National Portrait Gallery Website
Elizabeth Gaunt and her husband
William were Whigs involved in London Whig and dissenting politics in the early
1680s. Oxford Dictionary National
The two were residents of the parish of St. Mary, Whitechapel, and well known
In the spring of 1685, as the preparations
for Monmouth’s invasion began, Elizabeth was in Amsterdam staying with Mrs. Ann
a wealthy English widow, who helped fund both Monmouth’s and the Earl of
Following the defeat of Monmouth’s
On August 2nd, while
waiting for the Gaunts to arrange his passage to the
Elizabeth Gaunt’s trial took place
Burton, his wife, Mary, and his widowed daughter, Mary Gilbert, all testified
against her. Oxford Dictionary National
Complete collection of state trials, ed. T. B.Howell and T. J.Howell,
34 vols.(1809–28). At the
the jury returned the court reporter delivered the following decision: “You
Elizabeth Gaunt, you have here been indicted for that great crime of high
treason, and that particular part of it, for habouring, and comforting, and
assisting, and cherishing of traitors, more especially of one Burton; you have
had your trial, and a very fair trial, and upon that the jury have found you
guilty: It is the duty of my place to pronounce the sentence the law hath
provided for such high crimes as these are, and that is no other but this:
‘That you are to be carried back to the place from whence you came, from thence
you are to be drawn upon a hurdle to the place of execution, and there you are
to be burned to death; and the Lord have mercy upon your soul.”
Her “Final Thoughts”
“Not knowing whether I should be suffered or able, because of weakness that are upon me, through my hard and close imprisonment, to speak at the place of execution, I write these few lines, to signify I am well reconciled to the way of my God towards me, though it be in ways I looked not for, and by terrible things, yet in righteousness; for having given me life, he ought to have the disposing of it, when and how he pleaseth to call for it; and I desire to offer up my all to him, it being but my reasonable service; and also the first terms that Christ offers, that he that will be his disciple must forsake all and follow him. And therefore. let none think it hard, or be discouraged, at what hath happened unto me; for he doth nothing without cause, in all his ways, and righteous in all his works; and it is but my lot in common with poor desolate Sion at this day: neither do I find in my heart the least regret of anything that I have done, in the service of my Lord and Master Jesus Christ, in favouring and succouring any of his poor sufferers, that have shewed favour to his righteous cause; which cause, though it be now fallen and trampled on, as if it had not been anointed, yet it shall revive, and God will plead it at another rate, than yet he hath done, with all its opposers and malicious haters: and therefore let all that love and fear him, not omit the least duty that comes to hand, or lieth before them, knowing that Christ hath need of them and expects that they should serve him. And I desire to bless him that he hath made me useful in my generation, to the comfort and relief of many distressed ones; that the blessing of those that have been ready to perish, hath come upon me, and I have been helped to make the heart of the widow sing; and I bless his holy name, that in all this, together with what I was charged with, I can approve my heart to him, that I have done his will, though I have crossed man’s will; and the scripture me in it is, the xvith of Isa. 3,4. Hide the outcasts, betray not him that wanderth; let me outcasts dwell with thee. Obadiah, ver. 13,14. Thou sholdest not have given up him that escaped, in the day of distress. But man saith, You shall give them up, or you shall die for it. Now whom to obey, judge ye. So that I have cause to rejoice and be exceeding glad, in that I suffer for righteousness sake, and that I am accounted worthy to suffer for well-doing, and that God hath accepted any service from me, that hath been done in security, though mixed with manifold weaknesses and infirmities, which he hath been pleased for Christ’s sake to cover and forgive. And now as concerning my fact, as it is called, alas! it is but a little one, and might well become a prince to forgive; but, He that shewth no mercy shall find none: and I may say of it, in the language of Jonathan, I did but taste a little honey, and lo, I must die for it; I did but relieve a oor, unworthy and distressed family, and lo, I must die for it. I desire in the Lamblike will, to forgive all that are concerned; and to say Lord, lay it not to their charge. But I fear and believe, that when we comes to make inquisition for blood, mine will be found at the door of the furious Judge [Withins,] who, because I could not remember things, through my dauntedness at Burton’s wife and daughter’s witness, and my ignorance, took advantage thereat, and would not hear me, when I had called to mind that which I am sure would have invalidated their evidence; and though he granted some things of the same nature to another, yet he granted it not to me. My blood will be also found me guilty upon the single oath of an outlawed man, for there was none but his oath about the money, who is no legal witness, though he be pardoned, his outlawry not being recalled; and also the law requires two witnesses in point of life. And then about my going with him to the place mentioned, it was, by his own words, before he could be outlawed, for it was two months after his absconding ; and though in a proclamation, yet not high-treason, as I have heard: so that I am clearly murdered by you. And also bloody Mr. Atterbury, who so insatiately hunted after my life; and though it no profit to him, yet through the ill-will he bore me, left no stone unturned, as I have ground to believe, until he brought me to this: and shewed favour to Burton, who ought to have died for his own fault, and not have bought his life with mine. And lastly, Richardson, who is cruel and severe to all under my circumstances, and did at that time, without all mercy or pity hasten my sentence, and held up my hand that it might be pronounced; all which , together with the great one of all, (king James2,) by whose power all these, and mulititudes of more cruelties are done against me: but as it is done in an implacable mind against the Lord Christ, his righteous cause and followers, I leave it to him who is the avenger of all such wrongs, and hath said, I have raised up one from the North, and he shall cut off the spirit of princes as upon mortar, and as the potter treadeth clay, Isa. xli. 25. He shall cut off the spirit of princes and be terrible to the kings of the earth, Psal. lxxvi. 12. And know this also, that though you are seemingly fixed, and because of the power in your hands, and a weighing out your violence, and dealing with despiteful hand, because of the old and new hatred, by impoverishing, and by every way distressing those you have got under you, yet unless you secure Jesus Christ, and holy angels, you shall never do your business, nor your hands accomplish your enterprises; for he will come upon you ere you are aware, and therefore, O that you will be wise, instructed and learn, is the desire of her that finds no mercy from you.
