Tower Hill, July 15. 1685

An Eyewitness Account of the Execution of his Majesty James, Duke of Monmouth on Tower Hill, July 15. 1685

St Martins in the Fields, October 1686

My dear Uncle,

In your last you asked for my account of what I witnessed on July 15, ’85. That day was so shocking that it remains fresh in my mind even today. So much so, that when remembering those saddening events on Tower Hill my heart fills with darkness and my eyes swell with tears. For that day, was the last that my brother James stood before the world, then taken from us.

My husband and I, had travelled early by the river to Tower Hill, which was exceedingly crowded, so that we found ourselves someway back from the scaffold erected for his killing.  James was brought hither from the Tower in the Governors coach to the scaffold at around 10 of the clock and was guarded all around by thick ranks Redcoats all armed with Pike and Musket.  The commoners were so keen to see his Majesty for the last time, that the coach passed slowly through the vast mass of people. Any that garnered bad feelings towards him or swore, found themselves quickly put down by those that supported his cause. Then his Majesty did with solemn grace and dignity remove himself from the coach, although he was clearly shaken, whilst walking toward the scaffold, he saluted the soldiers with a smile, then he mounted the steps with a firm tread.

Now his Majesty looked out towards me, for I’m sure he acknowledged me with a small nod of his head. I can’t be sure as if this was for my pleasure, as the crowd was so large with every point taken by apprentices and all other loyal Monmouth men. Therefore, if it were not for the great number of soldiers, we would have taken his Majesty into our arms and been away with him. Now the crowd fell into a sombre stillness and silence, which was only broken by the noise of our weeping, for he was still beloved by his people.

Then he spoke, a little faint but I believe these are his words, ‘I shall say little,’ he began. ‘I come here, not to speak, but to die. I die a Protestant of the Church of England.’ Upon which the crowd shifted and our weeping grow louder, now the Bishops interjected, and said some words to his Majesty, to which he then spoke of his love for his Lady Henrietta. But once again this bishop interrupted and spoke softly, which the crowd could not hear, but upon us becoming restless, his Majesty spoke out ‘I do own that. I am sorry that it ever happened.’ It was now that the great body called out; ‘No!’, or ‘One King!’, or ‘for Liberty!’. With which the soldiers and officials began to look for the culprits, but those around the scaffold closed ranks and pushed toward his Majesty.

Then his Majesty did kneel in prayer, and ‘Sir,’ said one of the Bishops, ‘do you not pray for the King with us?’.

Upon which his Majesty, paused for some time, and after an internal struggle, exclaimed ‘Amen!’.

Then they implored him to speak to the crowd and soldiers, with some word of obedience to the Catholic Duke, but none were spoken by his Majesty, who exclaimed ‘I will make no speeches’, and turning away, called his servant, and put into the man’s hand a toothpick case, the last token of ill-starred love. ‘Give it,’ he said, ‘to that person.’.

Next his Majesty turned to Mr Ketch, and said so all could hear, ‘Here are six guineas for you.’, then feeling the edge of the Axe, he continued, ‘Do not hack me as you did my Lord Russell. I have heard that you struck him three or four times. My servant will give you some more gold if you do the work well.’

With which Ketch said to the crowd, ‘my lord this Axe is sharp enough, and heavy enough.’

Then taking off his coat, his Majesty, lay down, placing his head upon the block. Then the Axe struck a hard blow, yet with a gasp from the crowd, his Majesty arose a little and looked scornfully at Mr Ketch, before putting his neck once more on the block. The axe then fell, again, and again. Still his Majesties body still lived. Now great yells of rage and horror rose from us, and then the wretched Ketch flung down his axe with a curse exclaiming ‘I cannot do it, for my heart fails me.’

Now the sheriff called out, ‘Take up the axe, man!’

All the time the angry mob called out, ‘Fling him over the rails, we will save him’

Shamefully, his Majesty, was still live upon that scaffold, for his body still twitched and his Royal blood was flowing out onto the boards. Finally, Ketch picked up the Axe once more, then twice, then thrice it came down. Still his Majesties head remain at one with his body. So, the crowd turned viciously on the soldiers and pushed closer toward the body. With the blood flowing from his martyred body, the despicable Ketch, was finally given a knife by the sheriff. It was with this, that he finally cut the head free from its immortal being. The mob now called out ‘One King, King Monmouth, kill his butcher!’ and the crowd surged towards his Majesties corpse. Now the soldiers had to push their way through the angry crowd, and all-a-while the common men pushed, punched, or spat at the Ketch, so that he never received his bounty. At the end, I had the honour to dip my neckerchief into my brothers blood, as he is a martyr to our lost Liberties and the Protestant Religion, more so than our grandfather. Finally, his Majesties body and severed head were lain together in a coffin covered with black velvet and then buried under the communion table of St. Peter’s Chapel in the Tower.

This is how my brother was handed into the embrace of the Lord of Hosts. This my true account of that bloody day in London.

