataclysm as the
Revolution, but little notice was taken of a death which, under other
circumstances, would undoubtedly have been of international interest
if not of importance. But by this time the death of any one, so long as
it was by violence, was too common a matter to cause concern to others.
The Terror had practically glutted the lust for blood. Under such
conditions but little weight was placed on the accuracy of records; and
to this day there survive practical inconveniences and difficulties
in daily life from the then disruption of ordered ways. The origin of
such frauds or means of fraud as are now before us is in uncertainty.
Shakespeare says:

    “How oft the sight of means to do ill deeds
    Makes ill deeds done.”

The true or natural criminal is essentially an opportunist. The
intention of crime, even if it be only a desire to follow the line
of least resistance, is a permanent factor in such lives, but the
direction, the mechanism, and the scope of the crime are largely the
result of the possibilities which open and develop themselves from a
fore-ordered condition of things.

[Illustration: EDWARD IV AS A YOUNG MAN]

Here then was the opening which presented itself at the end of the
eighteenth century. France was in a state of social chaos. The
fountains of the deep were stirred, and no human intelligence could
do more than guess at what might result from any individual effort of
self-advancement. The public conscience was debauched, and for all
practical purposes the end justified the means. It was an age of
desperate adventure, of reckless enterprise, of unscrupulous methods.
The Royalty of France was overthrown--in abeyance till at least such
a time as some Colossus of brains or energy, or good fortune, should
set it up again. The hopes of a great nation of return to a settled
order of things through constitutional and historical channels were
centred in the succession to the Crown. And through the violence of the
upheaval any issue was possible. The state of affairs just before the
death of Louis XVII gave a chance of success to any desperate fraud.
The old King was dead, the new King was a child and in the hands of his
bitterest enemies. Even if anyone had cared to vindicate his rights
there seemed at present no way of accomplishing this object. To any
reckless and unscrupulous adventurer here was an unique chance. Here
was a kingship going: a daring hand might grasp the crown which rested
in so perilous a manner on the head of a baby. Moreover the events of
the last fifteen years of the century had not only begotten daring
which depended on promptness, but had taught and fostered desperation.
It is a wonder to us who look back on that time through the
safety-giving mist of a century, not that there was any attempt to get
a crown, if only by theft, but that there were not a hundred attempts
made for each one that history has recorded.

As a matter of fact, there were seven attempts made to personate the
dead Dauphin, son of Louis XVI, that “son of St. Louis,” who, in
obedience to Abbé Edgworth’s direction to “ascend to heaven,” went
somewhere where it is difficult--or perhaps inexpedient--to follow him.

The first pretender appears to have been one Jean Marie Hervagault, son
of a tailor. His qualification for the pretence appears to have been
but a slender one, that of having been born in 1781, only about three
years before the Dauphin. This, taken by itself, would seem to be but
a poor equipment for such a crime; but in comparison with some of the
later claimants it was not without reason of approximate possibility as
far as date was concerned. It was not this criminal’s first attempt at
imposture, for he had already pretended to be a son of la Vaucelle of
Longueville and of the Duc d’Ursef. Having been arrested at Hottot as a
vagabond, he was taken to Cherburg, where he was claimed by his father.
When claiming to be, like the old man in Mark Twain’s inimitable
_Huckleberry Finn_, “the late Dauphin,” his story was that he had as
a child been carried from the prison of the Temple in a basket of
linen. In 1799 he was imprisoned at Chalons-sur-Marne for a month. He
was, however, so far successful in his imposture as Louis XVII, that
after some adventures he actually achieved a good following--chiefly
of the landed interest and clerics. He was condemned to two years’
imprisonment at Vitry, and afterwards to a term of twice that duration,
during which he died, in 1812.

The second and third aspirants to the honour of the vacant crown were
inconspicuous persons possessing neither personal qualification nor
apparent claim of any sort except that of a desire for acquisition. One
was Persat, an old soldier; the other, Fontolive, a bricklayer. The
pretence of either of these men would have been entirely ridiculous but
for its entirely tragic consequences. There is short shrift for the
unsuccessful impostor of royalty--even in an age of fluctuation between
rebellion and anarchy.

The fourth pretender was at least a better workman at crime than his
predecessors. This was Mathurin Brunneau--ostensibly a shoemaker
but in reality a vagabond peasant from Vezins, in the department of
Maine-et-Loire. He was a born criminal as was shown by his early
record. When only eleven years of age he claimed to be the son of the
lord of the village, Baron de Vezins. He obtained the sympathy of the
Countess de Turpin de Crisse, who seemed to have compassion for the
boy. Even when the fraud of his parentage was found out she took him
back into her household--but amongst the servants. After this his life
became one of adventure. When he was fifteen he made a tour through
France. In 1803 he was put in the House of Correction at St. Denis. In
1805 he enlisted as a gunner. In 1815 he re-appeared with an American
passport bearing the name of Charles de Navarre. His more ambitious
attempt at personation in 1817, was not in the long run successful.
He claimed his rights, as “Dauphin” Bourbon under Louis XVIII, was
arrested at St. Malo, and confined at Bicêtre. He got round him a
gang of persons of evil life, as shown by their various records. One
was a false priest, another a prisoner for embezzlement, another an
ex-bailiff who was also a forger, another a deserter; with the usual
criminal concomitant of women, dishonoured clergy and such like. At
Rouen he was sentenced to pay a fine of three thousand francs in
addition to imprisonment for seven years. He died in prison.

The imposture regarding the Dauphin was like a torch-race--so soon
as the lighted torch fell from the hand of one runner it was lifted
by him who followed. Brunneau, having disappeared into the prison at
Rouen, was succeeded by Henri Herbert who made a dramatic appearance in
Austria in 1818. At the Court in Mantone, the scene of his appearance,
he gave the name of Louis Charles de Bourbon, Duc de Normandie.
His account of himself, given in his book published in 1831, and
republished--with enlargements, by Chevalier del Corso in 1850, is
without any respect at all for the credulity of his readers.

The story tells how an alleged doctor, one answering to the not common
name of Jenais-Ojardias, some time before the death of the Dauphin had
had made a toy horse of sufficient size to contain the baby king, the
opening to the interior of which was hidden by the saddle-cloth. The
wife of the gaoler Simon, helped in the plot, the carrying out of which
was attempted early in 1794. Another child about the Dauphin’s size,
dying or marked for death by fatal disease, was drugged and hidden
in the interior. When the toy horse was placed in the Dauphin’s cell
the children were exchanged, the little king having also been drugged
for the purpose. It would almost seem that the narrator here either
lost his head or was seized with a violent _cacoethes scribendi_, for
he most unnecessarily again lugs in the episode adapted from Trojan
history. The worthy doctor of the double name had another horse
manufactured, this time of life size. Into the alleged entrails of
this animal, which was harnessed with three real horses as one of a
team of four, the Dauphin, once more drugged, was concealed. He was
borne to refuge in Belgium, where he was placed under the protection
of the Prince de Condé. By this protector he was, according to his
story, sent to General Kléber who took him to Egypt as his nephew under
the name of Monsieur Louis. After the battle of Marengo in 1800, he
returned to France, where he confided his secret to Lucien Bonaparte
and to Fouché (the Minister of Police), who got him introduced to the
Empress Josephine, who recognised him by a scar over his right eye. In
1804 (still according to his story), he embarked for America and got
away to the banks of the Amazon, where amid the burning deserts (as
he put it) he had adventures capable of consuming lesser romancists
with envy. Some of these adventures were amongst a tribe called “the
Mamelucks”--which name was at least reminiscent of his alleged Egyptian
experiences. From the burning deserts on the banks of the Amazon he
found his way to Brazil, where a certain “Don Juan,” late of Portugal
and at that time Regent of Brazil, gave him asylum.

Leaving the hospitable home of Don Juan, he returned to Paris in 1815.
Here Condé introduced him to the Duchesse d’Angoulême (his sister!)
and according to his own naïve statement “the Princess was greatly
surprised,” as indeed she might well have been--quite as much as the
witch of Endor was by the appearance of Samuel. Having been repulsed
by his (alleged) sister, the alleged king made a little excursion,
embracing in its erratic course Rhodes, England, Africa, Egypt, Asia
Minor, Greece, and Italy. When in Austria he met Silvio Pellico in
prison. Having spent some years himself in prison in the same country,
he went to Switzerland. Leaving Geneva in 1826, he entered France,
under the name of Herbert. He was in Paris the following year under
the name of “Colonel Gustave,” and forthwith revived his fraud of being
“the late Dauphin.” In 1828, he appealed to the Chamber of Peers. To
this appeal he appears to have received no direct reply; but apropos
of it, Baron Mounier made a proposition to the Chamber that in future
no such application should be received unless properly signed and
attested and presented by a member of the Chamber. He gathered round
him some dupes who believed in him. To these he told a number of
strange lies based on some form of perverted truth, but always taking
care that those of whom he spoke were already dead. Amongst them was
the wife of Simon, who had died in 1819. Desault, the surgeon, who
had medical care of Louis XVII, and who died in 1795, the ex-Empress
Josephine, who died in 1814, General Pichegru, who died in 1804, and
the Duc de Bourbon (Prince de Condé) who died in 1818. In the course
of his citation of the above names, he plays havoc with generally
accepted history--Desault according to him did not die naturally but
was poisoned. Josephine died simply because she knew the secret of
the young King’s escape. Pichegru died from a similar cause and not
by suicide. Fualdes was assassinated, but it was because he knew the
fatal secret. With regard to one of his dead witnesses whose name was
Thomas-Ignace-Martin de Gallardon, there is a rigmarole which would not
be accepted in the nursery of an idiot asylum. There is a mixture of
Pagan mythology and Christian hagiology which would have been condemned
by Ananias himself. In one passage he talks of seeing suddenly before
him--he could not tell (naturally enough) whence he came--a sort of
angel who had wings, a long coat and a _high hat_. This supernatural
person ordered the narrator to tell the King that he was in danger,
and the only way to avoid it was to have a good police and to keep the
Sabbath. Having given his message the visitant rose in the air and
disappeared. Later on the suggested angel told him to communicate with
the Duc Decazes. The Duke naturally, and wisely enough, handed the
credulous peasant over to the care of a doctor. Martin himself died,
presumably by assassination, in 1834.

The Revolution of 1830 awoke the pretensions of Herbert, who now
appeared as the Baron de Richmont, and wrote to the Duchesse
d’Angoulême, his (supposed) sister, putting on her the blame of all
his troubles. But the consequences of this effort were disastrous to
him. He was arrested in August, 1833. After hearing many witnesses the
Court condemned him to imprisonment for twelve years. He was arraigned
under the name of “Ethelbert Louis-Hector-Alfred,” calling himself the
“Baron de Richmont.” He escaped from Clairvaux, whither he had been
transferred from Saint-Pélagie, in 1835. In 1843 and 1846 he published
his memoirs--enlarged but omitting some of his earlier assertions,
which had been disproved. He returned to France after the amnesty of
1840. In 1848 he appealed--unheeded--to the National Assembly. He died
in 1855 at Gleyze.

The sixth “Late Dauphin” was a Polish Jew called Naundorf--an impudent
impostor not even seeming suitably prepared by time for the part
which he had thus voluntarily undertaken, having been born in 1775,
and thus having been as old at the birth of the Dauphin as the latter
was when he died. This individual had appeared in Berlin in 1810,
and was married in Spandau eight years later. He had been punished
for incendiarism in 1824, and later got three years’ imprisonment
at Brandenburg for coining. He may be considered as a fairly good
all-round--if unsuccessful--criminal. In England he was imprisoned for
debt. He died in Delft in 1845.

The last attempt at impersonating Louis XVII, the seventh, afforded
what might in theatrical parlance be called the “comic relief” of the
whole series, both as regards means and results. This time the claimant
to the Kingship of France was none other than a half-bred Iroquois, one
called Eleazar, who appeared to be the ninth son of Thomas Williams,
otherwise Thorakwaneken, and an Indian woman, Mary Ann Konwatewentala.
This lady, who spoke only Iroquois, said at the opportune time she was
_not_ the mother of Lazar (Iroquois for Eleazar). She made her mark as
she could not write. Eleazar had been almost an idiot till the age
of thirteen; but, being struck on the head by a stone, recovered his
memory and intelligence. He said he remembered sitting on the knees of
a beautiful lady who wore a rich dress with a train. He also remembered
seeing in his childhood a terrible person; shewn the picture of Simon
he recognised him with terror. He learned English but imperfectly,
became a Protestant and a missionary and married. His profile was
something like that of the typical Bourbon. In 1841, the Prince de
Joinville, seeing him on his travels in the United States, told him
(according to Eleazar’s account) that he was the son of a king, and got
him to sign and seal a parchment, already prepared, the same being a
solemn abdication of the Crown of France in favour of Louis Philippe,
made by Charles Louis, son of Louis XVI, also styled Louis XVII King of
France and Navarre. The seal used was the seal of France, the one used
by the old Monarchy. The “poor Indian with untutored mind” made with
charming diffidence the saving clause regarding the seal,--“if I am not
mistaken.” Of course there was in the abdication a clause regarding
the payment of a sum of money “which would enable me to live in great
luxury in this country or in France as I might choose.” The Reverend
Eleazar, despite his natural disadvantages and difficulties, was
more fortunate than his fellow claimants inasmuch as the time of his
imposture was more propitious. Louis Philippe, who was always anxious
to lessen the danger to his tottering throne, made a settlement on him
from his Civil List, and the “subsequent proceedings interested him no

Altogether the Louis XVII impostures extended over a period of some
sixty years, beginning with Hervagault’s pretence soon after the death
of the Dauphin, and closing at Gleyze with the death of Henri Herbert,
the alleged Baron de Richmont who appeared as the alleged Duc de


The story of Mrs. Olive Serres, as nature made it, was one thing; it
was quite another as she made it for herself. The result, before the
story was completely told, was a third; and, compared with the other,
one of transcendent importance. Altogether her efforts, whatsoever
they were and crowned never so effectively, showed a triumph in its
way of the thaumaturgic art of lying; but like all structures built
on sand it collapsed eventually. In the plain version--nature’s--the
facts were simply as follows. She, and a brother of no importance, were
the children of a house painter living in Warwick, one Robert Wilmot,
and of Anna Maria his wife. Having been born in 1772 she was under
age when in 1791 she was married, the ceremony therefore requiring
licence supported by bond and affidavit. Her husband was John Thomas
Serres who ten years later was appointed marine painter to King George
III. Mr. and Mrs. Serres were separated in 1804 after the birth of two
daughters, the elder of whom, born in 1797, became in 1822 the wife
of Antony Thomas Ryves a portrait painter--whom she divorced in 1847.
Mrs. A. T. Ryves twelve years later filed a petition praying that the
marriage of her mother, made in 1791, might be declared valid and she
herself the legitimate issue of that marriage. The case was heard in
1861, Mrs. Ryves conducting it in person. Having produced sufficient
evidence of the marriage and the birth, and there being no opposition,
the Court almost as a matter of course pronounced the decree asked for.
In this case no complications in the way of birth or marriage of Mrs.
Serres were touched on.

Robert Wilmot, the house-painter, had an elder brother James who became
a Fellow of Trinity College, Oxford, and went into the Church, taking
his degree of Doctor of Divinity. Through his College he was presented
in 1781 to the living of Barton-on-the-heath, Warwickshire. The
Statutes of his College contained a prohibition against marriage whilst
a Fellow. James Wilmot D. D. died in 1807 leaving his property between
the two children of Robert, after life-use by his brother. James and
Robert Wilmot had a sister Olive, who was born in 1728 and married in
1754 to William Payne with issue one daughter, Olivia, born in 1759.
Robert Wilmot died in 1812.

[Illustration: OLIVIA SERRES]

Out of these rough materials Mrs. Olive Serres set herself in due
course to construct and carry out, as time and opportunity allowed,
and as occasions presented themselves and developed, a fraudulent
romance in real life and action. She was, however, a very clever
woman and in certain ways--as was afterwards proved by her literary and
artistic work--well dowered by nature for the task--crooked though it
was--which she set for herself. Her ability was shown not only by what
she could do and did at this time of her life, but by the manner in
which she developed her natural gifts as time went on. In the sum of
her working life, in which the perspective of days becomes merged in
that of years, she touched on many subjects, not always of an ordinary
kind, which shewed often that she was of conspicuous ability, having
become accomplished in several branches of art. She was a painter of
sufficient merit to have exhibited her work in the Royal Academy in
1794 and to be appointed landscape-painter to the Prince of Wales in
1806. She was a novelist, a press writer, an occasional poet and in
many ways of a ready pen. She was skilled in some forms of occultism,
and could cast horoscopes; she wrote, in addition to a pamphlet on
the same subject, a book on the writings of Junius, claiming to have
discovered the identity of the author--none other than James Wilmot
D. D. She wrote learnedly on disguised handwriting. In fact she touched
on the many phases of literary effort which come within the scope of
those who live by the work of their brains. Perhaps, indeed, it was
her facility as a writer that helped to lead her astray; for in her
practical draughtsmanship and in her brain teeming with romantic ideas
she found a means of availing herself of opportunities suggested by
her reckless ambition. Doubtless the cramped and unpoetic life of her
humble condition in the house-painter’s home in Warwick made her fret
and chafe under its natural restraint. But when she saw her way to
an effective scheme of enlarging her self-importance she acted with
extraordinary daring and resource. As is usual with such natures,
when moral restraints have been abandoned, the pendulum swung to
its opposite. As she had been lowly she determined to be proud; and
having fixed on her objective began to elaborate a consistent scheme,
utilising the facts of her own surroundings as the foundation of her
imposture. She probably realised early that there must be a base
somewhere, and so proceeded to manufacture or arrange for herself a new
identity into which the demonstrable facts of her actual life could be
wrought. At the same time she manifestly realised that in a similar
way fact and intention must be interwoven throughout the whole of
her contemplated creation. Accordingly she created for herself a new
_milieu_ which she supported by forged documents of so clever a conceit
and such excellent workmanship, that they misled all who investigated
them, until they came within the purview of the great lawyers of the
day whose knowledge, logical power, skill and determination were
arrayed against her. By a sort of intellectual metabolism she changed
the identities and conditions of her own relations whom I have
mentioned, always taking care that her story held together in essential
possibilities, and making use of the abnormalities of those whose
prototypes she introduced into fictional life.

The changes made in her world of new conditions were mainly as follows:
Her uncle, the Reverend James, who as a man of learning and dignity
was accustomed to high-class society, and as a preacher of eminence
occasionally in touch with Crown and Court, became her father; and she
herself the child of a secret marriage with a great lady whose personal
rank and condition would reflect importance on her daughter. But proof,
or alleged proof, of some kind would be necessary and there were too
many persons at present living whose testimony would be available
for her undoing. So her uncle James shifted his place and became
her grandfather. To this the circumstances of his earlier life gave
credibility in two ways; firstly because they allowed of his having
made a secret marriage, since he was forbidden to marry by the statutes
of his college, and secondly because they gave a reasonable excuse for
concealing his marriage and the birth of a child, publicity regarding
which would have cost him his livelihood.

At this point the story began to grow logically, and the whole scheme
to expand cohesively. Her genius as a writer of fiction was being
proved; and with the strengthening of the intellectual nature came
the atrophy of the moral. She began to look higher; and the seeds of
imagination took root in her vanity till the madness latent in her
nature turned wishes into beliefs and beliefs into facts. As she was
imagining on her own behoof, why not imagine beneficially? This all
took time, so that when she was well prepared for her venture things
had moved on in the nation and the world as well as in her fictitious
romance. Manifestly she could not make a start on her venture until
the possibility vanished of witnesses from the inner circle of her
own family being brought against her; so that she could not safely
begin machinations for some time. She determined however to be ready
when occasion should serve. In the meantime she had to lead two lives.
Outwardly she was Olive Serres, daughter of Robert Wilmot born in 1772
and married in 1791, and mother of two daughters. Inwardly she was
the same woman with the same birth, marriage and motherhood, but of
different descent being (imaginatively) grand-daughter of her (real)
uncle the Rev. James Wilmot D. D. The gaps in the imaginary descent
having been thus filled up as made and provided in her own mind, she
felt more safe. Her uncle--so ran her fiction--had early in his college
life met and become friends with Count Stanislaus Poniatowski who later
became by election King of Poland. Count Poniatowski had a sister--whom
the ingenious Olive dubbed “Princess of Poland”--who became the wife
of her uncle (now her grandfather) James. To them was born, in 1750,
a daughter Olive, the marriage being kept secret for family reasons,
and the child for the same reason being passed off as the offspring of
Robert the housepainter. This child Olive, according to the fiction,
met His Royal Highness Henry Frederick, Duke of Cumberland, brother
of the King, George III. They fell in love with each other and were
privately married--by the Rev. James Wilmot D. D.--on 4 March 1767.
They had issue one daughter, Olive, born at Warwick 3 April 1772. After
living with her for four years the Duke of Cumberland deserted his
wife, who was then pregnant, and in 1771 married--bigamously, it was
alleged--Lady Anne Horton, sister of Colonel Luttrell, daughter of Lord
Irnham, and widow of Andrew Horton of Catton, Derbyshire. The (alleged)
Royal Duchess died in France in 1774, and the Duke in 1790.

Thus fact and fiction were arrayed together in a very cunning way.
The birth of Olive Wilmot (afterwards Serres) in 1772 was proved by a
genuine registry. Likewise that of her daughter Mrs. Ryves. For all the
rest the certificates were forged. Moreover there was proof of another
Olive Wilmot whose existence, supported by genuine registration, might
avert suspicion; since it would be difficult to prove after a lapse of
time that the Olive Wilmot born at Warwick in 1772 daughter of Robert
(the house-painter), was not the granddaughter of James (the Doctor of
Divinity). In case of necessity the real date (1759) of the birth of
Olive Wilmot sister of the Rev. James could easily be altered to the
fictitious date of the birth of “Princess” Olive born 1750.

It was only in 1817 that Mrs. Serres began to take active measures for
carrying her imposture into action; and in the process she made some
tentative efforts which afterwards made difficulty for her. At first
she sent out a story, through a memorial to George III, that she was
daughter of the Duke of Cumberland by Mrs. Payne, wife of Captain Payne
and sister of James Wilmot D. D. This she amended later in the same
year by alleging that she was a natural daughter of the Duke by the
sister of Doctor Wilmot, whom he had seduced under promise of marriage.
It was not till after the deaths of George III and the Duke of Kent in
1820, that the story took its third and final form.

It should be noticed that care was taken not to clash with laws already
in existence or to run counter to generally received facts. In 1772 was
passed the Royal Marriage Act (12 George III Cap. 11) which nullified
any marriage contracted with anyone in the succession to the Crown to
which the Monarch had not given his sanction. Therefore Mrs. Serres
had fixed the (alleged) marriage of (the alleged) Olive Wilmot with
the Duke of Cumberland as in 1767--five years earlier--so that the
Act could not be brought forward as a bar to its validity. Up to 1772
such marriages could take place legally. Indeed there was actually a
case in existence--the Duke of Gloucester (another brother of the King)
having married the dowager Countess of Waldegrave. It was of common
repute that this marriage was the motive of the King’s resolve to have
the Royal Marriage Act added to the Statute book. At the main trial it
was alleged by Counsel, in making the petitioner’s claim, that the King
(George III) was aware of the Duke of Cumberland’s marriage with Olive
Wilmot, although it was not known to the public, and that when he heard
of his marriage with Lady Anne Horton he was very angry and would not
allow them to come to Court.

The various allegations of Mrs. Serres as to her mother’s marriage were
not treated seriously for a long time but they were so persisted in
that it became necessary to have some denial in evidence. Accordingly a
law-case was entered. One which became a _cause célèbre_. It began in
1866--just about a hundred years from the time of the alleged marriage.
With such a long gap the difficulties of disproving Mrs. Serres’
allegations were much increased. But there was no help for it; reasons
of State forbade the acceptance or even the doubt of such a claim. The
really important point was that if by any chance the claimant should
win, the Succession would be endangered.

The presiding judge was the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Cockburn. With
him sat Lord Chief Baron Pollock and the Judge Ordinary Sir James
Wilde. There was a special jury. The case took the form of one in the
English Probate Court made under the “Legitimacy Declaration Act.” In
this case, Mrs. Ryves, daughter of Mrs. Serres, was the petitioner.
Associated with her in the claim was her son, who, however, is of no
interest in the matter and need not be considered. The petition stated
that Mrs. Ryves was the legitimate daughter of one John Thomas Serres
and Olive his wife, the said Olive being, whilst living, a natural-born
subject and the legitimate daughter of Henry Frederick, Duke of
Cumberland and Olive Wilmot, his wife. That the said Olive Wilmot, born
in 1750, was lawfully married to His Royal Highness Henry Frederick,
Duke of Cumberland, fourth son of Frederick Prince of Wales (thus being
grandson of George II and brother of King George III), on 4 March 1767,
at the house of Thomas, Lord Archer, in Grosvenor Square, London, the
marriage being performed by the Rev. James Wilmot D. D., father of the
said Olive Wilmot. That a child, Olive, was born to them on 3 April
1772, who in 1791 was married to John Thomas Serres. And so on in
accordance with the (alleged) facts above given.

The strange position was that even if the petitioner should win her
main case she would prove her own illegitimacy. For granting that the
alleged Olive Serres should have been legally married to the Duke of
Cumberland, the Royal Marriage Act, passed five years later, forbade
the union of the child of such a marriage, except with the sanction of
the reigning monarch.

In the making of the claim of Mrs. Ryves a grave matter appeared--one
which rendered it absolutely necessary that the case should be heard
in the most formal and adequate way and settled once for all. The
matter was one affecting the legality of the marriage of George III,
and so touching the legitimacy of his son afterwards George IV, his son
afterwards William IV and his son the Duke of Kent, father of Queen
Victoria--and so debarring them and all their descendants from the
Crown of England. The points of contact were in documents insidiously
though not overtly produced and the preparation of which showed much
constructive skill in the world of fiction. Amongst the many documents
put in evidence by the Counsel for Mrs. Ryves were two certificates of
the (alleged) marriage between Olive Wilmot and the Duke of Cumberland.
On the back of each of these alleged certificates was written what
purported to be a certificate of the marriage of George III to Hannah
Lightfoot performed in 1759 by J. Wilmot. The wording of the documents
varied slightly.

It was thus that the claim of Mrs. Ryves and her son became linked
up with the present and future destinies of England. These alleged
documents too, brought the Attorney General upon the scene. There
were two reasons for this. Firstly the action had to be taken against
the Crown in the matter of form; secondly in such a case with the
possibility of such vast issues it was absolutely necessary that every
position should be carefully guarded, every allegation jealously
examined. In each case the Attorney General was the proper official to

The Case of the Petitioners was prepared with extraordinary care.
There were amongst the documents produced, numbering over seventy,
some containing amongst them forty-three signatures of Dr. Wilmot,
sixteen of Lord Chatham, twelve of Mr. Dunning (afterwards the 1st
Baron Ashburton), twelve of George III, thirty-two of Lord Warwick and
eighteen of H.R.H., the Duke of Kent, the father of Queen Victoria.
Their counsel stated that although these documents had been repeatedly
brought to the notice of the successive Ministers of the Crown, it had
never been suggested until that day that they were forgeries. This
latter statement was traversed in Court by the Lord Chief Baron, who
called attention to a debate on the subject in the House of Commons in
which they were denounced as forgeries.

In addition to those documents already quoted were the following

    “The marriage of these parties was this day duly solemnized at
    Kew Chapel, according to the rites and ceremonies of the Church
    of England, by myself.

            “J. Wilmot.”

      “George P.”

    Witness to this marriage

      “W. Pitt.”
      “Anne Taylor.”

            May 27, 1759.

       *       *       *       *       *

            April 17, 1759

    “This is to Certify that the marriage of these parties (George,
    Prince of Wales, to Hannah Lightfoot) was duly solemnized this
    day, according to the rites and ceremonies of the Church of
    England, at their residence at Peckham, by myself.

            “J. Wilmot.”

      “George Guelph.”
      “Hannah Lightfoot.”

    Witness to the marriage of these parties,--

  “William Pitt.”
  “Anne Taylor.”

       *       *       *       *       *

    “I hereby Certify that George, Prince of Wales, married Hannah
    Wheeler _alias_ Lightfoot, April 17, 1759, but from finding the
    latter to be her right name I solemnized the union of the said
    parties a second time May the 27th, 1759, as the Certificate
    affixed to this paper will confirm.

      “J. Wilmot.
      Witness (Torn)”

       *       *       *       *       *

The case for the Crown was strongly supported. Not only did the
Attorney-General, Sir Roundell Palmer (afterwards Lord Chancellor
and First Earl of Selborne) appear himself, but he was supported by
the Solicitor-General, the Queen’s Advocate, Mr. Hannen and Mr. R.
Bourke. The Attorney-General made the defence himself. At the outset
it was difficult to know where to begin, for everywhere undoubted and
unchallenged facts were interwoven with the structure of the case; and
of all the weaknesses and foibles of the important persons mentioned,
full advantage was taken. The marriage of the Duke of Gloucester to
Lady Waldegrave had made him unpopular in every way, and he was at the
time a _persona ingrata_ at Court. There had been rumours of scandal
about the King (when Prince of Wales) and the “Fair Quaker,” Hannah
Lightfoot. The anonymity of the author of the celebrated “Letters of
Junius,” which attacked the King so unmercifully, lent plausibility to
any story which might account for it. The case of Mrs. Ryves, tried
in 1861, in which her own legitimacy had been proved and in which
indisputable documents had been used, was taken as a proof of her _bona

Mrs. Ryves herself was in the box for nearly the whole of three days,
during which she bore herself firmly, refusing even to sit down when
the presiding judge courteously extended that privilege to her. She
was then, by her own statement, over seventy years of age. In the
course of her evidence a Memorial to George IV was produced, written
by her mother, Mrs. Serres, in which the word offspring was spelled
“orfspring”; in commenting on which the Attorney-General produced a
congratulatory Ode to the Prince Regent on his birthday in 1812, by the
same author, in which occurred the line:

“Hail valued heir orfspring of Heaven’s smile.” Similar eccentric
orthography was found in other autograph papers of Mrs. Serres.

The Attorney-General, in opposing the claim, alleged that the whole
story of the Duke of Cumberland’s marriage to Olive Wilmot was a
concoction from beginning to end, and said that the mere statement of
the Petitioner’s case was sufficient to stamp its true character. That
its folly and absurdity were equal to its audacity; in every stage
it exposed itself to conviction by the simplest tests. He added that
the Petitioner might have dwelt so long upon documents produced and
fabricated by others, that, with her memory impaired by old age, the
principle of veracity might have been poisoned, and the offices of
imagination and memory confounded to such an extent that she really
believed that things had been done and said in her presence which were
in fact entirely imaginary. No part of her story was corroborated
by a single authentic document, or by a single extrinsic fact. The
forgery, falsehood and fraud of the case were proved in many ways. The
explanations were as false and feeble as the story itself. “I cannot
of course,” he said, “lay bare the whole history of the concoction
of these extraordinary documents, but there are circumstances which
indicate that they were concocted by Mrs. Serres herself.”

Having commented on some other matters spoken of, but regarding which
no evidence was adduced, he proceeded to speak of the alleged wife of
Joseph Wilmot D. D., the Polish Princess, sister of Count Poniatowski,
afterwards elected King of Poland (1764), who was the mother of his
charming daughter, Olive. “The truth is,” said Sir Roundell, “that
both the Polish Princess and the charming daughter were pure myths;
no such persons ever existed--they were as entirely creatures of the
imagination as Shakespeare’s Ferdinand and Miranda.”

As to the documents produced by the Petitioners he remarked:

    “What sort of documents were those which were produced? The
    internal evidence proved that they were the most ridiculous,
    absurd, preposterous series of forgeries that the perverted
    ingenuity of man ever invented ... they were all written on
    little scraps and slips of paper, such as no human being would
    ever have used for the purpose of recording transactions of this
    kind, and it would be proved that in every one of these pieces of
    paper the watermark of date was wanting.”

This was but a new variant of the remark made by the Lord Chief
Justice, just after the putting-in of the alleged marriage Certificate
of the Prince of Wales and Hannah Lightfoot:

    “The Court is, as I understand, asked solemnly to declare, on the
    strength of two certificates, coming I know not whence, written
    on two scraps of paper, that the marriage, the only marriage of
    George III which the world believes to have taken place, between
    His Majesty and Queen Charlotte, was an invalid marriage, and
    consequently that all the Sovereigns who have sat on the throne
    since his death, including Her present Majesty, were not entitled
    to sit on the throne. That is the conclusion which the Court is
    asked to come to upon these two rubbishy pieces of paper, one
    signed ‘George P.,’ and the other ‘George Guelph.’ I believe them
    to be gross and rank forgeries. The Court has no difficulty in
    coming to the conclusion, even assuming that the signatures had
    that character of genuineness which they have not, that what is
    asserted in these documents has not the slightest foundation in

With this view the Lord Chief Baron and the Judge-Ordinary entirely
concurred, the former adding:

    “... the declarations of Hannah Lightfoot, if there ever was such
    a person, cannot be received in evidence on the faith of these
    documents ... the only issues for the jury are the issues in the
    cause and this is not an issue in the cause, but an incidental
    issue.... I think that these documents, which the Lord Chief
    Justice has treated with all the respect which properly belongs
    to them, are not genuine.”

Before the Attorney General had finished the statement of his case, he
was interrupted by the foreman of the jury, who said that the jury were
unanimously of opinion that there was no necessity to hear any further
evidence as they were convinced that the signatures of the documents
were not genuine. On this the Lord Chief Justice said:

    “You share the opinion which my learned brothers and I have
    entertained for a long time; that every one of the documents is

As the Counsel for the Petitioners had “felt it his duty to make some
observations to the jury before they delivered their verdict,” and had
made them, the Lord Chief Justice summed up. Towards the conclusion of
his summing-up he said, in speaking of the various conflicting stories
put forth by Mrs. Serres:

    “In each of the claims which she made at different times, she
    appealed to documents in her possession by which they were
    supported. What was the irresistible inference? Why, that
    documents were from time to time prepared to meet the form which
    her claims from time to time assumed.”

The jury, without hesitation, found that they were not satisfied “that
Olive Serres, the mother of Mrs. Ryves, was the legitimate daughter of
Henry Frederick Duke of Cumberland and Olive his wife; and they were
not satisfied that Henry Frederick, Duke of Cumberland, was lawfully
married to Olive Wilmot on the 4th of March 1767....”

The case of Mrs. Serres is an instance of how a person, otherwise
comparatively harmless but afflicted with vanity and egotism, may be
led away into evil courses, from which, had she realised their full
iniquity, she might have shrunk. The only thing outside the case we
have been considering, was that she separated from her husband; which
indeed was an affliction rather than a crime. She had been married
for thirteen years and had borne two children, but so far as we know
no impropriety was ever alleged against her. One of her daughters
remained her constant companion till her twenty-second year and through
her long life held her and her memory in filial devotion and respect.
The forethought, labour and invention which she devoted to the fraud,
if properly and honestly used, might have won for her a noteworthy
place in the history of her time. But as it was, she frittered away in
criminal work her good opportunities and great talents, and ended her
life within the rules of the King’s Bench.



I feel that I ought to begin this record with an apology to the _manes_
of a great and fearless scholar, as earnest as he was honest, as
open-minded as he was great-hearted. I do so because I wish to do what
an unimportant man can after the lapse of centuries, to help a younger
generation to understand what such a man as I write of can do and did
under circumstances not possible in times of greater enlightenment.
The lesson which the story can tell to thinking youth cannot be told
in vain. The greatest asset which worth has in this world is the
irony of time. Contemporaneous opinion, though often correct, is
generally on the meagre side of appreciation--practically always so
with regard to anything new. Such must in any case be encountered in
matters of the sixteenth century which being on the further side of
an age of discovery and reform had hardened almost to the stage of
ossification the beliefs and methods of the outgoing order of things.
Prejudice--especially when it is based on science and religion--dies
hard: the very spirit whence originates a stage of progress or reform,
makes its inherited follower tenacious of _its_ traditions however
short they may be. This is why any who, in this later and more open
minded age, may investigate the intellectual discoveries of the past,
owe a special debt in the way of justice to the memories of those to
whom such fresh light is due. The name and story of the individual
known as Paracelsus--scholar, scientist, open minded thinker and
teacher, earnest investigator and searcher for elemental truths--is
a case in point. Anyone who contents himself with accepting the
judgment of four centuries passed upon the great Swiss thinker, who
had rendered famous in history his place of birth, his canton and his
nation, would inevitably come to the conclusion that he was merely a
charlatan a little more clever than others of his kind; an acceptor of
all manner of eccentric beliefs (including the efficacy of spirits and
demons in pathological cases), a drunkard, a wastrel, an evil liver,
a practiser of necromancy, an astrologer, a magician, an atheist,
an alchemist--indeed an “ist” of all defamatory kinds within the
terminology of the sixteenth century and of all disputatious churchmen
and scientists who have not agreed with his theories and conclusions
ever since.

Let us begin with the facts of his life. His name was Theophrastus
Bombast von Hohenheim, and he was the son of a doctor living in
Einsiedeln in the canton of Schwyz, named Wilhelm Bombast von
Hohenheim, natural son of a Grand Master of the Teutonic Order. He
was born in 1490. It was not uncommon for a man of that age who was
striving to make a name for himself, to assume some _nom de plume_
or _de guerre_; and with such a family record as his own, it was no
wonder that on the threshold of his life the young Theophrastus did so.
In the light of his later achievements, we can well imagine that he
had some definite purpose in mind, or at least some guiding principle
of suggestiveness, in choosing such a compound word from the Greek
as Paracelsus (which is derived from “para,” meaning before, in the
sense of superior to, and Celsus, the name of an Epicurean philosopher
of the second century.) Celsus appears to have had views of great
enlightenment according to the thought of his own time. Unhappily only
fragments of his work remain, but as he was a follower of Epicurus
after an interval of between four and five centuries, it is possible
to get some idea of his main propositions. Like Epicurus he stood for
nature. He did not believe in fatalism, but he did in a supreme power.
He was a Platonist and held that there was no truth which was against
nature. It is easy to see from his life and work that Theophrastus
Bombast von Hohenheim shared his views. His intellectual attitude
was that of a true scientist--denying nothing _prima facie_ but
investigating all.

    “There lives more faith in honest doubt,
    Believe me, than in half the creeds.”

His father moved in 1502 to Villach in Carinthia, where he practised
medicine till his death in 1534. Theophrastus was a precocious boy;
after youthful study with his father, he entered the University of
Basel when he was about sixteen, after which he prosecuted chemical
researches under the learned Trithemius Bishop of Sponheim who had
written on the subject of the Great elixir--the common subject
of the scientists of that day,--and at Wurzburg. From thence he
proceeded to the great mines in the Tyrol, then belonging to the
Fugger family. Here he studied geology and its kindred branches of
learning--especially those dealing with effects and so far as possible
with causes--metallurgy, mineral waters, and the diseases of and
accidents to mines and miners. The theory of knowledge which he deduced
from these studies was that we must learn nature from nature.

In 1527, he returned to Basel, where he was appointed town physician.
It was a characteristic of his independence and of his mind, method
and design, that he lectured in the language of the place, German,
foregoing the Latin tongue, usual up to that time for such teaching.
He did not shrink from a bold criticism of the medical ideas and
methods then current. The effect of this independence and teaching was
that for a couple of years his reputation and his practice increased
wonderfully. But the time thus passed allowed his enemies not only
to see the danger for them that lay ahead, but to take such action
as they could to obviate it. Reactionary forces are generally--if
not always--self-protective, without regard to the right or wrong
of the matter, and Paracelsus began to find that the self-interest
and ignorance of the many were too strong for him, and that their
unscrupulous attacks began to injure his work seriously. He was called
conjurer, necromancer, and many such terms of obloquy. Then what we may
call his “professional” enemies felt themselves strong enough to join
in the attack. As he had kept a careful eye on the purity of medicines
in use, the apothecaries, who, in those days worked in a smaller field
than now, and who found their commerce more productive through guile
than excellence, became almost declared opponents. Eventually he had to
leave Basel. He went to Esslingen, from which however he had to retire
at no distant period from sheer want.

