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Spooky Stuff for Halloween

October 13th, 2009  |  Published in Uncategorized

We're decorating the store for Halloween today (it is the 13th, afterall) and we're putting out the typical books on vampires and ghosts, but what better season to display the creepiest item in the store: a 17th-century broadside from the Popish Plot in England.

Justice in the 17th Century: "To be hanged by the Neck, cut down alive, his Quarters to be severed…and his bowels burnt"

An Account of the Digging Up of the Quarters of William Stayley, Lately Executed for High Treason, for that His Relations Abused the Kings Mercy. London, Printed for Robert Pawlet at the Sign of the Bible in Chancery-Lane, 1678.


Broadside, 10 by 14.25 inches (253 x 360 mm). Imprimatur Novemb. 30th. 1678. William Scroggs. In 1678, rumors circulated in London that English Catholics, supported by the Jesuits, planned to kill King Charles II so his brother James, a Catholic, could assume the throne. In the end, nearly three dozen people were executed for treason, and William Stayley was the first unlucky soul. He was overheard in a tavern saying that Charles II "is a great Heretick, and the greatest Rogue in the World; there’s the heart and here’s the hand that would kill him."

Stayley confessed and according to this broadside, was "to be drawn on a Sledge to the place of Execution, there to be hanged by the Neck, cut down alive, his Quarters to be severed and disposed of as teh King should think fit, and his Bowels burnt; which sentence…was accordingly executed at the common place of Execution: And his Quarters were brought back and left at Newgate in order to be set up on the Gates of the City of London, as his Head on London Bridge, as Traytors Quarters usually are."

However, Stayley was very penitent and asked for the king's mercy, who allowed the execution to take place, but agreed to give Stayley's body to his friends for a proper burial. Stayley's friends, however, "caused several Masses to be said over his Quarters, and used other Ceremonies according to the manner of the Church of Rome and…made a pompous and great Funeral" at the Church of Saint Paul, in Covent Garden.

The king was not pleased and ordered Stayley's body dug up, carried to Newgate, and hung on the Gates of London. There was no sight quite like the Gates of London after a good execution and disinterment.

Reference: Wing (2nd ed., 1994), A276

Old folds, paper unevenly trimmed on left edge, small spot of discoloration on last line; generally very good. $500.

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