Item of the Day: The Trial of Elizabeth Dutchess Dowager of Kingston for Bigamy (1776)

Full Title:  The Trial of Elizabeth Dutchess Dowager of Kingston for Bigamy before the Right Honourable The House of Peers, in Westminster-Hall, in Full Parliament, on Monday the 15th, Tuesday the 16th, Friday the 19th, Saturday the 20th, and Monday the 22d of April, 1776; on the last of which Days the said Elizabeth Duchess Dowager of Kingston was found Guilty.  Published by Order of the House of Peers.  London:  Printed for Charles Bathurst, in Fleet-Street.  M.DCC.LXXVI.

Monday, April the 15th, 1776.

In the Court erected in Westminster-Hall, for the Trial of Elizabeth Duchess Dowager of Kingston for Bigamy.

About ten of the clock the Lords came from their own House into the Court erected in Westminster Hall, for the Trial of Elizabeth Duchess Dowager of Kingston, in the Manner following:

The Lord High Steward’s Gentlemen Attendants, Two and Two.

The Clerks Assistant to the House of Lords, and the Clerk of the Parliament.

Clerk of the Crown in Chancery, bearing the King’s Commission to the Lord High Steward, and the Clerk of the Crown in the King’s Bench.

The Masters in Chancery, Two and Two.

The Judges, Two and Two.

The Peers eldest Sons, Two and Two.

Peers Minors, Two and Two.

Chester and Somerset Heralds.

Four Serjeants at Arms with their Maces, Two and Two.

The Yeoman Usher of the House.

The Barons, Two and Two, beginning with the youngest Baron.

The Bishops, Two and Two.

The Viscounts and other Peers, Two and Two.

The Lord Privy Seal and Lord President.

The Archbishop of York and the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Four Serjeants at Arms and their Maces, Two and Two.

The Serjeant at Arms attending the Great Seal, and Purse-Bearer.

Then Garter King at Arms, and the Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod carrying the White Staff before the Lord High Steward.

Henry Earl Bathurst, Chancellor of Great Britain, Lord High Steward, alone, his Train Borne.

His Royal Highness the Duke of Cumberland, his Train borne.

The Lords being placed in their proper Seats, and the Lord High Steward upon the Woolpack, the House was resumed.

The Clerk of the Crown in Chancery, having his Majesty’s Commission to the Lord High Steward in his Hand, and the Clerk of the Crown in the King’s Bench, standing before the Clerk’s Table with their Faces towards the State, made Three Reverences; the First at the Table, the Second in the Midway, and the third near the Woolpack, then kneeled down; and the Clerk of the Crown in Chancery, on his Knee, presented the Commission to the Lord High Steward, who delivered the same to the Clerk of the Crown in the King’s Bench to read:  Then rising, they made Three Reverences, and returned to the Table.  And then Proclamation was made for Silence, in this Manner:

Serjeant at Arms.  Oyez, Oyez, Oyez!  Our Sovereign Lord the King strictly charges and commands all Manner of Persons to keep Silence, upon Pain of imprisonment.

Then the Lord High Steward stood up, and spoke to the Peers.

Lord High Steward.  His Majesty’s commission is about to be read:  Your Lordships are desired to attend to it in the usual Manner; and all others are likewise to stand up uncovered while the Commission is reading.

All the Peers uncovered themselves; and they, and all others, stood up uncovered, while the Commission was read.

George R.

