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This Sceptred Isle

Judge Jeffreys
In 1685 Judge Jeffreys prosecuted the captors of the failed Monmouth Rebellion. Monmouth and 200 of his men were executed and another 800 were sent to Barbados as slaves.

James II repealed the Test Act and the Habeas Corpus Act.

Robert Spencer, Earl of Sutherland became Lord President in place of Halifax and henceforward was James's Chief Minister. James set out to create a strong standing army, he claimed the militia was useless. He made it clear he would retain his Catholic officers. Parliament rebelled. James II dissolved Parliament. The Anglican Church, led by Henry Compton, opposed James's policies. Sermons, pamphlets and slim books appeared opposing Catholicism. James continued to replace Church and Statesmen with Catholics. Whig and Tory differences were forgotten in united opposition of James II.

Judge Jeffreys
Judge Jeffreys

  • The original hanging judge
  • Became Lord Chief Justice of the King's Bench in 1683
  • Helped remodel the City Corporations
  • Most famous for his harsh treatment of Monmouth's men after the failed rebellion
  • Became Lord Chancellor from 1685
  • Sided with James II and was captured trying to escape into exile
  • Died in the Tower of London

did you know?
The ladies-in-waiting at James's Court made a handsome profit out of the Monmouth rebels who were sold as slaves to Barbados. White slaves commanded good prices in the seventeenth century.

His behaviour was beyond anything that was ever heard of in a civilized nation. He was perpetually either drunk or in a rage, liker a fury that the zeal of a judge. He required the prisoners to plead guilty. And in that case he gave them some hope of favour, if they gave him no trouble; otherwise he told them, he would execute the letter of the law upon them in its utmost severity.

This made many plead guilty, who had a great defence in law. But he shewed no mercy. He ordered a great many to be hanged up immediately without allowing them a minute's time to say their prayers. He hanged, in several places, about six hundred persons. The greatest part of these were of the meanest sort, and no distinction. The impieties with which he treated them, and his behaviour towards some of the nobility and gentry that were well affected, but came and pleaded in favour of some prisoners, would have amazed one, if done by a bashaw in Turkey. England had never known anything like it.

But that which brought all his excesses to be impured to the king himself, was, that the king had a particular account of all his proceedings writ to him every day. And he took pleasure to relate them in the drawing room to foreign ministers, and at his table, calling it Jeffrey's campaign, speaking of all he had done in a style that neither became the majesty nor the mercifulness of a great prince.

And upon Jeffreys coming back, he was created a baron and peer of England, a dignity which, though anciently some judges were raised to it, yet in these latter ages, as there was no example of it, so it was though inconsistent with the character of a judge.

Select historical period

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1658Oliver Cromwell dies
1660Charles II signs the Declaration of Breda
Charles II is restored to the throne
1662Charles II marries Catherine of Braganza
1665The Great Plague
1666The Fire of London
1672Charles II issues the Declaration of Indulgence
1677Princess Mary marries William of Orange
1685Charles II dies
James II becomes king of England
Monmouth Rebellion put down
1687James II dissolves Parliament
1688Seven bishops imprisoned
Birth of James's son
William of Orange lands in England
James flees abroad
1689William III and Mary II become king and queen of England

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