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Hanged for Shoplifting, Being a True History of Mary Jones’ Sad Life and Death

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Praefectus Praetorio

Brother of the Quill
To my loyal readers who enjoyed my humble efforts in “Rebecca and the Bloody Codes”, here is a new, historical story. It differs in two crucial ways from that earlier tale.

This story was commissioned (!) by a new member of the forums, @minyoo , who has a long-held interest in Mary’s story. Many thanks to her for supporting the efforts of a harmless scribbler. While she chose the story and made suggestions, the final product is my own and totally the product of my own choices.

However, regarding those choices, this story breaks new ground for me. While it might, at first glance, seem a historical novel, like Rebecca, it is rather a true historical tale. The reader may, if they choose, search to find the true, recorded story of Mary Jones. (I strongly suggest you delay such until you have read the whole story so that you can enjoy it as it unfolds). I have followed the historical records as closely as possible.

This IS the story of Mary Jones. Almost all named characters are the actual historical persons involved. On a few occasions, I have added names to minor characters where the information was not preserved. In these cases, I place (I) immediately after the first use of the imagined name. Actions and dates follow, as near the true ones as the records allow. Most dialog and inner emotions are, of course, my invention. I have used these to enhance the readers’ prurient enjoyment, but only by adhering to the known situation of the characters.

Only in one minor place have I invented something.

This really happened as I describe. As the title warns, it is a sad story – as are many concerning the kind of “justice” dispensed in those times. If that is not what you want to see, do not read further.

Hanged for Shoplifting,

Being a True History of Mary Jones’ Sad Life and Death

Prologue

Mary Jones’ origins were nothing out the ordinary in 18th century London. She was born Mary Lefroy(I) on September 16th, 1753, the same year as the British Museum, though her advent was nowhere near as momentous. In Shadwell, east of Aldgate Pump, in a tenement next to the Roundabout Tavern, she was the third child of a somewhat poor, somewhat respectable Huguenot family. Her father worked sometimes as a shoeblack and sometimes as a common laborer in the many tanning or fulling industries. Of her childhood, little is recorded. Details of the upbringing of the anonymous poor being of little interest to those with the skill of writing. We can, however, presume that Mary was raised near that all-to-common borderline between subsidence and penury.

We know that she was betrothed in the summer of 1768, at the then marriageable age of 14, to one William Jones, able seaman, who was in the East End on leave from his merchant ship, The Gay Traveler. The banns of marriage were published and retained in the records of her parish church. The two were married on September 3rd of the same year at St Paul's Church as still to be seen in the church’s vital records. In contrast to the humble couple, this church, erected in 1656, was quite famous. Also known as the Church of Sea Captains; Captain James Cook worshiped there, John Wesley preached from the pulpit, and Jane Randolph, mother of Thomas Jefferson, was baptized there.

A contemporary chronicler of Mary’s later tragic fate described her at this time as follows:


Her countenance was regular and sweet-featur’d with sea-green eyes, large and languishing, her face surrounded by silken tresses of reddish-flaxen hair which oft she tied in a bun and modestly covered with a bonnet. The face made one mindful of the angels, most fair and pale (a paleness which gives the idea of delicacy without destroying that of health) and without mark or blemish and what many acquainted with her recalled as a modest and heartwarming smile.

In stature, just short of five feet, and in shape, exquisite. While Jonnes (sic) was slender of frame and tipping only six and one-half stones, her two ripe, enchanting breasts, finely plump’d presented a bosom, withal so round so firm, that they sustained themselves in scorn of any needed stay.

Her youth and beauty being sufficient, Mary innocently made the most of her charms by her almost childish vivacity. This wee angel, as she entered womanhood, caused the neighbor boys (and men) to be besotted by her innocent allure.
 

Loxuru

Graf von Kreuzigung
Recalling ‘The Bloody Codes’, we are once more reminded to the strikingly harsh verdicts in pre-Enlightenment Europe. Decades ago, I read about a French romantic drama play, ‘The Maid of Palaiseau’, by a playwriters d’Aubigny and Caigniez (1815). It is the story of a young maid (as far as I recall, her name was Annette Granville), who was accused by her master of stealing a silver spoon. She was put on trial and condemned to death by hanging.

