The 19th of September: On this day in 1685, Old Style, fictional Dr. Peter Blood was tried and convicted of treason at Taunton Castle, in spite of his having done nothing more than obey the dictates of his conscience and his profession in treating a wounded rebel.
The trial was in fact quite real. From a draft end note to the forthcoming annotated Captain Blood: His Odyssey:
The 19th of September was the second day of the Taunton Assize in Somerset, the “chief seat of the rebellion.” Held in the Great Hall of Taunton Castle and presided over by Lord Chief Justice George Jeffreys, more than five hundred prisoners–514 to 534–were tried over two days. Four pleaded not guilty the first day; three of these men were sentenced to death but the fourth was set free. Approximately three hundred fifty more pleaded guilty the first day and were convicted. On the second day, many of the remainder pleaded guilty and were convicted. One hundred forty-six of those convicted at Taunton were sentenced to hang. Two were reprieved, but the rest were distributed among thirty-six nearby towns where they were hanged, dismembered, tarred, and their dismembered quarters hung from gibbets and various other convenient objects as a warning. Fifteen others sentenced to death were by accident left off Warrant for Execution. Two hundred eighty-four were condemned to transportation, and roughly seventy-seven were variously freed on bail, remitted to jail, recommended for mercy, or otherwise avoided the noose or transportation.
Peter Blood was one of the fortunate–or should we say, less unfortunate–ones, for he was, like the very real Henry Pitman who helped inspire his story, sentenced to be transported to Barbados for ten years in servitude.
Copyright Treasure Light Press LLC. First published 19 September 2020.