Christian Fyfe Declares that Charles II ‘Deserved to be Murdered’

On Sunday 19 March, 1682, Christian Fyfe entered the Old Kirk of St Giles and beat up the minister. Alexander Ramsay, at the end of his sermon. According to her confession, she went there with the purpose of assaulting Ramsay…

Hangings Alison and Harvie

Christian Fyfe, a recent ‘indweller in Fife’, had possibly been radicalised by Donald Cargill’s field preachings there in 1680 to 1681. In her protests before the privy council and justiciary, she referred to the executions of both Cargill and the Fife laird, David Hackstoun of Rathillet.

Ramsay was was a supporter of the Restoration settlement of the church, but was later suspended for publicly voicing his fears about popery in 1686. He was deprived of his charge at the Revolution. (Fasti, I, 71.)

Wodrow records the following about Fyfe:

‘Another process against a poor ignorant simple woman [i.e., a female adherent of the Societies’ platform], I find before the same court. March 27th, Christian Fyfe, late indweller in Fife, is indicted for invading a minister, and treason. The probation adduced against her is her own confession, before the committee for public affairs. “Edinburgh, 21st March, Christian Fyfe confesseth, that on sabbath last, she did beat Mr Ramsay in the old kirk, at the ending of the sermon, and the reason was, she thought he was profaning the sabbath. She declares she thinks the king is not lawful king nor the judges lawful judges, otherwise they would never have murdered Mr Donald Cargill [in July, 1681] and [David Hackstoun of] Rathillet [in July, 1680]. Since Mr Cargill’s death she thinks there was not an honest minister in Scotland. That she thinks it very good service to kill all the bishops present and all of them that are in Scotland; declares the reason why she went to the church was to beat and not to hear the minister.

When before the justiciary, she judicially adheres to all she had formerly confessed, and declines them as her judges; and adds, she went not to the kirk to beat a lawful minister, but one whom she thought a Judas and a devil. That these who killed the archbishop were at their duty. Without any difficulty the assize bring her in guilty, and the lords sentence her to be hanged at the Grassmarket upon the 7th of April.’ (Wodrow, History, III, 409-10.)

Wodrow’s passage on Christian Fyfe has led to her inclusion on lists of those executed. Her name appears on a plaque in Edinburgh.

However, Christian Fyfe was not executed.

Lord Fountainhall records:

‘27 March 1682.—At Criminall Court, the woman called Christian Fyffe (who had struck Mr. Alexander Ramsay, the minister of Edinburgh,) was condemned to be hanged, on the 7 of Aprill nixt, for railing upon his Majesty, calling the King a villain, a knave, ane apostat, perjured man, who deserved to be murdered, &c.: which shee would not retract, tho hir life was offered hir, if she would do it. This was a wild delusion of [Richard] Cameron’s sowing; but the Privy Counsell, looking on hir as mad, repreived hir.’ (Lauder, Historical Notices, 350-1.)

Fyfe’s reprieve from execution came over a year after two militant women, Isobel Alison and Marion Harvie, were hanged in Edinburgh. Fyfe remained in prison for many years.

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Text © Copyright Dr Mark Jardine. All Rights Reserved. Please link to this post on Facebook or retweet it, but do not reblog in FULL without the express permission of the author @drmarkjardine

~ by drmarkjardine on July 27, 2014.

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