Yet, there was one man who had doubts about her guilt. Ultimately, he finds the spoon in a magpie’s nest, high in the city’s bell tower. But at that moment, down on the square, the maid is already on the scaffold with a rope around her neck. The man finds no other solution than frantically ringing the fire alert bell, creating enough confusion to interrupt the execution and giving him time to descend and prove the maid’s innocence.

Shortly after, the story was used by Rossini for his opera The Thieving Magpie (1817).

‘The Maid of Palaiseau’ was based on real facts that took place in France during the 18th century. Unfortunately, in the real story, the spoon had only been discovered in the magpie’s nest after the maid had been executed .
 

Praefectus Praetorio

Brother of the Quill
Shadwell, east of Aldgate Pump
1440px-Aldgate_Pump_(33081127203).jpg
Aldgate Pump is a historic water pump in London, located at the junction where Aldgate meets Fenchurch Street and Leadenhall Street. The term "East of Aldgate Pump" is used as a synonym for the East End or for East London as a whole. As a well, it was mentioned during the reign of King John in the early 1200s.
The metal wolf head on the pump's spout is supposed to signify the last wolf shot in the City of London.
1440px-The_wolf_of_Aldgate_pump_(39035980574).jpg
The pump is also famous for marking the point from which distances were once measured into the counties of Essex and Middlesex. Later, it became emblematic of the perceived degradation of life in East London and it was once declared with superlative partiality that “East of Aldgate Pump, people cared for nothing but drink, vice and crime.”
 

Praefectus Praetorio

Brother of the Quill
Roundabout Tavern
In an eerily foreshadowing of Mary's story, in 1768, London coal workers who were protesting for higher wages began shooting at the landlord of the Roundabout Tavern (in Gravel Lane, now Garnet Street), in Shadwell; as a result, seven of them were hanged in the Sun Tavern fields. Their execution was witnessed by around 50,000 spectators, the largest crowd at a hanging since the hanging of Laurence Shirley, 4th Earl Ferrers, last Peer hung in Britain, in 1760.coalheavers.jpg
St Paul's Church as still to be seen in the church’s vital records. In contrast to the humble couple, this church, erected in 1656, was quite famous. Also known as the Church of Sea Captains; Captain James Cook worshiped there, John Wesley preached from the pulpit, and Jane Randolph, mother of Thomas Jefferson, was baptized there.
Shadwell became a maritime hamlet with roperies, tanneries, breweries, wharves, smiths, and numerous taverns, built around the chapel of St Paul's. Seventy-five sea captains are buried in its churchyard;
By the mid-eighteenth century, Shadwell Spa was established, producing sulphurous waters, in Sun Tavern fields. As well as being used for medicinal purposes, salts were extracted from the waters and used by local calicoprinters to fix their dyes. By the mid-eighteenth century, "Seamen, watermen and lightermen, coalheavers and shopkeepers, and ropemakers, coopers, carpenters and smiths, lived in small lathe and plaster or weatherboard houses, two storeys and a garret high, with one room on each floor"; the average rent was £2-7
 
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minyoo

Assistant executioner
Recalling ‘The Bloody Codes’, we are once more reminded to the strikingly harsh verdicts in pre-Enlightenment Europe. Decades ago, I read about a French romantic drama play, ‘The Maid of Palaiseau’, by a playwriters d’Aubigny and Caigniez (1815). It is the story of a young maid (as far as I recall, her name was Annette Granville), who was accused by her master of stealing a silver spoon. She was put on trial and condemned to death by hanging.

Yet, there was one man who had doubts about her guilt. Ultimately, he finds the spoon in a magpie’s nest, high in the city’s bell tower. But at that moment, down on the square, the maid is already on the scaffold with a rope around her neck. The man finds no other solution than frantically ringing the fire alert bell, creating enough confusion to interrupt the execution and giving him time to descend and prove the maid’s innocence.

Shortly after, the story was used by Rossini for his opera The Thieving Magpie (1817).

