The trial of Jehanne Becquet, 1567

31st July 2015

The good citizens of St Martin's are asked to give evidence in this tragic case. Transcribed by Edith Carey into her notebook, Jehanne Becquet's trial for child murder, with her annotations. From Sir E MacCulloch's MSS. Livre ès Crimes I 60. Jehanne would have known that it was essential for her to show her baby to witnesses, even if it had been stillborn, but she was unable or unwilling to do so. Make your own mind up about her. Do you agree with the court's verdict?

[On the 13th line:]

14th December 1567. Before Thomas Compton, Bailiff, Thomas Effart, Guillaume Beauvoir, & Nicollas Martin jurats, Nicolas Trohardy Queen's Procureur.

The Court rules that as there is a strong rumour doing the rounds of the parish of St Martin that a woman named Johanne Becquet, daughter of John, had been pregnant and that she had given birth to a child in her father's house, and that this child had never been seen or in any way come to the attention of her neighbours, the Procureur and the Prevost should go and find this Johanne and her father Jean and bring them before the Court so that the truth of these circumstances may be established.

[The next day the hearing was resumed before the Bailiff, Guillaume Beauvoir, Nicolas Martin and Thomas Le Marchant.] John Becquet and his daughter Johanne have been brought before us (having previously been interrogated separately and exhorted to tell the truth about this matter) and have made the following statements:

Jehanne Becquet  ... admitted that she was expecting the child of Collas Mauger Junior, of La Villette, and denied to the Procureur that she had ever given birth to a child, although she was pregnant. Thereupon the Procureur produced two wise women—Collenette L'Olyer and Johanette La Coustancheye—and required them to examine her. They did so and found that Johanne had indeed given birth very recently and that she was no longer pregnant, something that Jehanne continued to deny, saying she was willing to submit to an inquiry [enquête] of the parishioners of St Martin to prove the truth of her story and her behaviour.

John Becquet, upon being interrogated upon this matter, told us, cursing dreadfully—raging and taking God's name in vain—that he knew nothing whatsoever about his daughter's pregnancy, nor that she had given birth, and agreed to subject himself to an enquête of the parish of St Martin.

After hearing both of their statements and denials and taking into account the father's awful cursing, the Procureur felt it necessary to ask for their arrest, and confiscation of their goods, and this request was granted.

The Inquiry took place on the 16th December, 1567, in the presence of Thomas Compton, the Bailiff, Nicollas Martin and Nicollas Pageot, jurats.

Nicholas Guille: knew nothing about it. Pierre de Beaugy: said that the previous [desrain] Friday he saw Johanne Bequet, that she came from the Quarry [Carrière] and said that she seemed very weak. The wife of Pierre de Beaugy, Thomasse de Beaugy, Colenette De Garys, Thomas Maugeur's wife, Christine de Bertrand, Lorence de Beaugy, Michielle Falaize, and Françoise Maugeur, had nothing to say about it. Collenette de Bertrand said that she had assumed and believed that Jehanne was pregnant.

Collette Mauguer, Michielle Ollyvier, Johanne Tourtell, Marie Maugeur, Marie, wife of Martin Maugeur, Janne Johan, the wife of Pierre Ollyvier, Thomasse Martin, Jehanette Maugeur, the wife of Collas Vaulcourt, Perotyne Behot, Margitte Marche, Renaulde Le Paige, Françoise Thoumes, Coliche Vaulcourt, Perotine Feryere, Annotte[?] Marche, Marguitte Le Paige, and Anne Behot, had nothing to say.

The wife of John Tardif said that Jehanne was a girl who had a bad reputation amongst the whole parish for promiscuity.

Marie Colleton, Collette, the wife of Collin Thoumes, Perotyne Vaulcourt, Anne Marche, and Jenette Maugeur, nothing to say. Anne Chouquet said that on her way to seeing to her animals last Thursday morning she took the path in front of John Becquet's house and saw John Becquet, who was crying and upset. Catheryne, the wife of John Thoumes, Jenette de Bertrand, and Colette Le Paige, nothing.

