1661, Richard Williams, a royal servant, seeks to benefit from a traitor’s execution

Transcription from ‘Petitions in the State Papers: 1660s’, in Petitions in the State Papers, 1600-1699, ed. Brodie Waddell, British History Online, Richard Williams, one of the yeomen ushers of the king’s great chamber. SP 29/29 f. 63 (1661).

To the King’s most excellent majestie.

The humble peticion of Richard Williams, one of the yeomen ushers of your majesties greate chamber in ordinary.

Sheweth: that your peticioner was one of the greate chamber in ordinary to your late grand=father King James of blessed memory and alsoe to your late father King Charles of glorious memory and now continueth in the same under your sacred majestie.

That during your peticioners attendance on your said royall father in the late trobles, all his estate was for that cause seized on and sequestred by the then Parliament authority to your poore peticioners utter ruyne, and now hee being growne very aged and infirme in body is incapable of susteyneing himself.

Your peticioner therefore humbly prayes that your majestie will bee pleased (considering his said losses and sufferings) to graunt him the goodes and chattells late of Giles Pritchard whoe was executed on the 19th of January 1660, in Cheapside London, for treason, and your peticioner shall ever pray etc.

[paratext:] January 25 1660 Richard Williams one of his majesties yeoman ushers for the personall estate of Giles Pritchard lately executed for treason in Pauls church yard

Referred to the sheriffe of London to certify whether any inquisition [soe taken and what?] [natere the fees amount?] to.

Report by Pauline Brown

Richard Williams, one of the Yeomen ushers to the King, who had previously served both James I and Charles I, had had all his assets confiscated during the Republic. In this petition, he is asking for the goods and chattels of the late Giles Pritchard, who was executed for treason, to be awarded to him in compensation. The matter was referred to the Sheriff of London to determine what assets were taken.

Richard Williams

From the above petition we know that Richard Williams had previously been a yeoman usher to both King James I and Charles I, but his working life was interrupted by the Civil Wars and his belongings were confiscated by the administration during the Commonwealth period.  However, his life improved somewhat at the restoration of Charles II when he returned to the King’s household on 16 August 1660 in the post of Second Yeoman of the Ewry appointed by the Lord Steward’s warrant.[1]

This was a lower position than that which Richard Williams had previously held with the early Stuart kings. It entailed taking care of the linen for the King’s table, laying the table for mealtimes and serving water in their silver ewers after dinner. The ceremony to which he most probably conformed would have been similar to that which took place during the reign of Queen Elizabeth l in 1595. The ‘Yeoman of the Ewry and Pantry conducted by the Yeoman Usher, pass through to the great Dining Chamber. When they arrive at the middle of that room, they bow reverently (although no one else be present), and they do the same upon approaching the table.  The Usher, kissing his hand, places it on the centre of the dining table, to indicate to his subordinate of the Ewry (who kisses the table), where the cloth is to be laid’.[2]

Despite his return to service in the royal household, Richard was obviously very much impoverished and by petitioning the King, he saw an opportunity to gain some meagre possessions following the execution of Giles Pritchard. Richard Williams died in January 1662.

Giles Pritchard

Giles Pritchard was a cow keeper from Islington and on the 6 January 1660/1 joined a group to cause a rebellion against the King. They met and armed themselves at their headquarters in Coleman Street near Moorgate, and marched to St Paul’s and through the City, causing havoc and fighting the trained bands who were brought in to oppose them.  The rioters escaped later on that day, spending the night at Cane Wood (Kenwood), and then returned in the morning to continue their fight. During the violent skirmishes that ensued, twenty of the King’s men were killed and about the same number of rioters also died.   The main protagonists numbering twenty-two men, including their leaders, and Giles Pritchard were caught and arrested for treason. At the trial on 16January, most of these twenty-two were found guilty with the two leaders, Venner and Hodgkin, committed to death by hanging and quartering.  Giles Pritchard had his sentence commuted to hanging and posthumous beheading and he was executed on the same day in Wood Street.[3]

On the day of the hanging, Samuel Pepys mentioned that he saw Venner and Pritchard’s bodies on a sledge. This indicates that the incident was certainly widely known and commented on.[4]


[1] ‘The household below stairs: Ewry 1660-1837’, in Office-Holders in Modern Britain: Volume 11 (Revised), Court Officers, 1660-1837, ed. R O Bucholz (London, 2006), pp. 453-458. British History Online, http://www.british-history.ac.uk/office-holders/vol11/pp453-458

[2] The History of Antiquities in the County Sussex Archaeological Society (1854), p. 177.

[3] T. B. Howell, A Complete Collection of State Trials, Vol. VI, pp. 109-110; ‘1661: Thomas Venner and the Fifth Monarchy Men’: http://www.executedtoday.com/2010/01/19/1661-thomas-venner-fifth-monarchy-men/.

[4] Diary of Samuel Pepys: https://www.pepysdiary.com/diary/1661/01/19/

This report is part of a series on ‘Petitioners in the reign of Charles II, 1660-1685’, created through a U3A Shared Learning Project on ‘Investigating the Lives of Seventeenth-Century Petitioners’.