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Alice Lisle (Beconshaw)

Nicknames: "Dame Alicia Lyle", "Lady Alice Lisle", "last woman to be beheaded in England"
Birthplace: Moyles Court, Ellingham, Hampshire, England
Death: Died in Winchester, Hampshire, England
Cause of death: Beheaded
Place of Burial: St Mary and All Saints Church, Ellingham, Hampshire , England, United Kingdom
Immediate Family:

Daughter of Sir White Beconsawe and Edith Bond
Wife of Sir John Lisle, MP & Regicide
Mother of Margaret Whitaker; Alice Hoare; John Lisle; Bridget Usher and Ann Harfell
Sister of Elizabeth Tipping

Managed by: Erin Spiceland
Last Updated:
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Immediate Family

About Alice Lisle (Beconshaw)

Lady Alice Lisle (September 1617 – 2 September 1685), commonly known as Dame Alicia Lisle or Dame Alice Lyle,[1] was a landed lady of the English county of Hampshire, who was executed for harbouring fugitives after the defeat of the Monmouth Rebellion at the Battle of Sedgemoor.


The Assize began at Winchester, where Dame Alice Lyle was condemned to death for helping two of the rebels-a harsh and terrible judgement on an old and kindly lady.


Leonard Hoar, son of Charles and Joanna ( Hincksman) Hoar, of England, was president of Harvard College from 1672 until shortly before his death in 1675. He married Bridget Lisle, daughter of John Lord Lisle. Her father was president of the High Court of Justice in England under Cromwell, and drew the indictment and sentence of King Charles I. He was murdered in Lausanne;" Switzerland. August n. 1664, being shot in the back as he was on his way to church, by two Irish ruffians who were inspired by the hope of reward from some member of the Royal family in England.

Bridget Lisle's mother was the Lady Alicia Lisle, who was in sympathy with the King, and was one of the earliest victims of the infamous Chief Justice Jeffries, being charged with misprision of treason in aiding and concealing in her dwelling the day after the battle of Sedgemoor, Richard Xelthorpe. a lawyer, and John Hickes, a minister, accused of being refugees from Mon- mouth's army. She declared herself innocent of guilty knowledge, and protested against the illegality of her trial because the supposed rebels, to whom she had given common hospitality, had not been convicted.

She was then advanced in years, and so feeble that it is said she was unable to keep awake during the tedious trial.

Jeffries arrogantly refused her the aid of counsel, admitted irrelevant testimony, excelled himself in violent abuse, and so intimidated the jurors who were disposed to dismiss the charge, that they unwillingly at last brought in a verdict of guilty. She was hurriedly condemned to be burned alive" the very afternoon of the day of her trial, August 28, 1685, but, owing to the indignant protests of the clergy of Winchester, execution was postponed for five days, and the sentence was "altered from burning to beheading. This punishment was exacted in the market place of Win- chester on the appointed day, the implacable James II. refusing a pardon, although it was proved that Lady Lisle had protected many cavaliers in distress, and that her son John was serving in the royal army; and many persons of high rank interceded for her. among whom was Lord Clarendon, brother-in-law to the King.

Lady Lisle was connected by marriage with the Bond. Whitmore, Churchill and other families of distinction, and her granddaughter married Lord James Russell, fifth son of the first Duke of Bedford, .thus connecting this tragedy with that of Lord William Russell, "the martyr of English liberty." In the first year of William and Mary's reign, the attainder was-reversed by act of parliament upon petition of Lady Lisle's two daughters. Tryphena Grove and Bridget (Hoar) Usher. Among the eight great historical paintings which adorn the corridor leading to the House of Commons, the third of the series represents Lady Lisle's arrest. Lady Lisle's tomb is a heavy flat slab of grey stone, raised about two or three feet from the ground, near Ellingham church, close to the wall, on the right side of the church porch.

