Mary Lackland, or Lakeland, was burned on the Cornhill on 9th September 1645 but why? The heresy laws had been repealed in 1558/9 although they were invoked later, up to 1612/3.
This execution took place at the peak of the Matthew Hopkins witch mania but those convicted of witchcraft under English law, unlike Scotland and the continent, were routinely hanged – which was not just far more comfortable for the convict but makes life easier for scientists and historians today who can analyse bones.
About twelve years ago, I attended a talk at the University of Essex by that institution’s Professor Alison Rowlands, in which she spoke about evidence towards the identification of the St. Osyth witches, before Hopkins’ time. Hopkins himself, son of a vicar of Framlingham and Great Wenham, only lived from c.1620 to 1647 but, coinciding with the legal vacuum of the Civil War, procured the hanging of three hundred people from 1644, as well as some who died awaiting execution.
A good comparison would be the case of Margery Jourdemayne, which John Ashdown-Hill related on pp.66-8 of his Royal Marriage Secrets, who sought to foretell the future of Henry VI, for the benefit of his aunt by marriage, Eleanor Cobham. Jourdemayne was burned in 1441, and her male conspirator drawn, hanged and quartered, because this form of witchcraft amounted to high treason. There is no record of Jourdemayne predictng her own end. Other forms of treason, for which female commoners could be executed by burning in England and Wales until just over two centuries ago included the forging of coins, which bore the monarch’s face, or the killing of a husband, or a master or mistress by a servant, as such a person was considered to be a representative of the monarch.
So it was this definition of treason, together with the Witchcraft Act of 1604, under which Mary Lackland was to suffer, as the five or more people she was deemed to have killed by magic included her husband John, a barber. Although executed on the Cornhill, she is said to haunt the Buttermarket, including the Ancient House, now occupied by … Lakeland Plastics.
h/t Sam Murray.