The story of Alice Kyteler - the first witch in Irish history

The story of Alice Kyteler - the first witch in Irish history

Categories: Europe | History

The medieval witch hunt cost the lives of thousands of women from different countries. And in each there was one who was destined to open a sad account and become the first. In Ireland it was Alice Kyteler. However, the first witch managed to escape the fire, and another woman was executed instead.

The story of Alice Kyteler - the first witch in Irish history

Alice Kyteler was born at the end of the 13th century in the Irish county of Kilkenny. Her ancestors were Flemish merchants who settled in Ireland just a few decades before her birth. Alice's father was a wealthy man and owned his own bank. After his death in 1298, the business and all his property went to his only heir, his daughter.

Having reached adulthood, Alice gets married. Her chosen one was William Outlaw, his late father’s business partner. He was an eligible bachelor, since in addition to money he also had good connections. His brother Roger Outlaw was a prominent statesman and later became Lord Chancellor of Ireland.

The story of Alice Kyteler - the first witch in Irish history

Soon the couple had a son, named William after his father. However, the family idyll did not last long. A couple of years later, Outlaw died, leaving his beloved wife all his fortune, including a share in the bank. From that moment on, Kiteler became the sole owner of her father's business. She did not grieve for long and soon found a new husband - moneylender Adam le Blond.

But the second marriage turned out to be even shorter. Le Blond abused alcohol and died a couple of weeks after the wedding, drinking himself to death. Alice had no choice but to enter into inheritance rights. Obviously, Alice realized that men involved in finance did not get along with her. Therefore, Richard de Walle, a wealthy landowner, became her new husband.

But the third husband very soon followed his predecessors. This time it was more difficult for the widow to obtain her husband's property. She had to sue his stepson. But Alice coped with this and became the sole owner of lands and estates. Kyteler's fourth and last husband was a certain John le Poer. Traditionally, he was not a very poor man.

The story of Alice Kyteler - the first witch in Irish history

Despite the fact that John le Poer was the youngest husband, his health soon deteriorated. Literally a month after the wedding, he began to give up and soon turned into a decrepit old man. He could barely move his legs, and his hair suddenly turned gray and began to come out in clumps. Le Poer suspected something was wrong and decided to turn to the monks, who were then replacing doctors.

The man went to the Abbey of St. Francis. There he spoke about his symptoms and told the monks that he suspected his wife of witchcraft or poisoning. The Holy Fathers could not help the poor man, and soon he joined the club of Alice's dead husbands. But the monks, having learned about his death, told everything to Bishop Richard de Ledred.

A high-ranking cleric ordered an investigation. It soon became clear that Alice Kiteler had long been suspected of having connections with evil spirits. Firstly, her husbands always died suspiciously. And secondly, the woman was incredibly lucky in business. The money flowed into her hands.

The story of Alice Kyteler - the first witch in Irish history

In the year of her son's birth, Alice opened an inn. He immediately became very popular and it was suspicious. Rich people stayed there and did not skimp on paying bills and tips. By the way, this business has survived centuries and is now the Kytelers Inn. During the Middle Ages, one conclusion could be drawn: this lucky lady was a witch.

In 1324, Bishop de Ledred opened a case against Alice. The charges were very serious - the woman was considered the main witch of Kilkenny. Witnesses were quickly found who saw the woman performing strange rituals. For example, a neighbor once watched Alice sweep dust towards the house, saying: “All the wealth of Kilkenny, go to the house of my son William!”

The story of Alice Kyteler - the first witch in Irish history

If Alice Kiteler had been a simple farmer or city dweller, there would have been no problems. She would have been immediately arrested and burned. But she was a noble and rich lady. Therefore, to arrest her, the bishop needed to obtain permission from the Lord Chancellor. This position was held at that time by her first husband's brother Roger Outlaw. The high official not only did not approve of de Ledred's actions, but also put him behind bars.

After the bishop was released, he was haunted by the idea of dealing with the witch. Now for him it has become a matter of personal revenge. He sent a letter to the Lord Chief Justice from Dublin outlining his position. He supported the clergyman and agreed that Alice Kiteler should be arrested immediately.

The story of Alice Kyteler - the first witch in Irish history

But Alice was one step ahead of her pursuers. When the guards came to her house, it turned out that the woman had disappeared. Kiteler left in an unknown direction and no one heard from her again. The bishop was furious and ordered the arrest of her son William and Petronilla de Meath's maid.

William was found guilty of heresy and imprisoned for 9 weeks. Afterwards, he was obliged to make a pilgrimage to the tomb of St. Thomas Becket and pay for the repair of the roof at the monastic monastery located near the shrine. The maid was less fortunate, since she did not have an influential uncle. She was tortured, forced to confess to witchcraft, and then whipped and burned.

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