Dame Alice Lisle 1617-1685
Dame Alice Lisle, born c.1617, was the daughter of Sir William White Beconshaw of Moyles Court, Ellingham, Hampshire. She married John Lisle of Wootton, Isle of Wight in 1630.
Her notoriety came about as she was a staunch Royalist whereas her husband was a Cromwellian and staunch Parliamentarian who, during the English Civil War (1642-1646), was also one of the judges during the trial of Charles I. He was made a Joint Commissioner of the Great Seal.
After the death of Charles II (1685) James II succeed to the Crown but this was disputed by James, Duke of Monmouth. Preparations were made to overthrow James and eventually Monmouth landed at Lyme Regis, Dorset in June 1685. His ill-equipped and untrained army met the Royal Army at Sedgemoor, Somerset where it was routed. Monmouth fled the field and was captured at Ringwood, subsequently being beheaded in London. Monmouth’s followers were rounded up and the notorious Judge Jefferies toured the West Country condemning 1300 souls to death or deportation.
A couple of weeks after the Sedgemoor battle Dame Alice unwittingly gave shelter to three fugitives for one night.They were the outlaw Richard Nelthorp (whom she did not know), John Hicks a respectable Presbyterian minister from Keynsham,and James Dunne, their guide from Warminster. Hicks and Nelthorp sought shelter with Alice after fleeing the battle of Sedgemoor. Although Alice knew Hicks was wanted she thought this was for his religious dissent. Hicks was discovered hiding in the malthouse and Nelthorp was pulled out of a chimney. They were arrested by Colonel Penruddock and, after trial, were hung, drawn and quartered.
Alice however was charged with harbouring the King’s enemies, taken first to Fisherton Gaol in Salisbury and held there for five weeks before being transferred to Winchester and tried for treason, by Judge Jeffries. Three times the jury found her innocent and three times Judge Jeffries refused to accept the verdict. Finally after much coercion and probably fear for their own lives, the jury found her guilty and she was sentenced to be burnt at the stake, a sentence primarily reserved for laymen and women. Alice Lisle however was a lady, so she appealed and got the sentence commuted to a simple beheading in keeping with her station. In a final indignity, Lisle was axed right there in the market place at Winchester on the 2 September 1685.
Her remains were carried back to St Mary’s Church, Ellingham, where she was buried.
History of the de Lisles, part of the project from Wootton Millennium Project condensed version available from archivistStE@aol.com