Perotyne, the wife of Collas de Bertrand, testified that the previous Thursday afternoon John Becquet came to her house for a jug of wine and a loaf of bread costing half a silver gros, which he took and said he was on his way to the Carrière.

Jehannette Maugeur said that very early last Friday morning she saw John Becquet on his way to the Quarry and he had stakes and a hammer. His daughter was with him and she was carrying something in her apron, but she did not know what it was. Johanne Le Paige, Michielle Tardif, Marie Le Paige, Lorenche Le Paige, Jenette Le Paige, Colliche Colleton, Francoise de la Rue, Cetheryine Robert, and Perotine Effart, all had nothing to say.

Alichette de L'Estoc said that she had heard that Jehanne Becquet was with child before last August and that last Sunday the people from round the Villette way told her that Johanne's stomach had dropped. Marie Maindonall, Catheryne, separated wife [delaissée] of Henry Tardif, Perotyne Effart, and James de la Rue, nothing. Michiel de Bertrand testified that the rumour had gone round the parish of St Martin around August, and said that she was a girl who moved about and did not stay in one place for long, and that she was a loose woman [courssyère].

Collas Marche said that last Friday at approximately one in the afternoon he had seen John Becquet and his daughter walking up the hills near the end of the Camps de la Monée. Symone Martin, Catheryne Maugeur, Perotyne Maugeur, and Richarde Pillon, nothing to say. Jenette, wife of Pierre Martin, said that she had seen Johanne Becquet last Sunday and she looked as though her stomach had dropped, more than when they used to spend time together, and it was a good 3 weeks ago that she shared a bed with her and that it was parish gossip that she was expecting and that she looked a lot different.

The wife of Bastien Pillon, Thomasse Tardif, Michielle Marche, and Johannette Symon, nothing to say. Johanne, the wife of Thomas Martin, said that last Sunday she saw Jehanne Becquet and she looked as though her stomach had dropped, her stomach looked different, and that her appearance seemed changed, she looked grey, and that several women had commented on it.

Collette Ronchin said that when on the previous Thursday she had gone round to John Becquet's house to get some fuel, Jean Becquet was there on one side of the hearth and his daughter Jehanne on the other, and [she] asked her what the matter was, and was she unwell, and Jehanne replied that she had a bad pain in her side, and that the pain had started during the night before on her way back from the veille and said that [she] thought last Sunday in St Martin's church that Jehanne looked different because her stomach had dropped and she looked green about the gills.

Marie Lequesne said that Jehanne was pregnant about last mid-August, and everyone was talking about it; and that she told her several times she had to be careful, and that her stomach looked different; and in reply Jehanne had put her hands over her stomach and said that it was just because she was fat. Item. She also said she saw Jehanne last Sunday in church and she looked ashen.

Martin and Collin Maugeur, nothing to add. John Thoumes said that last Friday at about 9 a.m. he saw Jehanne on her way to the Carrière in Discart and that he saw her return on the same day at about three p.m. and she looked very pregnant. James Martin, nothing. John Jehan states that he saw John Becquet and his daughter Johanne last Friday at about two p.m. and that they were on their way to the Mare [meir] at Discart and that they seemed in a bit of a hurry.

Collas Martin son of Martin, Andry de Havylland, Collas de Havylland, Henry Tardyff, John Le Goueys, Pierre Tardiff: nothing. Thomas Mauger said he had heard John Becquet say that his daughter Johanne did nothing for him, and that he had sold a pewter porringer to buy her wine, and that last Friday he took her to the quarry with him. James de Havilland, Thomas Vaulcourt and his son, Collas de Bertran, Thomas de Bertran, Collas Robert, Martin Mauger, John de la Rue, Thomas de la Rue, John de la Rue, John Maugeur, Collin Maugeur, Pierre Ollivier, and Renouvet Sauvary: nothing.

Guillaume Le Page said that about 3 weeks ago Johanne Becquet was in one of his fields on her way home and that he was absolutely sure, to the best of his knowledge and belief, that she was pregnant. Thomas Marche and son, Collas Mauger, Collas Vaulcourt, and Collas Le Paige, nothing. Collas Colleton said that he had heard from Jehanne's neighbours that she was pregnant and that she had had the baby. John Le Paige, Flocell Le Paige, and John Le Paige son of John, nothing.

