Eulalia Page

Eulalia Page

Mrs. Bray, in her Borders of the Tamar and the Tavy , written in 1832–3, quoting a letter from her husband, the Rev. E. Atkins Bray, to Mr. Lysons, dated 16 January, 1819, tells the following story relative to Judge Glanville, of Kilworthy, near Tavistock:—

“The Judge's daughter was attached to George Stanwich, a young man of Tavistock, lieutenant of a man-of-war, whose letters, the father disapproving of the attachment, were intercepted. An old miser of Plymouth, of the name of Page, wishing to have an heir to disappoint his relations, who perhaps were too confident in calculating upon sharing his wealth, availed himself of the apparent neglect of the young sailor, and settling on her a good jointure obtained her hand. She took with her a maid-servant from Tavistock; but her husband was so penurious that he dismissed all the other servants, and caused his wife and her maid to do all the work themselves. On an interview subsequently taking place between her and Stanwich, she accused him of neglecting to write to her; and then discovered that his letters had been intercepted. The maid advised them to get rid of the old gentleman, and Stanwich at length, with great reluctance, consented to their putting an end to him. Page lived in what was afterwards the Mayoralty House (at Plymouth), and a woman who lived opposite hearing at night some sand thrown against a window, thinking it was her own, arose, and, looking out, saw a young gentleman near Page's window, and heard him say, ‘For God's sake stay your hand!' A female replied, ‘'Tis too late, the deed is done.' On the following morning it was given out that Page had died suddenly in the night, and as soon as possible he was buried. On the testimony, however, of his neighbour, the body was taken up again; and it appearing that he had been strangled, his wife, Stanwich, and the maid, were tried and executed. It is current among the common people here, that Judge Glanville, her own father, pronounced her sentence.”

In another place, Mrs. Bray says:—

“Respecting Sir John, or ‘Old Page,' I am informed by Mr. Hughes (who is well acquainted with many locally interesting stories and traditions) that he was an eminent merchant in his day, commonly called ‘Wealthy Page.' He lived in Woolster Street, Plymouth, in the house since known by the name of the Mayoralty. It stood untouched till the rebuilding of the Guildhall, when it was taken down. The old house was long an object of curiosity on account of the atrocious murder there committed. Mr. Hughes likewise tells me that some years ago, previous to the repairs in St. Andrew's Church, Plymouth, Page's coffin was discovered, on breaking the ground near the communion table for the interment of a lady named Lovell. The inscription on the coffin proved it to contain the body of the ‘wealthy Page.' It was opened; the remains were found in a remarkably perfect state, but crumbled to dust on being exposed to the air. So great was the curiosity of the populace, that during several days hundreds pressed in to gratify it, and every relic that could be stolen, if but a nail from the coffin, was carried off.”

Judge Glanville, M.P. for Tavistock in 1586, was the third son of John Glanville, of Tavistock, merchant. The family had been settled at Holwell, in Whitchurch, hard by, where they had been tanners, and though the house has been pulled down and rebuilt, yet the old tan-pits remain.

Judge Glanville married Alice, daughter of John Skirett, of Tavistock, and widow of Sir Francis Godolphin. By her he had a numerous family, but Mistress Page, whose Christian name was Eulalia, is not recorded in the Heralds' Visitation  as one of them. This, however, is in itself no evidence against her having been his daughter, as having disgraced the family she would be omitted from the pedigree. Thus, in the family of Langford, of Langford, in Bratton Clovelly, Margaret, daughter of Moses Langford, born in February, 1605, had a base child who was christened Hilary, in January, 1618, when she was aged thirteen, and married Hilary Hill, of Chimsworthy, presumedly the father, in 1619. When the family recorded their pedigree in 1620, they omitted Margaret from it altogether.

It is therefore no evidence that Eulalia was not Judge Glanville's daughter that her name does not appear in the recorded pedigree. We shall see presently, however, that she was his niece, and not his daughter.

The whole of the portion relating to Page is printed in the Shakespeare Society's Papers , II (1845, 80–5). From this we learn that Mrs. Page made an attempt to poison her husband, and when that failed, induced “one of her servants, named Robert Priddis [i.e. Prideaux],” to murder him, and “she so corrupted him ... that he solemnly undertook and vowed to performe the task to her contentment. On the other side, Strangwidge hired one Tom Stone to be an actor in this tragicall action.” The deed was accomplished about ten o'clock on the night of 11 February, 1590–1.