Then began a period of wandering which really lasted for the last dozen
years of his life. This time was mainly one of learning in many ways
of many things. The ground he covered must have been immense, for he
visited Colmar, Nurnberg, Appengall, Zurich, Augsburg, Middelheim,
and travelled in Prussia, Austria, Hungary, Egypt, Turkey, Russia,
Tartary, Italy, the Low Countries and Denmark. In Germany and Hungary
he had a bad time, being driven to supply even the bare necessaries of
life by odd--any--means, even to availing himself of the credulity
of others--casting nativities, telling fortunes, prescribing remedies
for animals of the farm such as cows and pigs, and recovering stolen
property; such a life indeed as was the lot of a mediæval “tramp.” On
the other hand, as a contra he did worthy work as a military surgeon
in Italy, the Low Countries and Denmark. When he got tired of his
wandering life, he settled down in Salsburg, in 1541, under the care
and protection of the Archbishop Ernst. But he did not long survive
the prospect of rest; he died later in the same year. The cause of his
death is not known with any certainty, but we can guess that he had
clamorous enemies as well as strong upholding from the conflicting
causes given. Some said that he died from the effects of a protracted
debauch, others that he was murdered by physicians and apothecaries, or
their agents, who had thrown him over a cliff. In proof of this story
it was said that the surgeons had found a flaw or fracture in his skull
which must have been produced during life.

He was buried in the churchyard of Saint Sebastian; but two centuries
later, 1752, his bones were moved to the porch of the church, and a
monument erected over them.

His first book was printed in Augsburg in 1526. His real monument
was the collection of his complete writings so far as was possible,
the long work of Johann Huser made in 1589-91. This great work was
published in German, from printed copy supplemented by such manuscript
as could be discovered. Then and ever since there has been a perpetual
rain of statements against him and his beliefs. Most of them are too
silly for words; but it is a little disconcerting to find one writer of
some distinction repeating so late as 1856 all the malignant twaddle
of three centuries, saying amongst other things that he believed in
the transmutation of metals and the possibility of an _elixir vitæ_,
that he boasted of having spirits at his command, one of which he
kept imprisoned in the hilt of his sword and another in a jewel; that
he could make any one live forever; that he was proud to be called a
magician; and had boasted of having a regular correspondence with Galen
in Hell. We read in sensational journals and magazines of to-day about
certain living persons having--or saying that they have--communion in
the shape of “interviews” with the dead; but this is too busy an age
for unnecessary contradictions and so such assertions are allowed to
pass. The same indifference may now and again have been exhibited in
the case of men like Paracelsus.

Some things said of him may be accepted as being partially true, for
his was an age of mysticism, occultism, astrology, and all manner of
strange and weird beliefs. For instance it is alleged that he held that
life is an emanation from the stars; that the sun governed the heart,
the moon the brain, Jupiter the liver, Saturn the gall, Mercury the
lungs, Mars the bile, Venus the loins; that in each stomach is a demon,
that the belly is the grand laboratory where all the ingredients are
apportioned and mixed; and that gold could cure ossification of the

Is it any wonder that when in this age after centuries of progress such
absurd things are current Paracelsus is shewn in contemporary and later
portraits with a jewel in his hand transcribed Azoth--the name given to
his familiar dæmon.

Those who repeat _ad nauseam_ the absurd stories of his alchemy
generally omit to mention his genuine discoveries and to tell of the
wide scope of his teaching. That he used mercury and opium for healing
purposes at a time when they were condemned; that he did all he could
to stop the practice of administering the vile electuaries of the
mediæval pharmacopœia; that he was one of the first to use laudanum;
that he perpetually held--to his own detriment--that medical science
should not be secret; that he blamed strongly the fashion of his time
of accounting for natural phenomena by the intervention of spirits or
occult forces; that he deprecated astrology; that he insisted on the
proper investigation of the properties of drugs and that they should be
used more simply and in smaller doses. To these benefits and reforms
his enemies answered that he had made a pact with the devil. For reward
of his labours, his genius, his fearless struggle for human good he
had--with the exception of a few spells of prosperity--only penury,
want, malicious ill-fame and ceaseless attacks by the professors of
religion and science. He was an original investigator of open mind,
of great ability and application, and absolutely fearless. He was
centuries ahead of his time. We can all feel grateful to that French
writer who said:

    “Tels sont les services eminents que Paracelse a rendu à
    l’humanité souffrante, pour laquelle il montra toujours le
    dévouement le plus désintéressé; s’il en fut mal recompensé
    pendant sa vie que sa mémoire au moins soit honorée.”


The individual known to history as Comte Cagliostro, or more familiarly
as Cagliostro, was of the family name of Balsamo and was received into
the Church under the saintly name of Joseph. The familiarity of history
is an appanage of greatness in some form. Greatness is in no sense a
quality of worth or morality. It simply points to publicity, and if
unsuccessful, to infamy. Joseph Balsamo was of poor parentage in the
town of Palermo, Sicily, and was born in 1743. In his youth he did
not exhibit any talent whatever, such volcanic forces as he had being
entirely used in wickedness--base, purposeless, sordid wickedness,
from which devolved no benefit to any one--even to the criminal
instigator. In order to achieve greatness, or publicity, in any form,
some remarkable quality is necessary; Joseph Balsamo’s claim was based
not on isolated qualities but on a union of many. In fact he appears to
have had every necessary ingredient for this kind of success--except
one, courage. In his case however, the lacking ingredient in the
preparation of his hell-broth was supplied by luck; though such luck
had to be paid for at the devil’s usual price--failure at the last.
His biographers put his leading characteristics in rather a negative
than a positive way--“indolent and unruly”; but as time went on the
evil became more marked--even _ferae naturae_, poisonous growths,
and miasmatic conditions have to manifest themselves or to cease to
prevail. In the interval between young boyhood and coming manhood,
Balsamo’s nature--such as it was--began to develop, unscrupulousness
working on an imaginative basis being always a leading characteristic.
The unruly boy shewed powers of becoming an unruly man, fear being the
only restraining force; and indolence giving way to wickedness. When
he was about fifteen he was sent to a monastery to learn chemistry and
pharmacy. The boy who had manifested a tendency to “grow downwards”
found the beginning of a kind of success in these studies in which,
to the surprise of all, he exhibited a form of aptitude. Chemistry
has certain charms to a mind like his, for in its working are many
strange surprises and lurid effects not unattended with entrancing
fears. These he used before long to his own pleasure in the concern
of others. When he was expelled from the religious house he led a
dissolute and criminal life in Palermo. Amongst other wickednesses he
robbed his uncle and forged his will. Here too, he committed a crime,
not devoid of a certain humorous aspect, but which had a reflex action
on his own life. Under promise of revealing a hidden treasure, he
persuaded a goldworker, one Morano, to give him custody of a quantity
of his wares. It was what, in criminal slang is called “a put-up job,”
and was worked by a gang of young thieves with Balsamo at their head.
Having filled the soft head of the foolish goldsmith with ideas to
suit his purpose, Joseph brought him on a treasure hunt into a cave
where he was shortly surrounded by the gang dressed as fiends, who,
in the victim’s paralysis of fear, robbed him at their ease of some
sixty ounces of gold. Morano, as might have been expected, was not
satisfied with the proceedings and vowed vengeance which he tried to
effect later. Balsamo’s pusillanimity worked hand in hand with Morano’s
vindictiveness, to the effect that the culprit incontinently absconded
from his native town. He conferred the benefit of his presence on
Messina where he was naturally attracted to a noted alchemist called
Althotas, to whom he became a sort of disciple. Althotas was a man
of great learning, according to the measure of that time and his own
occupation. He was skilled in Eastern tongues and an adept occultist.
It was said that he had actually visited Mecca and Medina in the
disguise of an Oriental prince. Having attached himself to Althotas,
Cagliostro went with him to Malta where he persuaded the Grand Master
of the Knights to supply them with a laboratory for the manufacture of
gold, and also with letters of introduction which he afterwards used
with much benefit to himself.

[Illustration: CAGLIOSTRO]

From Malta he went to Rome where he employed himself in forging
engravings. Like other criminals, great and small, Comte Alessandro
Cagliostro--as he had now become by his own creation of nobility--had
a faculty of working hard and intelligently so long as the end he
aimed at was to be accomplished by crooked means. Work in the ordinary
ways of honesty he loathed and shunned; but work as a help to his
nefarious schemes seemed to be a joy to him. Then he set himself up as
a wonder-worker, improving as he went on all the customs and tricks
of that calling. He sold an elixir which he said had all the potency
usually attributed to such compounds but with an added efficacy all its
own. He pretended to be able to transmute metals and to make himself
invisible; indeed to perform all the wonders of the alchemist, the
“cheap jack,” and the charlatan. At Rome he became acquainted with
and married a very beautiful woman, Lorenza de Feliciani, daughter of
a lacemaker, round whom later biographers weave romances. According
to contemporary accounts she seems to have been dowered with just
such qualities as were useful in such a life as she had entered on.
In addition to great and unusual beauty she was graceful, passionate,
seductive, clever, plausible, soothing, and attractive in all ways dear
and convincing to men. She must have had some winning charm which
has lasted beyond her time, for a hundred years afterwards we find
so level-headed a writer as Dr. Charles Mackay crediting her, quite
unwarrantably with, amongst other good qualities, being a faithful
wife. Her life certainly after her marriage was such that faithfulness
in any form was one of the last things to expect in her. Her husband
was nothing less than a swindler of a protean kind. He had had a great
number of aliases before he finally fixed on Comte de Cagliostro as
a _nomme de guerre_. He called himself successively Chevalier de
Fischio, Marquis de Melina (or Melissa), Marquis de Pellegrini, Comte
de Saint-German, Baron de Belmonte; together with such names as Fenix,
Anna, Harat. He wrote a work somewhat of the nature of a novel called
_Le Grand Cophte_--which he found useful later when he was pushing his
scheme of a sort of new Freemasonry. After his marriage he visited
several countries, Egypt, Arabia, Persia, Poland, Russia, Greece,
Germany; as well as such towns as Naples, Palermo, Rhodes, Strasbourg,
Paris, London, Lisbon, Vienna, Venice, Madrid, Brussels--in fact any
place where many fools were crowded into a small space. In many of
these he found use for the introductory letters of the Grand Master
of the Knights of Malta, as well as those of other dupes from whom it
was his habit to secure such letters before the inevitable crash came.
Wherever he travelled he was accustomed to learn all he could of the
manners, customs and facts of each place he was in, thus accumulating
a vast stock of a certain form of knowledge which he found most useful
in his chosen occupation--deceit. With regard to the last he utilised
every form of human credulity which came under his notice. The latter
half of the eighteenth century was the very chosen time of strange
beliefs. Occultism became a fashion, especially amongst the richer
classes, with the result that every form of swindle came to the fore.
At this time Cagliostro, then nearing his fortieth year, began to have
a widespread reputation for marvellous cures. As mysticism in all sorts
of forms had a vogue, he used all the tricks of the cult, gathering
them from various countries, especially France and Germany, where the
fashion was pronounced. For this trickery he used all his knowledge of
the East and all the picturesque aids to credulity which he had picked
up during his years of wandering; and for his “patter,” such medical
terminology as he had learned--he either became a doctor or invented
a title for himself. This he interlarded with scraps of various forms
of fraudulent occultism and all sorts of suggestive images of eastern
quasi-religious profligacy. He took much of the imagery which he used
in his rituals of fraud from records of ancient Egypt. This was a
pretty safe ground for his purpose, for in his time the Egypt of the
past was a sealed book. It was only in 1799 that the Rosetta stone
was discovered, and more than ten years from then before Dr. Young was
able to translate its three inscriptions--Hieroglyphic Demotic and
Greek--whence Hieroglyphic knowledge had its source. _Omne ignotum
pro magnifico_ might well serve as a motto for all occultism, true
or false. Cagliostro, whose business it was to deceive and mislead,
understood this and took care that in his cabalistic forms Egyptian
signs were largely mixed with the pentagon, the signs of the Zodiac,
and other mysterious symbols in common use. His object was primarily
to catch the eye and so arrest the intelligence of any whom he wished
to impress. For this purpose he went about gorgeously dressed and with
impressive appointments. In Germany for instance he always drove in
a carriage with four horses with courier and equerries in striking
liveries. Happily there is extant a pen picture of him by Comte de
Beugnot who met him in Paris at the house of the Comtesse de la Motte:

    “of medium height and fairly fat, of olive colour, with short
    neck and round face, big protruberant eyes, a snub nose with open

This gives of him anything but an attractive picture; but yet M. de
Beugnot says: “he made an impression on women whenever he came into a
room.” Perhaps his clothing helped, for it was not of a commonplace
kind. De Beugnot who was manifestly a careful and intelligent observer
again comes to our aid with his pen:

    “He wore a coiffure new in France; his hair parted in several
    little cadenottes (queues or tresses) uniting at the back of the
    head in the form known as a ‘catogan’ (hair clubbed or bunched).
    A dress, French fashion, of iron grey, laced with gold, scarlet
    waistcoat broidered with bold _point de spain_, red breeches, a
    basket-hilted sword and a hat with white plumes!”

Aided by these adjuncts he was a great success in Paris whither he
returned in 1785. As an impostor he knew his business and played “the
game” well. When he was at work he brought to bear the influence of all
his “properties,” amongst them a tablecloth embroidered with cabalistic
signs in scarlet and the symbols of the Rosy Cross of high degree; the
same mysterious emblems marked the globe without which no wizard’s
atelier is complete.

Here too were various little Egyptian figures--“ushabtui” he would
doubtless have called them had the word been in use in his day. From
these he kept his dupes at a distance, guarding carefully against
any discovery. He evidently did not fear to hurt the religious
susceptibilities of any of his votaries, for not only were the crucifix
and other emblems of the kind placed amongst the curios of his ritual,
but he made his invocation in the form of a religious ceremony, going
down on his knees and in all ways cultivating the emotions of those
round him. He was aided by a young woman whom he described as pure
as an angel and of great sensibility. The said young person kept
her blue eyes fixed on a globe full of water. Then he proceeded to
expound the Great Secret which he told his hearers had been the same
since the beginning of things and whose mystery had been guarded by
Templars of the Rosy Cross, by Magicians, by Egyptians and the like.
He had claimed, as the Comte Saint-German said, that he had already
existed for many centuries; that he was a contemporary of Christ; and
that he had predicted His crucifixion by the Jews. As statements of
this kind were made mainly for the purpose of selling the elixir which
he peddled, it may easily be imagined that he did not shrink from
lying or blasphemy when such seemed to suit his purpose. Daring and
recklessness in his statements seemed to further his business success,
so prophecy--or rather boastings of prophecy _after the event_--became
part of the great fraud. Amongst other things he said that he had
predicted the taking of the Bastille. Such things shed a little light
on the methods of such impostors, and help to lay bare the roots or
principles through which they flourish.

After his Parisian success he made a prolonged tour in France. In la
Vendée he boasted of some fresh miracle--of his own doing--on each day;
and at Lyons the boasting was repeated. Of course he occasionally had
bad times, for now and again even the demons on whose acquaintance and
help he prided himself did not work. In London after 1772, things had
become so bad with him that he had to work as a house painter under
his own name. Whatever may have been his skill in his art this was
probably about the only honest work he ever did. He did not stick to
it for long however, for four years afterwards he lost three thousand
pounds by frauds of others by whom he was introduced to fictitious
lords and ladies. Here too he underwent a term of imprisonment for debt.

Naturally such an impostor found in Freemasonry, which is a secret
cult, a way of furthering his ends. With the aid of his wife, who all
through their life together seems to have worked with him, he founded a
new branch of freemasonry in which a good many rules of that wonderful
organisation were set at defiance. As the purpose of the new cult was
to defraud, its net was enlarged by taking women into the body. The
name used for it was the _Grand Egyptian Lodge_--he being himself the
head of it under the title of the _Cophte_ and his wife the _Grand
Priestess_. In the ritual were some appalling ceremonies, and as these
made eventually for profitable publicity, the scheme was a great
success--and the elixir sold well. This elixir was the backbone of
his revenue; and indeed it would have been well worthy of success if
it had been all that he claimed for it. Dispensers of elixirs are not
usually backward in proclaiming the virtues of their wares; but in his
various settings forth Cagliostro went further than others. He claimed
not only to restore youth and health and to make them perpetual,
but to restore lost innocence and effect a whole moral regeneration.
No wonder that he achieved success and that money rolled in! And no
wonder that women, especially of the upper classes, followed him like
a flock of sheep! No wonder that a class rich, idle, pleasure-loving,
and fond of tasting and testing new sensations, found thrilling moments
in the great impostor’s mélange of mystery, religion, fear, and hope;
of spirit-rapping and a sort of “black mass” in which Christianity
and Paganism mingled freely, and where life and death, good and evil,
whirled together in a maddening dance.

It was not, however, through his alleged sorcery that Cagliostro crept
into a place in history; but by the association of his name with a
sordid crime which involved the names of some of the great ones of the
earth. The story of the Queen’s Necklace, though he was acquitted at
the trial which concluded it, will be remembered when the vapourings
of the unscrupulous quack who had escaped a thousand penalties justly
earned, have been long forgotten. Such is the irony of history! The
story of the necklace involved Marie Antoinette, Cardinal Prince de
Rohan, Comte de la Motte--an officer of the private guard of “Monsieur”
(the Comte d’Artois), his wife Jeanne de Valois, descended from Henry
II through Saint-Remy, his natural son and Nicole de Savigny. Louis XV
had ordered from MM. Boemer et Bassange, jewellers to the Court of
France, a beautiful necklace of extraordinary value for his mistress
Madame du Barry, but died before it was completed. The du Barry was
exiled by his successor, so the necklace remained on the hands of its
makers. It was, however, of so great intrinsic value that they could
not easily find a purchaser. They offered it to Marie Antoinette for
one million eight hundred thousand livres; but the price was too
high even for a queen, and the necklace remained on hand. So Boemer
showed it to Madame de la Motte and offered to give a commission on
the sale to whoever should find a buyer. She induced her husband,
Comte de la Motte, to join with her in a plot to accomplish the sale.
De la Motte was a friend of Cagliostro, and he too was brought in as
he had influence with the Cardinal Prince de Rohan whom they looked
on as a likely person to be of service. He had his own ambitions to
acquire influence over the queen and use her for political purposes as
Mazarin had used Anne of Austria. De Rohan was then a man of fifty--not
considered much of an age in these days, but the Cardinal’s life had
not made for comparative longevity. He was in fact something of that
class of fool which has no peer in folly--an old fool; and Jeanne
de la Motte fooled him to the top of his bent. She pretended to him
that Marie Antoinette was especially friendly to her, and shewed him
letters from the queen to herself all of which had been forged for the
purpose. As at this time Madame de la Motte had borrowed or otherwise
obtained from the Cardinal a hundred and twenty thousand livres, she
felt assured he could be used for the contemplated fraud. She probably
had not ever even spoken to the queen but she was not scrupulous in
such a small matter as one more untruth. She finally persuaded him that
Marie Antoinette wished to purchase the necklace through his agency, he
acting for her and buying it in her name. To aid in the scheme she got
her pet forger, Retaux de Vilette, to prepare a receipt signed “Marie
Antoinette de France.” The Cardinal fell into the trap and obtained
the jewel, giving to Boemer four bills due successively at intervals
of six months. At Versailles de Rohan gave the casket containing the
necklace to Madame de la Motte, who in his presence handed it to a
valet of the royal household for conveyance to the queen. The valet
was none other than the forger Retaux de Vilette. Madame de la Motte
sent to the Cardinal a letter by the same forger asking him to meet her
(the queen) in the shrubbery at Versailles between eleven o’clock and
midnight. To complete the deception a girl was procured, one Olivia,
who in figure resembled the queen sufficiently to pass for her in the
dusk. The meeting between de Rohan and the alleged queen was held at
the Baths of Apollo--to the deception and temporary satisfaction of the
ambitious churchman. When the first instalment for the purchase of the
necklace was due, Boemer tried to find out if the queen really had
possession of the necklace--which had in the meanwhile been brought to
London, it was said, by Comte de la Motte. As Boemer could not manage
to get an audience with the queen he came to the conclusion that he
had been robbed, and made the matter public. This was reported to
M. de Breteuil, Master of the King’s household, and an enemy of de
Rohan. De Breteuil saw the queen secretly and they agreed to act in
concert in the matter. Louis XVI asked for details of the purchase
from Boemer, who told the truth so far as he knew it, producing as a
proof the alleged receipt of the queen. Louis pointed out to him that
he should have known that the queen did not sign after the manner of
the document. He then asked de Rohan, who was Grand Almoner of France,
for his written justification. This being supplied, he had him arrested
and sent to the Bastille. Madame de la Motte accused Cagliostro of the
crime, alleging that he had persuaded de Rohan to buy the necklace. She
was also arrested as were Retaux de Vilette, and, later on at Brussels,
Olivia, who threw some light on the fraud. The King brought the whole
matter before Parliament, which ordered a prosecution. As the result of
the trial which followed, Comte de la Motte and Retaux de Vilette were
banished for life; Jeanne de la Motte was condemned to make _amende
honourable_, to be whipped and branded with V on both shoulders, and
to be imprisoned for life. Olivia and Cagliostro were acquitted. The
Cardinal was cleared of all charges. Nothing seems to have been done
for the poor jewellers, who, after all, had received more substantial
injury than any of the others, having lost nearly two million livres.

After the affair of the Necklace, Cagliostro spent a time in the
Bastille and when free, after some months, he and his wife travelled
again in Europe. In 1789 he was arrested at Rome by order of the
Inquisition and condemned to death as a Freemason. The punishment was
later commuted to perpetual imprisonment. He ended his days in the
Château de Saint-Leon near Rome. His wife was condemned to perpetual
seclusion and died in the Convent of Sainte-Appolive.


Although Frederic-Antoine Mesmer made an astonishing discovery which,
having been tested and employed in therapeutics for a century, is
accepted as a contribution to science, he is included in the list of
impostors because, however sound his theory was, he used it in the
manner or surrounded with the atmosphere of imposture. Indeed the
implement which he used in his practice, and which made him famous in
fashionable and idle society, was set forth as having magic properties.
He belonged to the same period as Cagliostro, having been born but nine
years before him, in 1734, in Itzmang, Suabia; but the impostor pure
and simple easily picked up the difference by beginning his life-work
earlier and following it quicker with regard to results. Mesmer was not
in any sense a precocious person. He was thirty-two years of age when
he took his degree of Doctor of Medicine at Vienna in 1765. However
he had already chosen his subject, animal magnetism as allied with
medical therapeutics. His early script under the title _De planetarum
influxi_ is looked on as a legal reminiscence of judicial astronomy. He
left Vienna because, he said, of a cabal against him, and travelled
in Europe, particularly in Switzerland, before he went to Paris to
seek his fortune. This was in 1778, when he was some forty-four years
of age; his reputation, which had been growing all the time, preceded
him. He was then a man of fine appearance, tall and important-looking
and conveying a sense of calm power. He produced much sensation and was
at once credited--not without his own will or intention--with magic
power. He posed as a benefactor of humanity; a position which was at
once conceded to him, partly owing to the fact that an extraordinary
atmosphere of calm seemed to surround him, which with his natural
air of assurance founded on self-belief, was able to convey to his
patients a sense of hope which was of course very helpful in cases of
nervous failure and depression. He settled in the Hotel Bouret near the
Place Vendôme and so in the heart of Paris; and at once undertook the
treatment of patients hitherto deemed incurable. Fashion took up the
new medical “craze” or “sensation,” and he at once became the vogue.
It was at this time of his life that Mesmer came to the parting of
the ways between earnest science and charlatanism. So far as we know
he still remained earnest in his scientific belief--as indeed he was
till the end of his days. Inasmuch as fashion requires some concrete
expression of its fancies, Mesmer soon used the picturesque side of
his brain for the service of fashionable success. So he invented an
appliance which soon became the talk of the town. This was the famous
_baquet magique_ or magic tub, a sort of covered bath, round which his
patients were arranged in tiers. To the bath were attached a number
of tubes, each of which was held by a patient, who could touch with
the end of it any part of his or her body at will. After a while the
patients began to get excited, and many of them went into convulsions.
Amongst them walked Mesmer, clad in an imposing dress suggestive of
mystery and carrying a long wand of alleged magic power; often calming
those who had already reached the stage of being actually convulsed.
His usual method of producing something of the same effect at private
séances, was by holding the hand of the patient, touching the forehead
and making “passes” with the open hand with fingers spread out, and by
crossing and uncrossing his arms with great rapidity.

A well-attended séance must have been a curious and not altogether
pleasant experience even to a wholesome spectator in full possession
of his natural faculties. The whole surroundings of the place
together with the previously cultured belief; the dusk and mystery;
the “mysterious sympathy of numbers”--as Dean Farrar called it; the
spasmodic snapping of the cords of tensity which took away all traces
of reserve or reticence from the men and women present; the vague
terror of the unknown, that mysterious apprehension which is so potent
with the nerves of weak or imaginative people; and, it may be, the
slipping of the dogs of conscience--all these combined to wreck the
moral and mental stability of those present, most of whom it must be
remembered were actually ill, or imagined themselves to be so, which
came practically to the same thing. The psychical emotion was all very
well in the world of pleasure; but these creatures became physically
sick through nervous strain. As described by the historian, they
expectorated freely a viscous fluid, and their sickness passed into
convulsions more or less violent; the women naturally succumbing more
readily and more quickly than the men. This absolute collapse--half
epileptic, half hysterical--lasted varying periods according to the
influence exercised by the presence of the calm, self-reliant operator.
We of a later age, when electric force has been satisfactorily
harnessed and when magnetism as a separate power is better understood,
may find it hard to understand that the most advanced and daring
scientists of the time--to whom Frederic-Antoine Mesmer was at least
allied--were satisfied that magnetism and electricity were variants
of the same mysterious force or power. It was on this theory that he
seems to have worked his main idea to practical effect. The base of his
system was animal magnetism, which could be superinduced or aided by
mechanical appliances. He did not deceive himself into believing that
he had invented the idea but was quite willing to make the utmost use
he could of the discoveries and inventions of others. So far as we can
gather his intentions from his acts, the main object in his scientific
work was to simplify the processes of turning emotion into effect.
Magnetism had already been largely studied, and means were being
constantly sought for increasing its efficacy. Father Hehl had brought
to a point of accepted perfection the manufacture of metal plates
used in magnetic development, and these Mesmer used, with the result
that a violent controversy took place between them. So far as we can
follow after the lapse of time, Mesmer was consistent in his theories
and their application. He held that the principle was one of planetary
influence on the nervous system, and its manifestation was by a process
of alternate intension and remission. It is possible that Mesmer--who
held that the heavenly bodies floated in a limitless magnetic fluid and
that he could make all substances, even such things as bread or dogs
magnetic--had in his mind the wisdom of following the same theory in
matters of lesser significance, though of more individual import, than
those of astronomy and its correlated sciences. If so he was wise in
his generation, for later electricians have found that the system of
alternating currents especially at high tension, is of vast practical
importance. That he was practical in his use of the ideas of others
is shown by the fact that he preferred the metallic plates of Father
Hehl to his own passes, even though the report of the Royal Commission
ruined him--at any rate checked his success, by stating that similar
effects to those attending his passes could be produced by other
means, and that such passes had no effect unless through the patient’s
knowledge; in fact that it was all the work of imagination. Mesmer had
been asked to appear before the Commission of the Faculty of Medicine
appointed in 1784 to investigate and report, but he kept away. It would
not have injured any man to have appeared before such a commission if
his cause had been a good one. There were two such commissions. The
first was of the leading physicians of Paris, and included such men
as Benjamin Franklin, Lavoisier, the great chemist, and Bailly, the
historian of astronomy.

It was distinctly to his disadvantage that Mesmer always kept at a
distance the whole corps of savants such as the Faculty of Medicine
and the Academy of Sciences--for they would no doubt have accepted
his views, visionary though they were, if he could have shown any
scientific base for them. True medical science has always been
suspicious of, and cautious regarding, empiricism. More than once he
stood in his own light in this matter--whether through obstinacy or
doubt of his own theory does not matter. For instance, in Vienna,
when his very existence as a scientist was at stake in the matter of
the effects of his treatment of Mademoiselle Paradis, he introduced a
humiliating clause in his challenge to the Faculty which caused them
to refuse to accept it. Mademoiselle Paradis was blind and subject
to convulsions. After treating her by his own method Mesmer said she
was cured. An oculist said, after testing, that she was as blind as
ever, and her family said that she was still subject to convulsions.
But Mesmer persisted that she was cured, that there was a conspiracy
against him, and that Mademoiselle Paradis had feigned. He challenged
the Faculty of Medicine on the subject of his discovery. Twenty-four
patients were to be selected by the Faculty; of these twelve were to be
treated by Mesmerism and the other half by the means ordinarily in use.
The condition he imposed was that the witnesses were _not_ to be of the

Again, when in answer to a request on his part that the French
Government for the good of the community should subsidise him, a
proposal was made to him, he did not receive it favourably. The request
he made to Marie Antoinette was that he should have an estate and
château and a handsome income, so that he might go on experimenting; he
put the broad figures at four hundred or five hundred thousand francs.
The Government suggestion was that he should have a pension of twenty
thousand francs and the Cross of Saint Michael (Knighthood) if he would
communicate for public use, to a board of physicians nominated by the
King, such discoveries as he might make. After his refusal of the
Government proposition Mesmer went to Spa, taking with him a number
of his patients, and there opened a magnetic establishment where he
renewed his Paris success. He asked Parliament to hold an impartial
examination into the theory and working of Animal Magnetism. Foiled in
his scheme of state purchase on his own terms, he sold his secret to a
group of societies, the members of which were to pay him a subscription
of a hundred louis _per capita_. By this means he realised some 340,000
livres--representing to-day over a million. The associated body was
composed of twenty-four societies called “societés de l’harmonie”--a
sort of Freemasonry, under a Grand Master and Chiefs of the Order. A
member had to be at the time of admission twenty-five years of age, of
honest state and good name, not to smoke tobacco, and to pay an annual
subscription of at least sixty francs. There were three grades in the
Order: Initiated Associates, Corresponding Associates and Uninitiated.
Amongst those belonging to the Society were such men as Lafayette,
d’Espremisnil, and Berthollet the great chemist. Berthollet had,
however, peculiar privileges, amongst which was the right of criticism.
On one occasion he had a “row” with Mesmer about his charlatanism.

At length the French public, wearied with his trickeries and angry with
his cupidity, openly expressed their dissatisfaction. Whereupon he left
France, taking with him a fortune of three hundred and forty thousand
francs. He went to England and thence to Germany. Finally he settled
down in Mersbourg in his native country, Suabia, where he died in 1815,
at the age of eighty-one.


The legend of the Wandering Jew has its roots in a belief in the
possibility of human longevity beyond what is natural and normal. It
is connected with the story of the Crucifixion and the mysteries that
preceded and followed it. Our account may find its starting point
in a book of extraordinary interest which made a sensation in the
seventeenth century and is still delightful reading. The passage which
should arrest our attention is as follows:

    “The story of the Wandering Jew is very strange and will hardly
    obtain belief; yet there is a small account thereof set down by
    _Matthew Paris_ from the report of an Armenian Bishop; who came
    into this Kingdom about four hundred years ago, and had often
    entertained this wanderer at his Table. That he was then alive,
    was first called _Cartaphilus_, was keeper of the Judgment Hall,
    whence thrusting out our Saviour with expostulation of his stay,
    was condemned to stay until His return; was after baptized by
    _Ananias_, and by the name of Joseph; was thirty years old in
    the dayes of our Saviour, remembered the Saints that arised
    with Him, the making of the Apostles’ Creed, and their several
    peregrinations. Surely were this true, he might be an happy
    arbitrator in many Christian controversies; but must impardonably
    condemn the obstinacy of the Jews, who can contemn the Rhetorick
    of such miracles, and blindly behold so living and lasting

The above is taken from the work entitled “Pseudoxia Epidemica” or
Enquiries into very many Received Tenets and Commonly Presumed Truths
by Sir Thomas Brown, Knight M.D. This was first published in 1640,
so that the “about four hundred years ago” mentioned would bring the
report of the Armenian Bishop to the first half of the thirteenth

Thus unless there be something of an authoritative character to upset
the theory, Matthew Paris must be taken as the first European narrator
of the story. As a matter of fact the legend began just about the time
thus arrived at. The great work in Latin, “_Historia Major_,” was begun
by Roger of Wendover and completed in 1259 by the monk Matthew Paris.
It was not however published--in our ordinary sense of the word--until
the beginning of the year 1571 when Archbishop Parker took it in hand.
In the meantime the art of printing had been established and the new
world of thought and the reproduction of its fruit, had been developed
for common use. The _Historia Major_ was again printed in Zurich in
1589 and 1606. The next English edition was in 1640. This was reprinted
in Paris in 1644. The English edition of forty years later, 1684,
was a really fine specimen of typographic art. The authorship and
date of its printing are given: Matthaei Paris, Monachi Albanensis
Angli London MDCLXXXIV. The script is in ecclesiastical Latin and
to any modern reader is of a fresh and almost child-like sincerity
which at once disarms doubt or hostile criticism. Indeed it affords
a good example of the mechanism of myth, showing how the littleness
of human nature--vanity with its desire to shine and credulity in its
primitive form, are not subject to the controlling influences of either
sacredness of subject or the rulings of common sense. It lends another
meaning to the quotation of Feste, the jester: _Cucullus non facit
Monachum_. The artless narrative recorded in the _Historia Major_ makes
the whole inception of the myth transparent. In the monastery of St.
Albans a conversation is held by the monks on one side and the Armenian
Archbishop--name not given, on the other. The interpreter in French
is one Henri Spigurnel a native of Antioch, servant of the bishop.
We can gather even how Sir Thomas Brown M. D., doctor of Norwich and
most open-minded of scientists, lent himself, unconsciously, to the
propagation of error. Brown reading, or hearing read, the work of
Matthew Paris took it for granted that the record was correct and
complete; and in his own book summarises or generalises the statements
made. For instance he says that the Armenian bishop had “often
entertained this wanderer at his table” &c. Now it was his servant
who told the monks that the wandering Jew whom he had seen and heard
speaking many times dined at the table of his lord the Archbishop.
This at once minimises the value of the statement, for it does away
at once with the respect due to the bishop’s high office and presumed
character, and with the sense of intellectual acumen and accuracy which
might be expected to emanate from one of his scholarship and quality.
Thus we get the story not from an accredited Bishop on a foreign
mission--rare at the period and entrusted only to men of note--but from
the gossip of an Armenian lacquey or valet, trying to show his own
importance to a credulous serving brother of the monastery. And so,
after all, coming from this source it is to be accepted with exceeding
care--not to say doubt, even when seconded by the learned monastic
scribe Matthew. So, also, for instance is his statement regarding the
manner in which the wanderer’s life is miraculously prolonged. It is
to this effect. Each hundredth year Joseph falls into a faint so that
he lies for a time unconscious. When he recovers he finds that his age
is restored to that which it was when the Lord suffered. Joseph, it
must be borne in mind, is the Wandering Jew, once Cartaphilus, who had
kept Pilate’s judgment-hall. Then Matthew himself takes up the story
and gives what professes to be the _ipsissima verba_ of the servant as
to the conversation between Christ and Cartaphilus which culminated in
the terrible doom pronounced on the janitor who, from the showing, did
not seem a whit worse than any of the crowd present on that momentous
day in Jerusalem. When Jesus, wearied already with carrying the great
cross, leaned for a moment against the wall of the house of Cartaphilus
just opposite the Judgment-hall the official said:

    “‘Vade Jesu citius, vade, quid moraris?’ et Jesus severo vultu et
    oculo respiciens eum, dixit: ‘Ego vado. Expectabis donec veniam.’”

Now this is the whole and sole foundation of the individual Wandering
Jew. I say “individual” because there were before long other variants,
and many old beliefs and fables were appropriated and used to back up
the marvellous story, invented by the Armenian servant and recorded
by the learned monk, Matthew. Amongst these beliefs were those
which taught that John the Baptist never died; that the aloe blooms
only once in a hundred years; and that the phœnix renews itself in
fire. It is the tendency of legendary beliefs to group or nucleate
themselves as though there were a conscious and intentional effort at
self-protection; and this, together with the natural human tendency to
enlarge and elaborate an accepted idea, is responsible for much. The
legend started in the thirteenth century, took root and flourished, and
in the very beginning of the seventeenth a variant blossomed. In this
Joseph, originally Cartaphilus, became Ahasuerus. In the long pause the
story, after the manner of all things of earth, had grown, details not
being lacking. The world was informed through the Bishop of Schleswig,
how in 1547, at Hamburg, a man was seen in the Cathedral who arrested
attention--why we are not told. He was about fifty years of age, of
reverend manner, and dressed in ragged clothes; he bowed low at the
name of Christ. Many of the nobility and gentry who saw him recognised
him as one whom they had already seen in various places--England,
France, Italy, Hungary, Persia, Spain, Poland, Moscow, Lieffland,
Sweden, Denmark, Scotland, &c. Inquiry being made of him, he told the
Bishop that he was Ahasuerus the shoe-maker of Jerusalem, who had been
present at the Crucifixion and had ever since been always wandering.
He was well posted in history, especially regarding the lives and
sufferings of the Apostles, and told how, when he had directed Christ
to move on, the latter had answered: “I will stand here and rest, but
thou shalt move on till the last day.” He had been first seen, we are
told, at Lubeck.

It is strange that in an age of religious domination many of the
legends of Our Saviour seem to have been based on just such intolerant
anger at personal slight as might have ruled a short-tempered,
vain man. For instance look at one of the Christ legends which was
reproduced in poor Ophelia’s distracted mind apropos of the owl, “They
say, the owl was a baker’s daughter.” The Gloucestershire legend runs
that Christ having asked for bread at baking time the mistress of the
bakery took dough from the oven, but her daughter having remonstrated
as to the size of the benefaction was turned into an owl. The penalty
inflicted on the erring janitor of the Presidium is another instance.

The “Wandering Jew” legend once started, was hard to suppress. The
thirteenth, fourteenth, fifteenth and sixteenth centuries were the ages
of Jew-baiting in the kingdoms of the West, and naturally the stories
took their colour from the prevailing idea.

In 1644, Westphalus learned from various sources that the Wandering Jew
healed diseases, and that he had said he was at Rome when it was burned
by Nero; that he had seen the return of Saladin after his Eastern
Conquests; that he had been in Constantinople when Salimen had built
the royal mosque; that he knew Tamerlane the Scythian, and Scander
Beg, Prince of Epirus; that he had seen Bajazet carried in a cage by
Tamerlane’s order; that he remembered the Caliphs of Babylon and of
Egypt, the Empire of the Saracens, and the Crusades where he had known
Godfrey de Bouillon. Amongst other things he seems to have apologised
for not seeing the Sack of Jerusalem, because he was at that time in
Rome at the Court of Vespasian.

The Ahasuerus version of the Wandering Jew legend seems to have been
the popular one amongst the commonalty in England. As an instance
might be quoted the broad-sheet ballad of 1670. It is not without even
historical significance as it marks the measure of the time in many
ways. It is headed: “The Wandering Jew, or the Shoemaker of Jerusalem
who lived when Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ was crucified
appointed by Him to live until Coming again. Tune, _The Lady’s Fall_
&c. Licens’d and Enter’d according to order.” The imprint runs:
“Printed by and for W. O. and sold by the Booksellers of Pyecorner and

A century and a half later--1828--was published a much more pretentious
work on the same theme. This was a novel written by Rev. George Croly.
It was called: “Salathiel: a Story of the Past, the Present, the
Future.” It was published anonymously and had an immediate and lasting
success. It was founded on historical lines, the author manifestly
benefiting by the hints afforded by the work of that consummate liar
(in a historical sense) Westphalus--or his informant. Croly was
a strange man with a somewhat abnormal faculty of abstraction. I
used to hear of him from my father who was a friend of his about a
hundred years ago. Being of gentle nature he did not wish to cause
any pain or concern to his family or dependents; but at the same
time he, as a writer, had to guard himself against interruption and
consequent digression of his thoughts during the times he set apart
for imaginative work. So he devised a scheme which might often be
put in practice with advantage by others similarly employed. When
settling down to a spell of such work--which as every creative
writer knows involves periods of mental abstraction though of bodily
restlessness--he would stick an adhesive wafer on his forehead. The
rule of the house was that when he might be adorned in this wise no one
was to speak to him, or even notice him, except under special necessity.

