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The Newgate Calendar - ANN WILLIAMS


Burnt at the stake for murdering her husband, April 13, 1753

Anne Williams burnt at the stake

THE behaviour of this fiend had long been a prelude to the diabolical crime which she committed. She was in her family turbulent and dictatorial; her husband the very reverse. His mild and quiet disposition served only to nurse her opposition and violence. He had long given way to her in all things, and she, in return, ruled him with a rod of iron.

Before the commission of this horrid deed we have found women make use of man's unqualified indulgence. Hence arose the vulgar saying of 'the grey mare being the better horse,' of 'hen-pecked husbands,' and many other irritating observations on men troubled with shrews.

One of the wisest of the ancient philosophers had his Xantippe; and the poet sings,

'When man to woman gives the sway,
To what is right they oft say Nay.'

The pliancy of the more unfortunate man in question could not shield him from the consequence of the ascendancy she had over him; it sunk into contempt, and she determined to rule alone. To effect this, her wicked heart suggested the death of her husband. For this horrid purpose she prevailed on their servant-man to purchase some white mercury, which she mixed in some gruel, and caused him to eat it. This mode of administering the poison, it was conjectured, was adopted in contempt of him; for it appeared the poor man did not like gruel. She then directed him to draw her some ale, of which he also drank; and was immediately seized with violent purgings and vomiting. She told the man, whom it seems she meant afterwards to share her bed, that she 'had given her husband the stuff be brought, and that it was operating purely.'

The dying man, in his agonies, said his wife was a wicked woman; that he was well until she made him eat some pap, which had done his business, and that he should be a dead man on the morrow: and, in spite of medical aid, he died next day, his body being in a state of mortification.

The horrid crime being fully proved against her, she received sentence to be burnt at the stake, which sentence was accordingly carried into execution at Gloucester, April 13, 1753, among a number of spectators, who showed little pity for her fate, and which became still more shocking from denying the fact, so incontrovertibly proved, to the very last moment of her existence.

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