George the Third, by the Grace of God, of Great Britain, France, and Ireland King, Defender of the Faith, and so forth.  To our Right Trusty and Right well-beloved Cousin and Counsellor Henry Earl Bathurst, our Chancellor of Great Britain, greeting.  Know ye, that whereas Elizabeth the Wife of August John Hervey, late of the Parish of Saint George, Hanover Square, in our County of Middlesex, Esquire, before our Justices of Oyer and Terminer, at Hick’s Hall, in Saint John-Street, in and for Our County of Middlesex, upon the Oath of Twelve Jurors, good and lawful Men of the said County of Middlesex, then and there sworn and charged to enquire for Us for the Body of the said County, stands indicted of Polygamy and feloniously marrying Evelyn Pierrepont late Duke of Kingston, she being married, and the wife of the said August John Hervey:  We, considering that Justice is an excellent Virtue, and pleasing to the Most High, and being willing that the said Elizabeth, of and for the Felony whereof she is indicted as aforesaid, before Us, in Our present Parliament, according to the Law and Custom of Our Kingdom of Great Britain, may be heard, examined, sentenced, and adjudged; and that all other Things which are necessary in this Behalf may be duly exercised and executed; and for that the Office of High Steward of Great Britain, (whose Presence in this Behalf is required) is now vacant (as We are informed) We, very much confiding in your fidelity, Prudence, provident circumspection, and industry, have for this Cause ordained and constituted you Steward of Great Britain, to hear, execute, and exercise for this Time and said Office, with all Things due and belonging to the same Office in this Behalf:  And therefore We command you, that you diligently set about the Premises, and for this Time do exercise and execute with Effect all those Things which belong to the Office of Steward of Great Britain, and which are required in this Behalf.  In Witness whereof We have caused these Our Letters to be made Patent.  Witness Ourself at Westminster the Fifteenth Day of April, in the Sixteenth Year of Our Reign.

By the KING Himself, signed with his own Hand.   YORKE.

Serjeant at Arms.  God save the King!

Then Garter, and the Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod, after Three Reverences, kneeling, jointly presented the white Staff to his Grace the Lord High Steward:  And then his Grace, attended by Garter, Block Rod, and the Purse-Bearer (making his proper Reverences towards the Throne) removed from the Woolpack to an armed Chair, which was placed on the uppermost Step but one of the throne, as it was prepared for that Purpose; and then seated himself in the Chair, and delivered the Staff to the Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod on his Right Hand, the Purse-Bearer holding the Purse on his Left.

Clerk of the Crown.  Serjeant at Arms, make Proclamation.

Serjeant at Arms.  Oyez, Oyez, Oyez! Our Sovereign Lord the King strictly charges and commands all manner of Persons to keep Silence, upon Pain of Imprisonment.

. . .

Lord High Steward.


You stand indicted for having married a Second Husband, your First Husband being living.

A Crime so destructive of the Peace and Happiness of private Families, and so injurious in its Consequences to the Welfare and good Order of Society, that by the Statute Law of this Kingdom it was for many Years (in your Sex) punishable with Death; the Lenity, however, of later Times has substituted a milder Punishment in its Stead.

This Consideration must necessarily tend to lessen the Perturbation of our Spirits upon this awful occasion.

But that, Madam! which, next to the inward feelings of your own conscience, will afford you most comfort is, reflecting upon the Honour, the Wisdom, and the Candour of the High Court of criminal Jurisdiction.

It is, Madam, by your particular Desire that you now stand at that Bar:  You were not brought there by any Prosecutor.

In your Petition to the Lords, praying for a speedy Trial, you assumed the Title of Duchess Dowager of Kingston, and it was by that Title that the Court of King’s Bench admitted you to Bail; in your Petition you likewise averrred, that Augustus John Hervey, whose Wife the Indictment charges you with being, is at this Time Earl of Bristol:  Upon examining their Records the Lords were satisfied of the Truth of the Averrment; and have accordingly allowed you the Privilege you petitioned for, of being tried by your Peers in full Parliament, and from them you will be sure to meet with nothing but Justice tempered with Humanity. . . .

Lord High Steward.  Madam, your Ladyship will do well to give Attention, while you are arriagned on your Indictment.

Then Proclamation was made for Silence.

After which Elizabeth Duchess Dowager of Kingston was arraigned, in the Form of the said Indictment against her, by the clerk of the Crown in the King’s Bench.


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Filed under 1770's, England, Posted by Rebecca Dresser, Trials

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