A full and particular account of the murder is in “A true discourse of a cruel and inhumane murder, committed upon M. Padge, of Plimouth, the 11th day of February last, 1591, by the consent of his own wife and sundry others.” From this we learn that a Mr. Glandfeeld, a man of good wealth and account as any in the county, lived at Tavistock, and that he favoured a young man named George Strangwidge, and turned over to him his shop and wares, as an experienced man in business, having learned it in the shop of Mr. Powell, of Bread Street, London. Mr. Glandfeeld was so pleased with him, that he proposed taking Strangwidge into partnership and marrying his daughter to him. But he changed his mind, being moved by ambition and avarice, and he and his wife insisted on her marrying a widower named Page, of Plymouth, an elderly man and a miser, and as Glandfeeld purposed himself removing to Plymouth, he thought that it would be best to have his daughter near him. This daughter was with difficulty persuaded to consent, but did so in the end. The result was that she took the old husband in detestation, and plotted with Strangwidge how to get rid of him. For about a year she made sundry attempts to poison him, but his good constitution prevailed. She on her part worked on one of her servants, Robert Priddis or Prideaux, and induced him for the sum of £140 reward, to murder the old man. On the other hand, Strangwidge induced one Tom Stone to assist in the deed, also for the sake of payment. “These two instruments wickedly prepared themselves to effect this desperate and villainous deed on the 11th February, being Wednesday, on which night following the act was committed; but it is to beremembered that this Mistress Page lay not then with her husband, by reason of the untimely birth of a child ... dead born; upon which cause she kept her chamber, having before sworn that she would never bear child of his getting that should prosper; which argued a most ungodly mind in this woman, for in that sort she had been the death of two of her own children.

“About ten of the clock at night, Mr. Page being in bed slumbering, could not happen upon a sound sleep, and lay musing to himself, Tom Stone came softly and knocked at the door, whereupon Priddis, his companion, did let him in; and by reason that Mistress Page gave them straight charge to dispatch it that night, whatsoever came of it, they drew towards the bed, intending immediately to go about it. Mr. Page, being not asleep, asked who came in, whereat Priddis leaped upon his master, being in his bed, who roused himself and got upon his feet, and had been hard enough for his man, but that Stone flew upon him, and took the kerchief from his head, and knitting the same about his neck, they immediately stifled him; and, as it appeareth, even in the anguish of death, Mr. Page greatly laboured to put the kerchief from about his neck, by reason of the marks and scratches which he had made with his nails upon his throat, but therewith he could not prevail, for they would not slip their hold until he was full dead. This done, they laid him overthwart the bed, and against the bedside broke his neck; and when they saw he was surely dead, they stretched him and laid him on his bed again, spreading the clothes in ordinary sort, as though no such act had been attempted, but that he had died on God's hand.

“Whereupon Priddis immediately went to Mistress Page's chamber and told her that all was dispatched; and about an hour after he came to his mistress's chamber door, and called aloud, ‘Mistress, let somebody look into my master's chamber, methinks I heard him groan.' With that she called her maid, who was not privy to anything, and had her light a candle, whereupon she slipped on a petticoat and went thither likewise, sending her maid first into the chamber, when she herself stood at the door. The maid simply felt on her master's face and found him cold and stiff, and told her mistress so; whereat she bade the maid warm a cloth and wrap it about his feet, which she did; and when she felt his legs, they were as cold as clay; whereat she cried out, saying her master was dead.

“Whereupon her mistress got her to bed, and caused her man Priddis to go call her father, Mr. Glandfeeld, then dwelling in Plymouth, and sent for one of her husband's sisters likewise, to make haste if ever she would see her brother alive, for he was taken with the disease called the pull (palsy), as they call it in that country. These persons being sent for came immediately; whereat Mistress Page arose, and in a counterfeit manner swooned; whereby there was no suspicion a long time concerning any murder performed upon him, until Mrs. Harris, his sister, spied blood about his bosom, which he had with his nails procured by scratching for the kerchief when it was about his throat. They then moved his head, and found his neck broken, and on both knees the skin beaten off, by striving with them to save his life. Mistress Harris hereupon perceiving how he was made away, went to the Mayor and the worshipful of the town, desiring of them justice, and entreated them to come and behold this lamentable spectacle, which they immediately performed, and by searching him found that he was murdered the same night.