Collas de L'Estoc said that last Thursday morning passing by John Becquet's house he heard Becquet shouting and saying to his daughter Johanne, 'What the hell's the matter with you?' Item. He also said that last Friday he saw Becquet and his daughter and that Becquet had a carrier-bag over his jacket and his daughter had her apron on, and they were on their way to the Quarry, and that he saw them return the same day and they were only bringing 2 or 3 baskets of furze back with them.

Pierre Le Paige, Collas Mauger son of Jehannet, Collas Corbin, John Martin, John Symon, Thomas Martin, John de Moulepy, Collin de Moulpy, James Symon, and Collas Le Cornu, nothing.

Collin Thoumes testified that he noticed in the middle of September that Johanne Becquet was expecting and that he had told the minister about it several times. Item. He also added that at dawn on Thursday he heard a loud noise coming from John Becquet's house, and so he went up to the house and heard what he took to be Becquet's daughter shout 'Jésus Notre Dame, Dieu me soit en ayde!' ['Jesu, Our Lady, God help me!'] and heard what seemed to be Becquet shouting 'What the great devil is wrong with you? I knew I would end up getting involved in this,' saying to her, 'Now what's the matter? Lie down on your bed.' 'Yes I will,' she replied, 'I don't think can stand it for long,' to which Becquet replied, 'Lie down on some bracken.' 'Alright, I will,' she said to him. 'Go and find some fuel.' When the witness heard this he went off to find his wife, and [torn] [she] told him she would get some of the neighbours' wives together to see [torn] what was going on in the house, and afterwards went to find the wife of Collas De l'Estoc to come with his wife, and they came and went into Becquet's house and found Johanne beside the hearth in disarray, with her father at the opposite side of the hearth; Becquet told them it was none of their business, and that his daughter just had a pain in her side. And early on Friday morning he was coming from Thomas Martin's house when he saw Johanne talking to Helier Bonamy's servant-girl; she looked very ill and her stomach had dropped, and this made him think and believe that she had had her baby. He said that Thomasse Johan (wife of Collas Martin) told him that she had said to the Becquet girl, 'You've really done it now, poor miserable creature that you are.'

Collas de Moulpy and Henry Behot had nothing to say. Collette, wife of Collin Thoumes, said that last Thursday morning she was with the wife of Collas L'Estoc in John Becquet's house, and that she found Becquet sitting beside the hearth and his daughter also there on the other side, who was in a real mess, and Becquet had told them that it was nothing to do with them and that his daughter had a pain in her side. Jenette, the wife of Collas de l'Estoc, said that she agreed totally with what Thoumes' wife said had happened. Jenette [two blank lines]

17th (trial resumed.) Before the Bailiff, John Blondell and Nicollas Martin, jurats. Collas Guille, Hellyer Bonamy, John Thoumes, Pierre Le Paige, Collas Effart, and Flocell Le Paige, testified on oath that this day, being ordered by the Queen's Officers, they had visited John Becquet's house, where they had found a woman's shirt, all bloodied, and bloodstains on some straw, and that they had found similar bloodstains near the door and on the wall on the south side of the house.

18th of December (in the presence of the Bailiff, Nicolas de la Court, James Guille, Guillaume Beauvoir, Nicollas Martin, and Nicollas Pageot, jurats. Jehanne Becquet admitted that on Wednesday, the 10th of December last, she went into labour before midday, and that at about one o'clock in the afternoon she had given birth to a child in her father's house, on her own; it was a girl. The following Thursday she took the child to the beach [gallé] at Petit Bo and buried it beneath the sand on the south, St Martin's side, and covered it with stones. She testified that the father was Collas Maugeur Junior, and that this Collas Maugeur had spoken to her the Saturday before the child was born, and he told her that if she was pregnant he did not want to be disgraced in front of everybody.


Part II: the Becquets are interrogated. Livre en Crime I 64 a.