It is said that when Lady Lisle was carried on horseback by a trooper to Winchester for trial, the horse lost a shoe and fell lame. She insisted that the trooper should stop at a smith's and have the shoe replaced, on his refusal declaring that she would make an outcry and resistance unless he did, saying that she could not bear to see the horse suffer. The blacksmith at first refused to do the work, saying that he would do nothing to help the carrying off of Lady Lisle, but on her earnest pleading, he did. She told him she would come back that way in a few days, but the trooper said, "Yes. you will come back in a few days, but without your head." The body was returned to Moyles' Court the day of the execution : the head was brought back a few days after in a basket, and put in at the pantry window ; the messenger said that the head was sent afterward for greater indignity.

There is a further tradition that when Lady Lisle heard of her husband's connection with the court which condemned King Charles, she was much distressed. It is well known that she disapproved the execution, and that she declared on her trial that she never ceased to pray for the King. The story further goes that she hastened to London and reached her husband's door as he had just mounted his horse to join the procession for some part of the proceeding of the court. She accosted him, but, being covered with a heavy veil, he did not recognize her, and roughly thrust her away. She fell under the horse's hoofs in a swoon: she was taken up and cared for by Hickes, one of the persons whom she afterward succored, and for relieving whom she was condemned. She remained in a swoon for a long time; her husband was sent for and visited her but. to use the phrase in which the story was told, "was very odious to her." She told Hickes that she could not repay him for his kindness in London, but if he came to the Isle of Wight, or to Moyles' Court, in both of which places she had property, she would repay him, saying, "At Moyles' Court I am mistress."


Lady Alice, or Alicia, Lisle, was the wife of John Lisle, who was bred to the bar, and, being returned to the Long Parliament, became a sturdy opponent of the King. He entered the army, attaining only the rank of Major. He became legal adviser to the High Court of Justice which condemned Charles I., and a Commissioner of the Great Seal under Cromwell. On the Restoration, he took refuge in Lausanne, with other refugees, and there he was assassinated. His widow, the Lady Alice, was arraigned in August, 1685, before the infamous Lord Chief Justice, George Jeffries, on the charge of High Treason, for having, merely on grounds of humanity, given hospitality to a lawyer and a clergyman suspected of complicity in Monmouth's insurrection. She was beheaded in September. Her daughter Bridget was the wife of Dr. Leonard Hoar, third President of Harvard College. After his decease, Nov. 28, 1675, she married, Nov. 29, 1676, Mr. Hezekiah Usher, a merchant of Boston. Not being happy in this marriage, she went to England with her daughter, Bridget Hoar, and did not return here till after Mr. Usher's death, July 11, 1697. Under date in his journal, Sewall records her death in Boston, May 25, 1723, and her interment, by her own request, in the grave of Dr. Hoar, at Braintree. Her daughter, Blidget Hoar, born at Cambridge, March 13, 1673, married, June 21, 1689, Rev. Thomas Cotton, of London. See Campbell's Lord Chancellors, Vol. III. p. 62, and Sibley's "Graduates of Harvard University," Vol. I. pp. 244-248. -- EDS.



Dame Alice was a daughter of Sir White Beconshaw of Moyles Court at Ellingham in Hampshire and his wife, Edith Bond, daughter and co-heiress of William Bond of Blackmanston in Steeple in Dorset. She had a younger sister, Elizabeth, who married Sir Thomas Tipping of Wheatfield Park in Stoke Talmage in Oxfordshire. Alice Lisle's husband, Sir John Lisle (d. 1664), had been one of the judges at the trial of Charles I, and was subsequently a member of Cromwell's House of Lords, hence his wife's courtesy title. She seems to have leaned to Royalism, but she combined this with a decided sympathy for religious dissent.

