“There was a Beldame called the wytch of Ey
Old mother Madge her neyghbours did hir name
Which wrought wonders in countryes by heresaye.
Both feendes and fayries her charmyng would obay
And dead corpsis from grave she could uprere.
Suche an inchauntresse, as that tyme had no peere”.
On this day in 1441, Margery Jordemaine, the so-called “Witch of Eye” was burnt at the stake at Smithfield for alleged treason – specifically, for her part in a conspiracy to kill the then King, Henry VI, through witchcraft. The event went on to be immortalised by Shakespeare in his play about the king.
Contrary to popular belief, the burning of witches was evidently a comparatively rare event in Medieval England. Malcolm Gaskill, in his book Witchfinders, published in 2005, records that only 3 witches were burned in England between 1440-1650 (although also that a further 200 were hanged).