‘The Maid of Palaiseau’ was based on real facts that took place in France during the 18th century. Unfortunately, in the real story, the spoon had only been discovered in the magpie’s nest after the maid had been executed .
I have been trying really hard to the record of what really happened, but mostly my lack of knowledge for French knowledge prohibitted me from finding any good information. :(
 

minyoo

Assistant executioner
In an eerily foreshadowing of Mary's story, in 1768, London coal workers who were protesting for higher wages began shooting at the landlord of the Roundabout Tavern (in Gravel Lane, now Garnet Street), in Shadwell; as a result, seven of them were hanged in the Sun Tavern fields. Their execution was witnessed by around 50,000 spectators, the largest crowd at a hanging since the hanging of Laurence Shirley, 4th Earl Ferrers, last Peer hung in Britain, in 1760.View attachment 855042

Shadwell became a maritime hamlet with roperies, tanneries, breweries, wharves, smiths, and numerous taverns, built around the chapel of St Paul's. Seventy-five sea captains are buried in its churchyard;
By the mid-eighteenth century, Shadwell Spa was established, producing sulphurous waters, in Sun Tavern fields. As well as being used for medicinal purposes, salts were extracted from the waters and used by local calicoprinters to fix their dyes. By the mid-eighteenth century, "Seamen, watermen and lightermen, coalheavers and shopkeepers, and ropemakers, coopers, carpenters and smiths, lived in small lathe and plaster or weatherboard houses, two storeys and a garret high, with one room on each floor"; the average rent was £2-7
It's those kinds of trivia that really makes me enjoy your stories. It is certainly a blessing that you are so erudite to summon those trivia at will. I envy you.
 

twonines

Tribune
It's those kinds of trivia that really makes me enjoy your stories. It is certainly a blessing that you are so erudite to summon those trivia at will. I envy you.
I think PrPr works very diligently at his research in order to appear so erudite. It makes me think of the saying attributed to Gary Player,but in fact first uttered by Joe Davies the world Billiards and Snooker champion. An opponent said to Davies,"You get an amazing amount of flukes" and Davies replied "Yes,the more I practice, the luckier I get"
 

Praefectus Praetorio

Brother of the Quill
Married Life

William, 17, and his bride just short of 15, settled in a small tenement apartment within a few blocks of her family on Red Lion Street, Whitechapel. They were known to their neighbors as a fine pair, polite and responsible. In early February 1769, five months a bride, Mary gave birth to their first child, a boy, Jean, named after her father.

The young couple, along with her proud parents, presented the babe for christening at St Paul's Church a few days later. In her family’s form of the Huguenot faith, the christening of a baby was of paramount importance. The sprinkling of water, the anointing with oil, the words of Baptism, and the priest’s naming the child were matters of greatest importance. Families always bought an expensive christening dress, no matter the financial hardship. Without the christening and all the accouterments, the child could not be assured of a place in heaven.

During 1769 and 1770, William worked odd jobs in Shadwell and Wapping and shipped on some brief voyages to earn funds for his family. These efforts should have provided a modest, but not poor, living for his family (presuming he didn’t squander it all in one of the numerous gin mills as so many others did). What little evidence we have indicates William was careful and his family wanted for nothing.

In November 1769, it appears that Mary gave birth to a stillborn daughter. The records of her parish church show a donation of 5s by Jean Lefroi(sic), for a christening ceremony, “in fonde memorie of Cathy Jones, beloved grandchilde.” Besides that, little is known of the simple life of this young couple, raising a toddler and facing the daily struggles of 18th-century survival.

Mary became pregnant for a third time in August of 1770. Notes by her minister indicate that she came frequently to prayers, perhaps to pray for a safe delivery of this child, after losing her second. Mary could not possibly have any inkling that a couple of months before she conceived, a quite ridiculous dispute, far off in the South Atlantic, would change her life forever.

On June 1, 1770, the Spanish Governor of East Falkland Island, sent five frigates and 1,400 marines to Port Egmont, the principal settlement on British West Falkland Island. On June 10th, the British Commander, George Farmer, faced with overwhelming odds, surrendered and was permitted to sail for England.

