The Tudor Society

20 February – The hanging of Lady Hungerford

On this day in Tudor history, 20th February 1523, Agnes, or Alice, Lady Hungerford, was hanged at Tyburn.

Agnes was said to have "procured" her servants to murder her first husband, John Cotell, who was strangled before being thrown into the furnace of Castle Farley. A dastardly deed.

Find out exactly what happened in today's talk.

Also on this day in Tudor history, 20th February 1547, Edward VI was crowned king at Westminster Abbey. Find out all about his coronation in last year’s video:

Also on this day in history:

  • 1516 – Baptism of Princess Mary, the future Mary I, in the Church of the Observant Friars at Greenwich. The princess was carried to the font by the Countess of Surrey, and her godparents were Catherine Courtenay, Countess of Devon and daughter of Edward IV; Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury and daughter of George, Duke of Clarence; the Duchess of Norfolk and Cardinal Thomas Wolsey.
  • 1552 – Death of Anne Herbert, sister of Catherine Parr and wife of William Herbert, 1st Earl of Pembroke. Anne died at Baynard’s Castle and was buried in St Paul’s. Anne was a maid of honour to Jane Seymour, keeper of the jewels to Catherine Howard and was serving the Lady Mary (future Mary I) at the time of her death.
  • 1579 – Death of Sir Nicholas Bacon, lawyer, administrator, Lord Keeper of the Great Seal and father of Sir Francis Bacon at Old Gorhambury House, the house he had built in Hertfordshire. He lay in state for nearly two weeks at York Place before being buried in St Paul's Cathedral.


On this day in Tudor history, 20th February 1523, Agnes, or Alice, Lady Hungerford, was hanged at Tyburn.

Agnes, widow of Sir Edward Hungerford, was hanged with her servant William Mathewe after they were found guilty of murdering Agnes’s first husband, John Cotell in 1518. Although Cotell was murdered in 1518, Agnes and her servants were not arrested and imprisoned in the Tower of London until 1522, following the death of her second husband, Sir Edward Hungerford. It may be that her second husband had protected her from trouble.

According to the indictments, on 26th July 1518, Agnes’s servants William Mathewe and William Ignes “with force and arms made an assault upon John Cotell, at Farley, in the county of Somerset, by the procurement and abetting of Agnes Hungerford.” There, they “feloniously did throttle, suffocate and strangle” Cotell with a neckerchief of linen. Then, they disposed of the body by putting it into “a certain fire in the furnace of the kitchen in the Castle of Farley” where “it did burn and consume”. Agnes, according to the indictments, “well knowing that the aforesaid William Mathewe and William Ignes had done the felony and murder aforesaid, did receive, comfort and aid them on 28th December 1518.”

On 27th November 1522, they were tried for Cotell’s murder and found guilty. Mathewe and Agnes were sentenced to hanging, while Ignes pleaded benefit of the clergy, i.e. that as a member of the clergy he was exempt from criminal prosecution in the secular courts. However, he didn’t get very far with his plea as it was found that he was a bigamist so his plea was disallowed and eventually, like the others, he was sentenced to be hanged.

Chronicler John Stowe records that in 1523 on “the 20 February the Lady Alice (or Agnes) Hungerford, a knight’s wife, for murdering her husband was led from the Tower of London to Holborne, and there put into a cart with one of her servants, and so carried to Tyburn and both hanged.” He records that she was buried at Grey Friars, London.

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20 February – The hanging of Lady Hungerford