22 December 1567. The Bailiff presiding, in the presence of Nicollas de la Court. Thomas Effart, James Guille, Johan Blondell, Guillome Beauvoir, Nicollas Saumares, Nicollas Martin, Thomas Le Marchant, Nicollas Le Mesurier and Nicollas Pageot. 

The Queen's Officers brought before us John Becquet and his daughter Johanne, asking us to examine them immediately, each separately, and then each in the presence of the other, to get a fuller understanding of how Johanne's child came to be killed.

John Becquet was brought before us, cautioned, and diligently advised and urged to admit the truth of the matter. Once he had been separated from his daughter, he told us that on Thursday afternoon he had been at Collas Bertram's house, and had brought with him a pewter dish to get some bread and wine, which he obtained and then took the bread and wine back to his house, but that when he got there his daughter was nowhere to be found. And that it is not true [?faucays] that she ate or drank the bread and wine nor that he went and looked for his daughter. Item said that his daughter did not sleep at his house on the Wednesday or the Thursday, and that before that he had gone to get some brambles at the house of Collas Lyhou, which he brought back home. He said his daughter often went out with Collas Maugeur son of Collas, and also that whenever Collas Maugeur came to his house and his daughter was not there, Maugeur left. And he testified that the women came to his house when Collin Thoumes had called them out. Item. Jehanne Becquet was straight away examined on the matter, her father being present, and she said that on the Wednesday she slept at her father's house and the [next] Thursday at her father's, in her bed, and that her father went to Collas Bertran's to get some bread and wine, and that her father gave her some of it, and she ate and drank it. And she said that he had brought some brambles and beechwood to make a fire, which he had got from Johanne Rougett. Jehanne's testimony contradicted her father's, and he, when told forcibly that he should not deny the truth but should admit it, confessed that his daughter's story was the truth, even though he had just told [us] the opposite.

[Omitted.] Item. In addition, Johanne confessed that she put her child alongside her and on some straw beside her in bed and that is how she kept her from the Wednesday to the Thursday and after that she took her to Petyt Bo as she had previously described.

Livre de jugements & ordonnances. Vol. 1 fol. 205. 3rd line.

22 December 1567, Thomas Compton, Bailiff, presiding, Nicollas de la Court, Thomas Effart, James Guille, John Blondell, Guillaume Beauvoir, Nicollas Sausmares, Nicollas Martin, Thomas Le Marchant, Nicollas Pageot & Nicollas Le Mesurier, jurats. At the instance of the officials of St Martin, John Becquet and Johanne his daughter appeared before us, and the officers put it to them that they had killed and slain the child that Jehanne Becquet had given birth to in Becquet's house, and that considering this they ought to confess and tell the truth about the matter; Becquet and his daughter were interrogated separately and urged in each other's presence to admit the truth (as is allowed in the Livre des Enquestes). It was decided that Becquet and his daughter should be returned to prison in Castle Cornet, and that the officers should adjourn the their rest of their enquiries until 30 December.

Livre en crime. Enquêtes. I 65 A. 30 December, before the Bailiff. Thomas Effart, James Guille, Guillaume Beauvoir, Nicollas Saumres, & Thomas Le Marchant, jurats. An inquiry was held at the request of the Officers concerning the facts of the case of John Becquet and his daughter Johanne Becquet.

Collas De Hacquebec, Gilles Du Pont, Pierre Blanche Junior, James Blanche Junior, Collas Blanche and his wife, the wife of James Blanche [See note], Bastien Pillon, the wife of John Tardiff, James Gauvain, Pierre Ollyvier, Cristine Bertran, Colliche de la Rue, Michielle de Havyland, Perotyne Blanche, John le Cacher, Catheryne Gauvain, Agnes Hubert, Pierre Guille, and Alichette Guérant, nothing to say. Pierre de Beaugy said that he heard on the Friday that Jehanne Becquet had had a baby on the Wednesday after she and her father had returned from the Quarry. And he was of the opinion that John Becquet was one of those responsible for what had been done to the child, and that Becquet had told him several times that his daughter was pregnant.