The great vogue of _Salathiel_ lasted some ten or more years, when
the torch of the Wandering Jew was lighted by Eugene Sue the French
novelist who had just completed in the _Débats_ his story “Les Mystères
de Paris.” As its successor he chose the theme adopted by Croly, and
the new novel _Le Juif-Errant_ ran with overwhelming success in the

Sue was what in modern slang is called “up to date.” He knew every
trick and dodge of the world of advertisement, and in conjunction
with his editor, Dr. Veron, he used them all. But he had good wares
to exploit. His novels are really excellent, though the changes in
social life and in religious, political and artistic matters, which
took place between 1844 and 1910, make some things in them seem out of
date. His great imagination, and his firm and rapid grasp of salient
facts susceptible of being advantageously used in narrative, pointed
out to him a fresh road. It was not sufficient to the hour and place
that Cartaphilus--or Joseph--or Ahasuerus, or Salathiel or whatever he
might be called--should purge his sin by his personal sufferings alone.
In the legend, up to then accepted, he had long ago repented; so to
increase the poignancy of his sufferings, Sue took from the experience
of his own time a means of embittering the very inmost soul of such an
one. He must be made to feel that his existence is a curse not only to
himself but to all the world. To this end he attached to the Wanderer
the obligation of carrying a fell disease. The quick brain of the great
_feuilletonist_ seized the dramatic moment for utilising the occasion.
A dozen years before, the frightful spread of the cholera, which had
once again wrought havoc, woke the whole world to new terror. Some one
of uneasy mind who found diversion in obscure comparisons, noted from
the records of the disease that its moving showed the same progress in
a given direction as a man’s walking. A hint was sufficient for the
public who eagerly seized the idea that the Wandering Jew had, from the
first recorded appearance of the cholera, been the fated carrier of
that dreaded pestilence. The idea seemed to be a dramatic inspiration
and had prehensile grasp. Great as had been the success of the
_Mysteries of Paris_, that of _The Wandering Jew_ surpassed it, and for
half a century the new novel kept vividly before its readers the old
tradition, and so brought it down to the present.

We may now begin to ask ourselves who and where in this great deception
was the impostor. Who was the guilty one? And at first glance we
are inclined to say “There is none! Whatever the error, mistake,
deception, or false conclusion, there has been no direct guilt.” This
is to presuppose that guilt is of conscious premeditation; and neither
intention of evil nor consciousness of guilt is apparent. In legal
phrase the _mens rea_ is lacking.

It is a purely metaphysical speculation whether guilt is a necessary
element of imposition. One is an intellectual experience, the other is
an ethical problem; and if we are content to deal with responsibility
for another’s misdoing, the question of the degree of blameworthiness
is sufficient. Let us try a process of exclusions. The complete list of
those who had a part in the misunderstanding regarding the myth of the
Wandering Jew, leaving out the ostensible fictionists, were:

The Abbot of St. Albans, the Archbishop of Armenia, the interpreter,
the Archbishop’s servant, the monks or laybrothers who singly or in
general conversed with any of the above; and finally Matthew Paris who
recorded the story in its various phases. Of these we must except from
all blame both the Abbot of St. Albans and the Archbishop of Armenia,
both of whom were good grave men of high character and to each of whom
had been entrusted matters of the highest concern. The interpreter
seems to have only fulfilled his office with exactitude; if in any way
or part he used his opportunity to impose on the ignorance of the host
or the guest there is no record, no suggestion of it. Matthew Paris
was a man of such keenness of mind, of such observation and of such
critical insight, that even to-day, after a lapse of over five hundred
years, and the withstanding of all the tests of a new intellectual
world which included such inventions as printing and photography, he
is looked upon as one of the ablest of chroniclers. Moreover he put no
new matter nor comments of his own into the wonderful and startling
narratives which he was called on to record. He even hints at or infers
his own doubt as to the statements made. The monks, servants and others
mentioned generally, were merely credulous, simple people of the time,
with reverence for any story regarding the _Via Dolorosa_, and respect
or awe for those in high places.

There remains but the servant of the foreign Archbishop. It is to
him that we must look for any outrage on our normal beliefs. He was
manifestly a person of individually small importance--even Matthew
Paris whose trained work it was to record with exactness, and whose
duty it therefore was to sustain or buttress main facts, did not think
it necessary or worth while to mention his name. He had in himself
none of the dignity, honour, weight, learning or position of the
noble of the Church who was the Abbot’s guest. He was after all but
a personal servant; probably one of readiness and expediency with a
quick imagination and a glib tongue. One who could wriggle through a
difficult position, defend himself with ready acquiescence, gain his
ends of securing his master’s ease, and find all necessary doors open
through the bonhommie of his fellow servitors. Such an one accustomed
to the exigencies of foreign travel, must have picked up many quaint
conceits, legends and japes, and was doubtless a _persona grata_ liked
and looked up to by persons of his own class, sanctified to some little
extent by the reflected glory of his master’s great position. It is
more than likely that he had been the recipient of many confidences
regarding legend and conjecture concerning sacred matters, and that any
such legend as he spoke of would have been imparted under conditions
favourable to his own comfort. After the manner of his kind his
stories doubtless lost nothing in the telling and gained considerably
in the re-telling. Even in the short record of Matthew Paris, there
is evidence of this in the way in which, after the striking story of
Cartaphilus has been told, he returns to the matter again, adding
picturesque and inconclusive details of the manner of the centennial
renewal of the wanderer’s youth. The simplest analysis here will show
the falsity of the story; what the great logician Archbishop Whately
always insisted on--“internal evidence”--is dead against the Armenian
valet, courier, or servitor. He gave circumstantial account of the
periodic illness, loss of memory, and recovery of youth on the part
of Cartaphilus; but there is no hint of how he came to know it, and
Cartaphilus could not have told him, nor anybody else. We may, I think,
take it for granted that no other mere mortal was present, for, had any
other human being been there, all the quacksalvers of a thousand miles
around would have moved heaven and earth to get information of what was
going on, since in mediæval days there was nearly as much competition
in the world of charlatanism as there is to-day in the world of sport.
The Armenian was much too handy a man at such a crisis to be found out,
so we may give him the benefit of the doubt and at once credit him
with invention. It is hard to understand--or even to believe without
understanding--that so mighty a legend and one so tenacious of life,
arose and grew from such a beginning. And yet it is in accord with
the irony of nature that one who has unintentionally and unwittingly
achieved a publicity which would dwarf the malign reputation of
Herostratus should have his name unrecorded.



The great “Mississippi Scheme” which wrought havoc on the French in
1720 is the central and turning point in the history of John Law, late
of Lauriston, Controller-General of Finance in France. His father,
William Law (grand nephew of James Law, Archbishop of Glasgow) was a
goldsmith in that city.

As in the seventeenth century the goldsmiths were also the bankers and
moneylenders of the community, a successful goldsmith might be looked
on as on the highroad to great fortune. To William Law in 1671 was
born his first son John, who had considerable natural talent in the
way of mathematics--and a nature which was such as to nullify their
use. As a youth he showed proficiency in arithmetic and algebra, but
as he was also in those early days riotous and dissipated, we may
fairly come to the conclusion that he did not use his natural powers
to their best advantage. He was already a gambler of a marked kind.
Before he was of age he was already in debt and was squandering his
patrimony. He sold the estate of Lauriston which his thrifty father
had acquired, and gave himself over to a life of so-called pleasure.
His mother, who had family ambitions, bought the estate so that it
might remain in the family of its new possessors. He removed himself
to London where within a couple of years he was sentenced to death for
murder--not a vulgar premeditated murder for gain, but the unhappy
result of a duel wherein he had killed his opponent, a boon companion,
one Austin who had acquired the soubriquet of “Beau” Austin. Through
social influence the death penalty was commuted for imprisonment,
and the crime only regarded as manslaughter. He had however to deal
with the relatives of the dead man who were naturally vindictive. One
of them entered an appeal against the commutation of the sentence.
Law, with the characteristic prudence of his time and nationality,
did not wait for the leisurely settlement of the legal process, but
escaped to the continent where he remained for some years sojourning
in various places. Being naturally clever and daring he seems to have
generally fallen on his feet. Whilst in Holland he became secretary
to an important official in the diplomatic world, from which service
he drifted into an employment with the Bank of Amsterdam. Here the
natural bent of his mind found expression. Banking in some of its
forms is gambling, and as he was both banker and gambler--one by
inherited tendency and the other by personal disposition--he began to
find his vogue, addressing himself seriously to the intricacies and
possibilities of the profession of banking. He was back in Scotland in
1701 (a risky venture on his part for his felony had not been “purged”)
and published a pamphlet, “_Proposals and Reasons for constituting a
Council of Trade in Scotland_.” This he followed up after some years,
with another pamphlet, “_Money and Trade considered, with a proposal
for supplying the Nation with Money_”; and in the same year (1709) he
propounded to the Scotch Parliament a scheme for a State Bank on the
security of land--a venture which on being tried speedily collapsed.
This, like other schemes of that period, was based on the issue and use
of paper money.

[Illustration: JOHN LAW]

In the meantime, and for five or six years afterwards, he was
travelling variously throughout Europe, occupying himself with
formulating successive schemes of finance, and in gambling--a process
in which he, being both skilled and lucky, amassed a sum of over a
hundred thousand pounds. He had varying fortunes, however, and was
expelled from several cities. He was not without believers in his
powers. Amongst them was the Earl of Stair, then Ambassador to France,
who allured by his specious methods of finance, suggested to the Earl
of Stanhope that he might be useful in devising a scheme for paying off
the British National Debt. After the death of Louis XIV, in 1715, he
suggested to the Duke of Orleans, the Regent for the young King (Louis
XV), the formation of a State Bank. The Regent favoured the idea, but
his advisers were against it; it was, however, agreed that Law might
found a bank with power to issue notes and accept deposits. This was
done by Letters Patent and the _Banque Générale_ came into existence in
1710, and was an immediate success. Its principle was to issue paper
money which was to be repayable by coin. Its paper rose to a premium
in 1716; in 1717 there was a decree that it was to be accepted in the
payment of taxes. This created a new form of cheap money, with the
result that there was a great and sudden extension of industry and
trade. From this rose the idea of a new enterprise--The Mississippi
Company--which was to outvie the success of the East India Company
incorporated by Charter in 1600 under the title of “The Governor and
Company of the Merchants of London trading to the East Indies,” which
after periods of doubtful fortune, and having become consolidated with
its rival “The General East India Company”--partially in 1702, and
completely in 1708, under the somewhat elephantine name of “The United
Company of Merchants of England trading to the East Indies”--was now
a vast organization of national importance. To the new French Company
for exploiting the Mississippi Valley was made over Louisiana (which
then included what were afterwards the States of Ohio and Missouri).
The Decree of Incorporation was issued in 1717. The Parliament at
Paris presently grew jealous of such a concession having been given
to a foreigner; and the next year a rumour went about that Parliament
was about to have him arrested, tried, and hanged. The Regent met
the parliamentary resistance by making (1718) the _Banque Générale_
into the _Banque Royale_--the King guaranteeing the notes. Law was
made Director General; but he was unable to prevent the Regent from
increasing the issue of paper money, by which means he managed to
satisfy dishonestly his own extravagance. It was a fiscal principle
of the time that the State accountants did not go behind the King’s
receipt--the _acquit de comptant_ as it was called.

The Western Company was enlarged in 1718 by a grant of a monopoly of
tobacco, and of the rights of trading ships and merchandise of the
Company of Senegal. In 1719, the _Banque Royale_ absorbed the rights of
the East India and China Companies, and then assumed the all-embracing
title of _Compagnie des Indes_. The next year it took in the African
Company; and so through that the whole of the non-European trade of
France. In 1719, the management of the Mint was handed over to Law’s
Company; and he was thus enabled to manipulate the coinage. In the
same year he had undertaken to pay off the French National Debt, and
so become the sole creditor of the Nation. He already exercised the
functions of Receiver General and had revenue-farming abolished in its
favour. He now controlled the collection and disposal of the whole of
the State taxation. At this stage of his adventure, Law seemed a good
fiscal administrator. He repealed or reduced pressing taxes on useful
commodities, and reduced the price of necessaries by forty per cent.
so that the peasants could increase the value of their holdings and
their crops without fear of coming later into the remorseless grip of
the tax-farmer under the infamous _metayer_ system. Free-trade was in
the Provinces practically established. This, so far as it went, was all
Law’s doing. Turgot, who later got credit for what had been done, only
carried out what the Scotch financier had planned.

Law had promised high dividends to the speculators in his scheme, and
had so far paid them; so it was no wonder that “The System” raised its
head again. In 1719-20, all France seemed to flock to Paris to such a
degree and with such unanimity of purpose, that it was difficult to
obtain room to go on with the necessary work of the Mississippi Scheme.
In such matters, resting on human greed which throws all prudence to
the winds, the pressure is always towards the centre; and the narrow
street of Quin cam poix became a seething mass, day and night, of
speculators in a hurry to buy shares. The time for trying to sell them
had not yet arrived.

Naturally such a locality rose in value, and as demand emphasises
paucity of space, extraordinary prices ruled. Even a small share in
the lucky street, where fortunes could be made in an hour, rose to
fabulous value. Houses formerly letting for forty pounds a year now
fetched eight hundred pounds per month. And no wonder, when shares of
the face value of five hundred livres sold for ten thousand! When there
is such an overwhelming desire to buy, then is the opportunity for
sellers to realise, and the time for such speculation on the one side,
and for such commerce on the other, is naturally short and the need

At the beginning of 1720 everything seemed to be increasing in a sort
of geometric ratio. After a dividend of forty per cent. had been
declared, shares of five hundred value rose to eighteen thousand.
Greed, and the opportunity for satisfying its craving, turned the
heads of ordinarily sensible people. The whole world seemed mad. It
appeared right enough that the financial wonder-worker who had created
such a state of things should be loaded with additional honours. It
was only scriptural that he who had already multiplied his talents
should be entrusted with more. There was universal rejoicing when
John Law--exiled foreigner and condemned murderer--was appointed, in
January, 1720, Controller-General of the whole finances of France.
Naturally enough, even the hard head of the canny Scot began to
manifest symptoms of giving way in the shape of becoming _exalté_. And
naturally enough his enemies--financial, political and racial--did not
lose the opportunities afforded them of taking advantage of it. Tongues
began to wag, and all sorts of rumours, some of them reconcilable with
common sense and easily credible, others outrageous, began to go about.
Lord Stair reported that Law had boasted that he would raise France on
the ruins of England and Holland, to a greater height than she had ever
reached; that he could crush the East India Company and even destroy
British trade and credit when he chose. Stair resented this, and he and
Law from being close friends became enemies. To appease the incensed
and at present all-powerful Law, the powers that were recalled Lord

On 23 February 1720, the _Compagnie des Indes_ and the _Banque Royale_
were united, thus linking the ends of the financial chain. “The System”
was now complete.

When Aladdin set the Genius, who had hitherto worked so willingly, the
final task of hanging a roc’s egg in the centre of the newly-created
palace, he brought the whole structure tumbling about his ears. So it
was with John Law and the egregious Mississippi Scheme. His idea was
complete and perfect. But the high sun when it reaches its meridianal
splendour begins from that instant its downward course.

The reaction was not long in manifesting itself. Usually in such
matters there is a pause before the great driving-wheels reverse
their motion, and the backward motion, beginning slowly, gathers way
as it progresses. But in this case human intelligence and not soulless
machinery was the propulsive force of reaction. The speculators had
begun to work before the onward movement had come to an end or even
begun to slacken. They were loaded up with a vast amount of stocks
whose value, even if there had been money to redeem them, was severely
limited, whereas they had purchased at prices varying between the
first rise above nominal value and that reached by the last desperate
speculator. It is not wise to hold such inflated stock too long, and in
a crisis sailing-master Wisdom orders Quarter-master Caution to take
a trick at the helm. When the bare idea of unification of financial
interests was mooted, the wise holders of stock commenced to unload.
When this movement began its progress was rapid--so long as there was
anything to be moved. The first class to feel it were the bankers. The
specie ran out like the pent-up water from a burst reservoir, till in
an incredibly short time there was not sufficient remaining to afford
the money-change needed in daily life. The advisers and officials of
the State, seriously alarmed, began at once to take strong measures
supported by royal decrees. Then as ruin began to stare the whole
nation in the face more and more with every hour, desperate expedients
were resorted to. The value of the currency was made by every
stratagem, dishonest trick, and unscrupulous exercise of power, to
fluctuate so that such differences or margins as arose might be grasped
forthwith for national use. Payments in bullion, except for very small
amounts, were forbidden. The possession of anything over five hundred
livres in specie was deemed an offence punishable by confiscation,
partial or wholesale, and by fine. Domiciliary visits were paid to seek
evidence of offence and to enforce the new laws, and informers in this
connection were well paid.

Then began a war, between public oppression and individual trickery,
to defend acquired rights and evade unjust demands. The holders of
paper money, unable to realise in specie, tried to protect themselves
by purchasing goods of intrinsic value. Precious metals, jewels, and
such like were bought in such quantities that the supplies diminished
and the prices grew, until to avoid immediate ruin, such purchases
were proclaimed illegal and prohibited. Then ordinary commodities of
lesser values were tried as means of barter, till their prices too
rose to such an extent that trade was paralysed. In order to meet the
growing danger a still more desperate expedient was resorted to. A
decree was issued the effect of which would be to reduce--gradually
it was hoped--the obligation of bank notes to one-half their nominal
value. This completed the panic, for here was a position which could
not be guarded against by any prudence or wisdom. No one could
henceforth by any possibility be financially safe. The speculators who
had already realised were alone safe. _Bona fide_ investors, if not
already overwhelmed by disaster, saw the tide of ruin rising rapidly
around them. Nothing within the power of the state could now be done
to check or even lessen the state of panic; not even the reversal of
the late decree in ten days after its issue. To make matters still
worse the Banque at this very time suspended payment. Probably in
a wild endeavour to do _something_ which would avert odium from
itself by saddling the responsibility on someone else, the Government
procured the dismissal of Law from the Controller-Generalship of
Finance. However--strange to say--he was very soon appointed by the
Regent as Intendant-General of Commerce and Director of the ruined
bank. The much-vaunted, idolised, and believed-in “System” had now
fallen hopelessly and was ruined forever. Law was everywhere attacked
and insulted with such unmitigated rancour that he had to leave the
country. He had invested the bulk of the great fortune which he had by
now acquired, in estates in France; and these together with everything
else that he had were now confiscated.

At the end of the same year, 1720, whilst he was at Brussels he was
asked by the command of the Czar (Peter), to administer the finances of
Russia, but declined. After this episode, grateful to a broken man, he
spent a couple of years wandering about Italy and Germany and probably
gaming a fluctuating income through gambling. Next he was to be found
in Copenhagen where he had sought sanctuary from his creditors. Next
year there was an outward change in his status, when he went to
England, on a ship of war, at the invitation of the Government. There
he was presented to George I. Somewhat to his chagrin he was denounced
in the House of Lords as a Catholic--(he had abjured his old belief of
Protestantism before accepting the high office of Controller-General
of Finances in 1720)--and an adherent of the Pretender. He pleaded in
the King’s Bench the Royal pardon for the murder of Beau Austin which
had been sent to him in 1719. He spent the succeeding few years in
England whence he corresponded with the Duke of Orleans. He expected
to be recalled to France but his hope was never realised. He wished to
go to the Continent but was practically a prisoner in England, fearing
to leave it lest he should be arrested by his creditors, amongst whom
was the new French East India Company which had been reconstructed on
the ruins of the old. In 1725 Sir Robert Walpole, then Prime Minister,
asked Lord Townshend, the Secretary of State, to give Law a King’s
commission of some sort, so that such might serve for his protection.
In the same year he went to Italy. He died in Venice in 1729, in what,
compared with his former state, was poverty. To the last he was a
gambler, always ready to take long risks for a prospect, however
remote, of large gain. A story is told that in his last years he
wagered his last thousand pounds to a shilling (20,000 to 1) against
the throwing of double sixes six consecutive times. The law of chances
was with him and naturally he won. He renewed his wager but the
authorities would not allow the further gamble to take place.

John Law married, quite early in life, the daughter of the Earl of
Banbury and widow of Mr. Seignior. His widow died in 1747. Some of
the members of his family were not undistinguished; his son died a
Colonel in the Austrian service; and one of his nephews became Comte de
Lauriston and rose to be a General in the French army and Aide-de-Camp
to the first Napoleon. He was made a Marshal of France by Louis XVIII.

John Law was a handsome and distinguished-looking man, blonde, with
small dark grey eyes and fresh complexion. He made an agreeable
impression on strangers. Saint-Simon, the social historian, gave him a
good character: “innocent of greed and knavery, a mild good man whom
fortune had not spoilt.” Others of his time regarded him as a pioneer
of modern statesmanship.

How is it then that such a man must be set down an impostor? In
historical perspective as an impostor he must be regarded, though not
as such in the narrowest view. The answer is that his very prominence
sits amongst his judges. Lesser men, and greater men of lesser
position, might well stand excused in matters wherein he is accorded

    “That in the Captain’s but a choleric word
    Which in the soldier is flat blasphemy.”

If, when a man plays a game wherein life and death and the fortunes
of many thousands are involved, it behoves him to be at least
careful, much greater is his responsibility where the prosperity
and happiness of nations are at stake. Had Law merely started new
theories of finance, and had they gone wrong, he might well claim,
and be accorded, excuse. But his were inventions of what, in modern
slang, is called “get-rich-quick” principles. Not only did Law not
enrich human life--with one exception, that of enlarging the currency
in use--or add to the sum total of human well-being and happiness; he
even neglected to show that forethought and consideration for others
which in all honour ought to be exercised by the deviser and controller
of great risks. He was a gambler, and a gambler only. He merely put
into the pockets of some persons that which he had taken out of the
pockets of others; and in doing so showed no consideration for the
poor, the thrifty, the needy--for any of those whose contentment and
happiness depend on such as are in high places and dowered in some
way with productive powers. The soulless uneducated churl who does an
honest day’s work does more for humanity than the genius who merely
shifts about the already garnered wealth of ages. John Law posed as
a benefactor and accepted all the benefits that accrued to him from
the praises of those who followed in his wake and gleaned the rich
wastage of his empire-moving theories and schemes. Financiers of Law’s
type no more benefit a country or enrich a people than do the hordes
of wasters and “tape”-betting men who prey on labour as locusts do on
the crops. If they wish not to do unnecessary harm--which is putting
their duty at the lowest possible estimate--they should at least try to
avoid repeating the errors which have wrecked others. A brief glance at
the wreckage which lay well within the Scotch gambler’s vision, will
show how he shut his eyes deliberately not only to facts, but to the
many correlations of cause and effect. Before his Mississippi Scheme
was formulated, there had been experience of banking enterprises, of
schemes for mercantile combination and for the exploitation of capital,
of adventurous dealings in the developments of countries new and more
or less savage, East and West and South.

The following list will typify. Of all these John Law had knowledge
sufficient to judge of difficulties to be encountered in the early
stages, of dangers not only incidental to the things themselves, but
based deep in human nature.

  The East India Company founded in 1600
  The Bank of England founded in 1694
  The Africa Company founded in 1695
  The Darien Company founded in 1695

A glance at each of these, all of which were within the scope and
knowledge of Law, their aims, formation and development, up to the time
spoken of, can hardly fail to be illuminative. The sixteenth century
had been an age of adventure and discovery; the seventeenth of the
foundation of great commercial enterprise, of conception of ideas, of
the constructive beginnings of things. The time for development had
come with the eighteenth; and now care and forethought, prudence and
resource, were the preparations for success.

The East India Company was in reality the pioneer of corporate
trading, and as for nearly a hundred years it was in a measure alone
in its scale of magnitude, its experiences could well serve as
exemplar, guide, and danger signal. It was based on that surest of all
undertakings, natural growth. It came into existence because it was
wanted, and from no other cause. Its very name, its modest capital, its
self-protective purpose make for understanding.

In its Charter of Incorporation its purpose was indicated in the name:
“The Governor and Company of Merchants of London trading to the East
Indies.” Its capital was £70,000, which though a large sum for those
days, was, according to our modern lights, an almost ridiculously small
sum for the object then before it, and to which it ultimately attained.
The time was ripe for just such an undertaking.

The Peace of Vervins (1598) which left both France and Spain free
to look after their domestic concerns, was immediately followed by
the Edict of Nantes (1599) which gave religious liberty to France,
and such a new freedom is always followed by national expansion.
By this time Spain--the explorer or conqueror--and Holland--the
patient organiser--held Eastern commerce in their hands. England
had been gradually making a commerce of her own in the Indies, and
all that was required was an official acknowledgment, so that the
thunder of her guns should, when required, follow the creaking of her
cordage. From the story of this great enterprise, through its first
twenty-five years, could be drawn the lesson of such schemes as Law
was now formulating. Though it had succeeded, in spite of Dutch and
Portuguese opposition, in establishing “factories” when the historic
massacre by the Dutch at Amboyna in the Molucca Islands, took place
in 1725, the Eastern Company seemed near its dissolution. It was not
till the establishment of the Hooghly factory in 1742 that things
began to look up. After that, fortune favoured the Company more
than she had appeared likely to do at the start. The marriage of
Charles II to Catherine of Braganza in 1661 brought progress in its
train. Catherine’s dower, which included Bombay and so put a part of
Portugal’s later possessions in British keeping, greatly stimulated the
East India Company which thenceforth was able to weather the storms
that threatened or assailed. The privilege of making war on its own
account, conceded by Charles II, gave the Company a national importance
which was destined to consolidate its interests with those of England
itself. So strong did it become that before the end of the eighteenth
century it was able to resist the attack on its charter made by a
powerful and progressive rival, the “New Company.” The rivals, after a
few years of _pourparlers_ and tentative efforts, were united in 1708;
and thenceforth the amalgamation, under the title “The United Company
of Merchants of England trading to the East Indies,” was practically
unassailable on its own account. It was additionally safe in that it
had the protection of the great Whig Party under Godolphin. The capital
of the Company, now enlarged to £3,200,000, was lent to the Government
at five per cent. interest and was finally merged in the National
Funds. The history of the Company, after 1717 does not belong here, as
it is only considered as showing that John Law had the experience of an
earlier Company similar to his own to guide him in its management if he
had chosen to avail himself of it.

The Bank of England was, strangely enough, the project of a Scotchman,
William Paterson. The plan was submitted to Government in 1691 but
was not carried into existence for three years. It was purely a
business concern, brought into effective existence through the needs
of commerce, the opportunity afforded being the need of the State
and the concern of the statesman. It had a capital at first of over
£1,200,000, which was loaned to the nation on the security of the taxes
when the Charter was signed, there being certain safeguards against
the possibility of political misuse. The Controlling Board was to have
twenty-five members who were to be elected annually by the stockholders
with a substantial qualification. There were at this time in England
private banks; but this was an effort to formulate the banking
rights, duties, and powers of capital under the ægis of the State
itself. But even so sound a venture, enormously popular from the very
first and with the whole might of the nation behind it, had its own
difficulties to encounter. Its instantaneous success was an incentive
to other adventurers; and the co-operation with government which it
made manifest created jealousy with private persons and commercial
concerns. Within two years its very existence was threatened, first by
the individual hostility of those in the bullion trade, who already
acted as bankers, and then by a rival concern incorporated under strong
political support. This was the National Land Bank whose purpose was
to use the security of real estate as a guarantee for the paper money
which it issued for convenient usage. Strong as the Bank of England
was by its nature, its popularity, and its support, it was in actual
danger until the rival which had never “caught on”--to use an apposite
Americanism--actually and almost instantaneously collapsed.

The safety thus temporarily obtained was purchased at the cost to the
Government of a further loan of two million sterling--with the value to
the contra of an alliance thus begun with the Whig ministry.

A further danger came from the mad and maddening South Sea Scheme five
years later; but from which it was happily saved solely through the
greater cupidity and daring of the newer company.

The Darien Company, which followed hard on the heels of The African
Company, was formed in 1695, by Paterson; on the base of An Act of the
Scottish Parliament for the purpose of making an opening for Scottish
capital after the manner of the East India Company by which English
enterprise had already so largely benefited. Its career was of such
short duration and its failure so complete that there was little
difficulty in understanding the causes of its collapse. It might
serve for a _pendant_ of Lamb’s criticism of the meat that was “ill
fed and ill killed, ill kept and ill cooked.” The Company was started
to utilise, in addition to exploiting new lands, the waste of time,
energy and capital, between West and East; and yet it was not till the
first trading fleet was sailing that its objective was made known to
the adventurers. Its ideas of trading were those of a burlesque, and
its materials of barter with tropical savages on the criminal side of
the ludicrous--bibles, heavy woollen stuffs and periwigs! Naturally
a couple of years finished its working existence and “The rest is
silence.” And yet at the inception of the scheme two great nations vied
with one another for its control.

There are those who may say that John Law was not an impostor, but
a great financier who made a mistake. Financiers must not make
mistakes--or else they must be classed amongst the impostors; for they
deal with the goods and prospects of others as well as their own.
Law was simply a gambler on a great scale. He led a nation, through
its units, to believe that the following of his ideas would lead to
success. Financial schemes without good ideas and practical working to
carry them out are deceptive and destructive. The Mississippi Scheme
is a case in point. If the original intention had been carried out
in its entirety--which involved vast pioneering and executive action
of present and future generations, and an almost absolute foregoing
of immediate benefits--the result would have been of immense service
to the successors in title of the original ventures. The assessable
value of the real estate conveyed under the Mississippi Scheme to-day
equals more than a third of the present gigantic National Debt of
France, swollen though the latter is by the Napoleonic wars, the war
with Austria, the cost and indemnity of the war with Germany, and, in
addition, by the long wars with England and Russia.

If human beings had been angels, content with the prospect of gains in
the distant future, Law’s schemes might have succeeded. As it was, he,
working for his own purposes with an imperfect humanity, can only be
judged by results.



For convenience, the masculine offender is in demonology classed under
the female designation. According to Michelet and other authorities
there were ten thousand alleged witches for each alleged wizard! and
anyhow there is little etiquette as to the precedence of ladies in
criminal matters.

The first English Statute dealing directly with witches appears to be
the thirty-third of Henry VIII (1541) which brought into the list of
felonies persons “devising or practising conjurations, witchcraftes,
sorcerie or inchantments or the digging up of corpses,” and depriving
such of the benefit of clergy. It was however repealed by I Edward VI
Cap. 12, and again by I Mary (in its first section.). Queen Elizabeth,
however, passed another Act (5 Elizabeth Cap. 16) practically repeating
that of her father, which had been in abeyance for more than thirty
years. The Statute of Elizabeth is exceedingly interesting in that it
states the condition of the law at that time. The opening words leave
no misunderstanding:

    “Whereas at this day there is no ordinary nor condigne punishment
    provided against the wicked offences of conjurations or
    invocations of evil spirits, or of sorceries, inchantments,
    charmes or witchcraftes, which be practised to the obstruction
    of the persons and goods of the Queene’s subjects, or for other
    lewd purposes. Be it enacted that if any person or persons
    after the first day of June next coming, shall use practice, or
    exercise any invocations, or conjurations, of evill or wicked
    spirits, to or for any intent or purpose, or else if any person
    or persons after the said first day of June shall use, practice
    or exercise any witchcraft, enchantment, charme or sorcerie,
    whereby any person shall happen to be killed or destroied, that
    then as well every such offendour or offendours in invocations,
    or conjurations, as is aforesayde, their aydours and counsellors,
    as also everie such offendour or offendours in that Witchcrafte,
    enchantment, charme or sorcerie whereby the death of any person
    doth ensue, their ayders and counsellors, being of eyther of
    the sayde offences lawfully convicted and attainted, shall
    suffer paines of death, as a felon or felons, and shall lose the
    privilege and benefit of Clergy and sanctuary,” &c.

In this act lesser penalties are imposed for using any form of
witchcraft or sorcery, for inducing to any persons harm, or to “provoke
any person to unlawfull love or to hurt or destroy any person in his
or her bodye, member or goods,” or for the discovery or recovery of
treasure. From that time down to the first quarter of the eighteenth
century, when the law practically died out, witchcraft had its place in
the category of legal offences. The law was finally repealed by an Act
in the tenth year of George II. The sixteenth and seventeenth centuries
were the time of witch-fever, and in that period, especially in its
earlier days when the belief had become epidemic, it was ruthless and
destructive. It is said that in Genoa five hundred persons were burned
within three months in the year 1515, and a thousand in the diocese of
Como in a year. Round numbers in such matters are to be distrusted,
as we find they seldom bear investigation; but there is little doubt
that in France and Germany vast numbers suffered and perished. Even in
more prosaic and less emotional England there were many thousands of
judicial murders in this wise. It is asserted that within two centuries
they totalled thirty thousand.

It is startling to find such a weird and impossible credulity actually
rooted in the Statute book of one’s own country, and that there are
records of judges charging juries to convict. Sir Matthew Hale, a great
lawyer, a judge of the Common Pleas in 1654, and Lord Chief Justice in
1671, was a firm believer in witchcraft. He was a grave and pious man,
and all his life was an ardent student of theology as well as of law.
And yet in 1664 he sentenced women to be burned as witches. In 1716 a
mother and daughter--the latter only nine years of age--were hanged in
Huntingdon. In Scotland the last case of a woman being condemned as a
witch occurred at Dornoch in 1722.

It is no easy task in these days, which are rationalistic, iconoclastic
and enquiring, to understand how the commonalty not only believed
in witchcraft but acted on that belief. Probably the most tolerant
view we can take, is that both reason and enquiry are essential
and rudimentary principles of human nature. Every person of normal
faculties likes to know and understand the reasons of things;
and inquisitiveness is not posterior to the period of maternal
alimentation. If we seek for a cause we are bound to find one--even
if it be wrong. _Omne ignotum pro magnifico_ has a wide if not always
a generous meaning; and when fear is founded on, if not inspired by
ignorance, that unthinking ferocity which is one of our birthrights
from Adam is apt to carry us further than we ever meant to go. In an
age more clear-seeing than our own and less selfish we shall not think
so poorly of primitive emotions as we are at present apt to. On the
contrary we shall begin to understand that in times when primitivity
holds sway, we are most in touch with the loftiest things we are
capable of understanding, and our judgment, being complex, is most
exact. Indeed in this branch of the subject persons used to call to aid
a special exercise of our natural forces--the æsthetic. When witchcraft
was a belief, the common idea was that that noxious power was almost
entirely held by the old and ugly. The young, fresh, and beautiful,
were seldom accepted as witches save by the novelty-loving few or
those of sensual nature. This was perhaps fortunate--if the keeping
down of the population in this wise was necessary; it is easier as
well as safer to murder the uncomely than those of greater charm. In
any case there was no compunction about obliterating the former class.
The general feeling was much the same as that in our own time which in
sporting circles calls for the destruction of vermin.

It will thus be seen that the profession of witchcraft, if occasionally
lucrative, was nevertheless always accompanied with danger and
execration. This was natural enough since the belief which made
witchcraft dangerous was based on fear. It is not too much to say that
in every case, professed witchcraft was an expression of fraudulent
intent. Such pity, therefore, as the subject allows of must be confined
to the guiltless victims who, despite blameless life, were tried by
passion, judged by frenzy, and executed by remorseless desperation.
There could be no such thing as quantitative analysis of guilt with
regard to the practice of witchcraft: any kind of playing with the
subject was a proof of _some_ kind of wrongful intent, and was to be
judged with Draconian severity. Doubtless it was a very simple way
of dealing with evils, much resembling the medical philosophy of the
Chinese. The whole logic of it can be reduced to a sorites. Any change
from the normal is the work of the devil--or _a_ devil as the case
may be. Find out the normal residence of that especial devil--which
is in some human being. Destroy the devil’s dwelling. You get rid of
the devil. It is pure savagery of the most primitive kind. And it
is capable of expansion, for logic is a fertile plant, and when its
premises are wrong it has the fecundity of a weed. Before even a savage
can have time to breathe, his logic is piling so fast on him that he
is smothered. If a human being is a devil then the club which destroys
him or her is an incarnation of good, and so a god to be worshipped in
some form--or at any rate to be regarded with esteem, like a sword,
or a legal wig, or a stethoscope, or a paint-brush, or a shovel,
or a compass, or a drinking-vessel, or a pen. If all the necessary
conditions of life and sanity and comfort were on so primitive a base,
what an easy world it would be to live in!

One benefit there was in witchcraft, though it was not recognised
officially as such at the time. It created a new industry--a whole
crop of industries. It is of the nature of belief that it encourages
belief--not always of exactly the same kind--but of some form which
intelligence can turn into profit. We cannot find any good in the new
industry--grapes do not grow on thorns nor figs on thistles. The sum
of human happiness was in no sense augmented; but at least a good deal
of money or money’s worth changed hands; which, after all, is as much
as most of the great financiers can point to as the result of long and
strenuous success. In the organisation of this form of crime there were
many classes, of varying risks and of benefits in inverse ratio to
them. For the ordinary rule of finance holds even here: large interest
means bad security. First there were the adventurers themselves who
took the great risks of life and its collaterals--esteem, happiness,
&c. The money obtained by this class was usually secured by fraudulent
sales of worthless goods or by the simple old financial device of
blackmail. Then there were those who were in reality merely parasites
on the pleasing calling--those timorous souls who let “‘I dare not’
wait upon ‘I would’ like the poor cat i’ the adage.” These were
altogether in a poorer way of trade than their bolder brothers and
sisters. They lacked courage, and sometimes even sufficient malice
for the proper doing of their work; with the result that success
seldom attended them at all, and never heartily. But at any rate they
could not complain of inadequate punishment; whenever religious zeal
flamed up they were generally prominent victims. They can in reality
only be regarded as specimens of parasitic growth. Then there came
the class known in French criminal circles as _agents provocateurs_,
whose business was not only to further ostensible crime but to work
up the opposition against it. Either branch of their art would
probably be inadequate; but by linking their services they managed to
eke out a livelihood. Lastly there was the lowest grade of all, the
Witch-finder--a loathly calling, comparable only to the class or guild
of “paraskistae” or “rippers” in the ritual of the Mummy industry of
ancient Egypt.

Of these classes we may I think consider some choice specimens--so
far as we may fittingly investigate the _personnel_ of a by-gone
industry. Of the main body, that of Wizards and Witches or those
pretending to the cult, let us take Doctor Dee and Madame Voisin, and
Sir Edward Kelley and Mother Damnable--thus representing the method of
the procession of the unclean animals from the Ark. Of the class of
Witchfinders one example will probably be as much as we can stand, and
we will naturally take the one who obtained fame in his calling--namely
Matthew Hopkins, who stands forth like Satan, “by merit raised to that
bad eminence.”


Even a brief survey of the life of the celebrated “Doctor Dee,” the
so-called “Wizard” of the sixteenth century, will leave any honest
reader under the impression that in the perspective of history he was
a much maligned man. If it had not been that now and again he was led
into crooked bye-paths of alleged occultism, his record might have
stood out as that of one of the most accomplished and sincere of the
scientists of his time. He was in truth, whatever were his faults,
more sinned against than sinning. If the English language is not so
elastic as some others in the matter of meaning of phrases, the same
or a greater effect can be obtained by a careful use of the various
dialects of the British Empire. In the present case we may, if English
lacks, well call on some of the varieties of Scotch terminology.
The intellectual status of the prime wizard, as he is held to be in
general opinion, can be well indicated by any of the following words
or phrases “wanting,” “crank,” “a tile off,” “a wee bit saft,” “a bee
in his bonnet.” Each of these is indicative of some form of monomania,
generally harmless. If John Dee had not had some great qualities, such
negative weaknesses would have prevented his reputation ever achieving
a permanent place in history of any kind. As it is his place was won by
many accomplished facts. The following is a broad outline of his life,
which was a long one lasting for over eighty years.

