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Lisle, Alice

LISLE, ALICE (c. 1614-1685), commonly known as Lady Alice Lisle, was born about 1614. Her father, Sir White Beckenshaw, was descended from an old Hampshire family; her husband, John Lisle (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 hence his wife's courtesy title. 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 partizan of Monmouth, and under sentence of outlawry. The two men passed the night at Moyles Court, and on the following morning were arrested, and their hostess, who had denied their presence in the house, was charged with harbouring traitors. Her case was tried by Judge Jeffreys at the opening of the "Bloody Assizes " at Winchester. She pleaded that she had no knowledge that Hickes's offence was anything more serious than illegal preaching, that she had known nothing previously of Nelthorpe (whose name was not included in the indictment, but was, nevertheless, mentioned to strengthen the case for the Crown), and that she had no sympathy with the rebellion. 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, but a few days' respite was subsequently granted, and 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 violences and other illegal practices " of Jeffreys. It is, however, extremely doubtful whether Jeffreys, for all his gross brutality, exceeded the strict letter of the existing law.

See Howell, State Trials; H. B. Irving, Life of Judge Jeffreys; Stephen, History of the Criminal Law of England.

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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