When the British Parliament assembled in November, the MPs, outraged by this insult to national honour, demanded action from the government, headed by Lord North. In response, the Foreign Office "began to mobilise for a potential war"
 
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Praefectus Praetorio

Brother of the Quill
The Falkland's "Crisis" of 1771, was one of the most ridiculous foreign relations farce of the entire 18th Century. Almost uninhabitable sport of earth, in the middle of nowhere, with not even much naval value.
1145px-Egmont-Soledad.png
The Spanish governor, acting totally on his own authority, hoping to make a name for himself, assembled an expedition large enough to conquer man small countries. The British Governor, pretended a brave resistance, which was suicidal, before abjectly surrendering and returned to England a hero without firing a shot.
840px-George_Farmer_by_Charles_Grignion.jpg

The comic opera farce nearly involved the UK, France, and Spain in the biggest conflict since the Seven-Years War.
 
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minyoo

Assistant executioner
The Falkland's "Crisis" of 1771, was one of the most ridiculous foreign relations farce of the entire 18th Century. Almost uninhabitable sport of earth, in the middle of nowhere, with not even much naval value.
View attachment 855662
The Spanish governor, acting totally on his own authority, hoping to make a name for himself, assembled an expedition large enough to conquer man small countries. The British Governor, pretended a brave resistance, which was suicidal, before abjectly surrendering and returned to England a hero without firing a shot.
View attachment 855663

The comic opera farce nearly involved the UK, France, and Spain in the biggest conflict since the Seven-Years War.
It makes it even sexier that Mary's husband is dragged to this meaningless warfare, to leave her alone to her terrible, tragic fate.
 

Praefectus Praetorio

Brother of the Quill
Two Tragedies

The new year 1771 opened with Mary Jones, 17, four months pregnant with her second child. She probably felt that her life was almost perfect. She had a loving, caring, hard-working husband, a healthy child, and another on the way. She was living close to her parents whom she adored.

Her neighbors were pleased as well with the Joneses living among them (as indicated in a later report that we shall mention). Mary was reputed to be friendly and very generous, frequently offering to care for older or sicker neighbors. A sweet, modest disposition endeared her to the women in the neighborhood and combined with a beautiful face and fine figure, similarly pleased the men. Jean was an even-tempered boy, adored by the neighborhood matrons.

However, the second week of January 1771, brought the first tragedy of her young life. Both her parents were killed by a speeding horse cart near their home. With Mary’s siblings all dead or moved from London, she was left with no family but her husband and almost two-year-old son.

A month later, on February 15th, William was offered a berth on The Gay Traveler for a round-trip voyage to Amsterdam for half again more than the usual pay. The sailing was for the next day and the owners had a rich cargo and were desperate for experienced seamen to fill out the crew. He was reluctant to go. Mary was five months pregnant and still worried about the loss of the previous baby. And there was no money to pay rent, due about the time he returned. If he stayed and worked his odd-jobs, he’d be around to pay the landlord.

Nevertheless, the voyage would earn him triple the amount he could get ashore. Mary firmly told him not to worry and go. Their landlord, Robert(I) Natt, of Netteswell House, Bethnall (now Bethnal) Green, was a nice, understanding man, she said, and would not make a big fuss over a day or two. William shipped on the 15th, expecting to return before the end of the month.

Unfortunately, once at sea, the boat encountered a winter storm in the North Sea which delayed the trip by several days. Customs and loading in the Dutch port all went awry and involved longer than usual delays so that The Gay Traveler, didn’t clear to sea until the 26th.

Due to reports of smallpox in the Low Countries, the boat, when it arrived at the Thames mouth on February 28th, was held in quarantine off Greenwich for a week.

On the first of March, Mr. Natt, on his way to stay with his cousin in Grosvenor Square, Westminster, stopped by the Joneses’ flat for the monthly rent. Mary, very flustered, near tears, apologized profusely, explaining Williams absence and promising the money in a few days.

Robert, though not a cruel man, was loath to allow working-class tenants who lived hand-to-mouth, to go into arrears in rent. However, the Joneses were good tenants and he was taken, as were most men, by the comely lass. Expecting that the money to be available, Robert, nevertheless, wanted to make sure she took the situation seriously. So, he sternly warned Mary of the consequences of non-payment. He explained that he could evict her at any moment now and seize all her goods to pay back rent. As he saw her pretty eyes fill with tears, he tried to soften his message to reassure her. He told her he would be back on the afternoon of the 9th on his way back home, and he’d expect the rent then or she’d be “out on her ear!”