Your loving niece for the cause of liberty and justice,

Mrs Fanshawe

Texel, May 30. 1685
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Today we sailed in the Heldevenberg for England together with the Duke of Monmouth and 81 other gentlemen of honour

Today we sailed in the Heldevenberg for England together with the Duke of Monmouth and 81 other gentlemen of honour

Today we sailed in the Heldevenberg for England together with the Duke of Monmouth and 81 other gentlemen of honour

The Channel, June 9. 1685
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This evening the Duke of Monmouth issues his commissions and gives instruction on the forming of his Army

This evening the Duke of Monmouth issues his commissions and gives instruction on the forming of his Army

This evening the Duke of Monmouth issues his commissions and gives instruction on the forming of his Army

Seatown, June 10. 1685
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This evening a small party is landed at Seatown to send word of Monmouth's landing at Lyme tomorrow.

This evening a small party is landed at Seatown to send word of Monmouth's landing at Lyme tomorrow.

This evening a small party is landed at Seatown to send word of Monmouth's landing at Lyme tomorrow.

Lyme, June 11. 1685
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Monmouth and his supporters land at Lyme to cheering crowds.

Monmouth and his supporters land at Lyme to cheering crowds.

Monmouth and his supporters land at Lyme to cheering crowds.

Lyme, June 12. 1685
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Monmouth's Army now numbers over 1500 men, yet news arrives that Royal Militia is close at hand.

Monmouth's Army now numbers over 1500 men, yet news arrives that Royal Militia is close at hand.

Monmouth's Army now numbers over 1500 men, yet news arrives that Royal Militia is close at hand.

Lyme, June 13. 1685
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Today we drew first blood after a skirmish with the Militia Horse, leaving two of them dead on the field.

Today we drew first blood after a skirmish with the Militia Horse, leaving two of them dead on the field.

Today we drew first blood after a skirmish with the Militia Horse, leaving two of them dead on the field.

Bridport, June 14. 1685
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Today we fought our first battle with the Militia at Bridport. Our Foot accounted themselves very well.

Today we fought our first battle with the Militia at Bridport. Our Foot accounted themselves very well.

Today we fought our first battle with the Militia at Bridport. Our Foot accounted themselves very well.

Axminster, June 15. 1685
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This day we marched to Axminster and put the Militia to flight.

This day we marched to Axminster and put the Militia to flight.

This day we marched to Axminster and put the Militia to flight.

Chard, June 16. 1685
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Today Monmouth's Army reaches Chard, whilst it continues to grow, now over 3000 men have joined his Grace.

Today Monmouth's Army reaches Chard, whilst it continues to grow, now over 3000 men have joined his Grace.

Today Monmouth's Army reaches Chard, whilst it continues to grow, now over 3000 men have joined his Grace.

Ilminster, June 17. 1685
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The Duke of Monmouth and his Army reaches Ilminster

The Duke of Monmouth and his Army reaches Ilminster

The Duke of Monmouth and his Army reaches Ilminster

Taunton, June 18. 1685
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Monmouth and his Army reach Taunton this evening.

Monmouth and his Army reach Taunton this evening.

Monmouth and his Army reach Taunton this evening.

Taunton, June 19. 1685
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Today we entered Taunton and a new Foot Regiment, the Blue, is raised from Taunton-men.

Today we entered Taunton and a new Foot Regiment, the Blue, is raised from Taunton-men.

Today we entered Taunton and a new Foot Regiment, the Blue, is raised from Taunton-men.

Taunton, June 20. 1685
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The Duke of Monmouth is proclaimed King at the market cross.

The Duke of Monmouth is proclaimed King at the market cross.

The Duke of Monmouth is proclaimed King at the market cross.

Bridgwater, June 21. 1685
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We can now field an Army of 5 Horse Squadrons, 5 Foot Battalions & 4 field cannon.

We can now field an Army of 5 Horse Squadrons, 5 Foot Battalions & 4 field cannon.

We can now field an Army of 5 Horse Squadrons, 5 Foot Battalions & 4 field cannon.

Glastonbury, June 22. 1685
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There is a skirmish between our Horse and those of the enemy at Langport whilst the clubmen look to join with us.

There is a skirmish between our Horse and those of the enemy at Langport whilst the clubmen look to join with us.

There is a skirmish between our Horse and those of the enemy at Langport whilst the clubmen look to join with us.

Shepton Mallet, June 23. 1685
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This day we have progressed to Shepton Mallet but the heavy rain is slowing our advance.

This day we have progressed to Shepton Mallet but the heavy rain is slowing our advance.

This day we have progressed to Shepton Mallet but the heavy rain is slowing our advance.

Pensford, June 24. 1685
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This day we reach Pensford but have word the enemy has damaged the Keynsham Bridge

This day we reach Pensford but have word the enemy has damaged the Keynsham Bridge

This day we reach Pensford but have word the enemy has damaged the Keynsham Bridge

Keynsham, June 25. 1685
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This day we crossed the Avon by the repaired Bridge at Keynsham and fought of the enemy Horse

This day we crossed the Avon by the repaired Bridge at Keynsham and fought of the enemy Horse

This day we crossed the Avon by the repaired Bridge at Keynsham and fought of the enemy Horse

Philips Norton, June 26. 1685
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Monmouth and his Army reach Philips Norton after a long march in heavy rain.