Pierre Blanche Senior, Michielle Le Gallies, the wife of Pierre de Beaugy, Thomas Marche, nothing.

Thomas Ollivier son of Pierre said that John Becquet was a great blasphemer, misusing God's name and raging, and that his daughter Johanne Becquet was a supercilious and arrogant girl. The wife of Pierre Blanche junior, John Tourtell and his wife, Collenette de Garys, Marie Blanche, Jenette de Bertrand, Pierre Duport, Simone Duport, and Johanne Duport: nothing to say.
Perotine, the wife of Michiel Le Galles, testified that it was rumoured all around the parish of St Martin that John Becquet had played a part in what had happened to his daughter's baby.

Collenette Duport, Thomasse Effart, the wife of Hellyer Bonamy, Collette Marche, the wife of Collas de Hecquebec, Perotine, wife of Thomas Robert, the wife of Flocell Falaze, the wife of Guillome le Cuenell [Quesnel], the wife of Johannet Robert: nothing.
Hellyer Bonamy told the court that John Becquet was a great blasphemer and a drunkard. Perotyne Vaulcourt, Catheryn Mautalert[?], Thomasse Desperques, Catheryne Tardyff, the wife of James Ollyvier, the wife of Francois de Vauryouf, Johanne Ferost, James Pitart and his wife, Marie Guignon, Collenette Behot, Michielle Guille, Collas Dupont, Jenette Le Petevin, the wife of Pierrot Hugues, Marie Le Mesuriere, the wife of Guillome Mado, Coliche Barbeq, Marie Ferost, Collenette du Parc, Marie Blanche, Symone Abraham, the wife of Collas Ferost, Michiel Guignon: nothing.

Collette Robert said that the rumour in the parish was that John Becquet had collaborated in whatever his daughter did with her baby. Collenette, the wife of Thomas Hubert, said that she was only too well aware that John Becquet and his gang had a bad reputation, and that previously he and his mates had come to their house and beat her and her husband up.

Coliche Tortell, Marie Robert, Catheryne Robert, Michiell Pitart, Symone Tourtell, Catheryne Tourtell, Colette Tourtell, the wife of John Desperques, Georgette De Callees, Collette Tardyff, Jenette, Thomasse, Susanna Mayndonall, the wife of Thomas Mayndonall, Collette Blanche, Catheryne Blanche, Thomasse Hubert, Marie Hubert, Catheryne Robert, Collenette Maugeur, Marguitte Petevin, Collenette Tyrell, the wife of John Babeq, Catheryne Babeq, Thomasse Babeq, Marie Le Chevalier, Philippine Le Chevalier, Thomasse de Moulepy: nothing. Marie, the wife of Robin Le Retilley, said she had heard Becquet's neighbours saying that Becquet and his daughter had hurled the baby down.

The wife of Jacques de Bertrand, Pierre du Port, Francois de Vauryouff, James de la Rue, Francois Barbey, James Mayndonall: nothing. Francois Robert testified that John Bequet was a great blasphemer and a drunkard. Collas Robert, Jehannet Robert, Thomas Mauger, John Mado, Thomas Mado, Pierre Bourgoys, Thomas Hubert, Jacques Hubert, John Hubert, Guillome Mesley, Collas Ollyvier, Guillome Le Cucuell, Martin Tardyff, Thomas Mayndonall, Pierre Hugues, Richard Gerant, Thomas Behott [see note]: nothing to say.

Thomas Robert said that he knew well that Becquet was a blasphemer and a drunkard who was often out of control. Pierre de L'Estoc said that whenever John Becquet needed fuel for his fire he took it from his neighbours' earth banks, and that he was a blasphemer and a drunkard.

Robin Le Retilley, Collas Le Retilley, John Le Chevelyer, Pierre Tardyff [see note], Martin de Callees, Collas Nicolle: nothing. Thomas Tourtell said that he had come across John Becquet more than once wandering about the streets cursing and blaspheming. John Rabey Senior and Junior, John Le Gaveys, Massey Dosset[?], Denys de Parc, Georges Le Retilley: nothing.

