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Lady Alicia Breckenshaw Lisle - Notable Women Ancestors

by June Butler


My most notable ancestor is Lady Alicia (Breckenshaw) Lisle wife of Lord John Lisle daughter of Sir White Breckenshaw. She was descended from an old Hampshire family: her husband (d. 1664) had been one of the judges at the trial of Charles I, and was subsequently a member of Cromwell's House of Lords.

Lady Lisle seems to have leaned to Royalism, but with this attitude she combined a decided sympathy with religious dissent. On the 20th of July 1685, a fortnight after the battle of Sedgemoor, the old lady consented to shelter John Hickes a well-known nonconformist minister, at her residence, Moyles Court, near Ringwood. Hickes who was a fugitive from Monmouth's army, brought with him Richard Nelthorpe, also a partisan of Monmouth, The two men spent the night at Moyles Court, and on the following morning were arrested, and their hostess, who had denied their presence. She was charged with harboring traitors. She denied any knowledge of the fugitives being in her home.

Her case was tried by Judge Jeffreys at the opening of the "Bloody Assizes" at Winchester. The Jury reluctantly found her guilty, and the law recognizing no distinction between principals and accessories in treason, she was sentenced to be burned. Jeffreys ordered that the sentence should be carried out that same afternoon. After a few days respite James II allowed beheading to be substituted for burning.

Lady Lisle was executed in Winchester market place on the 2nd of September 1685. By many writers her death has been termed a judicial murder, and one of the first acts of parliament of William and Mary reversed the attainder on the ground that the prosecution was irregular and the verdict injuriously extorted by " the menaces and violence's and other illegal practices" of Jeffreys. Lady Lisle was the last woman publicly beheaded in England.

Information from the Eleventh Edition of the Encylopeadia Britannica vol. 15-16 Ita to Lor page 774.


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