Thursday, 20 November 2014

WHY ISN'T THIS A FILM - The Execution of Anne Greene

Looking at the world of fiction and popular culture... and real things that should be films.

Anne Greene was a scullery maid at the house of Sir Thomas Reade, sometime Sheriff of Oxfordshire, when she became an unmarried mother...
It was the spring of 1650 when the 22 year old Anne was seduced and impregnated by Reade's 16 year old grandson, Jeffrey and eighteen weeks later when, while turning malt, Greene felt ill and miscarried in the lavatory.  Greene buried her stillborn son near the servant's cesspit but soon she was found out and put on trial for infanticide (under a 1624 statute allowed any woman who concealed the death of a child could be presumed guilty of infanticide.)  Reade himself prosecuted the trial. Greene claimed to be unaware that she had been pregnant and what had happened (although this was a common claim by women accused of infanticide) and midwives testified that the fetus was very premature but Reade was a determined prosecutor and Greene was found guilty and sentenced to be hanged in December of 1650.

Greene bequeathed her clothes to her mother and her last words we recorded as being about the "lewdness" of the Reade family.

At the time hanging usually resulted in slow strangulation after being "turned off a ladder" rather than an instant death of a broken neck of later trap-door hanging and friend and relatives would help speed death by hanging off and pulling on the the victim.  Greene's friends and family did this until the under-sheriff stopped them, fearing the rope would break.

Eventually she was found to have expired and her body given to William Petty, a surgeon and anatomical researcher for study.

When her coffin was opened and Greene's body was prepared for dissection by Petty's assistant, he observed that she still breathed, so to end her painful existence the assistant stomped on her breast and stomach with full force.  However, Petty soon arrived and he and 3 other physicians (Thomas Willis, Ralph Bathurst, and Henry Clerke) attempted to revive her with "hot and cold cordials," being bled, tickling her throat with a feather, hot enemas and an unnamed woman who lied in bed with with Greene and "gently rubbed her lower parts."  Greene soon recovered and was given her coffin as a souvenir.

Either 3 days after Greene's hanging or 3 days after her pardon (sources vary), Sir Thomas Reade died, which was seen by some as a further implication of her innocence and his complicity in her trial
The case became famous and contributed to the unease of the public to infanticide laws and anatomical research at the time.

Greene later married, having 3 children, and is believed to have died in childbirth at the age of 37.

Seduction, an unfair trial, death and a miraculous recovery and divine justice... why isn't this a film?

~ DUG.

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