Collas Ronchin said that he knew that John Becquet was the kind of man who pulled down and broke up other people's earth banks and took away the fuel, and that he was a blasphemer and a drunkard and frequently invoked the name of the devil. Michel Guignon said that Bequet was a blasphemer. Jehannet Desperques [see note], John Desperques, John Le Retilley and Pierre Le Retilley, Guillome Ollyvier, Thomas Ollyvier, Thomas Ollyvier, Coliche Ollyvier, Joihn Rouget, Flocel Falaize, Georges du Parc, Collas de Callees, Andry de Havilland, Henry Tardyff, Peronelle Le [L]acheur, Michielle Robert, Benoest Hamon, John de Callies, Collas Houyvet, Collas Robert and his wife, Martin Mauger and his wife, Collin Mauger, Collas Mauger, Renolde Le Paige, John Le Goueys, Michiel Le Goueys, James de Havylland, Collas de Havylland, Pierre Tardyff and Thomasse, Thomas Vaulcourt, Perotyne de Bertrand, Michielle Faleze, Francoise Maugeur, Martine Maugeur, Catheryne Maugeur, Perotyne Maugeur, the sife of Thomas Maugeur, Francoize de la Rue, Perotyne Behot, Janne Johan: nothing.

Guillaume Le Paige said that he had met Bequet several times carrying a lot of fuel, either furze or fern, and for six months or so he has known that it did not come from his own land, but he did not know where he had got it. And he said he was a common curser, and a drunk.

Michielle de Bertrand said that about a year ago he saw John Becquet in a field belonging to the late John Maugeur's children, where he was digging up turnips and putting them in his jacket pocket and then he cleared off away from the field.
Martin Maugeur said that Becquet is a great blasphemer and terrible drunk. Collas Maugeur --- (MS ends here.)

Continued from original in Greffe (p. 67)

Collin Maugeur said that two years ago he saw Jean Bequet with a bundle of willow which he must have cut from George Tardyff's field, and that when Becquet saw him he ran off over the earth banks, and he said he was a real drunkard. The wife of Thomas Marche, Jehannet Mauger, Jeanne Tortell, the wife of Collas Vaulcourt, the wife of Pierre Ollyvier, Michelle Ollyer: nothing. Collas Maugeur, Jenette Maugeur, the wife of Collas Colleton, Perotyne Effart, Marie Gascoing, Marie Le Paige, the wife of John Martin: nothing.

Jenette, the wife of Pierre Martin, said that over a year ago she had seen Becquet cutting fuel from the bottom of one of their earth banks. Catheryne Thomes reported that she had seen Bequet several times with a load of bundles of cut fuel which he had taken from her fields. 68. Françoise Thomes reported that over the last few months she had seen Bequet in her fields with a bundle of cut willow over his shoulder which he must have cut from one of her fields.

John Martin said [the same.] Collenette Conchin, Marie Le Paige, Johanne , nothing. Loranche Maugier said the same about George Tardyff's land, and that he had taken fuel from her a month ago. Jenette Le Paige said that Bequet had taken fuel from the Vallee de Vaurouff; Colette le Paige and Collette Thomes said the same. Jenette Martin said she saw him 6 weeks ago with a load of applewood he had cut from the field belonging to Collin Maugeur. James Martin, Johanne Martin, John Jehan and Thomas Marche gave the same sort of evidence. John Marche, Collas Marche, Collas Maugeur son of Philippin, Pierre Le Paige, Collin Mauguer of the Vale, Andry Marche, John Le Paige, Henry Behott, John Symon, Renouvet Sauvary, Thomas Mauguer, Collas Vaulourt, Janin de la Rue, Collas Marche, Thomas LE Paige, John de Moulepy, Collas de Moulepy, the wife of James Symon: nothing.

