Image of two men kissingHomosexuality in Eighteenth-Century England, compiled by Rictor Norton

Verses following the Trial of the Earl of Castlehaven



A full account of the trial of the Earl of Castlehaven in 1631 for sodomy with his menservants and assistance in the rape of his wife, for which he was beheaded and two of his menservants were hanged, is published elsewhere on this site. The following verses are some of the examples of popular bawdy literature that the trial inspired.

Rictor Norton

The Epitaph
I need no trophies to adorn my hearse
My wife exalts my horns in every verse
And placed them so full upon my tomb
That for my arms there is no vacant room
Who will take such a Countess to his bed
That first gives horns and then cuts off the head?

Tis true you need no trophies to adorn your hearse
Your life being odious and below all verse
Nor was it your wife who came chaste to your bed
That did you horn; your own hands horned your head
Twas fit your head should of them most men censure
That you that lived so, should die a monster.

The Lady's Answer
Blame no your wife, for what yourself has wrought
You caused your horns in forcing me to nought
For had you been but human, not a beast
Your arms had been supporters to your crest
Nor need you yet have had a tomb or hearse
Besmeared with your sensual life in verse
Who then would take such a lord into her bed
That to gain horns himself, would lose his head.

My Lord High Steward his grace
With many a rich mace
Came guarded into the Palace
And with a pair of scales did weigh
Each word he did say
To keep his oration in ballace.

To tell you no lie
He liked the canopy
So well, and the chair he sat in
That my Lord High Steward still
Tis thought with a good will
He could have been contented to have been.

The Red Flap of the Law, next
Was to handle the text
And his part was to open the door.
But mark the disaster
My lord's grace his master
Had taken up all before.

The Attorney now began
Upon his legs to stand
Extolling the happiness of the King
That had lived so many years
And not one of his peers
Had committed so vile a thing.

And trust me twas strange
Of all that great range
That sat it out that day
That not one of them all
Should at some times fall
Wander or go a stray.

He used much scripture text
Which many there perplexed
Who did not think it possible
That a man of his trade
Who so much profit had made
Should be so well read in the Bible.

But the oration was witty
And truly twas pity
He did not longer stand
For by the quotations in the Law
He showed he was not raw
To matters that then were at hand.

The Solicitor most wise
Did lift up his eyes
And to my Lord Steward his grace
And in spite of his Majesty
For and his great canopy
Did look him full in face.

Then he declared
What might have been spared
That the fault was abominandum
And was beholding many ways
To the old English phrase
Sir Reverence non nominandum.

The prisoner now
Had leave to show
Concerning the rape of his wife
How that he did it not
But conceived it a plot
To take away him and his life.

But alas twas in vain
Himself for to strain
Since the Judges delivered in Plano
That to know by the touch
Was even just as much
As if it had been in Ano.

It's thought their trunk hose
Did also suppose
That in concubilu cum faeminis
There might be a rape
If lust made an escape
per ejectionem seminis.

But sure in this case
No dishonor to the place
Competent judges they were none
For by the close of their beards
Twas more than to be feared
They were Eunuchs every one.

Sir Thomas Fanshaw I'll swear
Above all that were there
By no means must be left out
For he fasted twelve hours and more
And two days before
To be able to turn round about.

(See also the Castlehaven trial, my analysis of the trial, and the trial of Broadway and Fitz-Patrick.)

SOURCE: Manuscript texts printed in the Appendix to Cynthia B. Herrup, A House in Gross Disorder: Sex, Law, and the 2nd Earl of Castlehaven (1999); with modernized punctuation and printing conventions.

CITATION: If you cite this Web page, please use the following citation:
Rictor Norton (Ed.), "Verses following the Trial of the Earl of Castlehaven, 1631", Homosexuality in Eighteenth-Century England: A Sourcebook. 27 September 2001, updated 15 June 2008 <>.

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