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Tudor Minute July 5: Joan Coney hung as a witch

Hey, this is Heather from the Renaissance English History Podcast, and this is your Tudor Minute for July 5.

On July 5 in 1589 Joan Coney was hung as a witch in Chelmsford in Essex. Essex was a county that pursued witchcraft prosecutions more than any other during the 16th and 17th centuries. Some of the most vulnerable people to witchcraft accusations would have been older widows who lacked protection from a husband or sons. While men could be accused of treason, the vulnerability of women was to witchcraft accusations. Even Queens were not immune, and in some cases, like that of Henry V and his stepmother Joan of Navarre in the early 15th century, they were actually even more vulnerable because often their children would want a way to get at their lands. Henry V took Joan’s lands, and imprisoned her for years.

A century later, Anne Boleyn would be accused of witchcraft and placing a spell on Henry VIII. Indeed, powerful women could be accused of witchcraft just as regularly as the older vulnerable widows. In 1542 Henry passed a witchcraft act, which was then replaced in 1563 by an Act Against Conjurations, Enchantments, and Witchcrafts, and the Elizabethan authorities were growing fearful of magic and witches during this time period.

Joan, who was hung today, July 5, was said to be four score years, so about 80. Her grandchildren gave evidence against her, saying that she had gone to a Henry Finche’s house, asked for something to drink. Henry’s wife was busy, and told her she couldn’t give her any. Joan went away, discontented. That night Fiche’s wife got sick, and had a terrible pain in her side, and she died a week later.

That was enough to damn Joan, with the evidence of her grandchildren, who were about 12 years old, and Joan died today, July 5.

That’s your Tudor Minute for today. Remember you can dive deeper into life in 16th century England through the Renaissance English History Podcast at englandcast.com.

James I and Witches