Mervyn Tuchet, 2nd Earl of Castlehaven

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The Earl of Castlehaven
The 2nd Earl of Castlehaven, from a contemporary print published in the wake of his notorious trial.
Member of Parliament
In office
5 April 1614 7 June 1625

Mervyn Tuchet, 2nd Earl of Castlehaven (1593 – 14 May 1631; also spelled Mervin, Touchet), was an English nobleman who was convicted of rape and sodomy and subsequently executed. He is the only member of parliament to be executed for a non-political crime.


A son of George Tuchet, 1st Earl of Castlehaven and 11th Baron Audley, by his wife, Lucy Mervyn, he was known by the courtesy title of Lord Audley during his father's lifetime, so is sometimes referred to as Mervyn Audley. [1]

He was knighted by James I in 1608, before he studied law at the Middle Temple. He served as Member of the Parliament of England for Dorset in the Addled Parliament of 1614 and was a Justice of the Peace for the counties of Dorset, Somerset, and Wiltshire. [1] He succeeded his father on 20 February 1616 or 1617 as Earl of Castlehaven and Baron Audley. He left six children upon his death. [2]

Sometime before 1608 [1] (records of the marriage are lacking), Lord Audley married Elizabeth Barnham, a sister-in-law of the philosopher and scientist Francis Bacon, and with her, he had six children. By all accounts the marriage was a loving and successful one, ending with her death in 1622. [3] His second marriage, on 22 July 1624, at Harefield, Middlesex, was to the former Lady Anne Stanley (1580–1647), elder daughter and co-heiress of Ferdinando Stanley, 5th Earl of Derby (by his wife, Alice Spencer), and widow of Grey Brydges, 5th Baron Chandos. They had a daughter, Anne Touchet, who died young. [4] Lady Anne was significantly older than Castlehaven, [5] and the marriage was not a success, but in 1628 Lord Castlehaven's son was married to her thirteen-year-old daughter, Elizabeth; [5] a marriage of step-children.

Trial on charges of rape and sodomy

In 1630, Castlehaven was publicly accused of raping his wife and committing sodomy with two of his servants. [6] Castlehaven's son, James, claimed that it was the extent of Castlehaven's "uxoriousness" toward his male favourites which led to his initial lodging of a complaint. [7]

At a trial by his peers, it was stated that one such favourite, Henry Skipwith, had arrived at Fonthill Gifford in 1621 and that within a few years he was so close to Castlehaven that he sat at the family's table and was to be addressed as "Mister Skipwith" by the servants. Several years later, Giles Broadway arrived at the house and received similar treatment. It was not long before Castlehaven was providing Skipwith with an annual pension, and he was accused of attempting to have Skipwith inseminate his daughter-in-law, to produce an heir from Skipwith instead of his son. In fact, the countess[ which? ] and Skipwith had an adulterous relationship.

Charges were brought against Castlehaven on the complaint of his eldest son and heir, who feared disinheritance, and were heard by the Privy Council under the direction of Thomas Coventry, Lord High Steward. Lady Castlehaven gave evidence of a household which she said was infested with debauchery, and the Attorney-General acting for the prosecution explained to the court that Castlehaven had become ill because "he believed not God", an impiety which made Castlehaven unsafe. However, he insisted he was not guilty and that his wife and son had conspired together in an attempt to commit judicial murder. All witnesses against Castlehaven would gain materially by his death (as the defendant put it: "It is my estate, my Lords, that does accuse me this day, and nothing else") [5] and "News writers throughout England and as far away as Massachusetts Bay speculated about the outcome." [5]

Castlehaven maintained his innocence, and the trial aroused considerable public debate. After some deliberation, the Privy Council returned a unanimous verdict of guilty on the charge of rape. The sodomy charge was also upheld, but by a slim margin as not all jurors agreed that actual penetration had taken place. [6] The case remains of interest to some as an early trial concerning male homosexuality, but ultimately its greatest influence proved to be as a precedent in spousal rights, as it became the leading case establishing an injured wife's right to testify against her husband. [5]

Castlehaven was convicted for his sexual crimes: namely the "unnatural crime" of sodomy, committed with his page Laurence (or Florence) FitzPatrick; and assisting Giles Browning (alias Broadway) in the rape of his wife Anne, Countess of Castlehaven, in which Lord Castlehaven was found to have participated by restraining her. [8] Attainder was decreed. Under the terms of the attainder, Castlehaven forfeited his English barony of Audley, created for heirs general, but retained his Irish earldom and barony since it was an entailed honour protected by the statute De Donis .

Confession of Faith and Execution

The original signed Confession of Faith of Mervyn Tuchet, 2nd Earl of Castlehaven that was read out at his request on the scaffold on 14 May 1631 at Tower Hill immediately prior to his execution by beheading. Mervyn Tuchet, 2nd Earl of Castlehaven Signed Confession of Faith 1631.jpg
The original signed Confession of Faith of Mervyn Tuchet, 2nd Earl of Castlehaven that was read out at his request on the scaffold on 14 May 1631 at Tower Hill immediately prior to his execution by beheading.