John Dee was born in 1527, and came of a Welsh race. A good many years
after his start in life he, after the harmless fashion of those (and
other) times, made out a family tree in which it was shewn that he was
descended from, among other royalties, Roderick the Great, Prince of
Wales. This little effort of vanity did not, however, change anything.
The world cared then about such things almost as little as it does
now; or, allowing for the weakness of human beings in the way of their
own self-importance, it might be better to say as it professes to do
now. John Dee was sent to the University of Cambridge when he was only
fifteen years old. The College chosen for him was St. John’s, and here
he showed extraordinary application in his chosen subject, mathematics.
He took his probationary degree of Bachelor of Arts in 1545, and was
made a Fellow in 1546. In his early years of College life his work was
regulated in a remarkable way. Out of the twenty-four hours, eighteen
were devoted to study, four to sleep, the remaining two being set
apart for meals and recreation. Lest this should seem incredible it
may be remembered that three hundred years later, the French Jesuits,
having made exhaustive experiments, arrived at the conclusion that for
mere purposes of health, without making any allowance for the joy or
happiness of life, and treating the body merely as a machine from which
the utmost amount of work mental and physical could be got without
injury, four hours of sleep per diem sufficed for health and sanity.
And it is only natural that a healthy and ambitious young man trying to
work his way to success would, or might have been, equally strenuous
and self-denying. His appointment as Fellow of St. John’s was one of
those made when the College was founded. That he was skilled in other
branches of learning was shown by the fact that in the University he
was appointed as Under Reader in Greek. He was daring in the practical
application of science, and during the representation of one of the
comedies of Aristophanes, created such a sensation by appearing to fly,
that he began to be credited by his companions with magical powers.
This was probably the beginning of the sinister reputation which seemed
to follow him all his life afterwards. When once an idea of the kind
has been started even the simplest facts of life and work seem to
gather round it and enlarge it indefinitely. So far as we can judge
after a lapse of over three hundred years, John Dee was an eager and
ardent seeker after knowledge; and all through his life he travelled
in the search wherever he was likely to gain his object. It is a main
difficulty of following such a record that we have only facts to
follow. We know little or nothing of motives except from results, and
as in the development of knowledge the measure of success can only
bear a small ratio to that of endeavour, it is manifest that we should
show a large and tolerant understanding of the motives which animate
the seeker for truth. In the course of his long life John Dee visited
many lands, sojourned in many centres of learning, had relations of
common interests as well as of friendship with many great scholars,
and made as thinker, mathematician, and astronomer, a reputation far
transcending any ephemeral and purely gaseous publicity arising from
the open-mouthed wonder of the silly folk who are not capable of even
trying to understand things beyond their immediate ken. Wherever he
went he seems to have been in touch with the learned and progressive
men of his time, and always a student. At various times he was in
the Low Countries, Louvain (from whose University he obtained the
degree of LL.D.), Paris, Wurtemberg, Antwerp, Presburg, Lorraine,
Frankfort-on-the-Oder, Bohemia, Cracow, Prague, and Hesse-Cassel. He
even went so far afield as St. Helena. He was engaged on some great
works of more than national importance. For instance, when in 1582,
Pope Gregory XIII instituted the reform of the Calendar which was
adopted by most of the great nations of the world, Dee approved and
worked out his own calculations to an almost similar conclusion,
though the then opposition to him cost England a delay of over one
hundred and seventy years. In 1572 he had proved his excellence as an
astronomer in his valuable work in relation to a newly discovered star
(Tycho Brahe’s) in Cassiopœia. In 1580 he made a complete geographical
and hydrographical map of the Queen’s possessions. He tried--but
unhappily in vain--to get Queen Mary to gather the vast collections
of manuscripts and old books which had been made in the Monasteries
(broken up by Henry VIII) of which the major part were then to be
obtained both easily and cheaply. He was a Doctor of Laws (which
by the way was his only claim to be called “Doctor” Dee, the title
generally accorded to him). He was made a rector in Worcestershire in
1553; and in 1556, Archbishop Parker gave him ten years’ use of the
livings of Upton and Long Leadenham. He was made Warden of Manchester
College in 1595, and was named by Queen Elizabeth as Chancellor of St.
Paul’s. In 1564, he was appointed Dean of Gloucester, though through
his own neglect of his own interest it was never carried out. The
Queen approved, the Archbishop sealed the deed; but Dee, unmindful,
overlooked the formality of acceptance and the gift eventually went
elsewhere. Queen Elizabeth, who consistently believed in and admired
him, wanted to make him a bishop, but he declined the responsibility.
For once the formality at consecration: “_Nolo Episcopari_” was spoken
with truthful lips. More than once he was despatched to foreign places
to make special report in the Queen’s service. That he did not--always,
at all events--put private interest before public duty is shown by his
refusal to accept two rectories offered to him by the Queen in 1576,
urging as an excuse that he was unable to find time for the necessary
duties, since he was too busily occupied in making calculations for
the reformation of the Calendar. He seems to have lived a most proper
life, and was twice married. After a long struggle with adversity in
which--last despair of a scholar--he had to sell his books, he died
very poor, just as he was preparing to migrate. At his death in 1608
he left behind him no less than seventy-nine works--nearly one for
each year of his life. Just after the time of the Armada, following on
some correspondence with Queen Elizabeth, he had returned to England
after long and adventurous experiences in Poland and elsewhere, during
which he had known what it was to receive the honours and affronts of
communities. He took back with him the reputation of being a sorcerer,
one which he had never courted and which so rankled in him that many
years afterwards he petitioned James I to have him tried so that he
might clear his character.

If there be any truth whatever in the theory that men have attendant
spirits, bad as well as good, Dr. Dee’s bad spirit took the shape of
one who pretended to occult knowledge, the so-called Sir Edward Kelley
of whom we shall have something to say later on.

Dee was fifty-four years of age when he met Sir Edward Kelley who was
twenty-eight years his junior. The two men became friends, and then
the old visionary scholar at once became dominated by his younger and
less scrupulous companion, who very soon became his partner. From that
time Dee’s down-fall--or rather down-_slide_ began. All the longings
after occult belief which he had hitherto tried to hold in check began
not only to manifest themselves, but to find expression. His science
became merged in alchemy, his astronomical learning was forced into
the service of Astrology. His belief, which he as a cleric held before
him as a duty, was lost in spiritualism and other forms of occultism.
He began to make use for practical purposes of his crystal globe and
his magic mirror in which he probably had for long believed secretly.
Kelley practically ruined his reputation by using for his own purposes
the influence which he had over the old man. His opportunities were
increased by the arrival in England of Laski, about 1583. The two
scholars had many ideas in common, and Kelley did not fail, in the
furtherance of his own views, to take advantage of the circumstance.
He persuaded Dee to go with his new friend to Poland, in the hope of
benefiting further in his studies in the occult by wider experience
of foreign centres of learning. They journeyed to Laskoe near Cracow,
where the weakness of the English scholar became more evident and his
form of madness more developed. Dee had now a fixed belief in two
ideas which he had hitherto failed to materialise--the Philosopher’s
Stone and the Elixir of Life, both of them dreams held as possible of
realisation to the scientific dreamer in the period of the Renaissance.
Dee believed at one time that he had got hold of the Philosopher’s
Stone, and actually sent to Queen Elizabeth a piece of gold taken from
a transmuted warming-pan. As it is said in the life of Dee that he
and Kelley had found a quantity of the Elixir of Life in the ruins of
Glastonbury Abbey, we can easily imagine what part the latter had in
the transaction. It was he, too, who probably fixed on Glastonbury as
the place in which to search for Elixirs, as that holy spot had already
a reputation of its own in such matters. It has been held for ages that
the staff used by Joseph of Arimathea took root and blossomed there.
Somehow, whatever the Glastonbury Elixir did, the Philosopher’s Stone
did not seem to keep its alleged properties in the Dee family. John
Dee’s young son Arthur, aged eight, tried its efficacy; but without
success. Perhaps it was this failure which made Kelley more exacting,
for a couple of years later in 1589, he told his partner that angels
had told him it was the divine wish that they should have their wives
in common. The sage, who was fond of his wife--who was a comely woman,
whereas Kelley’s was ill favoured and devoid of charms--naturally
demurred at such an utterance even of occult spirits. Mrs. Dee also
objected, with the result that there were alarums and excursions and
the partnership was rudely dissolved--which is a proof that though the
aged philosopher’s mind had been vitiated by the evil promptings of his
wily companion he had not quite declined to idiocy.


In Paris a woman named Des Hayes Voisin, a widow who had taken up the
business of a midwife, towards the end of the seventeenth century
made herself notorious by the telling of fortunes. Such at least
was the manifest occupation of the worthy lady, and as she did not
flaunt herself unduly, her existence was rather a retired one. Few who
did not seek her services knew of her existence, fewer still of her
residence. The life of a professor of such mysteries as the doings of
Fate--so-called--is prolonged and sweetened by seclusion. But there
is always an “underground” way of obtaining information for such as
really desire it; and Madame Voisin, for all her evasive retirement,
was always to be found when wanted--which means when she herself wanted
to be found. She was certainly a marvellous prophet, within a certain
range of that occult art. Like all clever people she fixed limitations
for herself; which was wise of her, for to prophesy on behalf of every
one who may yearn for a raising of the curtain, be it of never so small
a corner, on all possible subjects, is to usurp the general functions
of the Almighty. Wisely therefore, Madame Voisin became a specialist.
Her subject was husbands; her chief theme their longevity. Naturally
such women as were unsatisfied with the personality, circumstances,
or fortunes of their partners, joined the mass of her _clientèle_, a
mass which taking it “bye and large” maintained a strange exactness
of dimensions. This did not much trouble the public, or even the body
of her clients, for no one except Madame herself knew their numbers.
It was certainly a strange thing how accurately Madame guessed, for
she had seemingly no data to go on--the longevity of the husbands were
never taken into the confidence of the prophet. She took care to keep
almost to herself the rare good fortune, in a sense, which attended her
divination; for ever since the misfortune which had attended the late
Marquise de Brinvilliers became public, the powers of the law had taken
a quite unnecessary interest in the proceedings of all of her cult.
Longevity is quite a one-sided arrangement of nature; we can only be
sure of its accuracy when it is too late to help in its accomplishment.
In such a game there is only one throw of the dice, so that it behoves
anyone who would wager successfully to be very sure that the chances
are in his--or her--favour.

Madame Voisin’s clients were generally in a hurry, and so were willing
to take any little trouble or responsibility necessary to ensure
success. They had two qualities which endear customers to those of La
Voisin’s trade; they were grateful and they were silent. That they
were of cheery and hopeful spirit was shown by the fact that as a rule
they married again soon after the dark cloud of bereavement had fallen
on them. When the funeral baked meats have coldly furnished forth the
marriage tables, it is better to remain as inconspicuous as possible;
friends and onlookers will take notice, and, when they notice, they
will talk. Moreover the new partner is often suspicious and apt to be a
little jealous of his predecessor in title. Thus, Madame Voisin being
clever and discreet, and her clients being--or at any rate appearing
to be--happy in their new relations and silent to the world at large,
all went prosperously with the kindly-hearted prophet. No trouble rose
as to testamentary dispositions. Men who are the subjects of prophecy
have usually excellently-drawn wills. This is especially the case with
husbands who are no longer young. Young husbands are as a rule not made
the subjects of prophecy.

Madame Voisin’s great accuracy of prediction did not excite at the
time so much public admiration as it might have done if she or her
clients had taken the public more into their confidence; but it was
noted afterwards that in most cases the male individual who retired
early from the scene was the senior partner in that _congeries_ of
three which has come to be known as “the eternal triangle.” In later
conversations, following in the wake of the completed prophecy,
confidences were exchanged as to the studies in certain matters
of science in which Madame Voisin seemed to have attained a rare

The late Mr. Charles Peace, an adventurous if acquisitive spirit, who
gave up his life in the same manner as the deceased Mr. Haman, worked
alone during the long period of his professional existence, and with
misleading safety. The illustrious French lady-prophet unwisely did
not value this form of security, and so multiplied opportunities of
failure. She followed an entirely opposite policy, one which though it
doubtless stood by her on many occasions had a fatal weakness. In some
ways it may facilitate matters if one is one’s own Providence; such
a course avoids temporarily errors of miscalculation or deduction of
probable results. And just as the roulette table has certain chances
in favour of Zero, there is for the practical prophet a large hazard
in that the dead are unable to speak or to renew effort on a more
favourable basis. La Voisin, probably through some unfavourable or
threatening experiences, saw the wisdom of associating the forces of
prediction and accomplishment, and with the readiness of an active
personality effected the junction. For this she was already fairly
well equipped with experiences. Both as a wife and a lover of warm
and voluptuous nature she understood something of the passions of
humanity, on both the female and the male side; and being a woman she
knew perhaps better of the two the potency of feminine longing. This
did not act so strongly in the lesser and more directly commercial,
if less uncertain, phases of her art, such as finding lost property,
divining the result of hazards, effecting immunity from danger, or the
preserving indefinitely the more pleasing qualities of youth. But in
sterner matters, when the issue was of life or death, the masculine
tendency towards recklessness kicked the beam. As a nurse in active
touch with both medical and surgical wants, aims, and achievements,
she was at ease in the larger risks of daily life. And after all, her
own ambitions, aided by the compelling of her own natural demands
for physical luxury, were quite independent, only seeking through
exiguous means a way of achievement. In secret she studied the mystery
of a toxicologist; and, probably by cautious experiment, satisfied
herself of her proficiency in that little-known science. That she had
other aims, more or less dependent on this or the feelings which its
knowledge superinduced, can be satisfactorily guessed from some of her
attendant labours which declared themselves later.

After a time La Voisin’s vogue as a sorceress brought her into
certain high society where freedom of action was unhampered by moral
restraints. The very rich, the leaders of society and fashion of the
time, the unscrupulous whose ambitious efforts had been crowned with
success of a kind, leaders of Court life, those in high military
command, mistresses of royalty and high aristocracy--all became
companions and clients in one or more of her mysterious arts. Amongst
them were the Duchesse de Bouillon, the Comtesse de Soissons, Madame
de Montespan, Olympe de Mancini, Marshal de Luxembourg, the Duc de
Vendôme, Prince de Clermont-Lodeve. It was not altogether fashionable
not to be in touch with Madame Voisin. Undeterred by the lessons of
history, La Voisin went on her way, forced as is usual in such cases by
the circumstances which grow around the criminal and prove infinitely
the stronger. She was at the height of her success when the public
suspicion, followed by action, revealed the terrible crimes of the
Marquise de Brinvilliers; and she was caught in the tail of the tempest
thus created.

This case of Madame de Brinvilliers is a typical one of how a human
being, goaded by passion and lured by opportunity, may fall swiftly
from any estate. It is so closely in touch with that of Madame Voisin
that the two have almost to be considered together. They began with the
desire for dabbling in forbidden mysteries. Three men--two Italians
and one German, all men of some ability--were violent searchers for
the mythical “philosopher’s stone” which was to fulfil the dream of
the mediæval alchemist by turning at will all things into gold. In the
search they all gravitated to Paris. There the usual thing happened.
Money ran short and foolish hoping had to be supplemented by crime.
In the whirling world of the time there was always a ready sale for
means to an end, however nefarious either might be. The easy morality
of the time allowed opportunity for all means, with the result that
there was an almost open dealing in poisons. The soubriquet which stole
into existence--it dared not proclaim itself--is a self-explanatory
historical lesson. The _poudre de succession_ marks an epoch which,
for sheer, regardless, remorseless, profligate wickedness is almost
without peer in history, and this is said without forgetting the time
of the Borgias. Not even natural affection or family life or individual
relationship or friendliness was afforded any consideration. This phase
of crime, which was one almost confined to the upper and wealthier
classes, depended on wealth and laws of heredity and entail. Those who
benefited by it salved what remnants of conscience still remained to
them with the thought that they were but helping the natural process of
waste and recuperation. The old and feeble were removed, with as little
coil as might be necessary, in order that the young and lusty might
benefit. As the change was a form of plunder, which had to be paid
for in a degree in some way approximate to results, prices ran high.
Poisoning on a successful scale requires skilful and daring agents,
whose after secrecy as well as whose present aid has to be secured.
Exili and Glasser--one of the Italians and the German--did a thriving
trade. As usual in such illicit traffic, the possibility of purchase
under effective conditions made a market. There is every reason to
believe from after results that La Voisin was one such agent. The cause
of La Brinvilliers entering the market was the purely personal one of
an affair of sensual passion. Death is an informative circumstance.
Suspicion began to leak out that the polyglot firm of needy foreigners
had dark dealings. Two of them--the Italians--were arrested and sent to
the Bastille where one of them died. By unhappy chance the other was
given as cell-companion Captain Sainte-Croix, who was a lover of the
Marquise de Brinvilliers. Sainte-Croix as a Captain in the regiment
of the Marquis had become intimate in his house. Brinvilliers was a
fatuous person and of imperfect moral vision. The Captain was handsome,
and Madame la Marquise amorous. Behold then all the usual _personnel_
of a tragedy of three. After a while the intrigue became a matter of
family concern. The lady’s father,--the Civil Lieutenant d’Aulroy,
procured a _lettre de cachet_, and had the erring lover immured in the
Bastille as the easiest and least public way out of the difficulty.
“Evil communications corrupt good manners,” says the proverb. The
proverbial philosopher understated the danger of such juxtaposition.
Evil manners added corruption even to their kind. In the Bastille the
exasperated lover listened to the wiles of Exili; and another stage
of misdoing began. The Marquise determined on revenge, and be sure
that in such a case in such a period even the massive walls of the
Bastille could not prevent the secret whisper of a means of effecting
it. D’Aulroy, his two sons, and another sister perished. Brinvilliers
himself was spared through some bizarre freak of his wife’s conscience.
Then the secret began to be whispered--first, it was said, through
the confessional; and the _Chambre Ardente_, analogous to the British
Star Chamber, instituted for such purposes, took the case in hand. The
result might have been doubtful, for great social forces were at work
to hush up such a scandal, but that, with a truly seventeenth century
candour, the prisoner had written an elaborate confession of her guilt,
which if it did not directly assure condemnation at least put justice
on the right track.

The trial was a celebrated one, and involved incidentally many
illustrious persons as well as others of lesser note. In the end, in
1676, Madame la Marquise de Brinvilliers was burned--that is, what was
left of her was burned after her head had been cut off, a matter of
grace in consideration of her rank. It is soothing to the feelings of
many relatives and friends--not to mention those of the principal--in
such a case when “great command o’ersways the order” of purgation by

Before the eddy of the Brinvilliers’ criminal scandal reached to the
lower level of Madame Voisin, a good many scandals were aired; though
again “great command” seems to have been operative, so far as human
power availed, in minimising both scandals and punishments. Amongst
those cited to the _Chambre Ardente_ were two nieces of Cardinal
Mazarin, the Duchesse de Bouillon, the Comtesse de Soissons, and
Marshal de Luxembourg. In some of these cases that which in theatrical
parlance is called “comic relief” was not wanting. It was a witty if
impertinent answer of the Duchesse de Bouillon to one of her judges,
La Reyne, an ill-favoured man, who asked, apropos of a statement made
at the trial that she had taken part in an alleged invocation of
Beelzebub, “and did you ever see the Devil?”--

“Yes, I am looking at him now. He is ugly, and is disguised as a
Councillor of State!”

The King, Louis XIV, took much interest in the trial and even tried
now and again to smooth matters. He even went so far as to advise
the Comtesse de Soissons who was treated by the Court rather as a
foolish than a guilty woman, to keep out of the way if she were really
guilty. In answer she said with the haughtiness of her time that
though she was innocent she did not care to appear in a Law Court. She
withdrew to Brussels where she died some twenty years later. Marshal
de Luxembourg--François Henri de Montmorenci-Boutteville, duke, peer,
Marshal of France to give his full titles--was shown to have engaged in
an attempt to recover lost property by occult means. On which basis
and for having once asked Madame Voisin to produce his Satanic Majesty,
he was alleged to have sold himself to the Devil. But his occult
adventures did not stand in the way of his promotion as a soldier
though he had to stand a trial of over a year long; he was made Captain
of the Guard and finally given command of the Army.

La Voisin with her accomplices--a woman named Vigoureux and Le Sage,
a priest--were with a couple of score of others arrested in 1679, and
were, after a spell of imprisonment in the Bastille, tried. As a result
Voisin, Vigoureux and her brother, and Le Sage were burned early in
1680. In Voisin’s case the mercy of previous decapitation, which had
been accorded to her guilty sister Brinvilliers, was not extended to
her. Perhaps this was partly because of the attitude which she had
taken up with regard to religious matters. Amongst other unforgivable
acts she had repelled the Crucifix--a terrible thing to do according to
the ideas of that superstitious age.


Carlyle in his _French Revolution_ makes a contrast between two works
of imagination which mark the extremes of the forces that made for
the disruption of France, _Paul et Virginie_ and _Le Chevalier de
Faublas_. The former he calls “the swan-song of old dying France”; of
the latter he says “if this wretched _Faublas_ is a death-speech, it
is one under the gallows, and by a felon that does not repent.” This
double analogy may well serve for a comparison of Dr. Dee and the man
who was at once his partner for a time, and his evil genius. The grave
earnest old scholar, with instincts for good, high endeavour, and a
vast intellectual strength, contrasts well with the mean-souled shifty
specious rogue who fastened himself on him and leech-like drained him
“dry as hay.”

Such historians as mention the existence of the latter are even a
little doubtful how to spell his name. This, however, does not matter
much--nay, at all, for it is probably not that to which he was born.
Briefly the following is his record as far as can be discovered. He
was born in 1555 to parents living in Worcester, who having tried
to bring him up as an apothecary, sent him to Oxford when he was
seventeen years of age. There he was entered at Gloucester Hall,
under the name of Talbot. As however three men of that name were in
the Hall at the same time, it is doubtful what family can claim the
honour of his kinship. His college life was short--only lasting a
year--and inconspicuous. “He left,” we are told, “abruptly.” Then, as
if to complete the purely educational phase of his existence, he was
for a while an attorney, eking out the tenuity of his legal practice
by aid of forgery. Thus full-fledged for his work in life, he made
his first properly-recorded appearance in the pillory in 1580, for
an offence which is variously spoken of as forgery and coining. At
any rate his ears were cropped off, a loss which necessitated for
prudential reasons his wearing a skullcap for the remainder of his
days. This he wore with such conspicuous success that it is said that
even Doctor Dee, who was his partner for nearly seven years, did not
know of his mutilation. Kelley’s next recorded offence was one which
in a later age when subjects for dissection (necessary for purposes of
education in anatomy) were difficult to obtain, was popularly known
as “body-snatching.” The commission of this offence though a serious
breach of the law, came to be regarded as a necessary condition of
study; and even if punishment was meted out, it was not looked upon as
dishonour. But in Kelley’s case the offence was committed not for the
purpose of scientific education but for one of sorcery. It took place
in Walton-le-dale in Lancashire, where Kelley dug up a body buried
on the previous day, for purposes of necromancy, which, it will be
remembered, was, as the etymology of the word implies, divination by
means of the dead.

From this time on, he seemed to see his way clear to the final choice
of a profession. He had tasted crime and punishment, and considered
himself well qualified to accept the risks as well as the benefits;
and so chose fraud as his life work. He was still under twenty-five
years of age when he began to look about him for his next means
or occasion of turning his special talents to profit. After some
deliberation he fixed on the existence and qualities of the famous (as
he had then become) Doctor Dee, and carefully commenced operations.
He called on the mathematician at his house at Mortlake and made his
acquaintance. Dee was naturally impressed by the conversation and
ostensible qualities of the young man, who had the plausibility of the
born rogue and laid himself out to captivate the old man, more than
double his companion’s age and worn by arduous study. He fostered all
Dee’s natural weaknesses, humoured his fads, was enthusiastic regarding
his beliefs which he appeared to share, and urged on his personal
ambitions. The belief in occultism which the philosopher cherished
in secret, though he had openly and formally repudiated it a dozen
years before in his preface to Sir Henry Billingsley’s translation
of Euclid, gave the parasitic rogue his cue for further ingratiating
himself, and before long he entered Dee’s service at an annual salary
of fifty pounds. His special function was that of “skryer,” which
was his own or Dee’s reading of “seer.” His contribution to the
general result was to see the figures which did--or did not--appear
in the so-called “magic” crystal, an office for which his useful
imagination, his unblushing assurance, and his utter unscrupulousness
eminently fitted him. In fact he was in his designs of fraud a perfect
complement of the simple-minded scientist. Of course as days went on
and opportunities offered themselves, through Dee’s growing madness
and Kelley’s social enlargements, the horizon of chicanery widened.
This was largely assisted by the opportune arrival in England of the
Palatine Albert Laski in 1583. Laski was just the man that Kelley was
waiting for. A rich man with a taste for occult science; sufficiently
learned to keep in touch with the theories of occultism of that time;
sufficiently vain to be used by an unscrupulous adventurer who tickled
his intellectual palate whilst he matured his frauds upon him.

Kelley having worked on Dee’s feelings sufficiently to secure his
acquiescence, procured that Laski should be allowed to aid in such
operations and experiments as appealed to him. The result was that the
Palatine took the two men with him, promising a free field for them
both, each according to his bent. At Prague, in 1583, Laski presented
Dee and his companion to the Emperor Rudolph II. Encouraged by the
royal approval, Dee looked for a longer sojourn in eastern Europe, and
brought thither his wife and children from Poland, where he had left
them at Laskoe, the seat of the Palatine. Later on, in 1585,--again
through the influence of the credulous Laski--Dee with his companion
was presented to Stephen, King of Poland. Stephen was much interested,
and attended a _séance_ that he might see the spirits of which he
had heard so much. He saw too much, however, as far as Kelley was
concerned, for he penetrated the imposture. Thereupon Kelley, unequal
to carrying on the business single-handed, for he dared not let Dee’s
eyes be opened and he knew he could not induce him to be other than
a blind partner, contrived that a new confederate should be added to
the firm. This was one Francis Pucci, a Florentine, possessed of all
the address and subtlety of his race. But after the experience of a
year he was removed on suspicion of bad faith. Before that year was
out, the Bishop of Piacenza, Apostolic Nuncio at the Emperor’s Court,
had a decree issued that the two Englishmen should quit Prague within
six days. From Prague they went to Erfurt, in Thuringia; but despite
letters of recommendation from high quarters the Municipal Authorities
would not allow them to remain. So they moved on to Hesse-Cassel and
thence to Tribau in Bohemia, where the fraud of making spirits appear
was renewed. In 1586, it was intimated to Dee that the Emperor of
Russia wished to receive him in that country. He would receive a fee of
two thousand pounds per annum and would be treated with honour; but the
scholar did not see his way to accept the flattering offer. At Tribau,
Kelley experimented, but unsuccessfully, with some powder found at
Glastonbury, Dee’s young son being the medium. It was noticeable that
whenever Dee or his family failed in these experiments, Kelley always
succeeded. At this stage Kelley, who was a man of evil life, fell madly
in love with Dee’s wife. He was married himself, but that did not seem
to matter. His own wife was ugly and unattractive, whereas the second
Mrs. Dee was well-favoured and winning. In the madness of his lust
he tried to work on the husband’s credulity by telling him that it
had been conveyed to him through angels that it was the Divine wish
that the two men should hold their wives in common. Dee was naturally
sceptical and annoyed, and his wife was furious. Kelley, however, was
persistent, and stuck to his point so stedfastly that after a while
the woman’s resolution began to give way, and for a time some sort of
working arrangement came about. Kelley’s story, as elaborated to his
partner, was that at Tribau, in 1587, the crystal showed him a vision
of a naked woman who conveyed to him the divine message. To Dee’s
unhinged mind this seemed all natural and correct--probably even to
the suitable costume adopted by the angelic messenger: so the worthy
doctor gave way. After a time however the matron recovered her sanity,
and the vulture and the pigeon parted. Dee gave up to his late partner
all the “tools of trade” and “properties” of the fraud, and the two
never met again.

Kelley went to Prague where he was thrown into prison in 1589. He
remained in durance for four years after which he was released. From
thence on till 1595, he became a vagabond as well as a rogue, and
wandered about Germany. He again fell into the hands of Rudolph, to be
again imprisoned by him. He was killed whilst making a desperate effort
to escape.

There seems to be no record of Edward Kelley--or Talbot--having been
knighted, no authority save his own wish for the use of the title. It
may of course be possible that he was knighted by the Emperor in some
moment of absurd credulity; but there is no record of it. He had no


Owing to a want of accord among historians, the searcher after historic
truth in our own day can hardly be quite sure of the identity of the
worthy lady who passed under the above enchanting title. To later
generations the district of Camden Town--formerly a suburb of London
but now a fairly central part of it--is best known through a public
house, the _Mother Red-Cap_. But before controversy can cease we are
called on to decide if Mother Red-Cap and Mother Damnable were one
and the same person. A hundred years ago a writer who had made such
subjects his own, came to the conclusion that the soubriquet Mother
Damnable was synonymous with Mother Black-Cap whom he spoke of as of
local fame. But in the century that has elapsed historical research has
been more scientifically organised and the field from which conclusions
can be drawn has been enlarged as well as explored. The fact is that
a century ago the northern suburb had two well-known public houses,
_Mother Red-Cap_ and _Mother Black-Cap_. It is possible that both the
worthy vintners who offered “entertainment for man and beast” meant one
and the same person, though who that person was remains to be seen.
The distinctive colour line of the two hostelries was also possibly
due to considerations of business rather than of art. _Red-cap_ and
_Black-cap_ are, as names, drawn from these varying sign-boards; the
term _Mother_ held in common is simply a title given without any
pretence of doing honour to the alleged practices of the person whom it
is intended to designate.

There were in fact two notorious witches, either of whom might have
been in the mind of either artistic designer. One was of Yorkshire
fame in the time of Henry VII. The other was of very much later date
and of purely local notoriety. The two publicans who exploited these
identities under pictorial garb were open and avowed trade rivals.
The earlier established of the two had evidently commissioned a
painter to create a striking sign-board on a given subject, and the
artist had fulfilled his task by an alleged portrait of sufficiently
fearsome import to fix the attention of the passer-by, at the same time
conveying to him some hint of the calling of the archetype on which
her fame was based. Prosperity in the venture begot rivalry; and the
owner of the new house of refreshment, wishing to outshine his rival
in trade whilst at the same time availing himself of the publicity and
local fame already achieved, commissioned another artist to commit
another pictorial atrocity under the name of art. So far as the purpose
of publicity went, the ideas were similar; the only differences
being in the colour scheme and the measure of attractiveness of the
alleged prototype. From the indications thus given one may form some
opinion--based solely on probability--as to which was the earlier and
which the later artistic creation, for it is by this means--and this
means only--that we may after the lapse of at least a century bring
tradition to our aid, and guess at the original of Mother Damnable.

Of the two signs it seems probable that the black one is the older.
After all, the main purpose of a sign-board is to catch the eye,
and unless Titian and all who followed him are wrong, red has an
attractive value beyond all other hues. The dictum of the great Italian
is unassailable: “Red catches the eye; yellow holds it; blue gives
distance.” A free-souled artist with the choice of the whole palette
open to him might choose black since historical accuracy was a matter
to be valued; but in a question of competition a painter would wisely
choose red--especially when his rival had confined himself to black.
So far as attractiveness is concerned, it must be borne in mind that
the object of the painter and his patron was to bring customers to a
London suburban public house in the days of George III. To-day there is
a cult of horrors in Paris which has produced some choice specimens of
decorative art, such for instance as the café known as _Le Rat Mort_.

Such places lure their customers by curiosity and sheer horror; but the
persons lured are from a class dominated by “Gallic effervescence” and
attracted by anything that is _bizarre_, and not of the class of the
stolid beer-drinking Briton. But even the most stolid of men is pleased
by the beauty of a woman; so the sign-painter--who knows his art well,
and has evolved from the ranks of his calling such a man as Franz
Hals--we may be sure, when he wished to please, took for his model some
gracious personality.

Now the artist of the lady of dark headgear let his imagination run
free and produced a face typical of all the sins of the Decalogue. We
may therefore take it on the ground of form as well as that of colour
that priority of date is to be given to Mother Black-Cap. There is
good ground for belief that this deduction is correct. Naturally the
owner of the earliest public-house wished to make it as attractive as
possible; and as Camden Town was a suburb through which the northern
traffic passed on its way to and from London, it was wise to use
for publicity and entertainment names that were familiar to north
country ears. Before the railways were organised the great wheeled
and horse-traffic between London and the North--especially Yorkshire
which was one of the first Counties to take up manufacturing and had
already most of the wool trade--went through Camden Town. So it was
wise forethought to take as an inn sign a Yorkshire name. The name
of Mother Shipton had been in men’s mouths and ears for about two
hundred years, and as the times had so changed that the old stigma of
witchcraft was not then understood, the association of the name with
Knaresborough alone remained. And so Mother Shipton of Knaresborough
was intended as the prototype of the inn portrait with black headgear
at Camden Town. In the ordinary course of development and business one
of the two inns succeeded and lasted better than the other. And as
Mother Red-Cap has as a name supplanted Mother Damnable, we may with
some understanding discuss who that lady was.

She was a well-known shrew of Kentish Town, daughter of one Jacob
Bingham, a local brickmaker, who had married the daughter of a Scotch
pedlar manifestly not of any high moral character as shown by her
later acts and the general mistrust which attended them. They had
one daughter, Jinny, who in wickedness outdid her parents. She was
naturally warm-blooded and had a child when she was sixteen by a man of
no account, George Coulter, known as Gipsy George. Whatever affection
may have existed between them was cut short by his arrest--and
subsequent execution at Tyburn--for sheepstealing. In her second
quasi-matrimonial venture Jinny lived a cat-and-dog life with a man
called Darby who spent his time in getting drunk and trying to get
over it. Number Two’s end was also tragic. After a violent quarrel
with his companion he disappeared. Then there was domestic calm for a
while, possibly due to the fact that Bingham and his wife were being
tried also on a charge of witchcraft, complicated with another capital
charge of procuring the death of a young woman. They were both hanged
and thereafter Jinny found time for another episode of love-making and
took up with a man called Pitcher. He too disappeared, but his body,
burned almost to a cinder, was discovered in a neighbouring oven. Jinny
was tried for murder, but escaped on the plea that the man often took
refuge in the oven when he wished to get beyond reach of the woman’s
venomous tongue, to which fact witness was borne by certain staunch
companions of Miss Bingham.

Jinny’s third venture towards happy companionship, though it lasted
much longer, was attended with endless bitter quarrelling, and came
to an equally tragic end, had at the beginning a spice of romance.
This individual, whose name has seemingly not been recorded, being
pursued in Commonwealth times for some unknown offence, had sought her
aid in attempting to escape. This she had graciously accorded, with
the consequence that they lived together some years in the greatest

At length he died--of poison, but by whom administered did not
transpire at the inquest. For the rest of her life Miss Bingham,
who was now old, lived under the suspicion of being a witch. Her
ostensible occupation was as a teller of fortunes and a healer of
odd diseases--occupations which singly or together make neither for
personal esteem or general confidence. Her public appearances were
usually attended by hounding and baiting by the rabble; and whenever
anything went wrong in her neighbourhood the blame was, with overt
violence of demeanour, attributed to her. She did not even receive any
of the respect usually shown to a freeholder--which she was, having
by her father’s death become owner of a house which he had built for
himself with his own hands on waste ground. Her only protector was that
usual favourite of witches, a black cat, whose devotion to her and
whose savage nature, accompanied by the public fear shown for an animal
which was deemed her “familiar,” caused the mob to flee before its

The tragedy and mystery of her life were even exceeded by those of her
death. When, having been missed for some time, her house was entered
she, attended only by her cat and with her crutch by her side, was
found crouching beside the cold ashes of her extinct fire. In the
tea-pot beside her was some liquid, seemingly brewed from herbs.
Willing hands administered some of this to the black cat, whose hair,
within a very short time, fell off. The cat forthwith died. Then the
clamour began. Very many people suddenly remembered having seen,
after her last appearance in public, the Devil entering her house. No
one, however, had seen him come out again. What a pity it was that no
veracious scribe or draughtsman was present in the crowd which had
noticed the Devil’s entry to the house. In such case we might have got
a real likeness of His Satanic Majesty--a thing which has long been
wanted--and the opportunities of obtaining which are few.

One peculiar fact is recorded of Madame Damnable’s burial; her body was
so stiff from the _rigor mortis_--or from some other cause--that the
undertakers had to break her limbs before they could put her body in
the coffin.


There is one thing more evil than oppression in the shape of
wrong-doing, and that is oppression in the guise of good. Tennyson,
in one of his poems, speaks of the dishonest pharmacist who “pestles
a poison’d poison.” This is a refinement of iniquity; a poisoned
poison is not even an enlargement of evil but a structural change
eliminating the intention of good and replacing it with evil intent.
Witches were quite bad enough; or rather they would have been, had that
which was alleged of them been true. But a man who got his living by
creating suspicion regarding them and following it out to the practical
consummation of a hideous death, was a thousand times worse. To-day
such a functionary as a witch-finder exists, it is true; but only
amongst the very lowest and most debased savages. And it is only by the
recorded types made known to us that it is possible even to guess at
the iniquity of their measures, the vileness of their actions. In the
full tally of the two centuries during which the witch mania existed
in England, it is impossible to parallel the baseness of the one man
who distinguished himself in this loathsome occupation. The facts of
his history speak for themselves. Matthew Hopkins was born in Suffolk
early in the seventeenth century. He was the son of a minister, James
Hopkins of Wenham. He was brought up for the law, and when enrolled
as an attorney, practised in Ipswich; but after a while he moved to
Manningtree where, after he had given up the law, he took to the
calling of witch-finder, being the first person in England to follow
that honourable trade.

If he had had no suitable opportunities of earning an honest livelihood
and been graced with no education, some excuse might have been offered
for his despicable calling. But when we remember that he passed his
youth in a household practising religion, and was a member of a learned
profession, it is difficult to find words sufficiently comprehensive
for the fit expression of our natural indignation against him. If
picturesque profanity were allowable, it might be well applied to
this despicable wretch and his nefarious labours. In no imaginable
circumstances could there possibly be anything to be said in mitigation
of his infamy. When we think that the whole ritual of oppression was
in his own hands--that he began with lying and perjury, and ended with
murder; that he showed, throughout, ruthless callousness for the mental
and physical torture of great numbers of the most helpless class of
the community, the poor, the weak, the suffering, the helpless and
hopeless; that when once his foul imagination had consecrated any poor
wretch to destruction, or his baleful glance had unhappily lighted
on some unsuspecting victim there was for such only the refuge of
death, and that by some means of prolonged torture, we cannot find
any hope or prospect even in evil dreams of the nether world, of any
adequate punishment for his dreadful sins. When we remember that this
one man--if man he can be called--was in himself responsible for what
amounted to the murder of some two hundred women whom he pursued to the
death, the magnitude of his guilt can be guessed but not realised.

He occupied three whole years in his fell work; and in those years,
1644, 1645 and 1646, he caused a regular reign of terror throughout
the counties of Huntingdon, Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex. He had a gang
of his own to help him in his gruesome work of “discovering” witches;
amongst whom was a wretch called John Stern and--to her shame--a woman,
whose name is unrecorded. These three had a sort of mock assize of
their own. They made regular tours of discovery, at a charge of twenty
shillings for expenses at each place they visited. There appears to
have been a fee paid or exacted for each witch “bagged”; and such was
his greed that after a while he actually lowered the price. In 1645,
which was perhaps his “best” year, the price declined to a shilling
a head. Hopkins and his gang took comfort, however, from the fact
that the industry was a growing one. The trade had only been initiated
in 1644, and already in a year’s time he had in one day procured
the execution of eighteen alleged witches; and at the end of that
assize, after the gaol delivery had been effected, one hundred and
twenty suspects still awaited trial. In the skilful hands of Matthew
Hopkins, trial was only a step on the road to certain execution by one
of the forms in use. Here came in, not only the witchfinder’s legal
knowledge, but also his gift of invention--the latter being used in the
formulation of so-called “tests” which were bound to be effective. Of
these the simplest was the water test. The subject’s thumbs were tied
together and she was then thrown into water of sufficient depth. If she
did not drown, it was taken as a proof of guilt; and she was hanged
by form of law. In some cases, as an alternative, she was burned. If
she did not stand the test her friends had the pleasure of knowing
that she was pronounced to have died innocent. In any case there was
no further trouble with her. Such was the accuracy as well as the
simplicity of similar “tests” that, in the twenty years previous to the
Restoration, between three and four thousand alleged witches perished
in England from one cause or another. Hopkins professed to be both
just and merciful. He seemed generally willing to afford a “test” to
the accused; though, truth to tell, the result was always the same.
In such cases the test was eminently calculated to evoke confession,
and such confession, no matter how ridiculous or extravagant it
might be, was simply a curved road to the rope or the torch instead
of a straight one. One of these pleasing “tests” was to place the
old woman--they were all women and all old--sitting cross-legged on
a stool or table where she could be well watched. She was generally
kept in that position under inspection, without food or water, for
twenty-four hours. At the end of that time such resolution as had
remained disappeared, and in the vain blind hope of some change for the
better, some alleviation however slight of the grinding misery, of the
agony of body and mind and soul, they confessed. And such confessions!
The very consideration of such of them as now remain in the cold
third-person method of a mere recorder, almost makes one weep; there
is hardly a word that is not almost a certificate of character. With
every desire to confess--for such was the last hope of pleasing their
torturers--their utter ignorance of confessional matter is almost a
proof of innocence.

Just imagine the scene--a village or hamlet, or the poorer quarter
of a small country town with squalid surroundings, marking a poverty
which in this age has no equal; a poor, old, lonely woman whose long
life of sordid misery, of hunger and the diseases that huddle closely
around want, hopeless, despairing, recognising her fate through the
prolonged physical torture with which age and infirmity rendered her
unable even to attempt to cope. Round her gathered, in a sickly ring,
a crowd of creatures debased by the exercise of greed and cruelty to a
lower level than the beasts. Their object is not to inquire, to test,
to judge; but only to condemn, to wreck, to break, to shatter. Some
of them, she realises even in her agony, are spurred on by the same
zeal which animated the cruelty of followers of Ignatius in the grim
torture-chambers of the Inquisition.

