1671, The distressed Widow Dergofsky pleads for financial assistance

Transcription from ‘Petitions in the State Papers: 1670s’, in Petitions in the State Papers, 1600-1699, ed. Brodie Waddell, British History Online, The distressed widow Dergofsky. SP 29/287/1 f. 75 (1671).

To his most sacred majesty

The humble petition of the distressed widdow Dergofsky

Humbly sheweth that your majesties most distressed petitioner after the a long exspectation for the money, your majesty was gratiously pleased to promise her, for to enable her to pay her debts here, and to return into her own countrey, being still frustrated, and having exhausted her credit to the utmost, is now reduced to the greatest extremity imaginable, so that she must undoubtedly perish, except speedy relief be afforded her

She therefore most humbly implores your most sacred majesty, to look with an eye of pitty and compassion in mercy upon her, and gratiously to grant an order for the speedy payment of such moneys as your majesty shall think fit, thereby to keep her from imprisonment and from starving.

And she shall evermore as in duty bound pray etc

Report by Julia Fidler

The widow Isabella Dergofsky submitted this petition to seek payment of £100, which had previously been promised to her. She claimed that she was destitute and needed the funds to pay her debts and return home.

A Widow from Where?

A warrant in the State Papers shows that widow Dergofsky was successful in her petition to King Charles II and that the widow’s name was Isabella. However, there is unfortunately no reference to her country of origin or her husband’s first name.[1] A warrant for £100 was a great deal of money so we can assume that the King had reason to be very grateful to her husband.[2]

In the 1660s, petitions were written by scribes and it could be thought that such an unusual name may well have been spelt incorrectly by the writer.  An initial thought was that the name was perhaps Russian, Polish or Jewish. However, the Christian name Isabella makes one think of Spain or Portugal, and the Jewish community there did adopt Christian names to avoid detection, and many fled to Holland and Europe to avoid persecution. But this is speculation. Variations might include ‘Degrofsky’ or ‘Degorski’. Unfortunately, our widow Isabella Dergofsky remains a mystery but we do know that she was £100 richer after her successful petition and must hope that she was able to return safely to her country of origin.


[1] ‘Charles II: January 1671’, in Calendar of State Papers Domestic: Charles II, 1671, ed. F H Blackburne Daniell (London, 1895), pp. 1-63, British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/cal-state-papers/domestic/chas2/1671/pp1-63.

[2] The Bank of England inflation calculator suggests that £100 would be approximately equivalent to over £20,000 today: https://www.bankofengland.co.uk/monetary-policy/inflation/inflation-calculator.

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’.