1681, Alexander, Earl of Eglinton pleads for a pardon for killing a man over a game of cards

Transcription from ‘Petitions in the State Papers: 1680s’, in Petitions in the State Papers, 1600-1699, ed. Brodie Waddell, British History Online, Alexander, Earl of Eglintoun. SP 29/415 f. 58 (1681).

To the Kings most excellent majestie

The humble peticion of Alexander Earle of Eglintoun in the kingdome of Scotland

Most humbly sheweth that your peticioner being unfortunately in company about a fortnight since with Thomas Madox deputy post master att Doncaster a quarelsome disorderly person (and not long before had) received severall bruises in former quarells) did abuse your peticioner with such provoaking language that he gave him a box on the eare whereupon he made att your peticioner with such greate violence that your peticoner was forced to withdraw to a corner of the roome and drew his sword and desired him to keepe of, notwithstanding which he rushed in upon your peticoner and colared him, and in the scuffell received two small wounds, whereupon he being unadvisedly lett blood dyed about two dayes after, and your peticioner is now in Yorke Castle charged with his death not in the least attempting to flye for the same, in that there was never any difference before nor now intended him any hurt; but what might happen in your peticoners defence 

He therefore most humbly prayes and beseeches your most gratious majestie to grant unto him your majesties most gratious pardon for this crime soe much against his will comitted and as in duty bound he shall ever pray etc

Report by Celia Jones

In his petition, Alexander, Earl of Eglinton (or Eglintoun) recounted a confrontation, about a fortnight earlier, with Thomas Maddox (or Madox), deputy post-master at Doncaster, a ‘quarrelsome and disorderly person’. In response to abuse from Maddox, Eglinton boxed his ears. When Maddox threatened violence in return, Eglinton drew his sword and in the resulting scuffle inflicted two small wounds. Maddox purportedly allowed his blood to be let and died about two days later.

Eglinton was now detained in York Castle, charged with murder. He asserted that it had never been his intention to harm Maddox and asked that the King grant him a pardon.

Alexander Montgomerie, 8th Earl of Eglinton (1638–1701)

Alexander, Earl of Eglinton married Grace Popeley, the widow of Sir Thomas Wentworth of Bretton in 1675 and was living at Bretton in Yorkshire at the time of the events related to this petition.

On the night of 18 January 1681, Lord Eglinton and three others – Jasper Blythman, Thomas Darby and Thomas Maddox – were at the Sign of the Angel in Doncaster. Eglinton and Maddox began to play hazard (a game with dice).[1] According to Blythman, the game seems to have been bad-tempered and no doubt drink-fuelled, and when Eglinton, who had begun by losing, gained his losses back he demanded his winnings from Maddox who refused, saying the Earl already owed him money from previous losses at the cockpit. There were high words and Eglinton took his winnings, rose from the chair and ‘phillipped [Maddox] over the noase’. Nevertheless, the pair then played again, and again Eglinton won, requested his money and got the same answer.

This back and forth went on for a while, until tempers clearly got so heated that Eglinton aimed a blow at Maddox, who stood to defend himself, whereupon Eglinton drew his sword and made a pass towards Maddox. Their friends attempted to separate them, but in the ‘bussell’ [scuffle] Maddox was wounded in the thigh, but continued with his attack. The Earl then said ‘“–– you, I will kill you” and shortened his sword’. The sword was struck up by Blythman and taken away, but still the quarrel continued and Eglinton ended up striking Maddox over the head with his cane before he too was taken away.

The apothecary who treated Maddox said that he had two ‘mortal wounds’, one on the thigh, but also one on the left side. William Squire of Doncaster said that later in the day Eglinton had threatened to ‘Maddox him’ with a cane.

An affidavit from Thomas Darby of Almondbury laid the blame on Maddox and suggested that his wounds were the result of his ‘running in’ on the Earl’s sword.[2]

Eglinton was found guilty and sentenced to death but was reprieved until the King’s pleasure was known. He was subsequently set free.


[1] J. Raine (ed.), Depositions from the Castle of York relating to Offenses Committed in the Northern Counties in the Seventeenth Century (1861), https://archive.org/details/depositionsfromc00grea/page/248/mode/2up?q=eglinton. Eglinton is referred to here as Archibald. Unless otherwise stated, this account is drawn from the Depositions.

[2] ‘Charles II: February 1681’, in F H Blackburne Daniell (ed.), Calendar of State Papers Domestic: Charles II, 1680-1 (1921), pp. 152-189, British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/cal-state-papers/domestic/chas2/1680-1/pp152-189.

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’.