The poor dazed, suffering old creature, racked with pains prolonged
beyond endurance, tries to rally such glimmerings of invention as
are possible to her untaught, unfed mind; but finds herself at every
failure fluttering helplessly against a wall of spiritual granite which
gives back not even an echo to her despairing cry. At last she comes
to that stage where even fright and fear have no standing room, and
where the blank misery of suffering ceases to be effective. Then the
last flicker of desire for truth or rectitude of purpose dies away, and
she receives in feeble acquiescence such suggestions as are shouted
or whispered to her, in the hope that by accepting them she may win a
moment’s ease of body or mind, even if it be her last on earth. Driven
beyond mortal limits her untutored mind gives way; and with the last
remnants of her strength she yields her very soul to her persecutors.
The end does not matter to her now. Life has no more to offer her--even
of pain, which is the last conscious tie to existence. And through
it all, ghoul-like, watching and waiting for the collapse, whilst
outwardly he goes through the mechanical ritual of prayer, we see in
the background the sinister figure of the attorney, preparing in his
mind such evidence as he may procure or invent for his work of the next

It needs the imagination of a Dante to consider what should be the
place of such an one in history, and any eternity of punishment that
that imagination could suggest must be inadequate. Even pity itself
which rests on sympathy and is kin to the eternal spirit of justice,
would have imagined with satisfaction the wretched soul going through a
baleful eternity clinging in perpetual agony of fear to the very King
of Terrors.

In judging Matthew Hopkins one must not, in justice to others, accord
him any of the consideration which is the due of good intent. Not a
score of years after his shameful death, a man was born in a newer land
far beyond the separating sea, who through his influence, his teaching,
the expression of his honest conviction, was the cause of perhaps more
deaths than the English anti-witch. We refer to Cotton Mather, who
believed he wrought for the Lord--in his own way--in New England. But
guilt does not attach to him. He was an earnest, though mistaken man,
and the results of his mistaken teaching were at variance with the
trend of his kindly, godly life.

It must be pleasing to the spirit of the Old Adam which is in us
all in some form, to think of the manner of the death of Matthew
Hopkins. Three years had exhausted not only the material available
for his chosen work, but, what was worse for him, the patience of the
community. Moreover, he had given cause for scandal in even his own
degraded trade and in himself, the filthiest thing in connection with
it. Not content with dealing with the poor, helpless folk, whom he
had come to regard as his natural prey, he went on fancy flights of
oppression. At last he went too far. He ventured to denounce an aged
clergyman of blameless life. The witch-fever was too strong for justice
in any form, and neither age, high character, nor sacred office could
protect this gentleman of eighty years of age. He too was tortured,
till in a moment of unhinged mind, he confessed as he was ordered,
and was duly hanged. This was in 1645. The old man’s death was not in
vain, for it was made the occasion of much necessary plain speaking.
Presently the public conscience was wakened; chiefly by another cleric,
the Rev. John Caule, vicar of Great Staughton, Huntingdonshire--all
honour to him!--who, though strange to say he believed in witchcraft,
realised the greater evil wrought by men like Hopkins. He published
a pamphlet in which he denounced Hopkins as a common nuisance. The
result, if slow, was sure. The witch-finder never recovered from the
shock of Caule’s vigorous attack. In 1647, on information based on
Hopkins’ own rules, he was arrested and subjected to the test which
he had devised: he was tied by the thumbs and thrown into the water.
Unfortunately for himself he withstood the test--drowning, except for a
short period of pangs, is an easy death--and so was by process of Law
duly hanged.

One can imagine how the whole atmosphere of the country--surcharged
with suspicion, fear, oppression, torture, perjury or crime--was
cleared by the execration which followed the removal of this vile


(The Tichborne Claimant.)

In the annals of crime, Arthur Orton, the notorious claimant to the
rich estates and title of Tichborne, takes a foremost place; not only
as the originator of one of the most colossal attempts at fraud on
record, but also from his remarkable success in duping the public. It
would be difficult indeed to furnish a more striking example of the
height to which the blind credulity of people will occasionally attain.
Of pretenders, who by pertinacious and unscrupulous lying have sought
to bolster up fictitious claims, there have been many before Orton;
but he certainly surpassed all his predecessors in working out the
lie circumstantial in such a way as to divide the country for years
into two great parties--those who believed in the Claimant, and those
who did not. Over one hundred persons, drawn from every class, and
for the most part honest in their belief, swore to the identity of
this illiterate butcher’s son--this stockman, mail-rider and probably
bushranger and thief--as the long-lost son and heir of the ancient
house of Tichborne of Titchborne. To gain his own selfish ends this
individual was ready to rob a gentlewoman of her fair fame, to destroy
the peace of a great family who, to free themselves from a persecution,
as cruel as it was vicious, had to be pilloried before a ruthless and
unsympathising mob, to have the privacy of their home invaded, and
to hear their women’s names banded from one coarse mouth to another.
Thus, and through no fault of their own, they were compelled to endure
a mental torture far worse than any physical suffering, besides having
to expend vast sums of money, as well as time and labour, in order to
protect themselves from the would-be depredations of an unscrupulous
adventurer. It has been estimated that the resistance of this
fictitious claim cost the Tichborne estate not far short of one hundred
thousand pounds.


    _Photo. by Maull & Fox. Copyright._


The baronetcy of Tichborne, now Doughty-Tichborne, is one of the
oldest. It has been claimed that the family held possession of the
Manor of Tichborne for two hundred years before the Conquest. Be
this as it may--and, in the light of J. H. Round’s revelations, some
scepticism as to these pre-Norman pedigrees is permissible--their
ancestors may be traced back to one Walter de Tichborne who held the
manor, from which he took his name, as early as 1135. Their names too,
are interwoven with the history of the country. Sir Benjamin, the first
baronet--for the earlier de Tichbornes were knights,--as Sheriff of
Southhampton, on the death of Queen Elizabeth, repaired instantly
to Winchester and on his own initiative proclaimed the accession of
James VI of Scotland as King of England, for which service he was made
a baronet, and his four sons received the honour of knighthood. His
successor, Sir Richard, was a zealous supporter of the Royal cause
during the civil wars. Sir Henry, the third baronet, hazarded his life
in the defence of Charles I and had his estates sequestered by the
Parliamentarians though he was recompensed at the Restoration.

Believers in occultism might see in the trials and tribulations
brought down upon the unfortunate heads of the Tichborne family by the
machinations of the Claimant, the realisation of the doom pronounced by
a certain Dame Ticheborne away back in the days of Henry II.

Sir Roger de Ticheborne of those days married Mabell, the daughter and
heiress of Ralph de Lamerston, of Lamerston, in the Isle of Wight, by
whom he acquired that estate. This good wife played the part of lady
bountiful of the neighbourhood. After a life spent in acts of charity
and goodness, as her end drew nigh and she lay on her death bed, her
thoughts went out to her beloved poor. She begged her husband, that in
order to have her memory kept green the countryside round, he would
grant a bequest sufficient to ensure, once a year, a dole of bread to
all comers to the gates of Tichborne. To gratify her whim Sir Roger
promised her as much land as she could encompass while a brand plucked
from the fire should continue to burn. As the poor lady had been
bedridden for years her husband may have had no idea that she could,
even if she would, take his promise seriously. However, the venerable
dame, after being carried out upon the ground, seemed to regain her
strength in a miraculous fashion, and, to the surprise of all, managed
to crawl round several rich and goodly acres which to this day are
known as “the Crawls.”

Carried to her bed again after making this last supreme effort and
summoning her family to her bedside, Lady Ticheborne predicted with her
dying breath, that, as long as this annual dole was continued, so long
should the house of Tichborne prosper; but, should it be neglected,
their fortunes would fail and the family name become extinct from want
of male issue. As a sure sign by which these disasters might be looked
for, she foretold that a generation of seven sons would be immediately
followed by one of seven daughters.

The benevolent custom thus established was faithfully observed for
centuries. On every Lady Day crowds of humble folk came from near
and far to partake of the famous dole which consisted of hundreds of
small loaves. But ultimately the occasion degenerated into a noisy
merry-making, a sort of fair, until it was finally discontinued in
1796, owing to the complaints of the magistrates and local gentry that
the practice encouraged vagabonds, gipsies and idlers of all sorts to
swarm into the neighbourhood under pretence of receiving the dole.

Strangely enough Sir Henry Tichborne, the baronet of that day (the
original name of de Ticheborne had by this time been reduced to
Tichborne), had seven sons, while his eldest son who succeeded him in
1821, had seven daughters. The extinction of the family name, too,
came to pass, for in the absence of male issue, Sir Henry, the eighth
baronet, was succeeded by his brother, who had taken the surname of
Doughty on coming into the estates bequeathed to him on these terms, by
a distant relative, Miss Doughty; though, in after years, his brother,
who in turn succeeded him, obtained the royal licence to couple the
old family name with that of Doughty. Following this repeated lapse of
direct male heirs came other troubles; but it is to be hoped that the
successful defeat of the fraudulent claim of Arthur Orton set a period
to the doom pronounced long years ago by the Lady Mabell.

Most families, great and small, have their secret troubles and
unpleasantness, and the Tichbornes seem to have had their share of
them. To this may be traced the actual, if remote, cause of the
Claimant’s imposture. James Tichborne, afterwards the tenth baronet,
the father of the missing Roger, who was drowned in the mysterious
loss of the _Bella_, off the coast of South America, in the spring of
1854, lived abroad for many years; but, while his wife was French in
every sentiment, he himself from time to time exhibited a keen desire
to return to his native land. When Roger was born there was small
likelihood of his ever succeeding to either title or estates, and so
his education was almost entirely a foreign one.

Sir Henry Tichborne, who had succeeded in 1821, though blessed with
seven beautiful daughters, had no son. Still there was their uncle
Edward, who had taken the name of Doughty, and he, after Sir Henry,
was the next heir. Edward, too, had a son and daughter. But, one day,
news came to James and his wife, in France, that their little nephew
was dead; and with the possibilities which this change opened up, it
brought home to the father the error he had committed in permitting
Roger to grow up ignorant of the English tongue and habits. It was
manifest that Mr. James F. Tichborne was not unlikely to become the
next baronet, and he felt it his bounden duty to make good his previous
neglect, by providing his son with an English education, such as would
fit him for his probable position as head of the house of Tichborne.
In this praiseworthy intention he met with strong opposition from his
wife whose great aim it was to see her son grow up a Frenchman. To her,
France was the only land worth living in. She cared nought for family
traditions; her dream was that her darling boy should marry into some
distinguished family in France or Italy. If he was to enter the army,
then it should be in some foreign service. But to England he should
not go if she could prevent it.

James Tichborne, like many weak men with self-willed wives, put off
the inevitable day as long as he could; and in the end only achieved
his purpose by strategy. Roger was sixteen years of age when news
arrived of the death of Sir Henry. Naturally James arranged to be
present at his brother’s funeral and it was only reasonable that he
should be accompanied by his son Roger, whom everyone now regarded as
the heir. Accordingly the boy took leave of his mother, but under the
solemn injunction to return quickly. However, his father had determined
otherwise. After attending the funeral of his uncle, at the old chapel
at Tichborne, Roger was, by the advice of relatives and friends, and
with the consent of the boy himself, taken down to the Jesuit College
at Stonyhurst. When Mrs. Tichborne learned of this step, her fury knew
no bounds. She upbraided her husband violently; and there was a renewal
of the old scenes in the Tichborne establishment. Roger wrote his
mother filial, if ill-spelt, letters in French; but, for a year, the
son, though ardently looking for a letter, got no token of affection
from the incensed and indignant lady.

During his three years’ stay at Stonyhurst, Roger seems to have applied
himself diligently to the study of English; but, though he made fair
progress, he was never able to speak it with as much purity and
command of words as when conversing in French. In Latin, mathematics,
and chemistry, too, he contrived to make fair headway; while his
letters evidenced an inclination for the study of polite literature.
If not highly accomplished, he was of a refined and sensitive nature.
During this period he made many friends, spending his vacation with his
English relatives in turn. His great delight was to stay at Tichborne,
then in possession of his father’s brother, Sir Edward Doughty. Withal,
the shy, pale-faced boy steadily gained in favour, for he had a nature
which disarmed ill-feeling. As time wore on it became necessary to
determine on some profession for the lad; and needless to say his
father’s choice of the army added fuel to the fire of his wife’s anger.
After some delay a commission was obtained and Mr. Roger Charles
Tichborne was gazetted a coronet in the Sixth Dragoons, better known as
the Carbineers.

Defeated in her purpose of making a Frenchman of her boy, Roger’s
mother yet continued to harp upon her old desire to marry him to one
of the Italian princesses of whom he had heard so much. But Roger
had other ideas, for he had fallen passionately in love with his
cousin--Miss Katharine Doughty afterwards Lady Radcliffe. However, the
course of love was not to run smooth. The Tichbornes had always been
Roman Catholic, and the marriage of first cousins was discountenanced
by that church. Consequently when some little token incidentally
revealed to the father the secret and yet unspoken love of the young
people, their dream was rudely shattered.

That the girl warmly reciprocated her cousin’s affection was beyond
question, and Lady Doughty was certainly sympathetic though she took
exception to certain of her nephew’s habits. He was an inveterate
smoker besides drinking too freely. These and other little failings
seem to have aroused some fear in her anxious mother’s heart, though
she quite recognised the boy’s kind disposition, and the fact that he
was truthful, honourable and scrupulous in points of duty. Still she
would not oppose the wishes of the young lovers--except to the extent
of pleading and encouraging Roger to master his weaknesses. It was
Christmas time in 1851 when the _dénoument_ came and the eyes of Sir
Edward were opened to what was going on. He was both vexed and angry,
and was resolved that the engagement should be broken off before it
grew more serious. One last interview was permitted to the cousins
and, this over, the young man was to leave the house forever. The
great hope of his life extinguished, there was nothing left for Roger
but to rejoin his regiment, then expecting orders for India, and to
endeavour to forget the past. Still even in those dark days neither
Roger nor Kate quite gave up hope of some change. Lady Doughty, despite
her dread of her nephew’s habits, had a warm regard for him, and could
be relied upon to plead his cause; and in a short time circumstances
unexpectedly favoured him. Sir Edward was ill and, fearing that death
was approaching, he sent for his nephew and revived the subject. He
explained that if it were not for the close relationship he should
have no objection to the marriage and begged Roger to wait for three
years. If then the affection, one for the other, remained unaltered,
and providing that Roger obtained his own father’s consent and that
of the Church, he would accept things as the will of God and agree to
the union. As might be expected, Roger gratefully promised loyally to
observe the sick man’s wishes.

However, Sir Edward, instead of dying, slowly mended, and Roger
returned to his regiment. Occasionally he would spend his leave with
his aunt and uncle, when the young people loved to walk together in the
beautiful gardens of Tichborne exchanging sweet confidences and weaving
plans for the future. On what proved to be his last visit to his
ancestral home, in the midsummer of 1852, Roger, to comfort his cousin,
confided a secret to her--a copy of a vow, which he had written out and
signed, solemnly pledging himself, in the event of their being married
before three years had passed, to build a church or chapel at Tichborne
as a thanks offering to the Holy Virgin for the protection shown by her
in praying God that their wishes might be fulfilled.

His leave up, Roger went back to his regiment more than ever a prey
to his habitual melancholy. To his great regret the orders for the
Carbineers to go to India were countermanded. He accordingly determined
to throw up his commission and travel abroad until his period of
probation had passed. South America had long been the subject of his
dreams, and so thither he would make his way; and in travelling through
that vast continent he hoped to find occupation for his mind and so get
through the trying period of waiting. His plan was to spend a year in
Chili, Guayaquil and Peru, and thence to visit Mexico, and so, by way
of the United States, to return home. Having come to this resolution
he lost no time in putting it into execution. Being of business-like
habits he made his will, in which he purposely omitted any mention
of the “church or chapel.” This secret had already been committed to
paper, and with other precious souvenirs of his love for his cousin,
had been confided to his most trusted friend--Mr. Gosford, the steward
of the family estate. After paying a round of farewell visits to his
parents and old friends in Paris, Roger finally set sail from Havre, on
March 21, 1853, in a French vessel named _La Pauline_, for Valparaiso,
at which port she arrived on the 19th of the following June, when Roger
set out on his wanderings. During his travels Roger continued to write
home regularly; but the first news he received was bad. Sir Edward
Doughty had died almost before the _Pauline_ had lost sight of the
English shores; and Roger’s father and mother were now Sir James and
Lady Tichborne.

Presently the wanderer began to retrace his steps, making his way to
Rio de Janeiro. Here, he found a vessel called the _Bella_ hailing from
Liverpool, about to sail for Kingston, Jamaica, and as he had directed
his letters and remittances to be forwarded there, he prevailed upon
the captain to give him a passage. On the 20th of April, 1854, the
_Bella_ passed from the port of Rio into the ocean. From that day no
one ever set eyes upon her. Six days after she left harbour, a ship
traversing her path found, amongst other ominous tokens of a wreck, a
capsized long-boat bearing the name “_Bella_, Liverpool.”

These were taken into Rio and forthwith the authorities caused the
neighbouring seas to be scoured in quest of survivors; but none were
ever found. That the _Bella_ had foundered there was little room to
doubt. It was supposed that she had been caught in a sudden squall,
that her cargo had shifted, and that, unable to right herself, the
vessel had gone down in deep water, giving but little warning to those
on board. In a few months the sad news reached Tichborne, where the
absence of letters from the previously diligent correspondent had
already raised grave fears. The sorrow-stricken father caused enquiries
to be made in America and elsewhere. For a time, there was a faint hope
that some one aboard the _Bella_ might have been picked up by some
passing vessel; but, as months wore on, even these small hopes dwindled
away. The letters which poor Roger had so anxiously asked might be
directed to him at the post office, Kingston, Jamaica, remained there
till the ink grew faded; the banker’s bill which lay at the agents’
remained unclaimed. At last the unfortunate vessel was finally written
off at Lloyd’s as lost, the insurance money paid, and gradually the
_Bella_ faded from the memories of all but those who had lost friends
or relatives in her. Lady Tichborne alone, refused to abandon hope.

Her obstinate disregard of such conclusive evidence of the fate of her
unfortunate son preyed upon her mind to such an extent as to make her
an easy victim for any scheming rascal pretending to have news of her
lost son; and “sailors,” who told all sorts of wild stories of how
some of the survivors of the _Bella_ had been rescued and landed in a
foreign port, became constant visitors at Tichborne Park and profited
handsomely from the weak-minded lady’s credulity. Sir James, himself,
made short work of these tramping “sailors,” but after his death,
in 1862, the lady became even more ready to be victimised by their
specious lies.

Firm in her belief that Roger was still alive, Lady Tichborne now
caused advertisements to be inserted in numerous papers; and in
November, 1865, she learnt through an agency in Sydney that a man
answering the description of her son had been found in Wagga Wagga,
New South Wales. A long correspondence ensued, the tone and character
of which ought to have put her on her guard; but, over-anxious to
believe that she had indeed found her long-lost son, any wavering
doubts she may have had, were swept from her mind by the evidence of
an aged negro servant named Boyle, an old pensioner of the Tichborne
family. Boyle, who lived in New South Wales, professed to recognise the
Claimant as his dear young master, and he certainly remained one of his
most devoted adherents to the end. Undoubtedly this man’s simplicity
proved a very valuable asset to Orton. His intimate knowledge of the
arrangements of Tichborne Park was pumped dry by his new master, who,
aided by a most tenacious memory, was afterwards able to use the
information thus obtained with startling effect.

As to the identity of the Claimant with Arthur Orton there can be
absolutely no doubt. As a result of the enquiries made by the trustees
of the Tichborne estate nearly the whole of his history was unmasked.
He was born, in 1834, at Wapping where his father kept a butcher’s
shop. In 1848 he took passage to Valparaiso, whence he made his way up
country to Melipilla. Here he stayed some eighteen months receiving
much kindness from a family named Castro, and it was their name he
went under at Wagga Wagga. In 1851 he returned home and entering his
father’s business became an expert slaughterman. The following year
he emigrated to Australia; but after the spring of 1854 he ceased to
correspond with his family. He had evidently led a life of hardship
and adventure--probably not unattended with crime, and certainly with
poverty. At Wagga Wagga he carried on a small butcher’s business, and
it was from here that he got into communication with Lady Tichborne
just after his marriage to an illiterate servant girl.

According to his subsequent confession, until his attention was drawn
to the advertisement for the missing Roger, he had never even heard of
the name of Tichborne, and it was only his success when, by way of a
joke upon a chum, he claimed to be the missing baronet, that led him
to pursue the matter in sober earnest. Indeed he seemed at first very
reluctant to leave Australia, and probably he was only driven to accede
to Lady Tichborne’s request, to return “home” at once, by the fact that
he had raised large sums of money on his expectations. His original
intention was probably to obtain some sort of recognition, and then to
return to Australia with whatever money he had succeeded in collecting.

After wasting much time he left Australia and arrived in England, by
a very circuitous route, on Christmas Day, 1866. His first step on
landing, it was subsequently discovered, was to make a mysterious
visit to Wapping. His parents were dead, but his enquiries showed
a knowledge, both of the Orton family and the locality, which was
afterwards used against him with very damaging effect. His next
proceeding was to make a flying and surreptitious excursion to
Tichborne House, where, as far as possible, he acquainted himself with
the bearings of the place. In this he was greatly assisted by one Rous,
a former clerk to the old Tichborne attorney, who was then keeping a
public house in the place. From this man, who became his staunch ally,
he had no doubt acquired much useful information; and it is significant
that he sedulously kept clear of Mr. Gosford, the agent to whom the
real Roger had confided his sealed packet before leaving England.

Lady Tichborne was living in Paris at this time and it was here, in his
hotel bedroom, on a dark January afternoon, that their first interview
took place for, curiously enough, the gentleman was too ill to leave
his bed! The deluded woman professed to recognise him at once. As
she sat beside his bed, “Roger” keeping his face turned to the wall,
the conversation took a wide range, the sick man showing himself
strangely astray. He talked to her of his grandfather, whom the real
Roger had never seen; he said he had served in the ranks; referred to
Stonyhurst as Winchester; spoke of his suffering as a lad from St.
Vitus’s dance--a complaint which first led to young Arthur Orton being
sent on a sea voyage; but did not speak of the rheumatism from which
Roger had suffered. But it was all one to the infatuated woman--“He
confuses everything as if in a dream,” she wrote in exculpating him;
but unsatisfactory as this identification was, she never departed from
her belief. She lived under the same roof with him for weeks, accepted
his wife and children, and allowed him £1,000 a year. It did not weigh
with her that the rest of the family unanimously declared him to be an
impostor, or that he failed to recognise them or to recall any incident
in Roger’s life.

Nearly four years elapsed before the Claimant commenced his suit of
ejectment against the trustees of the infant Sir Alfred Tichborne--the
posthumous son of Roger’s younger brother; but he utilised the time
to good purpose. He had taken into his service a couple of old
Carbineers who had been Roger’s servants and before long so completely
mastered small details of regimental life that some thirty of Roger’s
old brother-officers and men were convinced of his identity. He
went everywhere, called upon all Roger’s old friends, visited the
Carbineers’ mess and generally left no stone unturned to get together
evidence in support of his identity. As a result of his strenuous
activity and plausibility he produced at the first trial over one
hundred witnesses who, on oath, identified him as Roger Tichborne;
and these witnesses included Lady Tichborne, the family solicitor,
magistrates, officers and men from Roger’s old regiment besides various
Tichborne tenants and friends of the family. On the other hand, there
were only seventeen witnesses arraigned against him; and, in his own
opinion, it was his own evidence that lost him the case. He would have
won, he said, “if only he could have kept his mouth shut.”

The trial of this action lasted 102 days. Sergeant Ballantine led for
the Claimant; and Sir John Coleridge (afterwards Lord Chief-justice),
and Mr. Hawkins, Q. C. (afterwards Lord Brampton), for the trustees
of the estates of Tichborne. The cross-examination of the Claimant at
the hands of Sir John Coleridge lasted twenty-two days, during which
the colossal ignorance he displayed was only equalled by his boldness,
dexterity and the bull-dog tenacity with which he faced the ordeal.
To quote Sir John’s own words: “The first sixteen years of his life
he has absolutely forgotten; the few facts he had told the jury were
already proved, or would hereafter be shown, to be absolutely false and
fabricated. Of his college life he could recollect nothing. About his
amusements, his books, his music, his games, he could tell nothing.
Not a word of his family, of the people with whom he lived, their
habits, their persons, their very names. He had forgotten his mother’s
maiden name; he was ignorant of all particulars of the family estate;
he remembered nothing of Stonyhurst; and in military matters he was
equally deficient. Roger, born and educated in France, spoke and wrote
French like a native and his favourite reading was French literature;
but the Claimant knew nothing of French. Of the ‘sealed’ packet he
knew nothing and, when pressed, his interpretation of its contents
contained the foulest and blackest calumny of the cousin whom Roger had
so fondly loved. This was proved by Mr. Gosford, to whom the packet had
been originally entrusted, and by the production of the duplicate which
Roger had given to Miss Doughty herself. The physical discrepancy, too,
was no less remarkable; for, while Roger, who took after his mother was
slight and delicate, with narrow sloping shoulders, a long narrow face
and thin straight dark hair, the Claimant was of enormous bulk, scaling
over twenty-four stone, big-framed and burly, with a large round face
and an abundance of fair and rather wavy hair. And yet, curiously
enough, the Claimant undoubtedly possessed a strong likeness to several
male members of the Tichborne family.”

When questioned as to the impressive episode of Roger’s love for his
cousin, the Claimant showed himself hopelessly at sea. His answers
were confused and irreconcilable. Not only could he give no precise
dates, but even the broad outline of the story was beyond him. Yet,
for good reasons, the Solicitor-General persisted in pressing him as
to the contents of the sealed packet and compelled him to repeat the
slanderous version of the incident which he had long ago given when
interrogated on the point. Mrs. Radcliffe (she was not then Lady) sat
in court beside her husband, and thus had the satisfaction of seeing
the infamous charges brought against the fair fame of her girlhood
recoil on the head of the wretch who had resorted to such villainous
devices. Unfortunately, some years after Roger’s disappearance, Mr.
Gosford, feeling that he was neither justified in keeping the precious
packet, nor in handing it to any other person, had burnt it; but,
fortunately his testimony as to its contents was proved in the most
complete manner by the production of the duplicate which poor Roger had
given to his cousin on his last visit to Tichborne.

Where the case broke down most completely was in the matter of tattoo
marks. Roger had been freely tattooed. Among other marks he bore, on
his left arm, a cross, an anchor, and a heart which was testified to
by the persons who had pricked them in. Orton, too, it was found out,
had also been tattooed on his left arm with his initials, “A. O.,”
and, though neither remained, there was a mark which was sworn to be
the obliteration of those letters. Small wonder then that, on the top
of this damning piece of evidence, the jury declared they required to
hear nothing further, upon which the Claimant’s counsel, to avoid the
inevitable verdict for their opponents, elected to be nonsuited. But
these tactics did not save their client, for he was at once arrested,
on the judge’s warrant, on the charge of wilful and corrupt perjury,
and committed to Newgate where he remained until bail for £10,000 was

A year later, on April 23, 1873, the Claimant was arraigned before
a special jury in the Court of Queen’s Bench. The proceedings were
of a most prolix and unusual character. Practically the same ground
was covered as in the civil trial, only the process was reversed:
the Claimant having now to defend instead of to attack. Many of
the better-class witnesses, including the majority of Roger’s
brother-officers, now forsook the Claimant. There was a deal of
cross-swearing. The climax of the long trial was the production by the
defence of a witness to support the Claimant’s account of his wreck
and rescue. This was a man who called himself Jean Luie and claimed
to be a Danish seaman. With a wealth of picturesque detail he told
how he was one of the crew of the _Osprey_ which had picked up a boat
of the shipwrecked _Bella_, in which was the claimant and some of the
crew, and how when the _Osprey_ arrived at Melbourne, in the height
of the gold fever, every man of the crew from the captain downwards
had deserted the ship and gone up country. According to his story from
that time forth he had seen nothing of any of the castaways; but having
come to England in search of his wife he had heard of the trial. When
Luie was first brought into the presence of the Claimant that astute
person immediately claimed him with the greeting in Spanish “_Como
esta, Luie?_”--“How are you, Luie?” The sailor with equal readiness
recognised Orton as the man he had helped to rescue years before. All
this sounded very convincing; but it would not stand investigation.
From the beginning to end the thing was an invention; an examination
of shipping records failed to find the _Osprey_ so that she must have
escaped the notice of the authorities in every port she had entered
from the day she was launched! Of “Sailor” Luie, however, a very
complete record was established. Not only were the police able to prove
that, at the time he swore he was a seaman on board the _Osprey_,
he was actually employed by a firm at Hull; that he had never been
a seaman at all; but that he was a well-known habitual criminal and
convict only recently released on a ticket-of-leave. This made things
very awkward for the defence who made every effort to shake free from
the taint of such perjured evidence. Dr. Kenealy, seeing his dilemma,
contended that it had been concocted by Luie himself. But the damning
and unanswerable fact remained--that, by his recognition of the man,
the Claimant had acknowledged a previous acquaintance with him which he
could only have had by being privy to the fraud.

On February 28, 1874, the one hundred and eighty-eighth day of the
trial, the jury after half-an-hour’s deliberation returned their
verdict. They found that the defendant was not Roger Charles
Tichborne; that he was Arthur Orton; and finally that the charges made
against Miss Catherine Doughty were not supported by the slightest
evidence. Orton was sentenced to fourteen years’ penal servitude which,
assuredly, was none too heavy for offences so enormous. The trial
was remarkable, not only for its inordinate length, but also for the
extraordinary scenes by which it was characterised and for which Dr.
Kenealy, leading counsel for the defence, was primarily responsible.
His conduct was sternly denounced by the Lord Chief Justice in his
summing up as: “the torrent of undisguised and unlimited abuse in which
the learned counsel for the defence has thought fit to indulge,” and
he declared that “there never was in the history of jurisprudence a
case in which such an amount of imputation and invective had been used
before.” After the trial was over, Dr. Kenealy tried to turn the case
into a national question through the medium of a virulent paper he
started with the title of the _Englishman_; and undeterred by being
disbarred for his flagrant breaches of professional etiquette, he went
about the country delivering the most extravagant speeches concerning
the trial. He was elected Member of Parliament for Stoke, and, on April
23, 1875, moved for a royal commission of inquiry into the conduct of
the Tichborne Case; but his motion was defeated by 433 votes to 1.

The verdict and sentence created enormous excitement throughout the
country, for all classes, more or less, had subscribed to the defence
fund. But, by the time Orton was released, in 1884, practically
all interest had died away, and his effort to resuscitate it was a
miserable failure. In the sworn confession which he published in the
_People_, in 1895, he told the whole story of the fraud from its
inception to its final denouement. Orton survived his release from
prison for fourteen years, but gradually sinking into poverty, he died
in obscure lodgings in Shouldham Street, Marylebone, on April 1, 1898.
To the end he was a fraud and impostor for, before his death, he is
said to have recanted his sworn confession, which nevertheless bore the
stamp of truth and was in perfect accord with the information obtained
by the prosecution, while his coffin bore the lying inscription: “Sir
Roger Charles Doughty Tichborne; born 5th January, 1829; died 1st
April, 1898.”



One of the commonest forms of imposture--so common that it seems rooted
in a phase of human nature--is that of women who disguise themselves
as men. It is not to be wondered at that such attempts are made; or
that they were made more often formerly when social advancement had not
enlarged the scope of work available for women. The legal and economic
disabilities of the gentler sex stood then so fixedly in the way of
working opportunity that women desirous of making an honest livelihood
took desperate chances to achieve their object. We have read of very
many cases in the past; and even now the hum-drum of life is broken by
the fact or the echo of some startling revelation of the kind. Only
very lately the death of a person who had for many years occupied a
worthy though humble position in London caused a post-mortem sensation
by the discovery that the deceased individual, though looked on for
about a quarter of a century as a man, a widower, and the father of
a grown-up daughter, was in reality a woman. She was actually buried
under the name of the man she had professed to be, Harry Lloyd.

It is not to be wondered at that in more strenuous times, when the
spirit of adventure was less curbed, and initial difficulties were
less deadened by convention, cases of concealment of sex were far more
numerous and more easily prolonged. In an age of foreign wars, many
existing barriers against success in this respect were removed by
general laxity of social conditions. Perhaps I may be allowed to say at
the outset that, for my own part, my mind refuses absolutely to accept
that which is generally alleged in each case, that the male comrades
of women concealing their proper sex were, all through, ignorant of
the true facts. Human nature is opposed to such a supposition, and
experience bears out the shrewdness of nature. On occasions, or even
for a time, it is possible to make such successful concealments. But
when we are told that a woman has gone through a whole campaign or a
prolonged voyage in all the overcrowded intimacy of tent and bivouac
or of cabin and forecastle, without such a secret being suspected or
discovered, the narrator makes an overlarge draft on human credulity.
That such comrades, and many of them, forbore to give away the
secret, no matter how it had come into their possession, we may well
believe. Comradeship is a strong factor in such matters, and it has
its own loyalty, which is never stronger than when the various persons
interested are held together by the knowledge of a common danger.
But even to this there is a contra; the whole spirit of romance, even
when it binds man to woman and woman to man, stands side by side with
love, affection, passion--call it what you will--which opportunity can
fan into flame. Never more so than in the strenuous days of fighting,
when day and night are full of varying fears--when the mad turmoil of
working hours and loneliness of the night forge new fetters for the
binding together of the sexes.

In real life, when a man or a woman tries to escape from capture or
the fear of it in the guise of the opposite sex, it is a never-ending
struggle to sustain the rôle successfully. If this is so, when the
whole of the energies of mind and body are devoted in singleness
of purpose to the task, how then can the imposture be successfully
prolonged when the mind is eternally occupied with the pressing
things of the passing moments? There must infallibly be moments of
self-betrayal; and there is sufficient curiosity in the average person
to insure that the opportunities of such moments are not lost. Be this
as it may, we must in the first instance stick to matters of fact; the
record is our sheet-anchor. After all, when we learn of a case where
an imposture of the kind has been successfully carried out, it is time
enough to argue with convincing perspicacity that it should not have
been possible.

As to record, there are quite sufficient cases to convince any reader
as to the fact that, allowing for all possible error and wastage,
there have been a sufficient number undetected at the time of their
happening, and only made known by after-confession and by the force of
ulterior circumstances. Whatever opinion we may form of the women who
carried out the venture, there is neither occasion nor need to doubt
the fact they were so carried out. The consideration of a few cases
culled from the records of this class of successful imposture will
make this plain. It would be useless, if not impossible, to make full
lists of the names of women who have passed themselves off as men in
the fighting world--soldiers and sailors, with side interests such as
piracy, duelling, highway robbery, etc. Amongst the female soldiers
are the names of Christian Davis (known as Mother Ross), Hannah Snell,
Phœbe Hessel. Amongst the sailors those of Mary Talbot, Ann Mills,
Hannah Whitney, Charles Waddell. In the ranks of the pirates are Mary
Reid and Ann Bonney. In many of these cases are underlying romances, as
of women making search for lost or absconding husbands, or of lovers
making endeavours to regain the lost paradise of life together.

If there were nothing else in these little histories, their perusal in
detail would well repay attention as affording proof of the boundless
devotion of woman’s love. No matter how badly the man may have treated
the woman, no matter how heartlessly or badly he may have behaved
towards her, her affection was proof against all. Indeed it makes
one believe that there is some subtle self-sustaining, self-ennobling
quality in womanhood which her initial self-surrender makes a constant
force towards good. Even a nature which took new strength from the
turmoil of battle, from the harrowing suspense of perpetual vigil, from
the strain of physical weakness bravely borne, from pain and want and
hunger, instead of hardening into obstinate indifference, seems to have
softened as to sentiment, and been made gentle as to memory, as though
the sense of wrong had been purged by the forces of affliction. All
this, though the stress of campaigning may have blunted some of the
conventional susceptibility of womanhood. For the after life of some of
these warlike heroines showed that they had lost none of the love of
admiration which marks their sex, none of their satisfaction in posing
as characters other than their own. Several of them found pleasure in a
new excitement different from that of battle, in the art of the stage.
Whenever any of them made any effort to settle down in life after their
excitement in the life of the camp or the sea, such did so at some
place, and in some way congenial to herself and consistent with the
life which she was leaving.


Hannah Snell is a good instance of how the life of a woman who was not
by nature averse from adventure was moulded by chance in the direction
which suited her individuality. Of course, liking for a militant life,
whether in conventional or exceptional form, presupposes a natural
boldness of spirit, resolution, and physical hardihood--all of which
this woman possessed in an eminent degree.

She was born at Worcester in 1723, one of the family of a hosier who
had three sons and six daughters. In 1740, when her father and mother
were dead, she went to live at Wapping with a sister who had married a
ship carpenter named Gray. There she married a Dutch sailor, who before
her baby was born, had squandered such little property as her father
had left her, and then deserted her. She went back to her sister, in
whose house the baby died. In 1743, she made up her mind to search for
her husband. To this end she put on man’s clothes and a man’s name
(that of her brother-in-law) and enlisted in General Guise’s regiment.
At Carlisle, whither the regiment was sent she learned something of
a soldier’s duties. In doing so she was selected by her sergeant, a
man called Davis, to help him in carrying out a criminal love affair.
In order to be able to warn the girl she pretended acquiescence. In
revenge the sergeant reported her for an alleged neglect of some
duty for which according to the barbarous system of the time she was
sentenced to 600 lashes; of these she had actually received 500 when
on the intervention of some of the officers the remaining hundred
were foregone. After this, fearing further aggression on the part of
the revengeful petty officer she deserted. She walked all the way to
Portsmouth--a journey which occupied a whole month--where she again
enlisted as a marine in Fraser’s regiment, which was shortly ordered
on foreign service to the East Indies. There was a storm on the way
out, during which she worked manfully at the pumps. When the ship had
passed Gibraltar there was another bad storm in which she was wrecked.
Hannah Snell found her way to Madeira and thence to the Cape of Good
Hope. Her ship joined in the taking of Arcacopong on the Coromandel
Coast; in which action Hannah fought so bravely that she was praised
by her officers. Later on she assisted in the siege of Pondicherry
which lasted nearly three months before it had to be abandoned. In the
final attempt she served on picket duty and had to ford, under fire,
a river breast high. During the struggle she received six bullets
in the right leg, five in the left leg, and one in the abdomen. Her
fear was not of death but discovery of her sex through the last-named
wound. By the friendly aid of a black woman, however, she avoided this
danger. She managed to extract the bullet herself, with her finger and
thumb, and the wound made a good cure. This wound caused her a delay
of some weeks during which her ship had to leave for Bombay and was
delayed five weeks by a leak. Poor Hannah was again unfortunate in her
officers; one of them to whom she had refused to sing had her put in
irons and given a dozen lashes. In 1749 she went to Lisbon, where she
learned by chance that her husband had met at Genoa the death penalty
by drowning, for a murder which he had committed. Discovery of her sex
and her identity would have been doubly dangerous now; but happily she
was able to conceal her alarm and so escaped detection. She got back to
London through Spithead and once more found shelter in the house of her
sister who at once recognised her in spite of her disguise. Her fine
singing voice, which had already caused her to be flogged, now stood
her in good stead. She applied for and obtained an engagement at the
Royalty theatre, Wellclose square; and appeared with success as _Bill
Bobstay_ a sailor and _Firelock_ a soldier. She remained on the stage
for some months, always wearing male dress. The government of the day
gave her, on account of the hardships she had endured, a pension of £20
per annum. Later on she took a public-house at Wapping. The sign of her
hostelry became noted. On one side of it was painted in effigy _The
British Tar_ and on the other _The Valiant Marine_, and underneath _The
Widow in masquerade_, or the _Female Warrior_.

As Hannah appeared during her adventurous career as both soldier and
sailor she affords, in herself, an illustrious example of female
courage as well as female duplicity in both of the services.


The majority of the readers of the English-speaking race who enjoy
Théophile Gautier’s fascinating romance _Mademoiselle de Maupin_ are
not aware that the heroine was a real person. The novelist has of
course made such alterations as are required to translate crude fact
into more elegant fiction, and to obliterate so far as can be done the
criminal or partly-criminal aspect of the lady’s venturous career. But
such is one of the chief duties of an artist in fiction. Though he
may be an historian, in a sense, he is not limited to the occasional
bareness of truth. His object is not that his work shall be true but
rather what the French call _vraisemblable_. In narrative, as in most
arts, crudeness is rather a fault than a virtue, so that the writer
who looks for excellence in his work has without losing force, to fill
up the blanks left by the necessary excision of fact by subtleties of
thought and graces of description, so that the fulness or rotundity
of the natural curves shall always be maintained. In truth the story
of _La Maupin_ is so laden with passages of excitement and interest
that any writer on the subject has only to make an agreeable choice
of episodes sufficiently dramatic, and consistent with each other,
to form a cohesive narrative. Such a work has in it possibilities of
great success--if only the author has the genius of a Théophile Gautier
to set it forth. The real difficulty which such an one would have
to contend against would be to remove the sordidness, the reckless
passion, the unscrupulousness, the criminal intent which lies behind
such a character.

