Thursday, March 21, 2024

Lord Chief Justice Nugent, November 1688 - they'll be "hung up all over England in bunches like ropes of onions"

We live in a country where the public have the freedom to complain about the state. This is, at least to some extent, due to the 1689 Bill of Rights which was introduced as the first package of laws by King William III and Queen Mary II at their coronation on 18 April (which, if the country was run by people who cared about liberty, should be an annual national holiday. It is, after all, carved into the old city wall in Geneva - pic above).

The previous regime was not so keen on such things, they preferred summarily rounding people up who opposed them. Check this out, from the Dublin government and Lord Chief Justice Thomas Nugent, in November 1688, when they received news of William's arrival –

“… a ship came from Amsterdam to Dublin, with letters from a friend of Tyrconnel's, to acquaint him that he did imagine the Prince of Orange had a design against England since none in Holland could guess what else the great and hasty preparations made there should mean; Tyrconnel sent this letter to the secretary of state who shewed it the King; but they made no other use of it than to scorn and ridicule his intelligence as the secretary did in a letter sent back to him.

But fresh suspicions daily arose, and the matter seemed still more probable; whereupon the huffing Irish called the English, rebels, saying they were sure they would join with the Prince, and as certain that they would be beaten, and be served the same sauce as Monmouth was; and bloodily and maliciously expressed themselves against the Prince, whose head they threatened to stick on a pole, and carry it round the kingdom; and after King James's proclamation came to them, Lord Chief Justice Nugent, that confident ignorant Irishman, in his charge to the jury, among other villifying reproaches upon the Prince of Orange, audaciously and impudently added:

“that now the states of Holland were weary of their Prince they had sent him over to be dressed as Monmouth was but that was too good for him and that he doubted not before a month passed to hear that they were hung up all over England in bunches like ropes of onions”.

• This account was by John Oldmixon of Bristol, a supporter and survivor of the Duke of Monmouth's rebellion of 1685. He had seen hundreds of his neighbours treated in the same manner, by the kangaroo courts and executioner butchers sent to south west England by King James II. His 1730 History of England is online here. Here is an illustration from a grisly set of playing cards which were produced to maintain the memory of those times.