This week a little break from the Square of London. My NaNoWriMo novel at the end of last year I have given a work title to of The Other Shoe. While working through it I did some research on the Cato Street Conspiracy and thought why not delve into other parts of the Regency besides the Squares I have been reporting on.
Cato Street Conspiracy
On February 23rd, 1820, not even a month after George the III died, conspirators who planned to murder the entire cabinet of England were captured. On May 1st, 1820, they were executed for these attempted crimes.
That’s pretty swift justice. Today, I should think they would await their execution for more than a decade, and it would probably take a handful of years, rather than two months for the government to put forth their evidence and argue their case in court to convict such criminals.
In a world trying to make sense of the great changes that had been occurring for the rights of men for fifty years, and where great wars had been fought that seemed to make progress in other lands but England, one should know that our Regency is and was much affected by these changes, and yet we often never address them in our portrayals of that time of history.
What need the Ton talk of such terrible things of the common man wanting a say in his governance. The fiasco with the colonies and our cousins on the western side of the Atlantic have no concern to us now, surely would be what the minds of our lords and ladies would think were we to question them. Jane Austen certainly has nothing to say of the events that saw the loss of such a great part of the empire. Or even remarks on the war with the little Corporal.
That war Austen’s own brothers went to serve in. That war permeates the era of the Regency.
Liberté, égalité, fraternité
Even once the rest of Europe finishes with the Corsican Tyrant, the movement for more power in the hands of the common man, that we know has changed the America’s and now France, has taken root in England.
And that England responds slowly leads us to the Cato Street Conspiracy. Thwarted because one of the conspirators was actually an informer for the police.
The conspirators went by the name the Spencean Philanthropists. Taking their name from radical speaker Thomas Spence.
They met near Edgeware Road and there is controversy on the manner of their capture, trial and execution. The informer, George Edwards, is also the one responsible for suggesting that the conspirators elevate their game and plan to murder the cabinet ministers. He also planted the newspaper arcticle suggesting that all the cabinet were to dine together and make such a plot plausible. (Right there, changing the names and circumstances is a little would be a good political thriller proving once again that the truth can be stranger than fiction.)
The leader of the Specerians was a man named Arthur Thistlewood, . The 23rd of February came and Richard Bimie, a Bow Street Magistrate, George Ruthven, and 12 other Bow Street Runners awaited reinforcements from the Coldstream Guards to make an arrest. The command of that detail was under Lt. FitzClarence, George III’s grandson. Growing impatient though, the Runners pushed ahead and in the ensuing arrest, several of the conspirators escaped, to be captured in the next few days. Thistlewood was one, and as he fought for his freedom, he killed Richard Smithers of Bow Street with a sword.
The prosecution convinced two of the conspirators to give testimony against their compatriots and George Edwards, the man who set up the conspirators to elevate their game and then capture them, did not have to speak at the trial at all. The guilty were then sentenced to hung, drawn and quartered. But this was commuted to just hanging and beheading, as the medieval form of punishment was thought too gruesome.
The EXECUTION of THISTLEWOOD, INGS, BRUNT, DAVIDSON, and TIDD for High TREASON
A May Day Garland for 1820
The mere mention of these events should a novel take place around the death of George III and the coronation of George IV I feel adds depth to our novelizations of the Regency Era. The sentiments that led to such actions were very prevalent. All may be fine in the drawing rooms and ball rooms of the Ton, but below stairs and outside in Town, things were seething, and not just below the surface but very much in the open.
I released a new book, an omnibus of the three first Trolling stories. In honor of that I have made the first tale of Humphrey and Gwendolyn available for a limited time for $.99 This introductory price is so those who have not discovered this fantasy work can delve into it for a very incentivised price and see if they like the series and continue on, either ordering the other two stories separately, or ordering all three in the Omnibus edition. There are still two more in the series for me to wrap up with edits and release. They have been written as those who follow my blog know. Just not yet gone through my final check protocols.