On 20 July 1685, a fortnight after the Battle of Sedgemoor, Lady Alice agreed to shelter John Hickes, a well-known Nonconformist minister, at Moyles Court, her residence near Ringwood. Hickes, who was a member of Monmouth's defeated army, brought with him Richard Nelthorpe, another supporter of Monmouth and under sentence of outlawry. The men spent the night at Moyles Court, and in the morning were arrested. Their hostess, who had initially denied their presence, was charged with harbouring traitors.

lLady Alice's case was tried by Judge Jeffreys at the opening of the Bloody Assizes at Winchester. She pleaded she had no knowledge that Hickes's offence was anything more serious than illegal preaching. Furthermore, she had known nothing of Nelthorpe, who was not named in the indictment, but was nevertheless mentioned to strengthen the case for the Crown. She said she had no sympathy with the rebellion whatsoever. The jury reluctantly found her guilty, and the law recognizing no distinction between principals and accessories in treason, she was sentenced to be burned.

Jeffreys respited the sentence for a week but James II refused to extend mercy to her, though he allowed beheading as fit her station to be substituted for burning. Lady Alice Lisle was publicly executed in the Winchester market-place on 2 September 1685. She is buried in a tomb on the right hand side of the porch at St Mary's Church, in Ellingham, Hampshire.

A plaque marks the spot of Lady Alice's execution, opposite "The Eclipse Inn" near the Cathedral in Winchester.

[Many writers have described Lady Alice's execution a judicial murder, and one of the first acts of parliament of William and Mary after the Glorious Revolution was to reverse her attainder on the grounds that the prosecution was irregular and the verdict injuriously extorted by "the menaces and violences and other illegal practices" of Judge Jeffreys. However, it is doubtful that Jeffreys, for all his brutality, exceeded the strict letter of the law of the day.

-------------------- Moyles Court

Mentioned in the Domesday Book (1086) as being held by Cola the Huntsman, Moyles Court is now a private school on the edge of the New Forest in Hampshire. It was once the home of Lady Alice Lisle who was executed for sheltering traitors following the Monmouth Rebellion which has been described as judicial murder. According to ‘Haunted England: A Survey of English Ghost Lore’ (1941) by Christina Hole,‘Tradition says the sound of her silk dress and tapping of her heels were long afterwards heard in the corridors of Moyles Court, and that sometimes she was seen passing down Ellingham Lane a driverless coach drawn by headless horses.’

Lady Alice Lisle (born September 1617 – died 2 September 1685) was the daughter of Sir White Beconshaw of Moyles Court. In 1630 she bacame the second wife of the Regicide Sir John Lisle (1610-1664) who was a Judge in the trial and execution of King Charles I. According to The Complete Peerage (Vol IV, Appx G, p.622) ‘He was a violent anti-royalist, and active promoter of the King's trial, and drafted the sentence. He was present in Westminster Hall, 27 Jan 1648/9, when the sentence was pronounced, though he did not sign the death-warrant.’ He was assassinated by Thomas Macdonnell (also known as O’Croli) and Semus mac Emoinn Mhic Choitir (or James Fitz Edmond Cotter / James Cotter) in Lausanne, Switzerland where he had fled following the Restoration of the Monarchy. At the time of King Charles I’s execution, Alice Lisle was reported to had stated ‘her heart leaped within her to see the tyrant fall’ but much later, probably during her trial claimed ‘shed more tears than any woman then living did’ for the dead King. A quote from Burnett in the Salisbury Journal sates , 'She was not easily reconciled to her husband on account of his association with the regicides.'

Lady Lisle was in London during on 6th July 1685 when the Monmouth Rebellion was crushed at the Battle of Sedgemoor. On 20th July 1685 she received a message from John Hickes requesting shelter. Hickes was a known Nonconformist minister and she suspected he was in trouble for illegal preaching. He was also a member of Monmouth’s army who had been on the run since Sedgemoor, though Alice claimed she knew nothing of this. Hickes arrived several days later with another rebel named Richard Nelthorpe. The following day Hickes, Nelthorpe and Lisle were arrested by Colonel Penruddock, the men for being traitors and the seventy year old Alice for harbouring them. Colonel Penruddock would have had little sympathy for Lady Lisle as her husband had been part of a Cromwellian court that had sentenced his father, a well-known royalist who had fought at Salisbury to death. He was decapitated in Exeter.