The Mademoiselle de Maupin of real life was a singer at the Opera in
Paris at the end of the seventeenth century. She was the daughter
of a man of somewhat humble extraction engaged in secretarial work
with the Count d’Armagnac; and whilst only a girl married a man named
Maupin employed in the province. With him she had lived only a few
months when she ran away with a maitre d’armes (_anglicè_, a fencing
master) named Serane. If this individual had no other good quality in
matters human or divine, he was at least a good teacher of the sword.
His professional arts were used in the service of his inamorata, who
became herself an excellent swordsman even in an age when swordsmanship
had an important place in social life. It may have been the sexual
equality implied by the name which gave the young woman the idea, but
thenceforth she became a man in appearance;--in reality, in so far as
such a metamorphosis can be accomplished by courage, recklessness,
hardihood, unscrupulousness, and a willing obedience to all the ideas
which passion and sensuality can originate and a greed of notoriety
carry into execution.

In a professional tour from Paris to Marseilles, in which she as an
actress took the part of a man, she gained the affections of the
flighty daughter of a rich merchant of Marseilles; and, as a man, ran
away with her. Being pursued, they sought refuge in a convent--a place
which at that age it was manifestly easier to get into than to get
out of. Here the two remained for a few days, during which, by the
aid of histrionic and other arts, the actress obviated the necessary
suspicions of her foolish companion and kept danger away. All the while
La Maupin was conscious that an irate and rich father was in hot search
for his missing daughter, and she knew that any talk about the venture
would infallibly lose her the girl’s fortune, besides getting herself
within the grip of the law. So she decided on a bold scheme of escape
from the convent, whereby she might obliterate her tracks. A nun of
the convent had died and her body was awaiting burial. In the night La
Maupin exchanged the body of the dead nun for the living one of her own
victim. Having thus got her companion out of the convent, she set the
building on fire to cover up everything, and escaped in secret to a
neighbouring village, taking with her by force the girl, who naturally
enough was disillusioned and began to have scruples as to the wisdom
of her conduct. In the village they remained hidden for a few weeks,
during which time the repentance of the poor girl became a fixed
quantity. An attempt, well supported, was made to arrest the ostensible
man; but this was foiled by the female swordsman who killed one of the
would-be captors and dangerously wounded two others. The girl, however,
made good her escape; secretly she fled from her deceiver and reached
her parents in safety. But the hue and cry was out after La Maupin,
whose identity was now known. She was pursued, captured, and placed
in gaol to await trial. The law was strong and inexorable; the erring
woman who had thus outraged so many conventions was condemned to be
burned alive.

But abstract law and the executive are quite different things--at least
they were in France at the close of the seventeenth century: as indeed
they are occasionally in other countries and at varying times. La
Maupin, being a woman and a clever one, procured sufficient influence
to have the execution postponed, and so had the full punishment
delayed, if not entirely avoided. More than this, she managed to get
back to Paris and so to begin her noxious career all over again. Of
course she had strong help from her popularity. She was a favourite at
the opera, and the class which patronises and supports this kind of
artistic effort is a rich and powerful one, which governments do not
care to displease by the refusal of such a small favour as making the
law hold its hand with regard to an erring favourite.

But La Maupin’s truculent tendencies were not to be restrained. In
Paris in 1695 whilst she was one of the audience at a theatre she took
umbrage at some act or speech of one of the comedians playing in the
piece, and leaving her seat went round to the stage and caned him in
the presence of the audience. The actor, M. Dumenil, an accomplished
and favourite performer but a man of peaceful disposition, submitted
to the affront and took no action in the matter. La Maupin, however,
suffered, through herself, the penalty of her conduct. She had
entered on a course of violence which became a habit. For some years
she flourished and exercised all the tyrannies of her own sex and
in addition those habitual to men which came from expert use of the
sword. Thus she went attired as a man to a ball given by a Prince of
the blood. In that garb she treated a fellow-guest, a woman, with
indecency; and she was challenged by three different men--each of
whom, when the consequent fight came on, she ran through the body,
after which she returned to the ball. Shortly afterwards she fought
and wounded a man, M. de Servan, who had affronted a woman. For these
escapades she was again pardoned. She then went to Brussels where she
lived under the protection of Count Albert of Bavaria, the Elector.
With him she remained until the quarrel, inevitable in such a life,
came. After much bickering he agreed to her demand of a settlement,
but in order to show his anger by affronting her he sent the large
amount of his involuntary bequest by the servile hand of the husband
of his mistress, Countess d’Arcos, who had supplanted her, with a
curt message that she must leave Brussels at once. The bearer of such
a message to such a woman as La Maupin had probably reckoned on an
unfriendly reception; but he evidently underestimated her anger. Not
contented with flinging at his head the large _douceur_ of which he was
the bearer, she expressed in her direct way her unfavourable opinion,
of him, of his master, and of the message which he had carried for
the latter. She ended her tirade by kicking him downstairs, with the
justification for her form of physical violence that she would not
sully her sword with his blood.

From Brussels she went to Spain as _femme de chambre_ to the Countess
Marino but returned to Paris in 1704. Once more she took up her work as
an opera singer; or rather she tried to take it up, but she had lost
her vogue, and the public would have none of her. As a matter of fact,
she was only just above thirty years of age, which should under normal
circumstances be the beginning of a woman’s prime. But the life she
had been leading since her early girlhood was not one which made for
true happiness or for physical health; she was prematurely old, and her
artistic powers were worn out.

Still, her pluck, and the obstinacy on which it was grafted, remained.
For a whole year she maintained a never-failing struggle for her old
supremacy, but without avail. Seeing that all was lost, she left the
stage and returned to her husband who, realising that she was rich,
managed to reconcile whatever shreds of honour he had to her infamous
record. The Church, too, accepted her--and her riches--within its
sheltering portals. By the aid of a tolerant priest she got absolution,
and two years after her retirement from the opera she died in a convent
in all the odour of sanctity.


The story of Mary East is a pitiful one, and gives a picture of
the civil life of the eighteenth century which cannot be lightly
forgotten. The condition of things has so changed that already we
almost need a new terminology in order that we may understand as our
great-grandfathers did. Take for instance the following sentence and
try individually how many points in it there are, the full meaning of
which we are unable to understand:

“A young fellow courted one Mary East, and for him she conceived the
greatest liking; but he going upon the highway, was tried for a robbery
and cast, but was afterwards transported.”

The above was written by an accomplished scholar, a Doctor of Divinity,
rector of an English parish. At the time of its writing, 1825, every
word of it was entirely comprehensible. If a reader of that time could
see it translated into modern phraseology he would be almost as much
surprised as we are when we look back upon an age holding possibilities
no longer imaginable.

“Going upon the highway” was in Mary East’s time and a hundred years
later a euphemism for becoming a highway robber; “cast” meant condemned
to death; “transported” meant exiled to a far distant place where one
was guarded, and escape from which was punishable with death. Moreover
robbery was at this time a capital offence.

In 1736, when Mary East was sixteen, life was especially hard on women.
Few honest occupations were open to them, and they were subject to all
the hardships consequent on a system in which physical weakness was
handicapped to a frightful extent. When this poor girl was bereft of
her natural hope of a settlement in life she determined, as the least
unattractive form of living open to her, to remain single. About the
same time a friend of hers arrived at the same resolution but by a
different road, her course being guided thereto by having “met with
many crosses in love.” The two girls determined to join forces; and
on consulting as to ways and means decided that the likeliest way to
avoid suspicion was to live together under the guise of man and wife.
The toss of a coin decided their respective rôles, the “breeches part”
as it is called in the argot of the theatre, falling to East. The
combined resources of the girls totalled some thirty pounds sterling,
so after buying masculine garb for Mary they set out to find a place
where they were unknown and so might settle down in peace. They found
the sort of place they sought in the neighbourhood of Epping Forest
where, there being a little public-house vacant, Mary--now under the
name of James How--became the tenant. For some time they lived in peace
at Epping, with the exception of a quarrel forced by a young gentleman
on the alleged James How in which the latter was wounded in the hand.
It must have been a very one-sided affair, for when the injured “man”
took action he was awarded £500 damages--a large sum in those days
and for such a cause. With this increase to their capital the two
women moved to Limehouse on the east side of London where they took at
Limehouse-hole a more important public-house. This they managed in so
excellent a manner that they won the respect of their neighbours and
throve exceedingly.

After a time they moved from Limehouse to Poplar where they bought
another house and added to their little estate by the purchase of other

Peace, hard work, and prosperity marked their life thence-forward, till
fourteen years had passed since the beginning of their joint venture.

Peace and prosperity are, however, but feeble guardians to weakness.
Nay, rather are they incentive to evil doing. For all these years
the two young women had conducted themselves with such rectitude,
and observed so much discretion, that even envy could not assail
them through the web of good repute which they had woven round their
masquerade. Alone they lived, keeping neither female servant nor male
assistant. They were scrupulously honest in their many commercial
dealings and, absolutely punctual in their agreements and obligations.
James How took a part in the public life of his locality, filling in
turn every parish office except those of Constable and Churchwarden.
From the former he was excused on account of the injury to his hand
from which he had never completely recovered. Regarding the other his
time had not yet come, but he was named for Churchwarden in the year
following to that in which a bolt fell from the blue, 1730. It came
in this wise: A woman whose name of coverture was Bently, and who was
now resident in Poplar, had known the alleged James How in the days
when they were both young. Her own present circumstances were poor
and she looked on the prosperity of her old acquaintance as a means
to her own betterment. It was but another instance of the old crime
of “blackmail.” She sent to the former Mary East for a loan of £10,
intimating that if the latter did not send it she would make known the
secret of her sex. The poor panic-stricken woman foolishly complied
with the demand, thus forcing herself deeper into the mire of the other
woman’s unscrupulousness. The forced loan, together with Bently’s
fears for her own misdeed procured immunity for some fifteen years from
further aggression. At the end of that time, however, under the renewed
pressure of need Bently repeated her demand. “James How” had not the
sum by her, but she sent £5--another link in the chain of her thraldom.

From that time on there was no more peace for poor Mary East. Her
companion of nearly thirty-five years died and she, having a secret
to guard and no assistance being possible, was more helpless than
ever and more than ever under the merciless yoke of the blackmailer.
Mrs. Bently had a fair idea of how to play her own despicable game.
As her victim’s fear was her own stock-in-trade she supplemented the
sense of fear which she knew to exist by a conspiracy strengthened by
all sorts of schemes to support its seeming _bona fides_. She took
in two male accomplices and, thus enforced, began operations. Her
confederates called on James How, one armed with a constable’s staff,
the other appearing as one of the “thief-takers” of the gang of the
notorious magistrate, Fielding--an evil product of an evil time. Having
confronted How they told him that they had come by order of Mr. Justice
Fielding to arrest him for the commission of a robbery over forty years
before, alleging that they were aware of his being a woman. Mary East,
though quite innocent of any such offence but acutely conscious of her
imposture of manhood, in her dismay sought the aid of a friend called
Williams who understood and helped her. He went to the magistrates
of the district and then to Sir John Fielding to make inquiries and
claim protection. During his absence the two villains took Mary East
from her house and by threats secured from her a draft on Williams
for £100. With this in hand they released their victim who was even
more anxious than themselves not to let the matter have greater
publicity than it had already obtained. However, Justice demanded a
further investigation, and one of the men being captured--the other
had escaped--was tried, and being found guilty, was sentenced to
imprisonment for four years together with four appearances in the

Altogether Mary East and her companion had lived together as husband
and wife for nearly thirty-five years, during which time they had
honestly earned, and by self-denial saved, over four thousand pounds
sterling and won the good opinion of all with whom they had come in
contact. They were never known to cook a joint of meat for their own
use, to employ any help, or to entertain private friends in their
house. They were cautious, careful, and discreet in every way and
seemed to live their lives in exceeding blamelessness.


There is a class of imposture which must be kept apart from others
of its kind, or at least ear-marked in such wise that there can be
no confusion of ideas regarding it. This includes all sorts of acts
which, though often attended with something of the same result as other
efforts to mislead, are yet distinguished from them by intention. They
have--whatever may be their results--a jocular and humorous intention.
Such performances are called hoaxes. These, though amusing to their
perpetrators and to certain sportive persons, and though generally
causing a due amount of pain and loss to those on whom they are
inflicted, usually escape the condign and swift punishment which they
deserve. It is generally held that humour, like charity, covereth a
multitude of sins. So be it. We are all grateful for a laugh no matter
who may suffer.


Not many years ago, in one of the popular dairy-refreshment shops in
Holborn, the prim manageress and her white-capped waitresses were just
commencing their day’s work when a couple of sturdy green-aproned men
swooped down on the place from a large pantechnicon van, and to the
amazement of the young ladies commenced to clear the shop.

“There you are Bill. Hand up them chairs, and look slippy.”

“Right o’, mate.”

“Good gracious me, what are you men doing?” shrieked the alarmed

“Doing, miss, doing? Why moving the furniture. This is the lot ain’t

“No, no, no; there must be some mistake. You must have come to the
wrong place.”

“Mistake, wrong place? No miss. ’Ere, look where’s that letter?” And
Jack placed a begrimed document before the lady.

The letter seemed right enough. It read beautifully, a plain direction
to clear the shop and remove the stuff elsewhere; it only lacked the
official heading of the company. But the joint inspection was rudely
broken in upon by the arrival of a couple of the knights of the brush
who had come “to do the chimbley, maam”; and ere they could be disposed
of vans of coals began to draw up, more pantechnicons, more sweeps,
loads of furniture, butchers with prime joints, plump birds from the
poulterers, fish of every conceivable kind, noisy green-grocer boys,
staggering under huge loads of vegetables; florists “to decorate,”
gasfitters, carpenters “to take down the counter, miss”; others “to put
it up.”

       *       *       *       *       *

Pandemonium is quiet compared with that shop. The poor manageress was
in tears, deafened with the exasperated, swearing representatives
of, apparently, all the tradesmen for miles around. The thing had
been well done. No sooner had the provision merchants worked clear
and the streams of vans, waggons and carts been backed away to the
accompaniment of much lurid language, than ladies began to arrive with
boxes of mysterious long garments which, they assured the indignant
lady in charge, they were instructed were urgently needed for an event
they referred to as “interesting.” There was no monotony, for fast and
furious--very furious sometimes--came other maidens laden with more
boxes and still more boxes, filled with costumes, bonnets, and other
creations dear to the feminine mind. Then came servants “in answer to
your advertisement, madam.” They flocked in from all directions, north,
south, east and west. Never was seen such a concourse of servants:
dignified housekeepers, housemaids, parlourmaids, and every other
sort of maid, seemed to be making for that unfortunate manageress.
Sleek-looking butlers popped in, as uniformed nurses popped out.
Window-cleaners had to be torn from the windows they insisted they
had got orders to clean; carpet beaters sought carpets which did not
exist. Never had mortal--aye and immortal--requirements been thought
out with more thoughtful care. From the needs of the unborn baby, to
the “poor departed one,” whom melancholy gentlemen in seedy black came
to measure, all were remembered, and the man for whose especial benefit
presumably were intended beautiful wreaths, crosses, harps, etc., which
kept constantly arriving. Throughout that live-long day to the “dewy
eve” beloved of the poet the game went merrily on.

As a hoax the thing was worked for all it was worth. Not only had
shoals of letters evidently been sent out, but advertisements, too, had
been freely distributed among the press. Needless to say that, despite
the closest investigations, its author or authors, discreetly silent,
remained unknown.

The joke was not new by any means. Well nigh a century before
mischief-loving Theodore Hook had stirred all London by a similar
prank--the famous Berners Street Hoax. In those days Berners Street was
a quiet thoroughfare inhabited by fairly well-to-do families. Indeed
it was this very sedate quietness which drew upon it Hook’s unwelcome
attention. Fixing on one of the houses, which happened to be adorned
with a brass plate, he made a wager with a brother wag that he would
cause that particular house to become the talk of the town: and he
certainly did--for not only the town, but all England shrieked with
laughter when the result of his little manœuvre became known.

One morning, soon after breakfast, waggons laden with coals began
to draw up before the house with the brass plate, No. 54. These
were quickly succeeded with tradespeople by the dozen with various
commodities. These in turn were followed by van loads of furniture;
followed by a hearse with a coffin and a number of mourning coaches.
Soon the street became choked: for, what with the goods dumped down
as near as possible to the house--pianos, organs, and cart loads of
furniture of all descriptions, the anxious tradesmen, and the laughing
mob of people quickly attracted to the scene, confusion reigned
supreme. About this time the Lord Mayor and other notabilities began
to arrive in their carriages. His Lordship’s stay was short. He was
driven to Marlborough Street police office where he informed the
magistrate that he had received a note purporting to come from Mrs.
T., the victimised widow resident at No. 54, saying she was confined
to her room and begging his lordship to do her the favour of calling
on her on important business. Meanwhile, the trouble in Berners
Street was growing serious, and officers belonging to the Marlborough
Street office were at once sent to keep order. For a time even they
were helpless. Never was such a strange meeting: barbers with wigs;
mantlemakers with band-boxes; opticians with their various articles of
trade. Presently there arrived a couple of fashionable physicians, an
accoucheur, and a dentist. There were clockmakers, carpet manufacturers
and wine merchants, all loaded with specimens of their trade; brewers
with barrels of ale, curiosity dealers with sundry knickknacks;
cartloads of potatoes; books, prints, jewellery, feathers and furbelows
of all kinds; ices and jellies; conjuring tricks; never was such a
conglomeration. Then, about five o’clock servants of all kinds began
to troop in to apply for situations. For a time the police officers
were powerless. Vehicles were jammed and interlocked; the exasperated
drivers were swearing, and the disappointed tradesmen were maddened
by the malicious fun of the crowd who were enjoying the joke. Some
of the vans were overturned and many of the tradesmens’ goods came
to grief; while some of the casks of ale became the prey of the
delighted spectators. All through the day and late into the night this
extraordinary state of things continued, to the dismay and terror of
the poor lady and the other inmates of the house with the brass plate.

Theodore Hook had taken precautions to secure a good seat for the
performance, having taken furnished-apartments just opposite the house
of his victim, where he posted himself with one or two companions to
enjoy the scene. Hook’s connection with the mad joke was, fortunately
for him, not known until long afterwards; it seems he had devoted three
or four whole days to writing the letters, all couched in ladylike
style. In the end the novelist seems to have been rather frightened at
the result of his little joke, for he made a speedy departure to the
country; and there is no doubt that, had he been publicly known as its
author, he would have fared badly.


One very amusing variation of the countless imitations, which the
success of this trick gave rise to, was the “cat hoax” at Chester,
in August, 1815. It was at the time when it had been determined to
send Napoleon to St. Helena. One morning, a number of hand bills were
distributed in and around Chester, stating that, owing to the island of
St. Helena being invested with rats, the government required a number
of cats for deportation. Sixteen shillings were offered for “every
athletic full-grown tom cat, ten shillings for every adult female
puss, and a half-crown for every thriving kitten that could swill
milk, pursue a ball of thread, or fasten its young fangs in a dying
mouse.” An address was given at which the cats were to be delivered;
but it proved to be an empty house. The advertisement resulted in the
victimisation of hundreds of people. Men, women, and children streamed
into the city from miles around laden with cats of every description.
Some hundreds were brought in, and the scene before the door of the
empty house is said to have baffled description. When the hoax was
discovered many of the cats were liberated; the following morning no
less than five hundred dead cats were counted floating down the river


Practical jokes of this nature have more than once led to serious
results. In the summer of 1812 a report was extensively circulated that
a grand military review was to be held on the 19th of June. Booths were
erected and as many as twenty thousand people assembled, despite the
efforts of the authorities who, when they learned what was happening,
posted men in the several roads leading to the heath to warn the people
that they had been hoaxed. But their efforts were useless. The rumour
was believed and the contradiction ignored; vehicles, horsemen and
pedestrians pushed on to their destination. When, however, the day wore
on without any appearance of the promised military pageant, the crowd
grew angry and then broke out in acts of violence. The heath was set on
fire. Messengers were sent off express to London, and a detachment of
the guards had to be marched down to quell the mob. In the disorder one
poor woman was thrown out of a chaise and picked up in an unconscious


Many distinguished actors have been very fond of playing practical
jokes and perpetrating hoaxes. Young, the tragedian, was one day
driving in a gig with a friend on the outskirts of London. Pulling
up at a turn-pike gate he noticed the name of the toll-collector
written up over the door. Calling to him the woman, the wife of that
functionary, who appeared to be in charge of the gate, he politely
told her that he particularly wished to see Mr. ----, naming the
toll-collector, on a matter of importance. Impressed by Young’s manner,
she promptly sent for her husband, who was working in a neighbouring
field. Hastily washing himself and putting on a clean coat he presented
himself. The actor gravely said: “I paid for a ticket at the last gate,
and was told that it would free me through this one. As I wish to be
scrupulously exact, will you kindly tell me whether such is the case?”
“Why of course it is?” “Can I then pass through without paying?” The
toll-collector’s reply and his vituperation as the travellers passed on
had better, perhaps, be left to the imagination.


Hoaxes are sometimes malicious, and often cruel, as the following
instance will show: A young couple were about to be married in
Birmingham when those officiating--it was a Jewish wedding--were
startled by the delivery of a telegram from London with the message:
“Stop marriage at once. His wife and children have arrived in London
and will come on to Birmingham.” The bride fainted and the bridegroom
was frantically perturbed at thus summarily being provided with a
wife and family. But it was useless; the unhappy man had to make the
best of his way through an exasperated crowd full of sympathy for the
wronged girl. Inquiry, however, showed her friends that the whole thing
was a hoax--possibly worked by some revengeful rival of the man whose
happiness had been so unexpectedly deferred.


Most people have heard of the “Spanish Treasure swindle” and, though
less elaborate than the original, a variation of it practised on a
French merchant was rather “cute.” One morning he received an anonymous
communication advising him that a box of treasure was buried in his
garden the exact position of which would be pointed out to him, if
he agreed to divide the spoil. He rose at once to the bait, met his
generous informant, and before long the pair were merrily at work
with pickaxe and shovel. Sure enough before long their exertions
were awarded by the unearthing of a box full of silver coins. The
hoard proved to consist of sixteen hundred five-franc pieces; and
the delighted merchant, after carefully counting them out into two
piles, offered one lot to his partner as his share. That worthy, after
contemplating the heap for a minute or two, observed that it would
be rather a heavy load to carry to the railway station, and said he
would prefer, if it could be managed, to have the amount in gold or
notes. “Certainly, certainly!” was the reply. The two men walked up to
the house and the business was settled to their mutual satisfaction.
Twenty-four hours later, the merchant took a very different view of
the transaction; for examination discovered there was not one genuine
five-franc piece among the whole lot.


One of the most beautiful hoaxes ever perpetrated was one for which
Swift was responsible. He caused a broad-sheet to be printed and
circulated which purported to be the “last dying speech” of one
Elliston, a street robber, in which the condemned thief was made to
say: “Now as I am a dying man, I have done something which may be of
use to the public. I have left with an honest man--the only honest man
I was ever acquainted with--the names of all my wicked brethren, the
places of their abode, with a short account of the chief crimes they
have committed, in many of which I have been their accomplice, and
heard the rest from their own mouths. I have likewise set down names of
those we call our setters, of the wicked houses we frequent, and all
of those who receive and buy our stolen goods. I have solemnly charged
this honest man, and have received his promise upon oath, that whenever
he hears of any rogue to be tried for robbery or housebreaking, he
will look into his list, and if he finds the name there of the thief
concerned, to send the whole paper to the Government. Of this I here
give my companions fair and public warning, and hope they will take
it.” So successful, we are told, was the Dean’s ruse that, for many
years afterwards, street robberies were almost unknown.


The above ingenious device recalls another occasion when some gentlemen
who made burglary their profession, and who had been paying a midnight
visit to the house of a Hull tradesman were sadly “sold.” They found
the cash-box lying handy, and, to their delight, weighty; so heavy
indeed that they did not stay to help themselves to anything further.
Next morning the cash-box was found not far from the shop and its
contents in an ash-pit close by. After all the trouble they had taken,
to say nothing of the risks they had run, the burglars found their
prize consisted only of a lump of lead, and that their intended victim
had been too artful for them.


As an example of how a dishonest penny may be turned the following
incident would be hard to beat.

Two weary porters at the King’s Cross terminus of the Great Northern
Railway were thinking about going home, when a breathless,
simple-looking countryman rushed up to them with anxious enquiries for
a certain train. It had gone. He was crushed. “Whatever was he to do?
He had been sent up from Cambridge with a big hamper of those sausages
for which the University town is celebrated--a very special order. Was
there no other train?” “No.” The poor fellow seemed overwhelmed. “As
it is too late to find another market,” he complained, “the whole lot
will be lost.” Then a happy thought seemed to strike him as more of
the railway men gathered round, and he inquired ingratiatingly, “Would
you care to buy the sausages; if you would, you could have them for
fourpence a pound? If I keep them, they will probably go bad before
I can dispose of them.” The idea took--“Real Cambridge Sausages” at
fourpence a pound was not to be sneezed at. The dainties, neatly packed
in pounds, went like the proverbial hot cakes. Shouldering the empty
basket, and bidding his customers a kindly goodnight, the yokel set
off to find a humble lodging for the night. Grateful smiles greeted
the purchasers when they got home. Frying pans were got out and the
sausages were popped in, and never was such a sizzling heard in the
railway houses--or rather never should such a sizzling have been heard.
But somehow they didn’t sizzle. “They are uncommon dry; seem to have
no fat in ’em,” said the puzzled cook. They were dry, very dry, for
closer investigation showed that the “prime Cambridge” were nothing
but skins stuffed with dry bread! The railway staff of King’s Cross
were long anxious to meet that simple countryman from Cambridge.


One of the most stupendous hoaxes, and one foisted on the credulity of
the public with the most complete success, was the famous Moon Hoax
which was published in the pages of the New York _Sun_ in 1835. It
purported to be an account of the great astronomical discoveries of
Sir John Herschel at the Cape of Good Hope, through the medium of a
mighty telescope, a single lens of which weighed nearly seven tons.
It was stated to be reproduced from the Supplement to the Edinburgh
_Journal of Science_, though as a matter of fact, the _Journal_ had
then been defunct some years. In graphic language, and with a wealth
of picturesque detail, the wonders of the Moon as revealed to the
great astronomer and his assistants were set forth. A great inland
sea was observed, and “fairer shores never angel coasted on a tour
of pleasure.” The beach was “of brilliant white sand, girt with wild
castellated rocks apparently of green marble, varied at chasms,
occurring every two hundred feet, with grotesque blocks of chalk or
gypsum, and feathered and festooned at the summit with the clustering
foliage of unknown trees.” There were hills of amethysts “of a diluted
claret colour”; mountains fringed with virgin gold; herds of brown
quadrupeds resembling diminutive bison fitted with a sort of “hairy
veil” to protect their eyes from the extremes of light and darkness;
strange monsters--a combination of unicorn and goat; pelicans, cranes,
strange amphibious creatures, and a remarkable biped beaver. The last
was said to resemble the beaver of the earth excepting that it had
no tail and walked only upon its two feet. It carried its young in
its arms like a human-being, and its huts were constructed better and
higher than those of many savage tribes; and, from the smoke, there was
no doubt it was acquainted with the use of fire. Another remarkable
animal observed, was described as having an amazingly long neck, a head
like a sheep, bearing two spiral horns, a body like a deer, but with
its fore-legs disproportionately long as also its tail which was very
bushy and of a snowy whiteness, curling high over its rump and hanging
two or three feet by its side.

But even these marvels fade into insignificance compared with the
discovery of the lunarian men “four feet in height, covered, except
on the face, with short and glossy copper-coloured hair, with wings
composed of a thin membrane.” “In general symmetry they were infinitely
superior to the orang-outang”--which statement could hardly have
been regarded as complimentary; and, though described as “doubtless
innocent and happy creatures,” the praise was rather discounted by
the mention that some of their amusements would “but ill comport with
our terrestrial notions of decorum.” In the “Vale of the Triads,”
with beautiful temples built of polished sapphire, a superior race of
the punariant were found, “eminently happy and even polite,” eating
gourds and red cucumbers; and further afield yet another race of the
vespertilio-homo, or man-bat, were seen through the wonderful telescope
of “infinitely greater personal beauty ... scarcely less lovely than
the general representation of angels.”

Such were a few of the marvels told of in the Moon story; and, though
one may laugh at them as they stand, shorn of their clever verbiage and
quasi-scientific detail, at the time of publication they were seriously
accepted, for the popular mind, even among the educated classes, was
then imbued with the fanciful anticipators of vast lunar discoveries
heralded in the astronomical writings of Thomas Dick, LL.D., of the
Union College of New York. Scarcely anything could have been brought
forward too extravagant for the general credulity on the subject then
prevailing; and this well-timed satire, “out-heroding Herod” in its
imaginative creations, supplied to satiety the morbid appetite for
scientific wonders then raging. By its plausible display of scientific
erudition it successfully duped, with few exceptions, the whole
civilised world.

At the time, the hoax was very generally attributed to a French
astronomer, M. Nicollet, a legitimist who fled to America in 1830. He
was said to have written it with the twofold object of raising the
wind, and of “taking in” Arago, a rival astronomer. But its real author
was subsequently found to be Richard Adams Locke, who declared that
his original intention was to satirise the extravagances of Dick’s
writings, and to make certain suggestions which he had some diffidence
in putting forward seriously. Whatever may have been his object, the
work, as a hit, was unrivalled. For months the press of America and
Europe teemed with the subject; the account was printed and published
in many languages and superbly illustrated. But, finally, Sir John
Herschel’s signed denial gave the mad story its quietus.


In all the range of doubtful personalities there is hardly any one whom
convention has treated worse than it has the individual known in his
time--and after--as The Chevalier d’Eon. For about a hundred and fifty
years he has been written of--and spoken of for the first half century
of that time--simply as a man who masqueraded in woman’s clothes. There
seems to be just sufficient truth in this to save certain writers
on the subject from the charge of deliberate lying--a record which,
even if it is to be posthumous, no man of integrity aims at; but it
is abundantly evident that the rumour, which in time became a charge,
was originally set on foot deliberately by his political enemies, who
treated him and his memory without either consideration or even the
elements of honourable truth. To begin with, here are the facts of his
long life.

Charles-Genevieve--Louis-Auguste-Andre--Timothée d’Eon de Beaumont was
born in 1728 in Tonnerre in Yonne, a department of France in the old
province of Burgundy. His father, Louis d’Eon, was a parliamentary
barrister. As a youth he was so apt in his studies at the Collège
Mazarin that he received by special privilege his degree of Doctor in
Canon and Civil Law before the age appointed for the conferring of such
honour, and was then enrolled in the list of parliamentary barristers
in Paris. At first he had been uncertain which department of life he
should undertake. He swayed on one side towards the church, on the
other towards the world of letters and _beaux-arts_. He was by habit
an athlete, and was so good a swordsman that later on he had no rival
in fencing except the Chevalier de Saint-George. In his twenty-fifth
year he published two remarkable books. One was on the political
administration of ancient and modern people, and the other on Phases
of Finance in France at different times. (The latter was afterwards
published in German at Berlin in 1774, and so impressed the then King
of Prussia that he gave orders that its ideas were to be carried into
practical effect.)

[Illustration: THE CHEVALIER D’EON]

In 1755 the Prince de Conti, to whose notice the Chevalier had been
brought by the above books, asked the king (Louis XV) to send him to
Russia on a secret mission with the Chevalier Douglas; and from that
time till the king’s death in 1774 he was his trusted, loyal agent
and correspondent. D’Eon’s special mission was to bring the courts
of France and Russia closer than had been their wont, and also to
obtain for the Prince de Conti, who was seeking the Dukedom of Finland
and the Kingship of Poland, the favour of the Empress Elizabeth--a
difficult task, which had already cost M. de Valcroissant a spell
of imprisonment. In order to accomplish his mission, d’Eon disguised
himself as a woman, and in this guise he was able to creep into the
good graces of the Empress. He became her “reader” and was thus enabled
to prepare her for the reception of the secret purposes of his king.
In the following year he returned to France whence he was immediately
sent again to St. Petersburg with the title of Secretary of Embassy.
But this time he went in his man’s clothes and as the brother of the
pretended female reader. By this time he had been made a lieutenant of
dragoons. He came in spite of the Russian Chancellor Bestuchéf, who
saw in the young soldier-diplomat “_un subject dangereux et capable de
boulverser l’empire_.” This time his real mission was to destroy in
the mind of the Empress faith in Bestuchéf, who was trying to hold the
Russian army inactive and so deprive France of the advantages of the
Treaty of Versailles. This he did so well that he was in a position to
prove to the Empress that her chancellor had betrayed her interests.
Bestuchéf was arrested and his post conferred on Count Woronzow,
whose attitude was altogether favourable to France. The gratitude of
King Louis was shewn by his making d’Eon a captain of dragoons and
conferring on him a pension of 2400 livres; he was also made censor of
history and literature. D’Eon threw himself with his accustomed zeal
into the service of the army and distinguished himself by his courage
in the battles of Hoecht; of Ultrop, where he was wounded; of Eimbech
where he put the Scotch to flight; and of Osterkirk, where at the head
of 80 dragoons and 20 hussars he overthrew a battalion of the enemy.

No better conventional proof of the accepted idea of d’Eon’s military
worthiness can be given than the frequency and importance of the
occasions on which he was honoured by the carrying of despatches. He
brought news of his successful negotiations for the peace of Versailles
from Vienna in 1757. He was also sent with the Ratification of the
Treaty. He carried the despatches of the great victory of the troops of
Maria Theresa, forestalling the Austrian courier by a day and a half,
although he had a broken leg.

When next sent to Russia, d’Eon was sent as minister plenipotentiary,
an office which he held up to 1762 when to the regret of the Empress
he was recalled. When he was leaving, Woronzow, the successor of
Bestuchéf, said to him, “I am sorry you are going, although your first
journey with Chevalier Douglas cost my sovereign 250,000 men and more
than 5,000,000 roubles.” D’Eon answered: “Your excellency ought to
be happy that your sovereign and his minister have gained more glory
and reputation than any others in the world.” On his return d’Eon
was appointed to the regiment d’Autchamp and gazetted as adjutant to
Marshal de Broglie. Then he was sent to Russia for the fourth time
as minister plenipotentiary in place of Baron de Breuteuil. But Peter
III was dethroned, so the out-going Ambassador remained in Russia,
and d’Eon went to England as secretary to the Embassy of the Duke de
Nivernais in 1762.

After the Peace of 1763 d’Eon was chosen by the King of England to
carry the despatches. He received for this office the Star of St. Louis
from the breast of the king, who on giving it said it was for the
bravery which he had displayed as a soldier, and for the intelligence
which he had shown in the negotiations between London and St.

At this time all went well with him. But his good fortune was changed
by the bitter intrigues of his enemies. He was devoted to the king,
but had, almost as a direct consequence, the enmity of the courtesans
who surrounded him and wished for the opportunity of plucking him
at their leisure. He had an astonishing knowledge on all matters of
finance, and apprised the king privately of secret matters which his
ministers tried to hide from him. The Court had wind of that direct
correspondence with his majesty and therewith things were so managed
that the diplomatist got into trouble. Madame de Pompadour surprised
the direct correspondence between the king and d’Eon, with the result
that the latter was persecuted by the jealous courtiers who intrigued,
until in 1765 he was replaced at the Embassy of London by the Count de
Guerchy and he himself became the mark for all sorts of vexations and
persecutions. His deadly enemy, the Count de Guerchy, tried to have
him poisoned, but the attempt failed. D’Eon took legal steps to punish
the attempt; but every form of pressure was used to keep the case out
of Court. An attempt was made to get the Attorney General to enter a
_nolle prosequi_; but he refused to lend himself to the scheme, and
sent the matter to the Court of King’s Bench. There, despite all the
difficulties of furthering such a charge against any one so protected
as an ambassador, it was declared on trial that the accused was guilty
of the crime charged against him. De Guerchy accordingly had to return
to France; but d’Eon remained in England, though without employment. To
console him King Louis gave him in 1766 a pension of 12,000 livres, and
assured him that though he was ostensibly exiled this was done to cover
up the protection extended to him. D’Eon, according to the report of
the time, was offered a bribe of 1,200,000 livres, to give up certain
state papers then in his custody; but to his honour he refused. Be the
story as it may, d’Eon up to the time of the death of Louis (1774)
continued to be in London the real representative of France, though
without any formal appointment.

During this time one of the means employed with success by his enemies
to injure the reputation of d’Eon, was to point out that he had passed
himself as a woman; the disguise he wore on his first visit to Russia.
His clean shaven face, his personal niceties, the correctness of his
life, all came to the aid of that supposition. In England bets were
made and sporting companies formed for the purpose of verifying his
sex. Designs were framed for the purpose of carrying him off in order
to settle the vexed question by a personal examination. Some of the
efforts he had to repel by violence. In 1770 and in 1772 his friends
tried to arrange that he should be allowed to return to France; but he
refused all offers as the Ministers insisted on making it a condition
of his return that he should wear feminine apparel. After the accession
of Louis XVI he obtained leave to return, free from the embarrassing
restraint hitherto demanded. As he was overwhelmed with debts he placed
as a guarantee in the hands of Lord Ferrers an iron casket containing
important French state papers. The minister sent Beaumarcheus to redeem
them, and in 1771 the Chevalier returned to France. He presented
himself at Versailles in his full uniform of a captain of dragoons. The
Queen (Marie Antoinette) however, wished to see him presented in female
dress; so the Minister implored him to meet her wishes. He consented;
and thenceforward not only wore women’s clothes but called himself “La
Chevalière d’Eon.” In a letter addressed by him to Madame de Staël
during the French revolution he spoke of himself as “citizeness of the
New Republic of France, and of the old Republic of Literature.” On 2nd
September, 1777 he wrote to the Count de Maurepas, “Although I detest
changes of costume, yet they are hard at work at Mademoiselle Bertin’s
on my future and doleful dress, which however I shall cut in pieces at
the first sound of the cannon shots.” As a matter of fact when war with
England became imminent he demanded to be allowed to take in the army
the position which he had won by bravery and as the price of honourable
wounds. The only reply he got was his immurement for two months in the
Castle of Dijon. In 1784 he returned to England, which he never again
left. In vain he appealed to the Convention and then to the First
Consul to be allowed to place his sword at the service of his country;
but his prayer was not listened to. Used to the practice of the sword,
his circumstances being desperate, he then found in it a source of
income. He gave in public, assaults-at-arms with the Chevalier de
Saint-George, one of the most notable fencers of his time. At length he
was given a small pension, £40, by George III, on which he subsisted
during the remainder of his life. He died 23rd May, 1810.

In very fact Chevalier d’Eon is historically a much injured man. His
vocation was that of a secret-service agent of a nation surrounded with
enemies, and to her advantage he used his rare powers of mind and body.
He was a very gallant soldier, who won distinction in the field and
was wounded several times; and in his endurance and his indifference
to pain whilst carrying despatches of overwhelming importance he set
an example that any soldier might follow with renown. As a statesman
and diplomatist, and by the use of his faculties of inductive
ratiocination, he averted great dangers from his country. If there were
nothing else to his credit he might well stand forth as a diplomatist
who had by his own exertions overthrown a dishonest Russian Chancellor
and an unscrupulous French Ambassador. Of course, as he was an agent of
secret service, he had cognisance of much political and international
scheming which he had at times to frustrate at the risk of all which he
held dear. But, considering the time he lived in, and the dangers which
he was always in the thick of, in a survey of his life the only thing
a reader can find fault with is his yielding to the base idea of the
flighty-minded Marie Antoinette. What, to this irresponsible butterfly
of fashion, was the honour of a brave soldier or the reputation of an
acute diplomatist who had deserved well of his country. Of course to
her any such foolery as that to which she condemned d’Eon was but the
fancy of an idle moment. But then the fancies of queens at idle moments
may be altogether destructive to someone. That they may be destructive
to themselves is shown in the record of the terrible atrocities of the
Revolution which followed hard on the luxurious masquerades of Trianon
and Versailles. Even to the Queen of France, the Chevalier d’Eon
should have been something of a guarded, if not an honoured, person. He
was altogether a “king’s man.” He had been for many years the trusted
and loyal servant of more than one king; and from the king’s immediate
circle the proper consideration should have been shown.

