An Account of the Martyrdoms of Mrs Elizabeth Gaunt at Tyburn and Mr Henry Cornish at Cheapside
Tyburn, October 23. 1685
On this day, two more Whigs are Martyred. It began at Cheapside, against King Street, where Mr Henry Cornish was taken on a Sledge to his place of execution. Here he solemnly uttered his absolute innocence of any design against the government or King. There was such a firmness in his soul, such vigour, and almost ecstatic joy, that it was reported that it shone through his face, like visible rays used by painters to dress up Saints and Martyrs. In this way he refreshed all his friends, while he dazzled and confounded his most bitter enemies. His friends stood firmly by him until the end, after which his quarters were distributed across the city.
At Tyburn at the same time Mrs Elizabeth Gaunt was dragged upon a huddle through crowded streets to the place of her execution. Here a huge stake had been driven into the ground, around which were piles of faggots and straw, together with long bundles of reeds. All awhile the mounted sheriffs and the armed guards stood around to ensure that the sentence for her to be burnt alive was carried out and stop any from strangling her.
When Elizabeth Gaunt stood up against the stake, she stated “how charity was part of her religion, as well as her faith. She hoped that her reward from God, for whose sake she did this service would be salvation. That her suffering was a martyrdom for that religion which was all love.”
Then laying the straw about her feet, the iron chain was passed around her and fastened to the post using a large nail by the smith. Finally, more reeds, faggots and bundles of wood where piled all around. Then she rejoiced “that God had honoured her by being the first that suffered by fire in this tyrants King’s reign”. Then the executioner lit the straw and so she died as a true ‘Sainted Martyr’ without another cry. It was a constancy, even a cheerfulness, that made all that saw it to melt into tears.
However, the day was not done, for there was such a terrible storm in the evening that had scarcely been known. In the Thames a dozen Ships foundered and became stranded. Many saw this as a sign of the future as Heaven then the executed justice to vindicated their Innocence, and pass judgement upon living man.