Mary, with tears running down her cheeks, fervently thanked him and swore the money would be ready for his return.

Meanwhile, Britain, Spain, and France were engaging in frantic diplomacy over the barren islands in the South Atlantic. The Spanish attempted to strengthen their position by winning the support of France, invoking the Pacte de Famille between the two Bourbon crowns. For a time, it looked as if all three countries were about to go to war, especially as the Duc de Choiseul, the French minister of war and foreign affairs, was in a militant mood. But the aged Louis XV took fright, telling his cousin Charles III that "My minister wishes for war, but I do not."

Choiseul was dismissed from office, retiring to his estates, and without French support the Spanish were obliged to seek a compromise with the British. Despite the fact that negotiations with Spain were only days from reaching a settlement, Edward Hawke, 1st Baron Hawke, the First Lord of the Admiralty instructed the Royal Navy to continue its preparations for war over the Falklands.

Thus, on March 8th, the crushing hammer blow fell onto our dear little family on Red Lion Street, Whitechapel.

On that day, William, disembarked from the delayed voyage, was hurrying toward his home with good wages in his pocket, including the overdue March rent. Then, suddenly, everything went black. He came to later, on the deck of a warship, to realize that he had been press-ganged. They had taken him to the 100-gun, HMS Victory, a six-year-old triple-decker ship-of-the-line, designated as the flagship for the Falklands expedition. William was immediately forced to sign the Articles of War. He begged the Lieutenant for leave to go tell his wife of his fate and give her what money he had, earnestly promising to return. The officer refused as the tide was nearing the turn and as the Victory would be casting off soon. He did agree to send a boy to inform Mary, who might be able to get there before they were gone.

Mary received the message and hurried to the dockside with her boy in her arms. However, by the time she got there, the Victory had slipped her moorings and was in mid-river, heading down the Thames. With tears in her eyes, Mary tried to wave, hoping William might see. At 17, the six-month pregnant mother, alone with a two-year-old was left destitute. It was then that the truly tragic story begins.
 

Praefectus Praetorio

Brother of the Quill
The Monarchs during the Falkland Crisis
George IIIgeorge-iii-1738-1820-reigned-1760-1820.jpgLouis XVLouis-XV.jpgCharles IIItumblr_ph6gnxi74T1tbghqao1_400.jpg

The swift diplomatic victory for the UK and the firm response of the North government, established Lord North, the Prime Minister as a respected leader, trusted by both King and Parliament, and helped provide him strong support four years later at the onset of a minor spat with the British colonists in North America.a_flag_us 2.gif BTW, In 1778 -80, during that unpleasantness, was the only time before the Great War that Britain legislated conscription. The army was having serious problems keeping its ranks full fighting the troublesome colonists while support for the dispute at home waned.

Edward Hawke, 1st Baron Hawke, the First Lord of the Admiralty
Admiral Hawke.jpg
Impressmentunnamed.jpg -though clearly a violation of the UK constitution, was upheld numerous times by the courts, due to the simple fact, that in time of war, the British Navy, essential to the survival of the Empire and Nation, had to triple or more their sailors in a matter of months. Resisting impressment in 1771 was a hanging offence (as was, it seems, almost everything! - Lord, @thehangingtree would have loved it then!)


The 100-gun, triple-decker, H.M.S. Victory
In 1785 hms-victory-english-school.jpg- note the printer and address
Bowles & Carver
#69 St' Paul's Churchyard, London
Today
It goes to show that British technology in building sailing men-of-war, peaked in the middle of the 18th Century. The Victory, launched in 1765, was still serviceable enough forty years later in 1805, to serve as the flagship for some minor battle off the coast of Spain. The name eludes me right now but there is some square in London named after it. Was it Berkeley? Or Nightingale?3408DB5500000578-0-image-a-27_1462955548886.jpg
 
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Migoz2

Senator
It is now my dream to earn money to travel to England, to visit all those spots with fond memories.
Sadly, modern London is now all sheet-glass office blocks and canyons where the wind is funneled. The beauty of the old city is steadily being destroyed, no matter how hard you look. Better to read beautifully historically accurate stories, like PrPr's work....
 
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