There is something pitiful in the spectacle of this old gentleman of
nearly eighty years of age, who had in his time done so much, being
compelled to earn a bare livelihood by the exploitation of the most
sordid page in his history--a page turned more than half a century
before, and then only turned at all in response to the call of public

In his retirement d’Eon showed more of his real nature than had been
possible to him in the strenuous days when he had to be always vigilant
and ready at an instant’s notice to conceal his intentions--his very
thoughts. Here he showed a sensitiveness with which even his friends
did not credit him. He had been so long silent as to matters of his
own concern that they had begun to think he had lost the faculty not
only of making the thought known, but even of the thought itself. The
following paragraph from the London _Public Advertiser_ of Wednesday,
16th November, 1774, shows more of the real man than may be found in
any of his business letters or diplomatic reports:--

“The Chevalier d’Eon with justice complains of our public prints; they
are eternally sending him to France while he is in body and soul fixed
in this country; they have lately confined him in the Bastille, when he
fled to England as a country of liberty; and they lately made a Woman
of him, when not one of his enemies dared to put his manhood to the
proof. He makes no complaints of the English Ladies.”

In an issue of the same paper 9th November, of the same year, it is
mentioned that the Rt. Hon. Lord Ferrars, Sir John Fielding, Messrs.
Addington, Wright and other worthy magistrates and gentlemen and
their ladies did the Chevalier d’Eon the honour to dine with him in
Brewer St., Golden Square (common proof that the Chevalier d’Eon is
not confined in the Bastille). D’Eon was much too wily and too much
accustomed to attack to allow diplomatic insinuations to pass unheeded.
He was now beginning to apply his garnered experience to his own

From the above extract of 16th November one can note how the allegation
as to his sex was beginning to rankle in the soldier’s mind, and how
an open threat of punishment is conveyed in diplomatic form. Indeed
he had reason to take umbrage at the insinuation. More than once had
attempts been made to carry him off for the purpose of settling bets
by a humiliating personal scrutiny. From something of the same cause
his friends on his death caused an autopsy to be made before several
witnesses of position and repute. Amongst these were several surgeons
including Père Elisée, First Surgeon to Louis XVIII. The medical
certificate ran as follows:

“Je certifie, par le présent, avoir inspecté le corps du chevalier
d’Eon, en présénce de M. Adair, M. Wilson et du Père Elysée, et avoir
trouvé les organs masculins parfaitement formés.”



Queen Elizabeth, the last of the House of Tudor, died unmarried. Since
her death in 1603, there have been revolutions in England due to
varying causes, but all more or less disruptive of family memories.
The son of James I had his head cut off, and after the Commonwealth
which followed, Charles I’s son James II, had to quit on the coming of
William III, by invitation. After William’s death without issue, Anne,
daughter of James II, reigned for a dozen years, and was succeeded
by George I, descended through the female line from James I. His
descendants still sit on the throne of England.


The above facts are given not merely in the way of historical
enlightenment but rather as a sort of apologetic prolegomenon to the
ethical consideration of the matter immediately before us. Had Queen
Elizabeth had any descendants, they need not have feared any discussion
of her claims of descent. The issue of the legality of her mother’s
marriage had been tried exhaustively both before and after her own
birth, and she held the sceptre both by the will of her dead father
and the consent of her dead half-sister who left no issue. But Queen
Elizabeth, whatever her origin, would have been a sufficient ancestor
for any King or any Dynasty. Still, had she left issue there might
have been lesser people, descendants, whose feelings in the matter of
personal and family pride would have required consideration; and no
person entering on an analysis of historical fact would have felt quite
free-handed in such an investigation.


There are quite sufficient indications throughout the early life of
Queen Elizabeth that there was _some_ secret which she kept religiously
guarded. Various historians of the time have referred to it, and now
and again in a way which is enlightening.

In a letter to the Protector Somerset in 1549, when the Princess
Elizabeth was 15, Sir Robert Tyrwhitt says:

    “I do verily believe that there hath been some secret promise
    between my Lady, Mistress Ashley, and the Cofferer” [Sir Thomas
    Parry] “never to confess to death, and if it be so, it will never
    be gotten of her, unless by the King’s Majesty or else by your

In his _Girlhood of Queen Elizabeth_ Mr. Frank A. Mumby writes of

    “Elizabeth was as loyal to Parry as to Mrs. Ashley; she
    reinstated him after a year’s interval, in his office as
    Cofferer, and on her accession to the throne she appointed
    him Controller of the royal household. She continued to confer
    preferment upon both Parry and his daughter to the end of their
    lives--“conduct,” remarks Miss Strickland, “which naturally
    induces a suspicion that secrets of great moment had been
    confided to him--secrets that probably would have touched not
    only the maiden name of his royal Mistress, but placed her life
    in jeopardy, and that he had preserved these inviolate. The same
    may be supposed with respect to Mrs. Ashley, to whom Elizabeth
    clung with unshaken tenacity through every storm.”

Major Martin Hume in his _Courtships of Queen Elizabeth_ says of the
favourable treatment of the Governess and the Cofferer:--

    “The confessions of Ashley and Parry are bad enough; but they
    probably kept back more than they told, for on Elizabeth’s
    accession and for the rest of their lives, they were treated
    with marked favour. Parry was knighted and made Treasurer of the
    Household, and on Mrs. Ashley’s death in July 1565 the Queen
    visited her in person and mourned her with great grief.”

The same writer says elsewhere in the book:

    “Lady Harrington and Mrs. Ashley were, in fact, the only ladies
    about the Queen who were absolutely in her confidence.”

In a letter to the Doge of Venice in 1556 Giovanni Michiel wrote:

    “She” [Elizabeth] “I understand, having plainly said that she
    will not marry, even were they to give her the King’s” [Philip of
    Spain] “son” [Don Carlos, Philip’s son by his first wife] “or
    find any other great prince, I again respectfully remind your
    serenity to enjoin secrecy about this.”

Count de Feria wrote in April, 1559:

    “If my spies do not lie, which I believe they do not, for a
    certain reason which they have recently given me, I understand
    that she [Elizabeth] will not bear children.”

At this time Elizabeth was only 26 years of age.

The following extract is taken from Mr. Mumby’s _Girlhood of Queen
Elizabeth_ in which is given the translation taken from Leti’s _La Vie
d’Elizabeth_. The letter is from Princess Elizabeth to Lord Admiral
Seymour, 1548 (_apropos_ of his intentions regarding her):--

    “It has also been said that I have only refused you because I
    was thinking of some one else. I therefore entreat you, my lord,
    to set your mind at rest on this subject, and to be persuaded by
    this declaration that up to this time I have not the slightest
    intention of being married, and, that if ever I should think of
    it (_which I do not believe is possible_) you would be the first
    to whom I should make known my resolution.”


The place known to the great public as Bisley is quite other than that
under present consideration. Bisley, the ground for rifle competitions,
is in Surrey, thoughtfully placed in juxtaposition to an eminent
cemetery. It bears every indication of newness-so far as any locality
of old earth can be new.

But the other is the original place of the name, possessing a
recorded history which goes back many hundreds of years. It is in
Gloucestershire high up on the eastern side of the Cotswold Hills at
their southern end where they rise above the Little Avon which runs
into the embouchure of the Severn to the Bristol Channel. The trace of
Roman occupation is all over that part of England. When the pioneers
of that strenuous nation made their essay on Britain they came with
the intention of staying; and to-day their splendid roads remain
unsurpassed--almost unsurpassable. In this part of the West Country
there are several of them, of which the chief are Irmin (or Ermine)
Street, running from Southampton through Cirencester and Gloucester
to Caerleon, and Ikenild Street running from Cirencester, entering
Gloucestershire at Eastleach. I am particular about these roads as we
may require to notice them carefully. There is really but one Bisley in
this part of the country, but the name is spelled so variously that the
simple phonetic spelling might well serve for a nucleating principle.
In all sorts of papers, from Acts of Parliament and Royal Charters
down to local deeds of tenancy, it is thus varied--Bisleigh, Bistlegh,
Byselegh, Bussely. In this part of the Cotswolds “Over” is a common
part of a name which was formerly used as a prefix. Such is not always
at once apparent for the modern cartographer seems to prefer the modern
word “upper” as the prefix. Attention is merely called to it here as
later on we shall have to consider it more carefully.

The most interesting spot in the whole district is the house
“Overcourt,” which was once the manor-house of Bisley. It stands close
to Bisley church from the grave-yard of which it is only separated by a
wicket-gate. The title-deeds of this house, which is now in possession
of the Gordon family show that it was a part of the dower of Queen
Elizabeth. But the world went by it, and little by little the estate
of which it was a portion changed hands; so that now the house remains
almost as an entity. Naturally enough, the young Princess Elizabeth
lived there for a time; and one can still see the room she occupied. A
medium-sized room with mullioned windows, having small diamond-shaped
panes set in lead after the pattern of the Tudor period. A great beam
of oak, not exactly “trued” with the adze but following the natural
trend of the wood, crosses the ceiling. The window looks out on a
little walled-in garden, one of the flower beds of which is set in an
antique stone receptacle of oblong shape which presents something of
the appearance of a stone coffin of the earlier ages. Of this more anon.

Whether at the time of the birth of Elizabeth the mansion of Overcourt
was itself in the King’s possession is a little difficult to fathom,
for, in the Confession of Thomas Parry written in 1549 concerning
a period a little earlier, it is said: “And I told her” [Princess
Elizabeth] “further how he” [Lord Admiral Thomas Seymour] “would have
had her to have lands in Gloucestershire called Bisley as in parcel of
exchange, and in Wales.”

In addition to its natural desirability in the way of hygiene and
altitude there seems to have been a wish on the part of family advisers
of those having estates in the vicinity of this place, to enlarge
their possessions. This was wise enough, for in the disturbed state of
affairs which ushered in the Tudor Dynasty, and the effects of which
still continued, it was of distinct benefit to have communities here
and there large enough for self protection. This idea held with many
of the families as well as individuals whose names are associated
with Bisley. Henry VIII himself, as over-lord with ownership derived
from the Norman Conquest, had feudal claims on the de Bohuns who
represented all the local possessions of the Dukedom of Gloucester and
the Earldoms of Essex Hereford and Northampton. Also the greedy eyes of
certain strong men and families who had hopes that time and influence
already existing, might later on bring them benefit, were fixed on this
desirable spot. Thomas Seymour, the unscrupulous brother of the future
Lord Protector, was high in influence in the early days of the Princess
Elizabeth, and even then must have had ambitious designs of marrying
her. On the death of Henry VIII he had, when Lord Sudeley, married the
king’s widow within a few months of her widowhood, and received a
grant of the royal possession at Bisley which, on his attainder, passed
on to Sir Anthony Kingston, who doubtless had already marked it down as
an objective of his cupidity.

The “Hundred of Bisley” was one of the seven of Cirencester which of
old were farmed by the Abbey of Tewksbury. Its position was so full
of possibilities of future development as to justify the acquisitive
spirit of those who desired it. In its bounds were what is now the
town of Stroud, as well as a whole line of mills which had in early
days great effect as they were workable by both wind and water power,
both of which were to be had in profusion. This little remote hamlet
had a progressive industry of its own in the shape of a manufacture of
woollen cloths. It also represented dyeing in scarlet and was the place
of origin of Giles Gobelin, a famous dyer who gave his name to the
Gobelin tapestry.

One other thing must be distinctly borne in mind regarding Bisley in
the first half of the sixteenth century; it was comparatively easy of
access from London for those who wished to go there. A line drawn on
the map will show that on the way as _points d’appui_, were Oxford
and Cirencester, both of which were surrounded with good roads as
became their importance as centres. This line seems very short for its
importance. To-day the journey is that of a morning; and even in the
time of Henry VIII when horse traction was the only kind available,
the points were not very distant as to time of traverse. To Henry, who
commanded everything and had a myriad agents eager to display their
energy in his service, all was simple; and when he went a-hunting
in the forests which made a network far around Berkeley Castle his
objective could be easily won between breakfast and supper. There was
not any difficulty therefore, and not too much personal strain, when he
chose to visit his little daughter even though at the start one should
be at Nether Lypiat and the other at Greenwich or Hatfield or Eltham.


_The Tradition_ is that the little Princess Elizabeth, during her
childhood, was sent away with her governess for change of air to Bisley
where the strong sweet air of the Cotswold Hills would brace her up.
The healthy qualities of the place were known to her father and many
others of those around her. Whilst she was at Overcourt, word was sent
to her governess that the King was coming to see his little daughter;
but shortly before the time fixed, and whilst his arrival was expected
at any hour, a frightful catastrophe happened. The child, who had been
ailing in a new way, developed acute fever, and before steps could be
taken even to arrange for her proper attendance and nursing, she died.
The governess feared to tell her father--Henry VIII had the sort of
temper which did not make for the happiness of those around him. In her
despair she, having hidden the body, rushed off to the village to try
to find some other child whose body could be substituted for that of
the dead princess so that the evil moment of disclosure of the sad fact
might be delayed till after His Majesty’s departure. But the population
was small and no girl child of any kind was available. The distracted
woman then tried to find a living girl child who could be passed off
for the princess, whose body could be hidden away for the time.

Throughout the little village and its surroundings was to be found no
girl child of an age reasonably suitable for the purpose required. More
than ever distracted, for time was flying by, she determined to take
the greater risk of a boy substitute--if a boy could be found. Happily
for the poor woman’s safety, for her very life now hung in the balance,
this venture was easy enough to begin. There _was_ a boy available,
and just such a boy as would suit the special purpose for which he was
required--a boy well known to the governess, for the little Princess
had taken a fancy to him and had lately been accustomed to play with
him. Moreover, he was a pretty boy as might have been expected from
the circumstance of the little Lady Elizabeth having chosen him as her
playmate. He was close at hand and available. So he was clothed in the
dress of the dead child, they being of about equal stature; and when
the King’s fore-rider appeared the poor overwrought governess was able
to breathe freely.

The visit passed off successfully. Henry suspected nothing; as the
whole thing had happened so swiftly, there had been no antecedent
anxiety. Elizabeth had been brought up in such dread of her father that
he had not, at the rare intervals of his seeing her, been accustomed to
any affectionate effusiveness on her part; and in his hurried visit he
had no time for baseless conjecture.

Then came the natural nemesis of such a deception. As the dead could
not be brought back to life, and as the imperious monarch, who bore
no thwarting of his wishes, was under the impression that he could
count on his younger daughter as a pawn in the great game of political
chess which he had entered on so deeply, those who by now must have
been in the secret did not and could not dare to make disclosure.
Moreover the difficulties and dangers to one and all involved would
of necessity grow with each day that passed. Willy nilly they must go
on. Fortunately for the safety of their heads circumstances favoured
them. The secret was, up to now, hidden in a remote village high up
on the side of the Cotswold hills. Steep declivities guarded it from
casual intrusion, and there was no trade beyond that occasional traffic
necessary for a small agricultural community. The whole country as far
as the eye could see was either royal domain or individual property
owned or held by persons attached to the dynasty by blood or interest.

Facilities of intercommunication were few and slow; and above all
uncertain and therefore not to be relied on.

This then was the beginning of the tradition which has existed locally
ever since. In such districts change is slow, and what has been may
well be taken, unless there be something to the contrary, for what
is. The isolation of the hamlet in the Cotswolds where the little
princess lived for a time--and is supposed to have died--is almost best
exemplified by the fact that though the momentous secret has existed
for between three and four centuries, no whisper of it has reached the
great world without its confines. Not though the original subject of it
was the very centre of the wildest and longest battle which has ever
taken place since the world began--polemical, dynastic, educational,
international, commercial. Anyone living in any town in our own age,
where advance and expansiveness are matters of degree, not of fact, may
find it hard to believe that any such story, nebulous though it may be,
could exist unknown and unrecorded outside a place so tiny that its
most important details will not be found even on the ordnance map of an
inch to the mile. But a visit to Bisley will set aside any such doubts.
The place itself has hardly changed, in any measure to be apparent as
a change, in the three centuries and more. The same buildings stand as
of yore; the same estate wall, though more picturesque with lichen, and
with individual stones corrugated by weather and dislocated by arboreal
growths, speak of an epoch ending with the Tudor age. The doors of
the great tithe-barns which remain as souvenirs of extinct feudalism,
still yawn wide on their festered hinges. Nay, even the very trees show
amongst their ranks an extraordinary percentage of giants which have
withstood unimpaired all the changes that have been.

Leaving busy and thriving Stroud, one climbs the long hill past Lipiat
and emerges in the village, where time has suddenly ceased, and we
find ourselves in the age and the surroundings which saw the House of
York fade into the Tudor dynasty. Such a journey is almost a necessity
for a proper understanding of the story of the Bisley Boy, which has
by the effluxion of time attained to almost the grace and strength
of a legend. It is quite possible that though the place has stood
still, the tradition has not, for it is in the nature of intellectual
growth to advance. One must not look on the Gloucestershire people
as sleepy--sleepiness is no characteristic of that breezy upland;
but dreaming, whether its results be true or false, does not depend
on sleep. In cases like the present, sleep is not to be looked on as
a blood relation of death but rather as a preservative against the
ravages of time--like the mysterious slumber of King Arthur and others
who are destined for renewal.

It may be taken for granted that in course of time and under the
process of purely oral communication, the story told in whispers lost
nothing in the way of romance or credibility; that flaws or lacunæ
were made good by inquiry; and that recollections of overlooked or
forgotten facts were recalled or even supplemented by facile invention.
But it may also be taken for granted that no statement devoid of a
solid foundation could become permanently accepted. There were too
many critics around, with memories unimpaired by overwork, to allow
incorrect statements to pass unchallenged. There is always this in
tradition, that the collective mind which rules in small communities is
a child’s mind, which must ever hold grimly on to fact. And that behind
the child’s mind is the child’s nature which most delights in the
recountal of what it knows, and is jealous of any addition to the story
which is a part of its being.

Major Martin Hume writes in his _Courtships of Queen Elizabeth_:

    “Elizabeth was only three when her mother’s fall removed her from
    the line of the succession.... In 1542, however, the death of
    James V of Scotland and the simultaneous birth of his daughter
    Mary seemed to bring nearer Henry’s idea of a union between the
    two crowns. He proposed to marry the baby Queen of Scots to his
    infant son and at the same time he offered the hand of Elizabeth
    (then nine) to a son of Arran--head of House of Hamilton, next
    heir to the Scottish crown.... Mary and Elizabeth were restored
    to their places in the line of succession.... In January 1547
    Henry VIII died, leaving the succession to his two daughters
    in tail after Edward VI and his heirs. Queen Catherine (Parr)
    immediately married Sir Thomas Seymour, brother of Protector
    Somerset and uncle of the little king (Edward VI). To them was
    confided Princess Elizabeth then a girl of 14.”

Elizabeth was three in 1536. The story of the Bisley Boy dates probably
to 1543-4. So that if the story have any foundation at all in fact,
signs of a complete change of identity in the person of Princess
Elizabeth must be looked for in the period of some seven or eight years
which intervened.


In such a case as that before us the difficulty of proof is almost
insuperable. But fortunately we are dealing with a point not of law
but of history. Proof is not in the first instance required, but only
surmise, to be followed by an argument of probability. Such records as
still exist are all the proofs that can be adduced; and all we can do
is to search for such records as still exist, without which we lack
the enlightenment that waits on discovery. In the meanwhile we can
deduce a just conclusion from such materials as we do possess. Failing
certitude, which is under the circumstances almost impossible, we only
arrive at probability; and with that until discovery of more reliable
material we must be content.

Let us therefore sum up: first the difficulties of the task before us;
then the enlightenments. “Facts,” says one of the characters of Charles
Dickens, “bein’ stubborn and not easy drove,” are at least, so far as
they go, available. We are free to come to conclusions and to make
critical comments. Our risk is that if we err--on whichever side does
not matter--we reverse our position and become ourselves the objects of

Our main difficulties are two. First, that all from whom knowledge
might have been obtained are dead and their lips are closed; second,
that records are incomplete. This latter is the result of one of two
causes--natural decay or purposed obliteration. The tradition of the
Bisley Boy has several addenda due to time and thought. One of these is
that some of those concerned in the story disappeared from the scene.

The story runs that on Elizabeth’s accession or under circumstances
antecedent to it all who were in the secret and still remained were
“got rid of.” The phrase is a convenient one and not unknown in
history. Fortunately those who _must_ have been in such a secret--if
there was one--were but few. If such a thing occurred in reality, four
persons were necessarily involved in addition to Elizabeth herself:
(1) Mrs. Ashley, (2) Thomas Parry, (3) the parent of the living child
who replaced the dead one; the fourth, being an unknown quantity,
represents an idea rather than a person--a nucleated identity typical
of family life with attendant difficulties of concealment. Of these
four--three real persons and an idea--three are accounted for, so far
as the “got rid of” theory is concerned. Elizabeth never told; Thomas
Parry and Mrs. Ashley remained silent, in the full confidence of the
(supposed) Princess who later was Queen. With regard to the last, the
nucleated personality which includes the unknown parent possibly but
not of certainty, contemporary record is silent; and we can only regard
him or her as a mysterious entity available for conjecture in such
cases of difficulty as may present themselves.

We must perforce, therefore, fall back on pure unadulterated
probability, based on such rags of fact as can be produced at our
inquest. Our comfort--content being an impossibility--must lie in the
generally-accepted aphorism; “Truth will prevail.” In real life it is
not always so; but it is a comforting belief and may remain _faut de

A grave cause of misleading is inexact translation--whether the fault
be in ignorance or intentional additions to or substractions from
text referred to. A case in point is afforded by the letter already
referred to from Leti’s _La Vie d’Elizabeth_. In the portion quoted
Elizabeth mentioned her intention of not marrying: “I have not the
slightest intention of being married, and ... if ever I should think
of it (_which I do not believe is possible_).” Now in Mr. Mumby’s book
the quotation is made from Leti’s _La Vie d’Elizabeth_ which is the
translation into French from the original Italian, the passage marked
above in italics is simply: “ce que je ne crois pas.” The addition of
the words “is possible” gives what is under the circumstances quite
a different meaning to the earliest record we have concerning the
very point we are investigating. When I began this investigation, I
looked on the passage--neither Mumby, remember, nor even Leti, but
what professed to be the _ipsissima verba_ of Elizabeth herself--and
I was entirely misled until I had made comparison for myself--_Quis
custodiet ipsos custodes?_ The addition of the two words, which seems
at first glance merely to emphasise an expression of opinion, changes
the meaning of the writer to a belief so strong that the recital of it
gives it the weight of intention. Under ordinary circumstances this
would not matter much; but as we have to consider it in the light of
a man defending his head against danger, and in a case where absolute
circumspection is a necessary condition of safety so that intention
becomes a paramount force, exactness of expression is all-important.

The only way to arrive at probability is to begin with fact. Such is
a base for even credulity or its opposite, and if it is our wish or
intention to be just there need be no straining on either one side or
the other. In the case of the Bisley Boy the points to be considered

1. The time at which the change was or could be affected.

2. The risk of discovery, (a) at first, (b) afterwards.

It will be necessary to consider these separately for manifest reasons.
The first belongs to the region of Danger; the second to the region
of Difficulty, with the headsman’s axe glittering ominously in the


(_a_) _The time at which the change was or could have been effected._

For several valid reasons I have come to the conclusion that the
crucial period by which the Bisley story must be tested is the year
ending with July 1544. No other time either earlier or later would, so
far as we know, have fulfilled the necessary conditions.

First of all the question of sex has to be considered; and it is herein
that, lacking suitable and full opportunity, discovery of such an
imposture must have been at once detected--certainly had it commenced
at an early age. In babyhood the whole of the discipline of child-life
begins. The ordinary cleanliness of life has to be taught, and to this
end there is no portion of the infantile body which is not subject to
at least occasional inspection. This disciplinary inspection lasts
by force of habit until another stage on the journey towards puberty
has been reached. Commercial use in America fixes stages of incipient
womanhood--by dry goods’ advertisement--as “children’s, misses’ and
girls’ clothing,” and the illustration will sufficiently serve. It
seems at first glance an almost unnecessary intrusion into purely
domestic life; but the present is just one of those cases where the
experience of women is not only useful but necessary. In a question
of identity of sex the nursemaid and the washerwoman play useful
parts in the witness box. Regarding Elizabeth’s childhood no question
need ever or can ever arise. For at least the first ten years of her
life, a woman’s sex _need_ not be known outside the nursery and the
sick room; but then this is the very time when her attendants have
direct and ample knowledge. Moreover in the case of the child of Queen
Anne (Boleyn) there was every reason why the sex should have been
unreservedly known. Henry VIII divorced Katherine of Aragon and married
Anne in the hope of having legitimate male issue to sit on the throne
of England. Later, when both Katherine and Anne had failed to satisfy
him as to male issue, he divorced Anne and married Jane Seymour for
the same purpose. In the interval either his views had enlarged or
his patience had extended; for, when Jane’s life hung in the balance,
owing to an operation which the surgeons considered necessary, and the
husband was consulted as to which life they should, in case of needful
choice, try to save, his reply was peculiar--though, taken in the light
of historical perspective, not at variance with his dominating idea.
Gregorio Leti thus describes the incident (the quotation is made from
the translation of the Italian into French and published in Amsterdam
in 1694):--

    “Quand les médécins demandèrent au Roi qui l’on sauverait de
    la mère ou de l’enfant, il répondit, qu’il auroit extremement
    souhait de pouvoir sauver la mère et l’enfant, mais que cel
    n’étant possible, il vouloit que l’on sauvat l’enfant plutôt que
    la mère parce qu’il trouveroit assez d’autres femmes.”

It had become a monomania with Henry that he should be father of a
lawful son; and when the child of his second union was expected, he
so took the consummation of his wishes for granted that those in
attendance on his wife were actually afraid to tell him the truth. It
would have been fortune and social honour to whosoever should bear
him the glad tidings. We may be sure then that news so welcome would
never have been perverted by those who had so much to gain. As it was,
the “lady-mistress”--as she called herself--of the little Princess,
Mrs. (afterwards Lady) Bryan, wrote in her letter to Lord Cromwell in
1536--Elizabeth being then in her third year:--

    “She is as toward a child and as gentle of conditions, as ever I
    knew any in my life.”

The writer could have had no ignorance as to the sex of the child, for
in the same letter she gives Cromwell a list of her wants in the way
of clothing; which list is of the most intimate kind, including gown,
kirtle, petticoat, “no manner of linen nor smocks,” kerchiefs, rails,
body stitchets, handkerchiefs, sleeves, mufflers, biggens. As in the
same letter it is mentioned that the women attending the child were
under the rule of Lady Bryan--an accomplished nurse who had brought up
Princess Mary and had been “governess to the children his Grace have
had ever since”--it can be easily understood she was well acquainted
with even the smallest detail of the royal nursery. Had the trouble of
the lady-mistress been with regard to superabundance of underclothing,
one might have understood ignorance on the part of the responsible
controller; but in the plentiful lack of almost every garment necessary
for the child’s wear by day or by night there could be no question as
to her ostensible sex at this age.

Thence on, there were experienced and devoted persons round the little
Princess, whose value in her father’s eyes was largely enhanced since
he had secured, for the time, her legitimacy by an Act of Parliament.

After Elizabeth had been legitimised, she became one of the pieces in
the gigantic game of chess on which Henry had embarked. Despite the
fact that the son for whom he had craved was now a boy of six, it was
only wise to consider and be prepared for whatever might happen in case
Prince Edward should not live, and if, in such a case, Mary should die
without issue. The case was one of amazing complexity, and as the time
wore on the religious question became structurally involved. England
had declared in no uncertain voice in favour of Protestantism, and the
whole forces of Rome were arrayed against her. Mary was altogether in
favour of the religion of her injured mother, and behind her stood the
power of Catholicism which, even in that unscrupulous age, was well
ahead in the race of unscrupulousness. And as Elizabeth stood next
to the young Prince Edward in the forces of Reformation, on her was
focussed much of the suspicion of polemic intrigue. The papacy was all
powerful in matters of secret inquiry. Indeed in such an inquest its
powers were unique, for unscrupulous spies were everywhere--even, it
was alleged, in the confessional. How then could such a secret as the
sex of a little girl of not a dozen years of age, who was constantly
surrounded by women necessarily conversant with every detail of her
life, be kept from all who wished to solve it. In such a state of
affairs suspicion was equivalent to discovery. And discovery meant ruin
to all concerned, death to abettors of the fraud, woe and destruction
to England and a general upheaval of the fundamental ideas of
Christendom. It may, I presume, be taken for granted without flaw or
mitigation of any kind that up to July, 1543, the “Princess Elizabeth”
was what she appeared to be--a girl.

At the time of her first letter to the new Queen, Catherine (Parr), she
was just a trifle under ten years of age and a well-grown child, quick,
clever, rather precocious, and well grounded in the learning of her
time. The exact date of this letter is not given by Leti--of which more
anon--but it must have been somewhere between July 12 and 31, 1543.
Henry VIII married Catherine Parr on 12 July, and in her letter of 1543
Elizabeth calls Catherine “your Majesty.” In her letter of 31 July,
1544 she writes to the same correspondent:

    “... has deprived me for a whole year of your most illustrious

The whereabouts of Elizabeth during this last year appears to be the
centre of the mystery; and if any letter or proof is ever found of
Elizabeth’s being anywhere but in her own house of Overcourt in Bisley
Parish, it will go far to settle the vexed question now brought before
the world for the first time.

(_b_) _The opportunity_

The year 1542 was a busy time for Henry VIII. He had on hand, either
pending or going on, two momentous wars, one with Scotland the other
with France. The causes of either of these were too complicated for
mention here; suffice it to say that they were chiefly dynastic and
polemic. In addition he was busy with matrimonial matters, chiefly
killing off his fifth wife Catherine Howard, and casting eyes on the
newmade widow of Lord Latimer. In 1543 he married the lady, as his
sixth wife. She herself can hardly be said to have lacked matrimonial
experience, as this was her third union. Her first venture was with
the elderly Lord Borough, who, like Lord Latimer, left her wealthy.
Henry had by now got what might be called in the slang of the time “the
marriage habit,” and honeymoon dalliance had hardly the same charm
for him as it usually is supposed to have with those blessed with a
lesser succession of spouses. The consequence was that he was able to
give more attention to the necessary clearing up of the Scottish war,
which finished at Solway Moss on December 14th, with the consequent
death from chagrin of the Scottish King James V. The cause of the war,
however, continued in the shape of a war with France which went on till
1546 when peace was declared to the pecuniary benefit of the English
King. For the last two years of this time Henry carried on the war
singlehanded, as the Emperor Charles V, who had begun it as his ally,

There is a paragraph in Grafton’s _Chronicle_ published in 1569 which
throws a flood of light on Elizabeth’s absence at this time, 1543:
“This yeare was in London a great death of the pestilence, and
therefore Mighelmas terme was adjourned to Saint Albones, and there it
was kept to the ende.”

In his _Girlhood of Queen Elizabeth_, Mr. Mumby says: “For some obscure
reason Elizabeth seems to have fallen out of her father’s favour again
very soon after Catherine Parr had obtained his consent to her return
to Court” (1543). No such cause for the removal of the Princess from
London was necessary. It was probably to the presence of the pestilence
in London that her removal to a remote and healthy place was due.
Failing Prince Edward, then only five years of age and a weakly child,
the crown must--unless some constitutional revolution be effected in
the meantime or some future son be born to him--devolve on his female
heirs, a matter pregnant with strife of unknown dimensions. Mary was
now twenty-seven years old and of a type that did not promise much for
maternity. At the same time, Mary, though his eldest living daughter,
was the hope of the Catholic party, to which he was in violent
opposition; whereas in Elizabeth lay the hope of the whole of the party
of the Reformation. Her life was to her father far beyond the calls of
parental affection or dynastic ambition, and she had to be saved at all
costs from risk of health. Henry’s own experience of child-life was a
bitter one. Of his five children by Catherine of Aragon only one, Mary,
survived childhood. Elizabeth was the only survivor of Anne Boleyn;
Edward, of Jane Seymour. Anne of Cleves had no children, and if report
spoke truly no chance of having any. Catherine Howard was executed
childless. And he had only just married Catherine Parr, who had already
had two husbands.

On July 12, 1543, Henry married Catherine and in due course devoted
himself to the war. On the 14 July, 1544, he crossed from Dover to
Calais to look after the conduct of affairs for himself, and on the
26th began the siege of Boulogne. This lasted for two months when
having reduced the city he returned home. On the 8 September he wrote
to his wife to that effect. During his absence Queen Catherine was
vicegerent and had manifestly as much public work on hand as she
could cope with. Bisley was a long way from London, and there were no
organised posts in the sixteenth century. Moreover, ever since his
last marriage, Henry had been an invalid. He was now fifty-two years
of age, of unhealthy body, and so heavy that he had to be lifted
by machinery. Catherine was a devoted wife; and as Henry was both
violent and irritable she had little time at command to give to the
affairs of other people. There was small opportunity for any one then
who was sufficiently in the focus of affairs to be cognisant of such
an imposture as the tradition points out. Doubtless hereafter, when
a story so fascinating and at first glance so incredible begins to
be examined and its details thoroughly threshed out, more items of
evidence or surmise than are at present available will be found for
the settlement of the question, one way or the other. In the meantime,
be it remembered, that we are only examining offhand a tradition made
known for the first time after three centuries. Our present business is
to consider _possibilities_. Later on the time may come--as it surely
will; if the story can in the least be accepted--for the consideration
of _probabilities_. Both of these tentative examinations will lead to
the final examination of possibility, of probability, and of proof
_pro_ or _contra_.

At this stage we must admit that neither time nor opportunity present
any difficulty in itself insuperable.


(_a_) _Documents_

The next matter with which we have to deal is regarding the identity of
Elizabeth. This needs (if necessary) a consideration of the facts of
her life, and so far as we can realise them, from external appearance,
mental and moral attitudes, and intentions. On account of space we
must confine this branch of the subject to the smallest portion of
time necessary to form any sort of just conclusion and accepting the
available records up to 1543, take the next period from that time
to anywhere within the first few years of her reign--by which time
her character was finally fixed and the policy on which her place in
history is to be judged had been formulated and tested.

This implies in the first instance a brief (very brief) study of her
physique with a corollary in the shape of a few remarks on her heredity:

_Grafton’s Chronicle_ states, under the date of 7 September 1533,
“the Queene was delivered of a fayre Lady” which was his Courtly way
of announcing the birth of a female princess, blond in colour. In all
chronicles “fayre” means of light colour. In Wintown the reputed father
of Macbeth--the Devil--is spoken of as a “fayre” man; evil qualities
were in that age attributed to blondes.

In a letter dated from Greenwich Palace, 18 April, 1534, Sir
William Kingston said to Lord Lisle: “To-day, the King and Queen
were at Eltham” (where the royal nursery then was) “and saw my Lady
Princess--as goodly a child as hath been seen. Her Grace is much in the
King’s favour as a goodly child should be--God save her!”

In 1536, when Elizabeth was but three years old, Lady Bryan, the
“Lady-mistress” of both Mary and her half-sister, wrote from Hunsdon
to Lord Cromwell regarding the baby princess. “For she is as toward
a child and as gentle of conditions, as ever I knew any in my life.
Jesus preserve her Grace!” In the same letter she says “Mr. Shelton
would have my Lady Elizabeth to dine and sup every day at the board
of estate. Alas! my Lord it is not meet for a child of her age to keep
such rule yet. I promise you, my lord, I dare not take it upon me to
keep her Grace in health an’ she keep that rule. For there she shall
see divers meats, and fruits, and wines, which it would be hard for
me to restrain her Grace from. Ye know, my lord, there is no place of
correction there; and she is yet too young to correct greatly.”

Testimony is borne according to Leti to the good qualities of the
Princess Elizabeth in these early years, by the affectionate regard in
which she was held by two of Henry’s queens, the wronged and unhappy
Anne of Cleves and the happy-natured Catherine Parr. Anne, he says,
though she had only seen her twice loved her much; she thought her
beautiful and full of spirit (“pleine d’esprit.”) Catherine, according
to the same writer who had seen her often before her marriage to Henry,
admired her “esprit et ses manières.”

If Leti could only have spoken at first hand, his record of her would
be very valuable. But unhappily he was only born nearly thirty years
after her death. His history was manifestly written from records and as
Elizabeth’s fame was already made before he began to treat of her his
work is largely a panegyric of hearsay. There is, regarding the youth
of the Princess, such an overdone flood of adulation that it is out of
place in a serious history of a human life. In his account of the time
which we are considering, we find the child compared in both matters
of body and mind to an angel. She is credited at the age of ten with an
amount of knowledge in all branches of learning sufficient to equip the
illustrious men of a century. The fact is the Italian has accepted the
queen’s great position, and then reconstructed her youth to accord with
it, in such a way as to show that whatever remarkable abilities she
possessed were the direct outcome of her own natural qualities.[2]

    [2] Amongst other branches of knowledge he credits her with
        knowing well “Geography, Cosmography, Mathematics,
        Architecture, Painting, Arithmetic, History, Mechanics.” She
        had a special facility in learning languages; spoke and wrote
        French, Italian, Spanish, Flemish. She loved poetry and wrote
        it, but regarded it as a useless amusement and, as it was
        distasteful to her, turned to history and politics. Finally
        he adds: “She was naturally ambitious and always knew how to
        hide her defects.”

The details above given are not merely meagre but are only explicable
by the fact that during the earlier years of her life the child
was not considered of any importance. The circumstances of Anne’s
marriage--which in any case was delayed till it became a necessary
preliminary to the legitimacy on which any future claim to the throne
must rest--did not make for a belief in the public mind for its
permanency. Things were fluctuating in the religious world and few
were inclined to the belief that the Pope (with whom lay the last
word and whose political leanings in favour of Catherine of Aragon
and the validity of her marriage to Henry were well known) would be
overthrown by the English King. And in any case, were Henry to be the
final judge of appeal in his own case no great continuity of purpose
could be expected from him. The first important event which we have
to consider with reference to the question before us is Elizabeth’s
first letter to Queen Catherine (Parr) in 1543. In this the girl then
ten years old writes to her new step-mother, at whose marriage she
together with her half-sister Mary had been present. It is in form a
dutiful letter, not entirely without an apparent compulsion or at least
intelligent supervision. As it stands, it is impossible to believe
that it emanated from a child of ten quite free to follow out its
inclinations. The dutifulness is altogether, or largely, due to the
training and self-suppression of the royal child of an arbitrary father
with absolute power. But it remains for each reader to consider it
impartially. The points which we should do well to note here are its
plain form of expression, and its entire absence of personal affection.
The latter is all the more marked in that it was a letter of thanks for
a kindness conferred. Elizabeth was very anxious to come to her father,
and Catherine had furthered her wish and secured its fulfilment. After
the marriage, the child, as is shown (or rather inferred), had been
sent away for more than a year, which absence had been prolonged for at
least six months--as already shown.

There is little evidence of Elizabeth’s inner nature in these early
days; but we have every right to think that she was of a peaceable,
kindly and affectionate nature. Lady Bryan her first nurse or governess
(after Lady Boleyn, Anne’s mother) thought highly of her. Catherine
Ashley, who had charge of her next, loved her and was her devoted
servant, friend and confidant till her death.

Thomas Parry her life-long friend was devoted to her, and when the
circumstances of their respective lives and the happenings of the time
kept them apart, she restored him at the first opportunity and made his
fortune her special care.

There is little base here on which to build an inverted pyramid; our
only safety is in taking things as they seem to be and using common

(_b_) _Changes_

Let us now take the years beginning with 1544. From this time on, more
is known of the personality of Elizabeth; in fact there is little
unknown, that is, of matters of fact, and to this only we must devote
ourselves. Whatever may have been Elizabeth’s motives we can only infer
them. She was a secretive person and took few into her confidence,
unless it was of vital necessity--and then only in matters required by
the circumstance. The earliest knowledge we have of this second period
of her history is in her letter to Queen Catherine (Parr) written from
St. James’ Palace on 31 July, 1544.

In the year which had elapsed since her last recorded letter
Elizabeth’s literary style had entirely changed. The meagre grudging
style has become elegant and even florid with the ornate grace and
imagery afforded by the study of the Latin and French tongues.
Altogether there is not merely a more accomplished diction but there
is behind it a truer feeling and larger sympathy. It is more in accord
with the letter accompanying the gift to the Queen, of her translation
of the _Mirror of the Sinful Soul_ which she had dedicated to her.

Historians have given various rescripts of certain earlier letters of
the Princess Elizabeth, but none of them seem in harmony of thought
with this, whereas it is quite in accord with her later writings.
Metabolism is an accepted doctrine of physiology; but its scope is
not--as yet at all events--extended to the intellect, and we must take
things as we find them within the limits of human knowledge.

It will perhaps be as well to reserve the consideration of any other
point, except the change in actual identity, till the complete analogy
of all natural processes is an established fact.