Dame Lisle’s was the first notable trial of the Bloody Assizes which followed the Monmouth Rebellion and led by Lord Chief Justice George Jeffreys, 1st Baron Jeffreys of Wem (born 15 May 1645 – died 18 April 1689). Her trial took lace on 27 August 1685 at Winchester Castle and the jury was reluctant to find her guilty and the the proceedings when over to 28 August. Judge Jeffreys over ruled the jury’s scruples and she was found guilty. It was pointed out that she was charged with harbouring a traitor, namely Hickes, yet Hickes himself had not been found guilty of treason at that point. The plea was agan over ruled.

Lady Lisle was condemed to death. Judge Jeffreys sentenced her to be burnt at the stake that very afternoon, 28th August 1685. Burning would save her from the indencey of a hanging and possible drawind and quartering, but it was still a terrible sentence to be passed down on an elderly lady. Presure on Judge Jeffreys gained Dame Lisle a respite on her execution date to 2nd September 1685. On 31 August

Lady Lisle petitions King James II requesting a further four days stay of execution and to change the method from burning to beheading. The King refused to give Alice the extra few days but did commute her sentence to beheading.

She was beheaded on 2nd September 1685 in Winchester Market Place and stepped onto the scaffold from a window of the Eclipse Inn, where she is also reputed to haunt. A plaque is in Winchester Market

The last words of Lady Lisle: ' Gentlemen, Friends and Neighbours,

It may be expected that I should say something at my Death, my Birth and Education being near this Place ; my Parents instructed me in the Fear of God ; and I now die of the reformed Religion ; always being instructed in that Belief that if Popery should return into this Nation, it would be a great Judgement. I die in Expectation of Pardon of my Sins, and Acceptation with the Father, by the imputed Righteousness of Jesus Christ : He being the End of the Law for Righteousness to every one that believeth. I thank God, thro' Christ Jesus, I depart under the Blood of Sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel ; God having made this Chastisement an Ordinance to my Soul. I did as little expect to come to this Place on this occasion, as any person in this Nation ; therefore let all learn not to be high-minded, but fear. The Lord is a Sovereign, and will take what Way he seeth best to glorify himself by his poor Creatures ; I there for humbly desire to submit to his Will, praying of him, that in Patience I may possess my Soul.

The crime was, my entertaining a Non-conformist Minister, who is since sworn to have been in the Duke of Monmouth's army. I am told, if I had not denied them, it would not have affected me : I have no Excuse but Surprise and Fear ; which I believe my Jury must make use of to excuse their Verdict to the World. I have been told, That the Court ought to be Council for the Prisoner : Instead of Advice, there was Evidence given from thence, which (tho' it was but Hearsay) might possibly affect my Jury. My Defence was such as might be expected from a weak Woman ; but such as it was, I never heard it repeated again to the Jury.

But I forgive all persons that have wrong'd me ; and I desire that God will do so likewise. I forgive Colonel Penruddock, altho' he told me, He could have taken those Men, before they came to my House.

As to what I expected for my Conviction, that I gave it under my Hand that I discours'd with Nelthrop ; that could be no Evidence to the Court or Jury, it being after my Conviction and Sentence.

I acknowledge his Majesty's Favour in revoking my Sentence ; and I pray God he may long reign in Peace, and that the true Religion may flourish under him.

Two things I have omitted to say, which is, That I forgive him that desir'd to be taken from the Grand Jury, and put upon the Petty Jury, that he might be the more nearly concern'd in my Death ; and return humble Thanks to God, and the reverend Clergy, that assisted me in my Imprisonment.'

Following the execution her body and head were returned to her family and she is buried at St Mary’s Church in Ellingham.

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Alice Lisle's Timeline

September 1617
Ellingham, Hampshire, England
Age 12
Antrim, County Antrim, Ulster, Ireland
Age 16
Age 16
Moyles Court, Hampshire, England
October 23, 1636
Age 19
Ellingham, Hampshire, , England
Age 22
Age 30
Hampshire , England
September 2, 1685
Age 68
Winchester, Hampshire, England
Age 67
Ellingham, Hampshire , England, United Kingdom