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Anna Beauchamp (Cooke)

Birthplace: Fairfax, Virginia
Death: Died in Bloomfield, Nelson, Kentucky, USA
Cause of death: suicide by stabbing
Place of Burial: Bloomfield, Nelson, Kentucky, USA
Immediate Family:

Daughter of Giles Cooke and Alicia Cooke
Wife of Jereboam O. Beauchamp
Sister of Elizabeth Payne; John W. Cooke; Peyton Cooke; Giles Cooke, Jr.; William Cooke and 5 others

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Immediate Family

About Anna Cooke

The Beauchamp–Sharp Tragedy (sometimes called the Kentucky Tragedy) was the murder of Kentucky legislator Solomon P. Sharp by Jereboam O. Beauchamp ( /dʒɛrəˈboʊ.əm ˈoʊ ˈbiːtʃəm/). As a young lawyer, Beauchamp had been an admirer of Sharp until Sharp allegedly fathered an illegitimate child with a woman named Anna Cooke.[a] Sharp denied paternity of the stillborn child. Later, Beauchamp began a relationship with Cooke, who agreed to marry him on the condition that he kill Sharp. Beauchamp and Cooke married in June 1824, and in the early morning of November 7, 1825, Beauchamp murdered Sharp at Sharp's home in Frankfort, Kentucky.

An investigation soon revealed Beauchamp as the killer, and he was apprehended at his home in Glasgow, Kentucky, four days after the murder. He was tried, convicted, and sentenced to death by hanging. He was granted a stay of execution to allow him to pen a justification for his actions. Anna Cooke-Beauchamp was tried for complicity in the murder, but was acquitted for lack of evidence. Nevertheless, her devotion to Beauchamp prompted her to stay in his cell with him, where the two attempted a double suicide by drinking laudanum shortly before the execution. This attempt failed. On the morning of the execution, the couple again attempted suicide, this time by stabbing themselves with a knife Anna had smuggled into the cell. When the guards discovered the attempt, Beauchamp was rushed to the gallows, where he was hanged before he could die of his stab wound. He was the first person legally executed in the state of Kentucky. Anna Cooke-Beauchamp died from her wounds shortly before her husband was hanged. In accordance with their wishes, the couple's bodies were positioned in an embrace and buried in the same coffin.

While the primary motive for Sharp's murder was defending the honor of Anna Cooke, speculation raged that Sharp's political opponents instigated the crime. Sharp was a leader of the New Court party during the Old Court – New Court controversy in Kentucky. At least one Old Court partisan alleged that Sharp denied paternity of Cooke's son by claiming the child was a mulatto, the son of a family slave. Whether Sharp actually made such a claim has never been verified. New Court partisans insisted that the allegation was concocted to stir Beauchamp's anger and provoke him to murder. The Beauchamp–Sharp Tragedy served as the inspiration for literary works, most notably Edgar Allan Poe's unfinished Politian and Robert Penn Warren's World Enough and Time.

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Anna Cooke's Timeline

February 7, 1785
Fairfax, Virginia
July 7, 1826
Age 41
Bloomfield, Nelson, Kentucky, USA
Bloomfield, Nelson, Kentucky, USA