(_c_) _Her personality_

We have no letters of Princess Elizabeth before 1543 which are not open
to grave doubt as to date, but there is one letter to which allusion
must almost of necessity be made. It is a letter from Roger Ascham,
tutor to the Princess Elizabeth, to Mrs. Ashley. No date is given
by Mr. Mumby, but he states in his text that it was written “during
Grindal’s term of office” as tutor to the Princess. Mumby quotes from
the _Elizabeth_ of Miss Strickland, who in turn quotes from Whittaker’s
_Richmondshire_. Now Grindal’s term of office lasted from 1546
(probably the end of that year) till it was cut short by his death from
the Plague in 1548, so that he could not have known his royal pupil
_before_ 1544. The text of the letter leads a careful reader to infer
that it was written _after_ that date. The important part of the letter
is as follows:

    “... the thanks you have deserved from that noble imp by your
    labour and wisdom now flourishing in all goodly godliness.... I
    wish her Grace (Elizabeth) to come to that end in perfectness
    and likelihood of her wit and painlessness in her study, true
    trade of her teaching, which your diligent overseeing doth most
    constantly promise.... I wish all increase of virtue and honour
    to that my good lady, whose wit, good Mrs. Ashley, I beeseech
    you somewhat favour. Blunt edges be dull and dure much pain to
    little profit; the free edge is soon turned if it be not handled
    thereafter. If you pour much drink at once into a goblet, the
    most part will dash out and run over; if ye pour it softly you
    may fill it even to the top, and so her Grace, I doubt not, by
    little and little may be increased in learning, that at length
    greater cannot be required.”

If this letter means anything at all--which in the case of such a man
as Roger Ascham is not to be doubted--it means that Mrs. Ashley, then
her governess, was cautioned not to press the little girl overmuch
in her lessons. It is an acknowledgment of the teacher’s zeal as well
as affection, and in the flowery and involved style of the period and
the man, illustrates the theory by pointing out the error of trying to
fill a small vessel from a larger one by pouring too fast. She is not
a backward child, he says in effect, but go slowly with her education,
you cannot give full learning all at once.

Compare this letter with that of the same writer to John Sturmius,
Rector of the Protestant University of Strasbourg, on the same subject
in 1550:

    “The Lady Elizabeth has accomplished her sixteenth year; and so
    much of solidity of understanding, such courtesy united with
    dignity, have never been observed at so early an age. She has
    the most ardent love of true religion and of the best kind of
    literature. The constitution of her mind is exempt from female
    weakness, and she is endued with a masculine power of application.

    “No apprehension can be quicker than hers, no memory more
    retentive. French and Italian she speaks like English; Latin with
    fluency, propriety and judgment; she also spoke Greek with me,
    frequently, willingly, and understanding well. Nothing can be
    more elegant than her handwriting, whether in the Greek or Roman
    character. In music she is very skilful but does not greatly
    delight. With respect to personal decoration, she greatly prefers
    a simple elegance to show and splendour, so despising the outward
    adorning of plaiting the hair and of wearing of gold, that in
    the whole manner of her life she rather resembles Hippolyta than

That such a scholar as Roger Ascham makes the simile is marked.
Hippolyta was a Queen of the Amazons and Phædra was an almost
preternaturally womanly woman, one with a tragic intensity of passion.

The Elizabeth whom we know from 1544 to 1603 certainly had brains
enough to protect her neck. In 1549 Sir Robert Tyrwhitt wrote to the
Protector Somerset, apropos of the strenuous effort being made to gain
from her some admission damaging to herself concerning Thomas Seymour’s
attempts to win her hand:

“She hath a very pretty wit and nothing is gotten out of her but by
great policy.”

In a letter from Simon Renard Ambassador to the Emperor Charles V dated
London September 23, 1553, there is incidentally a statement regarding
Elizabeth’s character which it is wise to hold in mind when discussing
this particular period of her history. Writing of Elizabeth’s first
attendance at Mass he said: “she, Mary, ... entreated Madame Elizabeth
to speak freely of all that was on her conscience, to which the
Princess replied that she was resolved to declare publicly that in
going to Mass as in all else that she had done, she had only obeyed the
voice of her conscience; and that she had acted freely, without fear,
deceit, or pretence. We have since been told, however, that the said
Lady Elizabeth is very timid, and that while she was speaking with the
Queen she trembled very much.”

Compare with this the letter of 16th March, 1554 to the Queen (Mary)
written just as she was told to go to the Tower. In this letter which
is beautifully written and with not a trace of agitation she protests
her innocence of any plot. Her mental attitude was thoroughly borne
out by a calm dignity of demeanour which is more in accord with male
than female nature. In very fact Elizabeth appears all her life since
1544 to have been playing with great thoughtfulness and yet dexterity a
diplomatic game--acting with histrionic subtlety a part which she had
chosen advisedly.

A good idea of the personality of Elizabeth during the period beginning
with 1544 may be had from a brief consideration of the risks which a
person taking up such an imposture would run, first at the time of
beginning the venture and then of sustaining the undertaken rôle.
At the outset a boy of ten or eleven would not think of taking it
seriously. At first he would look on it as a “lark” and carry out the
idea with a serious energy only known in play-time. Later thought
would give it a new charm in the shape of danger. This, while adding
to his great zest, would sober him; thence on it would be a game--just
such a game as a boy loves, perpetual struggle to get the best of
someone else. To some natures wit against wit is a better strife than
strength against strength, and if one were well equipped for such a
fray the game would satisfy the ambition of his years. In any case when
once such a game was entered on, the stake would be his own head--a
consideration which must undoubtedly make for strenuous effort--even in

The task which would have followed--which did follow if the Bisley
story is true--would have been vastly greater. If the imposture
escaped immediate detection--which is easily conceivable--a new kind
of endeavour would have been necessary; one demanding the utmost care
and perpetual vigilance in addition to the personal qualities necessary
for the carrying out of the scheme. Little help could be given to the
young boy on whom rested the weight of what must have appeared to all
concerned in it a stupendous undertaking. From the nature of the task,
which was one which even the faintest breath of suspicion would have
ruined, the little band, originally involved, could gain no assistance.
Safety was only possible by the maintenance of the most rigid secrecy.
All around them were enemies served by a host of zealous spies. If then
the story be true, those who carried such an enterprising situation
to lasting success, must have been no common persons. Let us suppose
for a moment that the story was true. In such case the Boy of Bisley
who acted the part of the Princess Elizabeth could have had only two
assistants--assistants even if they were only passive. _Whatever_ may
have happened we know from history that both Mrs. Ashley and Thomas
Parry were ingrainedly loyal to Elizabeth, as she was to them. For
convenience we shall speak of the substitute of the Princess as
though he were the Princess herself whom he appeared to be, and for
whom he was accepted thenceforth. That the imposture--if there was
one--succeeded is a self-evident fact; for almost sixty years there was
no question raised by any person of either sex and of any political
opinion. The statecraft of England, France, the Papacy, and the German
Empire were either unsuspicious or in error--or both. It is reasonable
to imagine that a person of strong character and active intelligence
might have steered deftly between these variously opposing forces. It
is conceivable that in the case of a few individuals there might have
been stray fragmentary clouds of suspicion; though if there were any
they must have come to those who were held to a consequent inactivity
by other dominating causes. We shall have occasion presently to touch
on this subject but in the meantime we must accept it that there was no
opinion expressed by any one in such a way as necessarily to provoke
action. Of course after a time even suspicion became an impossibility.
Here was a young girl growing into womanhood whom all around her had
known all her life--or what was equivalent--believed they had. It is
only now after three centuries that we can consider who it was that
formed the tally of those who knew the personality of Elizabeth during
both periods of her youth, that up to 1543-4 and that which followed.
Henry VIII manifestly not only had no doubt on the subject but no
thought. If he had had he was just the man to have settled it at once.
Anne Boleyn was dead, so was her predecessor in title. Anne of Cleves
had accepted the annulment of her marriage--and a pension. Jane Seymour
and Catherine Howard were both dead. Nearly all those who as nurses,
governesses, or teachers, Lady Bryan, Richard Croke, William Grindal,
Roger Ascham, who knew the first period were dead or had retired into
other spheres. Those who remained knowing well the individuality of the
Princess and representing both periods were Mrs. Ashley, Thomas Parry
and the Queen (later dowager) Catherine Parr.

We know already of the faithfulness of the two former, the man who
was a clever as well as a faithful servant, and the woman, who having
no children of her own, took to her heart the little child entrusted
to her care and treated her with such affectionate staunchness--a
staunchness which has caused more than one historian to suspect that
there was some grave secret between them which linked their fortunes

As to Catherine Parr we are able to judge from her letters that she was
fond of her step-daughter and was consistently kind to her. Those who
choose to study the matter further can form an opinion of their own
from certain recorded episodes which, given without any elucidating
possibilities leave the historians in further doubt. Leti puts in
his _Life_, under the date of 1543, “before her marriage to Henry,
Catherine Parr had seen often Elizabeth and admired her.” The Italian
historian _may_ have had some authority for the statement; but also
it may have been taken from some statement made by Elizabeth in later
years or by some person in her interest, to create a misleading belief.
In any case let us accept the statement as a matter of fact. If so
it may throw a light on another branch of this eternal and diverse
mystery. Martin Hume and F. A. Mumby approaching the subject from
different points confess themselves puzzled by Elizabeth’s attitude to
men. The former writes in his _Courtships of Queen Elizabeth_:

    “No one can look at the best portraits of Elizabeth without
    recognising at a glance that she was not a sensual woman. The
    lean, austere face, the tight thin lips, the pointed delicate
    chin, the cold dull eyes, tell of a character the very opposite
    of lascivious.”

Mr. Mumby writing about Mrs. Ashley’s “Confession” and of the
horse-play between Elizabeth and Lord Seymour (whom Queen Catherine had
married immediately after the King’s death) makes this remark:

    “The most surprising thing about this behaviour is that the Queen
    should have encouraged it.”

There is plenty of room for wonder, considering that Admiral Seymour
had earlier wanted to marry Elizabeth. But Catherine was a clever
woman, who had already had three husbands--Seymour was her fourth--and
children. If any one would see through a boy’s disguise as a girl
she was the one. It is hard to imagine that Seymour’s wife had not
good cause for some form revenge on him of whom Hallam speaks of as a
“dangerous and unprincipled man” and of whom Latimer said “he was a man
farthest from the fear of God that ever I knew or heard of in England”
as it was believed at the time of her death that he had poisoned his
wife, the Queen dowager, to make way for a marriage with Elizabeth,
with whom according to common belief he was still in love, it would
be only natural that a woman of her disposition and with her sense
of humour, should revenge herself in a truly wifely way by using for
the purpose, without betraying the secret, her private knowledge or
belief of the quasi-princess’s real sex. Such would afford an infinite
gratification to an ill-used wife jealous of so vain a husband.

[Illustration: THE DUKE OF RICHMOND]

We now come to the crux of the whole story--the touchstone of this
strange eventful history. Could there have been such a boy as is told
of; one answering to the many conditions above shown to be vitally
necessary for the carrying out of such a scheme of imposture. The
answer to this question is distinctly in the affirmative; there _could_
have been such a boy; had the Duke of Richmond been born fourteen or
fifteen years earlier than he was, the difficulties of appearance,
intellect, education, and other qualifications need not have presented

If the question to be asked is: “Was there such a boy?” the
answer cannot be so readily given. In the meantime there are some
considerations from the study of which--or through which--an answer
may, later, be derived.


_The Duke of Richmond_

The points which must be settled before we can solve the mystery of the
_Bisley Boy_ are:

(1) Was there such an episode regarding the early life of the Princess

(2) Was there such a boy as was spoken of?

(3) How could such an imposture have been carried out, implying as it

(a) A likeness to the Princess so extraordinary as not to have created
suspicion in the mind of anyone not already in the plot.

(b) An acquaintance with the circumstances of the life of the Princess
sufficiently accurate to ward off incipient suspicion caused by any
overlooking or neglect of necessary conditions.

(c) An amount of education and knowledge equal to that held by a child
of ten to twelve years of age who had been taught by some of the most
learned persons of the time.

(d) A skill in classics and foreign tongues only known amongst high
scholars and diplomatists.

(e) An ease of body and a courtliness of manner and bearing utterly
foreign to any not bred in the higher circles of social life.

If there could be found a boy answering such conditions--one whose
assistance could be had with facility and safety--then the solution is
possible, even if not susceptible of the fullest proof. Following the
lines of argument hitherto used in this book, let us first consider
reasons why such an argument is tenable. I may then perhaps be allowed
to launch the theory which has come to me during this investigation.

(_a_) _His Birth and Appearance_

A part--and no small part--of the bitterness of Henry VIII in not
having a son to succeed him was that, though he had a son, such could
not by the existing law succeed him on the throne.

Nearly ten years after his marriage to Catherine of Aragon and after
a son and other children had been born to them, all of whom had died
shortly after birth, Henry had in the manner of mediæval kings--and
others--entered on a love affair, the object of his illicit affection
being one of the ladies-in-waiting to Queen Catherine, Elizabeth,
daughter of John Blount of Knevet, Shropshire.

The story of this love affair is thus given in quaint old English in
_Grafton’s Chronicle_ first published in 1569 which covers the period
from 1189 to 1558:

    “You shall understande, the King in his freshe youth was in the
    cheynes of love with a faire damosell called Elizabeth Blunt,
    daughter of Syr John Blunt Knight, which damosell in synging,
    daunsing, and in all goodly pastimes, excelled all other, by the
    which goodly pastimes, she wanne the king’s hart: and she againe
    shewed him such favour that by him she bare a goodly man childe,
    of beautie like to the father and mother. This child was well
    brought up lyke a Princes childe.”

(_b_) _His Upbringing and Marriage_

This son of an unlawful union--born in 1519 it is said--was called
Henry Fitzroy after the custom applicable in such cases to the natural
children of kings. Naturally enough his royal father took the greatest
interest in this child and did, whilst the latter lived, all in his
power to further his interests. A mere list of the honours conferred on
him during his short life will afford some clue to the King’s intention
of his further advancement, should occasion serve. The shower of
favours began in 1525 when the child, as is said, was only six years of
age. On the 18th of June of this year he was created Earl of Nottingham
and Duke of Richmond and Somerset, with precedence over all dukes
except those of the King’s lawful issue. He was also made a Knight of
the Garter--of which exalted Order he was raised to the Lieutenancy
eight years later. He was also nominated to other high offices: the
King’s Lieutenant General for districts north of the Trent; and Keeper
of the city and fortress of Carlisle. To these posts were added those
of Lord High Admiral of England, Wales, Ireland, Normandy, Gascony and
Aquitaine; Warden General of the Marches of Scotland, and Receiver
of Middleham and of Sheriff Hutton, Yorkshire. He was also given an
income of four thousand pounds sterling per annum. In 1529, being then
only ten years of age, he was also made Lord Lieutenant of Ireland,
Constable of Dover Castle and Warden of the Cinque Ports--three of the
most important offices of the Nation. A few months before his death
in 1536 there was a general understanding that Henry VIII intended to
make him King of Ireland and possibly to nominate him as his successor
on the throne of England. That some such intention was in Henry’s mind
was shown by the Succession Act passed just before the close of the
Parliament which was dissolved in 1536. In this Act it is fixed that
the Crown is to devolve on the King’s death to the son of Jane Seymour
and in default of issue by him, on Mary and Elizabeth in succession
in case of lack of issue by the former. In the event of their both
dying before the King and without issue he is to appoint by will his
successor on the throne.

The various important posts conferred on the young Duke of Richmond
were evidently preparations for the highest post of all, which in
default of legitimate issue of his own legitimate children he intended
to confer on him.

The education which was given to the little Duke is of especial
interest and ought in the present connection to be carefully studied.
It was under the care of Richard Croke, celebrated for his scholarship;
who in the modern branch was assisted by John Palsgrave the author of
the earliest English grammar of the French language “_Lesclarcissement
de la langue Francoyse_.” In spite of the opposition of his household
the Duke of Richmond devoted his young life to study rather than to
arms. Whilst still a young boy he had already read a part of _Cæsar_,
_Virgil_ and _Terence_, knew a little Greek, and was fairly skilful
in music--singing and playing on the virginals. There was much talk
in Court circles as to whom he should marry and many ladies of high
degree were named. One was a niece of Pope Clement VII; another was a
Danish princess; still another a princess of France; also a daughter of
Eleanor, dowager Queen of Portugal, a sister of Charles V. This lady
was afterwards Queen of France.

Early in 1532 the Duke resided for a while at Hatfield. Then he went to
Paris with his friend the Earl of Surrey, son of the Duke of Norfolk.
There he remained till September, 1533. On his return to England he
married by special dispensation, on 25 November, 1533, Mary Howard,
daughter of the Duke of Norfolk by his second marriage and sister of
Surrey. Incidentally he is said to have been present at the beheading
of Queen Anne (Boleyn), May 19, 1536. He did not long survive the
last-named exhibition, for some two months later--22 July, 1536, he
died. There was at the time a suspicion that he had been poisoned by
Lord Rochford, brother of Queen Anne (Boleyn).

Henry Duke of Richmond and Somerset had no legal issue. As a matter
of fact though he was married in 1533, nearly three years before his
death, he never lived with his wife. It was said that he was not only
young for matrimony, being only seventeen; but was in very bad health.
It was intended that after his marriage he should go to Ireland; but on
account of the state of his health that journey was postponed--as it
turned out, for ever.

A light on this ill-starred marriage is thrown in the quaint words of
another chronicler of the time, Charles Wriothesley, who wrote of the
time between 1485 and 1559.

    “But the said younge duke had never layne by his wife, and so she
    is maide, wife, and now a widowe; I praie God send her now good

In this summarised history certain points are to be noticed:

(1) The Duke of Richmond was like his father (Henry VIII) and his
mother who was “fayre.”

(2) A Dispensation was obtained for his marriage to Lady Mary Howard
which took place in 1533 but with whom he never cohabited.

There is a side-light here of the hereditary aspect of the case. Both
the Duke and Duchess of Richmond were “fayre,” and in the language of
the old chroniclers “fayre” means blonde. Wintown for instance speaking
of Macbeth’s supposed descent from the Devil says:

    “Gottyne he was on ferly wys
    “Hys Modyr to woddis mad oft repayre
    “For the delyte of halesum ayre.
    “Swa, scho past a-pon a day
    “Tyl a Wod, hyr for to play:
    “Scho met at cas with a fayr man.”

And Grafton thus speaks under date 7 September 1533 of Elizabeth’s
birth: “The Queen was delivered of a fayre Lady.”

Now Anne Boleyn is described as small and lively, a brunette with black
hair and beautiful eyes, and yet her daughter is given as red-haired by
all the painters.

It is somewhat difficult to make out the true colours of persons. For
instance Giovanni Michiel writing to the Venetian Senate in 1557 puts
in his description of Elizabeth “She is tall and well formed, with a
good skin, although swarthy” but in the same page he says “she prides
herself on her father and glories in him; everybody is saying that
she also resembles him more than the Queen [Mary] does.” As to the
introduction of the word “swarthy” as above; it may have been one of
the tricks of Elizabeth to keep the Venetian ambassador from knowing
too much or getting any ground for guessing. If so it looks rather like
Elizabeth concealing her real identity--which would be an argument in
favour of an imposture; if she was the real princess there would be no
need for concealment.

It is only common sense to expect, if the paternal element was so
strong in Henry as to reproduce in offspring his own colour, that had
the Duke of Richmond had any issue especially by a fair wife it too
would have inherited something of the family colour. Holbein’s picture
of the “Lady of Richmond,” as the Duke’s wife was called, shows her as
a fair woman.

These are two points to be here borne in mind; that Henry VIII was
probably bald, for in none of his pictures is any hair visible. It
would hardly be polite to infer that Elizabeth wore a wig for the same
reason. But it is recorded that she always travelled with a stock of
them--no less than eighty of various colours.

But there are other indications of such concealment. Why for instance
did she object to see doctors? So long as she was free and could
control them she did not mind; but whilst she was under duress they
were a source of danger. Perhaps it is this which accounts for her
taking the Sacrament on 26 August, 1554 when she was practically a
prisoner at Woodstock in the keeping of Sir Henry Bedingfield. About
the third week in June the Princess asked Sir Henry to be allowed to
have a doctor sent to her. He in turn applied to the Council who made
answer on the 25th that the Queen’s Oxford physician was ill and Mr.
Wendy was absent and the remaining one, Mr. Owen, could not be spared.
The latter however recommended two Oxford doctors, Barnes and Walbec,
in case she should care to see either of them. On July 4th Sir Henry
reported to the Council that Elizabeth in politely declining said: “I
am not minded to make any stranger privy to the state of my body, but
commit it to God.” Then, when through her submission to the Queen’s
religious convictions she had obtained her liberty, she took no more
concern in the matter.

_The Duchess of Richmond_

Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk, married twice. His second wife was the
lady Elizabeth Stafford, eldest daughter of the Duke of Buckingham, and
he had issue by both marriages. In 1533 the only surviving daughter of
the second marriage was Mary, who was thus the Lady Mary Howard, sister
of the Earl of Surrey. It was this lady with whom the uncompleted
marriage of the Duke of Richmond took place. Doubtless they were early
friends. In her youth she used to spend the summer at Tendring Hall,
Suffolk, and the winter at Hunsdon, Hertfordshire, where was one of
Henry’s palaces; in addition Henry was one of the closest companions of
her brother, the Earl of Surrey. Lady Richmond’s part in the historical
episode before us is hardly direct. It only comes in through two
circumstances not unattended with mystery. It is not necessary that
the two were correlated; but no student can get away from the idea
that there was some connection between them, especially when there is
another inference bearing on the subject with reference to the second
marriage of the Duchess. This took place after an interval of some
years to Gilbert, son of Sir George Talboys of Goloths, Lincolnshire.
The name of the second husband is variously spelled in the chronicles
as Tailboise or Talebuse. She died in the year before Elizabeth came
to the throne. The two things to examine closely with regard to
this marriage to the Duke of Richmond were the Dispensation for the
marriage (together with the date of it), and its non-fulfilment. The
Dispensation was dated 28 November, 1533, but the marriage took place
three days earlier. Whether this discrepancy had anything to do with
her later marriage to Talboys we can only guess--unless of course more
exhaustive search can produce some document, unknown as yet, which may
throw light on the subject. It is a matter of no light mystery why a
Dispensation was obtained at such a time and by whom it was effected.
At this time Henry VIII was engaged in the bitterest struggle of his
life, that regarding the supremacy of the Pope, so that it was a direct
violation of his policy to have asked for, or even to recognise such a
Dispensation in the case of his own son whom he intended to succeed him
as King. Before a year had passed he had actually thrown over the Papal
authority altogether, and had taken into his own hands the headship
of the National Church. What then was behind such a maladroit action?
If it had been done as a piece of statecraft--the ostensible showing
that there was as yet no direct rupture between the British Nation and
the Papacy--it would have lost its efficacy if it might be cited as
a Court favour rather than a national right. Moreover, as it was to
sanction by then existing canonical law a marriage of Henry’s son with
a daughter of the head of the most powerful Catholic House in England,
it could not be expected that Rome would not use this in its strife for
the continuation of its supremacy. If Henry was directly concerned in
the matter, it was bad policy and unlike him to conciliate Catholicism
by a yielding on the part of one who would be in the future the Head
of the Reformed Church. Altogether it leaves one under the impression
that there must have been a more personal cause than any yet spoken of.
Something to be covered up, or from which suspicion should be averted.
There was already quite enough material for a controversy in case Henry
Fitzroy should come to the throne and it might be well to minimise
any further risk. But in such case what was there to be covered up or
from which suspicion should be averted? Already Richmond held under
his father all the threads of government in his own hand. If he ever
should need to tighten them it would be done by himself as ruler. There
must still be some reason which must be kept secret and of which Henry
himself did not and must not know. Beyond this again was the question
of the personal ambition of “Bluff King Hal.” It was not sufficient
for him that a barren heir should succeed him--even if that heir was
his own son. He wanted to found a dynasty, and if he suspected for
an instant that after all his plotting and striving--all his titanic
efforts to overcome such obstacles as nations and religions--his hopes
might fail through lack of issue on his son’s part he would cease to
waste his time and efforts on his behalf. It is almost impossible to
imagine that the Duke of Richmond had not had _some_ love affairs--if
indeed he was only seventeen (of which there is a doubt)--it must be
borne in mind that both the Lancastrians and the Yorkists who united
in the Tudor stock matured early. On both his father’s and mother’s
side Henry Fitzroy was of a pleasure-loving, voluptuous nature, and
as the masculine element predominated in his make-up there is not any
great stretch of imagination required to be satisfied that there was
some young likeness of him toddling or running about. But in a case
like his masculine mis-doing does not count; it is only where a woman’s
credit is at stake that secrecy is a vital necessity. We must therefore
look to the female side to find a cause for any mystery which there
may be. So far as a boy of the right age is concerned with a decided
likeness to Henry VIII it would not have required much searching about
to lay hands on a suitable one.


    The Lady of Richmond.


But here a new trouble would begin. It would be beyond nature to expect
that any mother would consent, especially at a moment’s notice, to
her child running such a risk as the substitute of the dead Princess
Elizabeth was taking, without some kind of assurance or guarantee of
his safety. Moreover, if there were other relatives, they would be sure
to know, and some of them to make trouble unless their mouths were
closed. Practically the only chance of carrying such an enterprise
through would be if the substitute were an orphan or in a worse
position--one whose very life was an embarrassment to those to whom it
should be most dear.

Here opens a field for romantic speculation. Such need not clash with
history which is a record of fact. Call it romance if we will; indeed
until we have more perfect records we must. If invention is to be
called in to the aid of deduction no one can complain if these two
methods of exercise of intellect are kept apart and the boundaries
between them are duly charted. Any speculation beyond this can be only
regarded as belonging to the region of pure fiction.

In one way there is a duty which the reader must not shirk, if
only on his own account: not to refuse to accept facts without due
consideration. Wildly improbable as the Bisley story is, it is not
impossible. Whoever says, offhand, that such a story is untrue on the
face of it ought to study the account of a death reported at Colchester
in Essex just a hundred years ago. A servant died who had been in
the same situation as housemaid and nurse for thirty years. But only
after death was the true sex of the apparent woman discovered. It was

       *       *       *       *       *

Here I must remind such readers as honour my work with their attention
that I am venturing merely to tell a tradition sanctioned by long time,
and that I only give as comments historical facts which may be tested
by any student. I have invented and shall invent nothing; and only
claim the same right which I have in common with every one else--that
of forming my own opinion.

Here it is that we may consider certain additions to the original
Bisley tradition. How these are connected with the main story is
impossible to say after the lapse of centuries; but in all probability
there is a basis of ancient belief in all that has been added. The
following items cover the additional ground.

When the governess wished to hide the secret hurriedly, she hid the
body, intending it to be only temporarily, in the stone coffin which
lay in the garden at Overcourt outside the Princess’s window.

Some tens of years ago the bones of a young girl lying amidst rags of
fine clothing were found in the stone coffin.

The finder was a churchman--a man of the highest character and a member
of a celebrated ecclesiastical family.

The said finder firmly believed in the story of the Bisley Boy.

Before Elizabeth came to the throne all those who knew the secret of
the substitution were in some way got rid of or their silence assured.

The name of the substituted youth was Neville; or such was the name of
the family with whom he was living at the time.

There are several persons in the neighbourhood of Bisley who accept the
general truth of the story even if some of the minor details appear at
first glance to be inharmonious. These persons are not of the ordinary
class of gossipers, but men and women of light and leading who have
fixed places in the great world and in the social life of their own
neighbourhood. With some of them the truth of the story is an old
belief which makes a tie with any new investigator.

_The Unfulfilled Marriage_

The remaining point to touch on is the unfulfilled marriage of the Duke
of Richmond. This certainly needs some explanation, or else the mystery
remains dark as ever.

Here we have two young persons of more than fair presence, and graced
with all the endearing qualities that the mind as well as the eye can
grasp. We have the assurance of Chronicles regarding Henry Fitzroy;
and from Holbein’s picture we can judge for ourselves of the lady’s
merits. They are both well-to-do. The lady, one of title, daughter of
one of the most prominent Dukes in England, the man then holding many
of the most important posts in the State, and with every expectation of
wearing in due course the purple of royalty. They both come of families
of which other members have been notorious for amatory episodes;
voluptuousness is in their blood. They have been old friends--and yet
when they marry they at once separate, she going to her own folk and
he to Windsor. Seemingly they do not meet again in the two and a half
years that elapse before his death. The story about his youth and
health preventing cohabitation is all moonshine. The affair points to
the likelihood of some ante-matrimonial liaison of which, as yet, we
know nothing. Applying the experiences of ordinary life in such cases,
we can easily believe that Mary Howard, egged on by her unscrupulous
and ambitiously-intriguing brother, was for ulterior purposes either
forced or helped into an intrigue with the young Duke. There is no
doubt that Surrey was unscrupulous enough for it. A similar design on
his part--only infinitely more base--cost him his head. He had tried
to induce his sister, Duchess of Richmond, to become mistress of Henry
VIII--her own father-in-law!--so that she might have power over him;
and it does not seem that there was any wonderful indignation on the
part of the lady at the shameful proposal.

We are told that when Sir John Gates and Sir Richard Southwell, the
royal Commissioners for examining witnesses in the case of the charge
of treason against the Duke of Norfolk and the Earl of Surrey, arrived
at Kenninghall in the early morning and made known their general
purposes in coming, the Duchess of Richmond “almost fainted.” But all
the same when she knew more exactly what they wanted she promised
without any forcing to tell all she knew. As a matter of fact her
evidence (with that of Elizabeth Holland, the mistress of the Duke of
Norfolk), whilst it helped to get Norfolk off, aided in condemning
Surrey. There must have been some other cause for her consternation.
She had been bred up in the midst of intrigues, polemical and dynastic
as well as of personal ambition, and was well inured to keeping her
countenance as well as her head in moments of stress. The cause of her
“almost fainting” must have been something which concerned her even
more nearly than either father or brother. It could only have been fear
for her child or herself--or for both. It is possible that she dreaded
discovery of some sort. _Omne ignotum pro magnifico._ Suspicion has
long flexible tentacula, with eyes and ears at the end of them, which
can penetrate everywhere and see and hear everything. She knew how to
dread suspicion and to fear the consequences which must result from
inquiry or investigation of any sort. If she had had a child it must
have been kept hidden, and if possible far away--as the unknown Boy
was at Bisley. Indeed the Howards had immense family ramifications and
several of them had collateral relationships in and about Bisley. There
were Nevilles there, and doubtless some of them were poor relations
relegated to the far away place where living was cheap and where they
might augment their tenuous incomes by taking in even poorer relations
than themselves whose rich relatives wished to hide them away. It is
only a surmise; but if there had been a case of a child unaccounted
for, which any member of so great a family as the Howards wished to
keep dark, it would be hard to find a more favourable locality than
the little almost inaccessible hamlet in the Cotswolds. If there were
such a child, how easy it would all have been. When the Duke was
married he was fourteen or perhaps sixteen at most--an age which
though over-young for fatherhood in the case of ordinary men seemed to
offer to the Plantagenet-York-Lancaster blood no absolute difficulty
of taking up such responsibility. As Elizabeth was only born some two
months before the Duke’s marriage there was not any time to spare--a
fact which would doubtless have been used to his advantage if Henry’s
natural son had lived. In all probability Richmond’s marriage was a
part of the plot for aggrandisement of the Howards which began with the
unscrupulous securing by Surrey of the son of Henry VIII at the cost of
his sister’s honour; and ended with the death of Surrey as a traitor--a
doom which his father only escaped by the King dying whilst the Act
of Attainder was lying ready for his signature. If this reasoning be
correct--though the data on which it is founded be meagre and without
actual proof--as yet--the risk of Duchess Mary’s child born before
her marriage must have been a terrible hazard. On one side perhaps
the most powerful sceptre in the world as guerdon; on the other death
and ruin of the child on which such hopes were built. No wonder then
that Duchess Mary “almost fainted” when in the early dawn the King’s
Commissioners conveyed to her the broad object of their coming. No
wonder that freed by larger knowledge from the worst apprehension which
could be for her, she announced her willingness to conceal nothing
that she knew. That promise could not and would not have been made
had the whole range of possibilities, which as yet no one suspected,
been opened to their investigation. For even beyond the concern which
she felt from the arbitrary power of the King and at the remorseless
grip of the law, she had reason to doubt her own kin--the nearest of
them--in such a struggle as was going on around them when the whole of
the Empire, the Kingdom of England, France and Spain, and the Papacy
were close to the melting-pot. It would have been but a poor look-out
for a youth of a little more than a dozen years of age had fate made
him the shuttlecock of such strenuous players who did not hold “fair
play” as a primary rule of the game in which they were engaged.

In his _Life of Elizabeth_, Gregario Leti concludes a panegyric on the
Queen’s beauty with the following: “This was accompanied by such inward
qualities that those who knew her were accustomed to say that heaven
had given her such rare qualities that she was doubtless reserved for
some great work in the world.” The Italian historian perhaps “builded
better than he knew,” for whether the phrase applies to the one who is
supposed to have occupied the throne or one who did so occupy it, it
is equally true. The world at that crisis wanted just such an one as
Elizabeth. All honour to her whosoever she may have been, boy or girl
matters not.


  Ahasuerus, 111-114.

  Alcaçer-el-Kebir, battle of, 20-22, 25.

  Alvares, Matheus, 23.

  Althotas, 82.

  Ascham, Roger, letters of concerning Elizabeth, 316-318.

  Ashley, Mrs. Catherine, 284, 285, 298, 315, 321, 323, 324.

  Austin, “Beau,” murder of by John Law, 124, 134.

  Balsamo, Joseph, early life of, 80-82.

  Bank of England, early history of, 140-142.

  Banque Générale, founding of by John Law, 126.

  Banque Royale, control of by John Law, 127, 130.

  Berners Street Hoax, 252-254.

  Beugnot, Comte de, description of Cagliostro by, 86, 87.

  Bingham, Jinny, Mother Red-Cap, 186-189.

  Bisley, 286-291, 294.

  Bisley Boy, The, 283-345.

  Bisley Tradition, The, 291-294, 339-340.

  Bogus Sausages, 260-262.

  Brinvilliers, Marquise de, 169-172.

  Brunneau, Mathurin, 40-41.

  Buried Treasure Hoax, The, 258-259.

  Cagliostro, career of, 80-94.

  Castro, Don John de, prophecy of concerning Sebastian, 24,
    visit of to impostor, 26-27.

  Cat Hoax, The, 255.

  Catizzone, Marco Tullio, 27, 28, 29.

  Catherine, Empress, 34.

  Caule, Rev. John, denunciation of Matthew Hopkins by, 197-198.

  Chevalier d’Eon, career of, 269-280.

  Compagnie des Indes, controlled by John Law, 127, 130.

  Cork, Simnel and Warbeck favored by, 8-9.

  Cumberland, Duke of, 55, 56, 57, 58.

  Croly, Rev. George, author of “Salathiel,” 114-115.

  Czar, The False, 31-35.

  Dauphins, The False, 36-48.

  Darien Company, The, 142-143.

  Dean Swift’s Hoax, 259-260.

  Dee, Dr. John, career of, 155-163.

  East India Company, history of useful to John Law, 138-140.

  East, Mary, career of as a man, 241-246.

  Edward IV, resemblance of to Perkin Warbeck, 7, 11-12.

  Elizabeth, Queen, changes in youthful character of, 315-316,
    early life of as concerned with Bisley tradition, 301-306,
    identity of, 310-315, 326,
    interest of in Dr. Dee, 159, 160,
    personality of, 316-326,
    secret of, 284-286.

  Feliciana, Lorenza de, wife of Cagliostro, 83-84, 89, 94.

  Flanders, importance of in 15th century, 6.

  Fontolive, personator of Dauphin, 40.

  Gordon, Catherine, marriage of to Perkin Warbeck, 14.

  Hehl, Father, controversy of with Mesmer, 99.

  Henry VII, difficulties of, 3-4,
    measures of against Perkin Warbeck, 13-14.

  Henry VIII, activities of, 304-307, 309,
    desire of for son, 302-303,
    father of Duke of Richmond, 327-329,
    mystery of attitude of toward Papacy, 336,
    visit of to Bisley, 291-293.

  Herbert, Henri, story of as personator of the Dauphin, 41-46.

  Hervagault, Jean Marie, attempt of to personate the Dauphin, 39-40.

  Hoaxes, 249-265.

  Hoaxed Burglars, 260.

  Hohenheim, Theophrastus Bombast von, real name of Paracelsus, early
      life of, 72-75.

  Hook, Theodore, 252, 254.

  Hopkins, Matthew, career of as witch-finder, 190-198.

  James IV, belief of in Perkin Warbeck, 13.

  Joinville, Prince de, settlement of Eleazar Williams’ claim by, 47.

  Kelley, Sir Edward, career of, 175-181,
    friendship of with Dr. Dee, 161-163.

  Kenealy, Dr., course of as counsel for Tichborne Claimant, 222-223.

  “King of Penemacor,” 22-23.

  “Knight of the Cross,” 23-29.

  Laski, Palatine Albert, interest of in Dr. Dee and Sir Edward Kelley,
      161, 178-179.

  Law, John, career and character of, 123-144.

  Louis XV, friendliness of for Chevalier d’Eon, 270, 271, 273, 274.

  Louis XVII, 36.

  Locke, Richard Adams, author of Moon Hoax, 265.

  Luie, Jean, testimony of for Tichborne Claimant, 221-222.

  Margaret, Duchess of Burgundy, interest of in Perkin Warbeck, 10-11.

  Marie Antoinette, 90-93.

  Marriage Hoax, The, 257.

  Maupin, Mlle. de, career of, 235-241.

  Mesmer, Frederic-Antoine, career of, 95-103.

  Military Review, The, 256.

  Mississippi Scheme, The, formation of by John Law, 126,
    growth and collapse of, 127-133.

  Mother Damnable, story of, 182-189.

  Mother Black-Cap, 182, 183, 185.

  Mother Red-Cap, 182, 183, 186.

  Moon Hoax, The, 262-265.

  Morocco, invasion of by Sebastian, 19-21.

  Motte, Madame de la, plot of concerning Queen’s Necklace, 91-93.

  Mueley Abd-el-Mulek, 20-21.

  Naundorf, attempt of to personate the Dauphin, 46.

  Orton, Arthur, career of as Tichborne Claimant, 201, 214-224.

  Paracelsus, career of, 71-79.

  Paradis, Mlle., controversy over as patient of Mesmer, 100-101.

  Paris, Matthew, credibility of, 108-111, 117-118,
    narrative of concerning Wandering Jew, 107-108.

  Parr, Queen Catherine, 306, 308, 309, 312, 315, 323, 324, 325.

  Parry, Thomas, 284, 285, 298, 315, 321, 323.

  Persat, attempt of to personate the Dauphin, 40.

  Pucci, Francis, combination of with Sir Edward Kelley, 179.

  Richard III, consequences of lawless acts of, 3-4.

  Richmond, Duke of, life of as a natural son of Henry VIII, 326-332,

  Richmond, Duchess of, 334-335, 341-345.

  Rohan, Cardinal Prince de, 91-94.

  Ryves, Mrs. A. T., 49,
    law-suit of attacking succession to English throne, 58-67.

  Stephen, King of Poland, interest of in Dr. Dee, 179.

  Snell, Hannah, career of as soldier and sailor, 231-234.

  Tichborne Claimant, The, 201-224.

  Tichborne Case, trial of, 218-223.

  Tichborne, Baronetcy of, 252.

  Tichborne, Lady Mabell, doom foretold by, 203-204.

  Tichborne, Lady, belief of in son’s existence, 213-214.

  Tichborne, Roger, 206-212.

  Toll-Gate Hoax, The, 256-257.

  Voison, Madame, career of, 164-174.

  Walpole, Horace, theory of concerning Perkin Warbeck, 8.

  Wandering Jew, The, 107-120.

  Warbeck, Perkin, career of, 5-15.

  Werbecque, Jehan, 5-6.

  Westphalus, statements of concerning Wandering Jew, 113, 114.

  Williams, Eleazar, story of as personator of the Dauphin, 46-48.

  Wilmot, James, 50, 51, 53, 54.

  Wilmot, Olive, 50, 55.

  Witchcraft, 147-198,
    English statutes concerning, 147-148.

  Women, attempts of to disguise themselves as men, 227-231.

Transcriber’s Notes

Punctuation, hyphenation, and spelling were made consistent when a
predominant preference was found in this book; otherwise they were not

Simple typographical errors were corrected; occasional unbalanced
quotation marks retained.

Index not checked for proper alphabetization or correct page references.

Page 3: “villany” was printed that way.

Page 43: “romancists” was printed that way; may be a misprint for

Page 78: “are current Paracelsus” was printed that way; perhaps a
question mark should have been used after “current”.

Page 284: Paragraph beginning “Elizabeth was as loyal to Parry”
contains unbalanced quotation marks.

Page 325: “some form revenge on” was printed that way; seems to be
missing an “of”.

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