Collas Martin, son of Martin: the same. John Le Paige testified that since last Michaelmas he had seen Bequet cut willow from Nicolas Maugeur's banks and take it home and several times he had seen him take several bundles of willow to the communal oven to sell, and that he had stolen from his neighbours, such as John and Colin Thomes and others. Collas Colleton testified that a couple of years ago he saw Bequet carrying 2 live chickens in his breeches at once and another time a dead one, and on a third occasion it was 2 poussins. Each time he took them off in to the forest, and he knew perfectly well that they did not belong to him, and the neighbours were complaining that their fowl were missing; and in addition a month ago he had seen Bequet carrying off some bracken he had taken from Michiell Rouget's bracken-brake. Collas de Lestac said that he had twice seen Bequet cut willow off the banks of Pierre Tardyff's field and take it off to his house, and that he had seen him a few times take young willow off to the Forest [poss. 'into the forest'], and he did not know where he had got it from. Collas Le Paige had seen Bequet about a year ago going to the Forest with a chicken in his bag which he was trying to hide, and that it did not belong to him but he did not know where he has got it from, and that he had seen him taking willow to the Forest. Pierre Martin reported that he had seen him cutting willow off Collin Thoumes' bank and when he had told him he was doing wrong, Becquet had replied that he had permission to do it.

Thomas Martin testified that he had twice seen Bequet cutting apple wood in Collin Maugeur's orchard, taking away as much as he could manage, and that he had seen him several times carrying willow off to the Forest and that he had done his neighbours a great deal of damage, and that he was no good.

John de Moulepy reported that a year ago he had seen Bequet in Johanne Rouget's field, cutting and taking away fuel. Collin Thomes said he had seen him cutting willow, furze and other fuel every day for the past year or so from his fields [that used to belong to] Thomas Martin. John Thomes had twice seen Bequet cutting willow in Pierre Tardyff's field and thought that he had sold it. Collas Mauguer had seen Bequet several times carrying bundles of fuel, but did not know where he had acquired them. James Symon said that Becquet was a great blasphemer and a drunkard.


Part III: the verdict

7 January 1567, the Bailiff presiding, Nicolas de la Court, Thomas Effart, James Guille, Johan Blondel, Guillome Beauvoir, Nicollas Saumares, Nicollas Martin, Thomas Le Marchant, Nicollas Pageot and Nicollas Le Mesurier, jurats.

At the request of the Queen's Officers, Johann Becquet and his daughter Johanne appeared before us. They were urged to tell the truth about the killing of Jehanne's baby, of what exactly happened, and this is what they told us:

First: John Becquet told us, notwithstanding his denials and terrible oaths made under the influence of drink, that he was in his house when he heard Collin Thomes say that Johanne Becquet was in labour, and said that the rumour spread around the parish of St Martin in August and that his daughter told him she gave birth on the Wednesday the 10th of October last, or at about one o'clock in the morning of the Thursday, that there had been hardly any waters, and that it was tiny tiny and when I heard that I said to her, 'You slut, what have you done with your baby, where is it. Make sure you tell the truth, be careful they don't do with you what they did with the Caushezes, you slut.' And then his daughter told him she had taken the baby to Petit Bo; and that on the way back a [need?] came upon her to go back and fetch it, but that the devil possessed her and that she never managed to go back, and that she could have gone to the house of Leonard at the Caches but that she could not bring herself to, and that the child was not alive, and when I heard this I said to my daughter, 'You wicked slut, go and find your baby and show it to the neighbours' and she replied 'What's it got to do with you,' and after that I said to her, 'You will get yourself burnt at the stake like the Caucheyes.'¹ Item. He also said that in the evening of the day his daughter gave birth she went out to a party, and that on the Thursday she took the baby to Petit Bo and that that morning the women came to his house offering her their help with her labour, and that he sent them away. Item. In addition he said that his daughter had told him on the Thursday morning that she had the child with hardly any waters and that the child was still in the house, but that he had not seen it, and that evening while he was having his dinner he asked her where her child was and she told him she had taken it to Petit Bo. And the next day, which was the Friday, he took his daughter with him to the Quarry.