“Such as it is, you have it from her, who hath done as she could, and sorry she can do no better; hopes you will pity and cover weakness, shortness, and any thing that is wanting, and begs that none may be weakened or humbled at the lowliness of my spirit; for God’s design is to humble and abase us, that he alone may be exalted in his day: and I hope he will appear in the needful time, and it may be reserves the best wine will last, as he hath done for some before me; none goeth to warfare at his own charge, and spirit bloweth, not only where, but when it listeth; and it becomes me who have so often grieved, quenched, and resisted it, to wait for and upon the motions of the spirit, and not to murmur: but I may mourn, because through want of it, I honour not my God, nor his blessed cause, which I have so long loved and delighted to love; and repent of nothing about it, but that I have served him and it no better.”
On October 23, Elizabeth Gaunt was burnt to death at Tyburn, which was the punishment for treason for women. Oxford Dictionary National Biography, http://www.oxforddnb.com. Sir Parry describes the events as follows:
“The woman was dragged there upon a hurdle as the law directed, and at the place of execution a huge stake had been driven into the ground, in a diameter as thick as a large telegraph pole. Round the stake were piles of faggots and straw and long bundles of reeds. The woman was stood against the stake, and a smith came with an iron chain, which he passed under her arms and fastened securely to a large nail driven into the post. The smith and his assistants now piled the sheaves of reeds upright around her body and heaped fagots and wood against her.
The Sheriffs on their horses, with their armed guards, stood round to see that all these matters were carried out according to tradition. The victim was not strangled, as was sometimes done out of mercy, but she was literally burned alive as the judges had ordered and the King had desired.” E. Parry, The Bloody Assize (1929), 267–9.
day, Cornish was hanged, drawn, and quartered at
to Roger Morrice,
Current Use of Her Home
Today the Yorkshire Cottages offers the “Tower
House”, once home to Elizabeth Gaunt to be rented. Its online advertisement states, “We are delighted to include The Tower House within our
portfolio, situated at Newbiggin, only 10 minutes drive from the M6 motorway.
Ideally placed for exploring the delights of both the
-Burnet, Bishop Burnet's History of His Own Time, ed. M. J.Routh, 2nd edn, 6 vols.(1833).
-Cobbett, Complete collection of state trials, ed. T. B.Howell and T. J.Howell, 34 vols.(1809–28).
- T. B. Macaulay, The history of England from the accession of James II, new edn, ed. C. H. Firth, 6 vols. (1913–15), vol. 2, pp. 656–8.
- E. Parry, The Bloody Assize (1929), 267–9.
-Yorkshire Cottages, Nov. 23, 2007< http://www.yorkshire-cottages.info/property` -details.aspx?productid=41162>
 “Tallow chandler’s shop” is a shop where hard fat obtained from parts of the bodies of cattle, sheep, or horses, is used in foodstuffs or to make candles, leather dressing, soap, and lubricants
 Gaol is a variant of jail.
 Bishop Burnet's History of His Own Time, ed. M. J.Routh, 2nd edn, 6 vols.(1833).
 Try to find a little about Mrs. Ann Smith
 According to Lord Macaulay, the sum of money she gave him was very large for her means, History of England, Ch. V, pg. 606.
 Fernley was a barber who was also a constable.
 Complete collection of state trials, ed. T. B.Howell and T. J.Howell, 34 vols., 11.419. (1809–28).
 Morrice, ent’ring book, DWL, 487
 Bishop Burnet's History of His Own Time, ed. M. J.Routh, 2nd edn, 6 vols.(1833).