(2nd E. Castlehaven)

Born: ABT 1592

Died: 14 May 1631, Tower Hill, London, England

Father: George TOUCHET (1 E. Castleheaven)

Mother: Lucia MERVYN

Married 1: Elizabeth BARNHAM (dau. and heiress of Benedict Barnham, Alderman of London and Dorothea Smythe)


1. James TOUCHET (3 E. Castlehaven)

2. George TOUCHET (Monk)

3. Mervyn TOUCHET (11 B. Audley of Heleigh)


5. Frances TOUCHET

6. Dorothy TOUCHET

Married 2: Anne STANLEY (B. Chandos of Sudeley / C. Castleheaven)

Elizabeth Barnham

James Touchet

3 E. Castlehaven

Son of George Touchet, first Earl of Castlehaven, Governor of Utrecht, and his first wife, Lucia Mervyn. When only about twenty-four years old, he inherited a goodly fortune from his father, which augmented the estate in Fonthill near Tisbury in Wiltshire which he had inherited from his mother.

B. Audley of Heleigh in the English peerage and the second Earl of Castlehaven in the Irish peerage. Castlehaven was an outsider. He had no ancient castle, no friends at court, no political dimension. According to rumor he was sympathetic to Catholicism, a dangerous stance in that place and time, though Audley himself was a staunch Catholic.

Married first, Elizabeth Barnham, dau. and heiress of Benedict Barnham, Alderman of London by his wife, Dorothea Smythe. By Elizabeth, he had three sons and thre daughters.

When she died he married again, in 1624, Anne Stanley, daughter and coheiress of the 5th Earl of Derby by Alice, the daughter of Sir John Spencer of Althorpe. Lady Anne was a widow with a daughter from her previous husband, Grey Brydges, fifth baron Chandos of Sudeley, and it was found advantageous that this daughter, Elizabeth, although but 12 years old, should marry James, Lord Audley, the Earl's son from his first marriage. Elizabeth was thus both the Earl's step-daughter and his daughter-in-law, and she was very young.

His eldest son and heir, James, was born about 1617. When a mere boy of thirteen or fourteen, James Touchet was married to Elizabeth Brydges. When scarcely twelve years of age, the girl have been forced by her stepfather into criminal intercourse with her mother's paramour, Henry Skipworth or Skipwith.

At the trial, several of his male servants, like Gyles Broadway, Lawrence Fitzpatrick and another servant named Amptil (or Antill in some accounts), gave evidence that the Earl had been in the habit of having sexual relations with them. Young men in the household of the Earl of Castlehaven, and possibly also in Francis Bacon's, play an ambivalent role. They were a kind of domestic prostitutes.

According to the prosecution, the indictable felonies were a small part of the misbehavior condoned by the Earl in his household. Moreover, it impugned the Earl for engaging in and orchestrating other sexual improprieties, including whoring, group sex, public sex, and "display and watching".

The earliest surviving evidence against the Earl complains that, by granting favors to his minions, Castlehaven threatened to erase "the difference between a servant and a son". According to the prosecution, male servants controlled the earl's purse as well as his disposition, and he intended to bestow on them social as well as financial respectability. The Attorney General explained this behavior by connecting it to religious confusion, in early modern English terms perhaps the most damning disorientation of identity. Castlehaven, he alleged, was inconstant in religion: "In the morning would be a papist and in the afternoon a Protestant". The sexual descriptions suggest similarly uncertain boundaries. Castlehaven argued with the court about the difference between same-sex play and sodomy; he used a version of his wife's sexual history (one in which he had the "ill fortune to wear the horns, though I put them in my pocket") to contest her claim of rape. The testimony also implies other blurrings: the Countess said that Castlehaven had encouraged her to bed his favorites by insisting that her body was his. By at least some accounts, it was the Earl who, when his virginal daughter-in-law proved impenetrable, applied oil "to open her body" for Skipwith. Afterward the Earl had allegedly told several people in the household that "he would rather have a boy of his [Skipwith's] begetting than of any other".