“Upon this the Mayor committed Priddis to prison, who, being examined, did impeach Tom Stone, showing that he was a chief actor in the same. This Thomas Stone was married upon the next day after the murder was committed, and being in the midst of his jollity, was suddenly attached and committed to prison to bear his fellow company.

“Thus did the Lord unfold this wretched deed, whereby immediately the said Mistress Page attached upon murder, and examined before Sir Francis Drake, Knight, with the Mayor and other magistrates of Plymouth, who denied not the same, but said she had rather die with Strangwidge than live with Page.

“At the same time also the said George Strangwidge was nearly come to Plymouth, being very heavy and doubtful by reason he had given consent to the murder; who, being in company with some of London, was apprehended and called before the justices for the same, whereupon he confessed the truth of all and offered to prove that he had written a letter to Plymouth before coming thither, that at any hand they should not perform the act. Nevertheless, Mr. Page was murdered before the coming of this letter, and therefore he was sent to prison with the rest to Exeter; and at the Assizes holden this last Lent, the said George Strangwidge, Mistress Page, Priddis, and Tom Stone, were condemned and adjudged to die for the said fact, and were all executed accordingly upon Saturday the 20th February last, 1591.”

This is circumstantial enough, and contemporary, and it shows how that the story travelling down traditionally has been altered.

The tract above quoted—we have modernized the spelling—does not, however, give the Christian name of Mistress Page, and gives us the name of her father, Glandfeeld, a merchant tradesman of Tavistock. Glandfeeld is the same as Glanville, just as Priddis is the same as Prideaux, and as Grenville appears in the registers and in deeds as Grenfeeld and Greenfield.

That she was not the daughter of Justice Glanville is plain from the above account, but she was a niece, for Eulalia was the daughter of Nicolas, the eldest son of John Glanville, merchant, of Tavistock; he and another brother, Thomas, were in trade at Tavistock, and they were both brothers of Judge Glanville. This we learn from the Heralds' Visitation of Cornwall for 1620, where Eulalia is entered as daughter of Nicolas, but with no details concerning her.

There appeared several ballads concerning the tragedy.

1. “The Lamentation of Master Page's wife of Plimouth, who being enforced by her parents to wed against her will, did most wickedly consent to his murther, for the love of George Strangwidge , for which fact she suffered death at Bar[n]staple in Devonshire. Written with her own hand a little before her death.” This is, of course, untrue. It is one of those supposititious confessions written by the common ballad monger. By this we know that her Christian name was Ulalia .

2. “The Lamentation of George Strangwidge , who for consenting to the death of Master Page of Plimouth , suffered Death at Bar[n]staple.” In this occurs the statement that she was the daughter of “Glandfield.”

O Glandfield, cause of my committed crime,
Snared in wealth, as Birds in bush of lime,
*  *  *  *  *
I would to God thy wisdome had been more,
Or that I had not entered in the door;
Or that thou hadst a kinder Father beene
Unto thy Child, whose yeares are yet but greene.
The match unmeete which thou for much didst make,
When aged Page  thy Daughter home did take,
Well maist thou rue with teares that cannot dry.
Which was the cause that foure of us must dye.
Ulalia  faire, more bright than Summer's sunne,
Whose beauty hath my heart for ever won,
My soule more sobs to thinke of thy disgrace,
Than to behold mine own untimely race.

In this also, as will be seen, Mistress Page is Eulalia, and her father Glandfield is said to have been rich.

3. “The Sorrowful Complaint of Mistress Page  for causing her husband to be murdered, for the love of George Strangwidge , who were executed together.” This contains no particulars relative to her relationship to the Glanvilles.