Monmouth and his Army reach Philips Norton after a long march in heavy rain.

Monmouth and his Army reach Philips Norton after a long march in heavy rain.

Philips Norton, June 27. 1685
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Today there is a Battle between Monmouth's Army and the enemy at Philips Norton.

Today there is a Battle between Monmouth's Army and the enemy at Philips Norton.

Today there is a Battle between Monmouth's Army and the enemy at Philips Norton.

Frome, June 28. 1685
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This day Monmouth and his arrive exhausted at Frome after a night march in the rain

This day Monmouth and his arrive exhausted at Frome after a night march in the rain

This day Monmouth and his arrive exhausted at Frome after a night march in the rain

Frome, June 29. 1685
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The council of War debate the General Pardon issued by the enemy and elect to fight on.

The council of War debate the General Pardon issued by the enemy and elect to fight on.

The council of War debate the General Pardon issued by the enemy and elect to fight on.

Shepton Mallet, June 30. 1685
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Monmouth and his Army finding the path to London closed retires West to Shepton Mallet.

Monmouth and his Army finding the path to London closed retires West to Shepton Mallet.

Monmouth and his Army finding the path to London closed retires West to Shepton Mallet.

Wells, July 1. 1685
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This day we captured enemy baggage as Wells and rest here for the night.

This day we captured enemy baggage as Wells and rest here for the night.

This day we captured enemy baggage as Wells and rest here for the night.

Sedgemoor, July 2. 1685
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This day as we marched to Pedwell to meet the grand Clubmen Army of Somerset, yet upon our arrival, they only number some 200 men.

This day as we marched to Pedwell to meet the grand Clubmen Army of Somerset, yet upon our arrival, they only number some 200 men.

This day as we marched to Pedwell to meet the grand Clubmen Army of Somerset, yet upon our arrival, they only number some 200 men.

Bridgwater, July 3. 1683
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Monmouth and his Army return to Bridgwater and start to fortify the town

Monmouth and his Army return to Bridgwater and start to fortify the town

Monmouth and his Army return to Bridgwater and start to fortify the town

Bridgwater, July 4. 1685
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The Army remains at Bridgwater and this evening the local men are allowed to return to their homes as the enemy doesn't press us.

The Army remains at Bridgwater and this evening the local men are allowed to return to their homes as the enemy doesn't press us.

The Army remains at Bridgwater and this evening the local men are allowed to return to their homes as the enemy doesn't press us.

Bridgwater, July 5. 1685
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This afternoon we prepare to march overnight to Axbridge meanwhile the enemy has advanced to Westonzoyland

This afternoon we prepare to march overnight to Axbridge meanwhile the enemy has advanced to Westonzoyland

This afternoon we prepare to march overnight to Axbridge meanwhile the enemy has advanced to Westonzoyland

Castlefield, July 5. 1685
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By late afternoon it is clear our enemy camps at Weston but leaves their right flank in the air.

By late afternoon it is clear our enemy camps at Weston but leaves their right flank in the air.

By late afternoon it is clear our enemy camps at Weston but leaves their right flank in the air.

Longmoor, July 6. 1685
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This night we march to Longmoor to surprise the enemy but a troopers pistol goes off at half-cock.

This night we march to Longmoor to surprise the enemy but a troopers pistol goes off at half-cock.

This night we march to Longmoor to surprise the enemy but a troopers pistol goes off at half-cock.

Sedgemoor, July 6. 1685
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The Armies of the two King's fought a great Battle at Sedgemoor, the victor wrote the History. This is an account from one side.

The Armies of the two King's fought a great Battle at Sedgemoor, the victor wrote the History. This is an account from one side.

The Armies of the two King's fought a great Battle at Sedgemoor, the victor wrote the History. This is an account from one side.

Ilfracombe, July 7. 1685
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With the Rebellion lost, it is every man for himself, Wade, Goodenough, Ferguson and a party make their Escape from Ilfracombe.

With the Rebellion lost, it is every man for himself, Wade, Goodenough, Ferguson and a party make their Escape from Ilfracombe.

With the Rebellion lost, it is every man for himself, Wade, Goodenough, Ferguson and a party make their Escape from Ilfracombe.

Tower Hill, July 15. 1685
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This is an account of the bloody and botched execution of James, Duke of Monmouth on Tower Hill.

This is an account of the bloody and botched execution of James, Duke of Monmouth on Tower Hill.

This is an account of the bloody and botched execution of James, Duke of Monmouth on Tower Hill.

Dorchester, July 18. 1685
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With the Rebellion over the Tyrant paid bloody retribution on those that fought for your Liberty

With the Rebellion over the Tyrant paid bloody retribution on those that fought for your Liberty

With the Rebellion over the Tyrant paid bloody retribution on those that fought for your Liberty

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