Jehanne Becquet testified that on the Thursday morning her father John Becquet asked her if she had had a baby and she replied that she had, and that there had been hardly any waters and that it was very tiny and that the child was in her keeping at that moment. That same day at nine o'clock in the morning she carried the baby wrapped in her apron to Petit Bo. Around Thursday midday she thought she might go to Leonard Le Lacheur's house but she could not go and said that she felt she had to go and retrieve the child, [but] that she got as far as the Moulin de Bas at Petit Bo when she was overcome with such evil thoughts that she did not have the strength of will to go and find her baby; that evening at dinnertime he asked her what she had done with her baby, and she told him that she had taken it to Petit Bo (as she has previously explained) and he said to her, you will get yourself burnt like the Caucheyes. She admitted that she had sworn in front of the Dean that she was not pregnant when in fact she was.

After we had heard this testimony we had to come to a decision about guilt and punishment. After Jehanne's confession the Officers asked us to question the wise women who had examined Jehanne about the baby. The women told us that judging by the amount of milk in Jehanne's breasts and their size, that the child was as she had described it, and must have been at least six months old [and that?] [if it?] was alive at that time.

Livre de Jugements I p. 409

The 22nd day of December 1567, Thomas Compton presiding, Nicolas de la Court, Thomas Effart, James Guille, John Blondell, Guillome Beauvoir, Nicollas Sausmares, Nicollas Martin, Thomas Le Marchant, Nicollas Pageot, & Nicollas Le Mesurier, Jurats.
At the instance of the Queen's Officers, John Becquet and his daughter Jehanne appeared before us, and the Officers put to them the accusation that Jehanne had given birth in her father's house and that they had killed and murdered the baby, and that being so they had to confess the truth of the matter, Becquet and his daughter having been interrogated separately and in each other's presence, as is laid out in the Book of Inquests. It was ruled that Becquet and his daughter should return to prison in the Castle and that the Officers should continue with the remainder of their enquiries on Tuesday the 30th of next month.

12 January 1567 (before the same).

The Queen's Officers charged Collas Maugeur with having relations and consorting with Johanne Becquet daughter of John, based on the evidence they had gleaned from their interrogations of Maugeur, Maugeur denying both charges before the Procureur. The Court decided that Maugeur should return to prison in the Castle. (After various remands.)

16 January 1567 (p. 411) (before the same). Johanne Becquet daughter of John of St Martin, found guilty and condemned for her crimes of having murdered her illegitimate baby, of never having brought it out in public or shown it alive or dead to the Court or to anyone else, and of never having indicated any place it might be found. The Court having duly taken evidence from her own testimony and from due inquiries and process concerning this matter, and at the instance of the Queen's Officers, sentence her to this day to be burnt and consumed to ashes, and all her worldly goods and inheritances confiscated by the Crown; and the Officers are charged with the execution of this order.

5 February 1567 (before same). John Becquet Senior of St Martin is found guilty of the crimes of having taken part in and agreeing to the murder of his daughter Johanne's baby, and of having concealed the murder, and for his thieving, according to the evidence duly obtained by the Court, and sentenced to be this day hanged by the neck until he be dead, and all his worldly goods are to be confiscated. [From the French.]


The legal background to this and similar cases can be found in D. Ogier, 'New-born child murder in Reformation Guernsey,' in Commise 1204, ed. Gordon Dawes, Guernsey: The Guernsey Bar, 2005, in the Library.

¹'We should not forget La Béquette, the poor young girl who was burnt at the stake, a little more than two centuries ago, for having murdered the minister [Reverend] Dolbel at Torteval by throwing 'black powder' on him as he climbed up into the pulpit.' So said George Métivier in a note in his Poésies guernesiaises et françaises, 1883, p. 36. Isabel Becquet, the wife of Jean Le Moigne, was tortured and burnt at the stake in 1617, along with Colette du Mont, the widow of Jean Becquet, and Marie, her daughter, the wife of Pierre Massy. The Masseys and the Becquets are linked; and thus, perhaps, are the Guernsey Martyrs and these Guernsey 'witches.' The connection between the Masseys and the Becquets may indicate that the Martyrs and the Becquets on trial here were also relatives, and may be precisely why Jean Becquet warns Jehanne of their fate. Many of these families seem to have lived on the fringes of society, whether by choice or necessity, and as such they were victims of their own poverty and that tendency to rebel so often displayed by people with very little to lose.