It may at first sight seem strange that a crime committed at Plymouth should be expiated at Barnstaple, but the reason is simple enough. In September, 1589, the plague broke out in Exeter, and it was very fatal in that year, according to Lysons. Under ordinary circumstances the murderers of Page would have been tried at Exeter; but with the terrible remembrance of the “Black Assize” in that city in 1586, when the judge, eight justices, and all the jury except one, fell victims to the gaol fever; and the plague continuing there, the assizes of 1590 (o.s.) were removed to Barnstaple.

The Diary of Philip Wyot, town clerk of Barnstaple from 1586 to 1608, has been printed by Mr. J. R. Chanter in his Literary History of Barnstaple , and he records that the assize was held in 1590 at Honiton and at Great Torrington, “the plague being much at Exeter,” and he gives particulars of the assizes held at Barnstaple in the ensuing March, 1591 (n.s.), and he terminates thus:—

“The gibbet was set up on the Castle Green and xvii prisoners hanged, whereof iiij of Plymouth for a murder.”

The parish register gives the particulars and the names:—

“Here ffolloweth the names of the Prysoners w ch  were Buryed in the Church yeard of Barnistaple ye syce [assize] week.

“March 1590–1.

 · · · · · ·

“George Strongewithe, Buryed the xx th  daye.

“Thomas Stone, Buryed the xx th  daye.

“Robert Preidyox, Buryed at Bishopstawton y e  xx th  daye.”

The three men were hanged, but Eulalia Page was burnt alive, as guilty of petty treason. Moreover, her uncle, Justice Glanville, did not condemn her to the stake. He was serjeant-at-law, and was not made a Justice of the Common Pleas till 1598, when he was knighted. He died in 1600, and his stately monument is in Tavistock Church.

The judge who sentenced Eulalia Page was, as Wyot tells us, “Lord Anderson,” who tried all the cases “and gave judgment upon those who were to be executed.” But John Glanville, serjeant-at-law, was present at these assizes; for Wyot gives the list of the lawyers present at the time, and he names “Sergt. Glandyl” as lodging at Roy Cades. Glandyl is a mistake for Glandvyl.

As the crime of Eulalia Page was one of petty treason, she would be burnt alive, and not hanged. Petty treason, according to a statute 25 Edward III, consists in (1) a servant killing his master; (2) a wife her husband; (3) an ecclesiastic his superior, to whom he owes faith and obedience. The punishment of petty treason in a man was to be drawn and hanged, and in a woman to be drawn and burned.

Catherine Hayes was burned alive in 1726 for the murder of her husband. She is the Catherine whom Thackeray took as heroine of the story under that name. In 1769 Susanna Lott was burned for the murder of her husband at Canterbury. A poor girl, aged fifteen, was burnt at Heavitree by Exeter, in 1782, for poisoning her master. A woman was burnt for causing the death of her husband, at Winchester, in 1783.

A writer in Notes and Queries , August 10, 1850, says: “I will state a circumstance that occurred to myself in 1788. Passing in a hackney coach up the Old Bailey to West Smithfield, I saw unquenched embers of a fire opposite Newgate. On my alighting, I asked the coachman, ‘What was that fire in the Old Bailey over which the wheel of your coach passed?' ‘Oh, sir,' he replied, ‘they have been burning a woman for murdering her husband.'”

In 1790, Sir Benjamin Hammett in the House of Commons called attention to the then state of the law. He said that it had been his painful office and duty in the previous year to attend the burning of a female, he being at the time Sheriff of London; and he moved to bring in a Bill to alter the law. He showed that the sheriff who shrank from executing the sentence of burning alive was liable to a prosecution, but he thanked Heaven that there was not a man in England who would carry such a sentence literally into execution. The executioner was allowed to strangle the woman condemned to the stake before flames were applied; but such an act of humanity was a violation of the law, subjecting executioner and sheriff to penalties. The Act was passed 30 George III, c. 48.

Popular tradition has erred on many points. It has made Eulalia the daughter instead of the niece of John Glanville, it has represented him as a judge to try her seven years before he was created a judge. Tradition will have it that after the sentence of Eulalia he never smiled again. That is possible enough, as he may have defended her at the assizes, and may have witnessed her execution.

Information concerning, and republication of tracts and ballads relative to the murder of Page are in H. F. Whitfeld's Plymouth and Devonport, in Times of War and Peace , Plymouth, 1900. This also gives extracts from, and mention of, plays founded on the story.