Monday, 15 January 2007

a poor distracted wretch, weary of his life

A programme we were watching, Numbers, one of our regular US detective series, made reference to someone being executed on the grounds of a false confession for starting the Great Fire of London, which didn't ring a bell with us, but Bethan found on the BBC site that it was true:

During the investigation a French Protestant watchmaker, Robert Hubert, confessed to having deliberately started the fire at the bakery with 23 conspirators. His colleagues claimed he was unbalanced and the details of his confession changed as flaws were continually unearthed. The Earl of Clarendon commented that 'Neither the judges, nor any present at the trial did believe him guilty; but that he was a poor distracted wretch, weary of his life, and chose to part with it'. He was helped by a jury - that included three Farynors - and was hanged at Tyburn.

The Parliamentary committee reported in January 1667 that 'nothing hath yet been found to argue it to have been other than the hand of God upon us, a great wind, and the season so very dry'. Yet with Farynor declaring - as expected - that his ovens had been completely extinguished on the night in question, the committee was as widely believed as the Warren Report, and the cause of the fire became the grassy knoll of late seventeenth century conspiracy theorists.

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