The Witches Of Belvoir Castle

Here's a tip for you:
If you hire three witches, be really careful when you fire them
(no pun intended).

This is the story of...

The Flowers Women...
aka Hexin' The Heirs...
aka The Witches Of Belvoir Castle...
aka Why HR Is Important.

BTW: It's pronounced and sometimes written Beever.

Originally posted on Twitter on the Thursday 4th July 2019.
Images via @britishlibrary's Flickr collection.

A view of Belvoir Castle and estate.

It's the early 1600s and Joan Flowers and her daughters Margaret and Philippa are down on their luck. They're taken on as domestics to help Francis Manners, Sixth Earl Of Rutland and master of Belvoir Castle, in prep for a visit by James I.

A portrait of Francis Manners, Sixth Earl Of Rutland.

Unfortunately for the Flowers women (and their employer) they weren't much suited to domestic service. Joan was said to be a "monstrous malicious woman full of oaths and curses" and Maggie was only good at stealing food.

All three were given the chop (still not a pun) and very little severance pay to boot.

Let's assume they were not best pleased about this.

In Sept 1613 the whole Manners family came down with something nasty that involved much vomiting and convulsions.

An illustration of Hamlet's three witches plotting together.

The heir, Henry Baron de Ros, died then and a few years later the next in line went too. The daughter, Katherine, was taken seriously ill but survived.

Worse still, the Earl and Countess found that they could produce no more children so no more male heirs.

Now you may say that this is the 1600s and vomiting and convulsions are the least of your troubles. And I would tell you to stop spoiling a good witch hunt.

In 1616 nine local women hanged for bewitching a young boy and harbouring familiar spirits. This gave people ideas...

A while later the Earl accused the Flowers women of cursing his family and lots of men with Titles agreed with the Earl, speaking out against the women.

All three were carted off to Lincoln gaol.

A drawing of a Tudor gentleman.

Now you may say that one or two of these Titles may have had ulterior motives. Especially George Villiers, chum of Jim One, future Duke of Buckingham and soon-to-be husband of Katherine Manners. And I would tell you to stop spoiling a good witch trial.

Joan protested her innocence to the last, even going so far as to swear that she would choke on the bread and butter she was given if she were guilty. Presumably she was because she choked on the first bite.

Maggie blamed it all on mommie dearest but hanged for it anyway, largely because sister dearest confessed for all three of them. They took three other women down with them: Anne Baker, Joan Willimot and Ellen Greene.

An illustration of the three other women.

They too were accused of having familiars and consorting with spirits. The hexing had happened by way of a literal cat burglar; Maggie's pet Rutterkin had stolen a glove for use with their evil incantations.

Now you may say that they were all herbalists/wise women/cunning folk/healers/midwives. And I would remind you that this is the Witches Of Belvoir Castle, not the Naturopaths.

All of the remaining five were convicted but Philippa may have got away with it. It was said that she escaped her fate and lived to have three children of her own.

Oh what a bedtime tale their family history must have made.

A sketch of someone hiding under the bed, only their feet sticking out.

Postscript:
Belvoir Castle not only still stands but still houses the Manners family as well as acting as Windsor, Buck House and all sorts of other noble places in TV and film productions.