In the days leading up to Castlehaven's execution, Thomas Winniffe the Dean of St Paul's and a Doctor Wickham visited Castlehaven daily, both to comfort him and settle him in his religion. Winniffe drafted a Confession of Faith and Castlehaven signed it. [9]

On Saturday 14 May 1631, Castlehaven, accompanied by Winniffe and others, left the Tower of London and ascended the scaffold at Tower Hill which had been constructed for his execution. Concerned about rumours suggesting his lack of faith had prompted his downfall, he said the following to the assembled crowd:

Now forasmuch as there hath been speech and rumour of my unsettledness in my religion, I have for explanation, thereof, not only made Confession of my Faith to two worthy doctors; but for better satisfaction to the world in that point, express the same in writing under my hand signed; which as it is here set down, I desire may be publicly read. [10]

That signed Confession of Faith was then read aloud on the scaffold by a young gentleman: [11]

In the name of God Amen

I Mervyn Earle of Castlehaven, being in my full strength and memorie (thanks bee given unto my maker) having been branded and openlie accused for change, alteration and doubtfulness of my faith and religion, if thoughtfull like a Christian man to give satisfacction upon what grounds I stand for my belieifes and to express it under my hand for the satisfaccion of all charitable people & Christian men.

First I doe believe in the blessed and glorious Trinity three persones and one eternall and everliving God, God the Father, God my Redeemer, & God my Sanctifier. I doe rely wholie upon the merit death and passion of oue blessed Saviour Christ Jesus and upon his mediation for the remission of my Sinnes.

I doe believe and use wth most humble reverence Our Lordes praire, the Creed of the Apostles, and the ten Comandemts as they are sett downe & allowed by the Church of England.

I doe believe the Canonicall Scriptures, and that they are written by the inspiration of the holie Spiritt.

I doe believe the booke of Comon praier allowed in the Church of England to bee an excellent forme for the Service of God and soe use the same, and for the rest of my beliefe I doe referr it to the true Orthodox faith of oue Church of England and from the Articles received att this present In the Church of England and confirmed by Authoritie of Parliament I doe not differ in any point, renouncing all the superstitions and Erroures taught or believed in the Church of Rome or anie other Church, in wch faith I will confirme (God willing) to my lives end, in testimonie whereof I have hereunto subscribed my hand.

Castelhaven [12]

After that, Castlehaven acknowledged the King’s mercy; said a short private prayer; laid his head on the block and was beheaded with a single stroke. [13]


Castlehaven's Irish titles passed to his son James.

Laurence FitzPatrick and Giles Browning were each put on trial for their roles in the offences. FitzPatrick testified that Lady Castlehaven "was the wickedest woman in the world, and had more to answer for than any woman that lived". Both men were convicted and subsequently executed. [14]

In The Complete Peerage , Cokayne adds that the death of Castlehaven was certainly brought about by his wife's manipulations and that her undoubted adultery with one Ampthill and with Henry Skipwith renders her motives suspicious. According to the historian Cynthia B. Herrup, [15] Anne was the equal of Lord Castlehaven in immorality.


Mervyn Touchet's first marriage (before 1608) was with Elizabeth Barnham (1592 – c. 1622–4), daughter of London alderman Benedict Barnham and his wife, Dorothea Smith, and they had six surviving children:

His second marriage was with Lady Anne Stanley, 22 July 1624, daughter of Ferdinando Stanley and Alice Spencer. From this marriage there was one daughter:

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  1. 1 2 3 Ferris, John P.; Hunneyball, Paul (2010). "Audley, alias Tuchet, Sir Mervyn (c.1588-1631), of Stalbridge, Dorset; later of Fonthill Gifford, Wilts". The History of Parliament .
  2. Herrup 1999 , p. ix.
  3. Herrup 1999 , p. 12.
  4. William Addams Reitwiesner. "The descendants of Anne, Countess of Castlehaven".
  5. 1 2 3 4 5 Herrup, Cynthia B. (January 2008) [2004]. "Touchet, Mervin, second earl of Castlehaven (1593–1631)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/66794.(Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  6. 1 2 Massarella, Derek (November 2017). "'& thus ended the buisinisse': A Buggery Trial on the East India Company Ship Mary in 1636". The Mariner's Mirror. Portsmouth, United Kingdom: Society for Nautical Research. 103 (4): 423. doi:10.1080/00253359.2017.1376480. S2CID   165473426.
  7. Herrup 1999 , p. 19.
  8. Norton, Rictor. "The Trial of Mervyn Touchet, Earl of Castlehaven 1631".
  9. The Trial of the Lord Audley, Earl of Castlehaven, For inhumanely Causing his Own Wife to be Ravished and for Buggery. 1679. p. 13.
  10. The Trial of the Lord Audley, Earl of Castlehaven, For inhumanely Causing his Own Wife to be Ravished and for Buggery. 1679. p. 10.
  11. The Trial of the Lord Audley, Earl of Castlehaven, For inhumanely Causing his Own Wife to be Ravished and for Buggery. 1679. p. 11.
  12. The Trial of the Lord Audley, Earl of Castlehaven, For inhumanely Causing his Own Wife to be Ravished and for Buggery. 1679. p. 11.
  13. The Trial of the Lord Audley, Earl of Castlehaven, For inhumanely Causing his Own Wife to be Ravished and for Buggery. 1679. pp. 12–13.
  14. Norton, Rictor. "The Trial of Mervyn Touchet, Earl of Castlehaven 1631".
  15. Herrup 1999, p. [ page needed ].
Peerage of Ireland
Preceded by Earl of Castlehaven
Succeeded by
Peerage of England
Preceded by Baron Audley
Title next held by
James Tuchet