The testimony of Castlehaven's servants suggests a fairly exact knowledge of when unconventional behavior technically became criminal. At the Earl's trial both Broadway and Fitzpatrick insisted that their sexual behaviors did not violate the law; at their own trials each relied on statements about his legal rights. Reiterating his claim that he had not penetrated the Countess, Broadway forced her to appear in court personally to contradict him. Fitzpatrick claimed immunity from prosecution based on self-incrimination.

Lady Audley, young Lady Audley, Giles Broadway, and Lawrence Fitzpatrick testified, and after two hours of deliberation the jurors unanimously found Castlehaven guilty of rape, and fifteen of the twenty-six jurors found him guilty of sodomy (a majority was enough to convict). He was sentenced to death. Castlehaven appealed for mercy to King Charles, who granted only a postponement of execution so he could repent. Castlehaven's coffin was prepared, and placed in a corner of his prison room, where he prayed daily with Dr Wickham, Dean of St Paul's.

The Verdicts of each of the Jurors:
(The vote on rape precedes the vote on sodomy under each juror name below)

Richard Weston, Lord Weston
Henry Montague, 1 Earl of Manchester
Thomas Howard, 2 Earl of Arundel
Thomas Howard, 1 Earl of Berkshire
guilty/not guilty
Edward Howard of Escrick
guilty/not guilty
Henry Somerset, 5 Earl of Worcester
guilty/not guilty
Francis Russell, 4 Earl of Bedford
guilty/not guilty
Robert Devereux, 3 Earl of Essex
guilty/not guilty
Edward Sackville, 4 Earl of Dorset
guilty/not guilty
Henry Grey, 8 Earl of Kent
guilty/not guilty
Robert Sidney, 2 Earl of Leicester
guilty/not guilty
James Hay, Earl of Carlisle
Robert Rich, 2 Earl of Warwick
Henry Rich, 1 Earl of Holland
guilty/not guilty
Phillip Herbert, 4 Earl of Pembroke
guilty/not guilty
Henry Danvers, 1 Earl of Danby
Edward Cecil, 1 Viscount Wimbledon
William Cecil, 2 Earl of Salisbury
guilty/not guilty
Edward Conway, Viscount Conway
Dudley Carleton, Viscount Dorchester
Thomas Wentworth, Viscount Wentworth
Henry Clifford, Lord Clifford
Algernon Percy, 4th Lord Percy
Dudley North, 3rd Lord North
not guilty/not guilty
James Stanley, Lord Strange
William Petre, 2nd Lord Petre
George Goring, Lord Goring

Mervyn Touchet was beheaded on Tower Hill for unnatural offences, after a trial by his peers, on 14 May 1631 and his honours forfeited.

On Saturday, 14 May, Castlehaven ascended the scaffold on Tower Hill, wearing a plain black Grogram suit and a black hat. In late Apr Fitzpatrick and Broadway were tried; they died by hanging in Jul.

The conduct of James Touchet, though a severe strain on his filial duty, was regarded with aproval, and on 3 Jun 1633 he was created Baron Audley of Heleigh, with remainder 'to his heirs for ever', and with the place and precedency of George, his grandfather; but in the meanwhile most of his father's estates in England had passed into the possession of Lord Cottington and others. In so far as the creation was virtually a restoration to an ancient dignity it lay outside the power of the crown alone to make it, but necessary confirmation was obtained by act of parliament in 1678. As for the Irish peerage, it was held to be protected by the statute 'de donis', preserving all entailed honours against forfeiture for felony.(cf. Cokayne, Peerage, and legal authorities quoted). James Touchet was restored to the dignities 1634, and became the 3rd Earl of Castlehaven, in Ireland, and 10th lord Audley, in England; he had a command against the rebels in Ireland, under the Duke of Ormond, and has left an account of his warfare, entitled "Lord Castlehaven's Memoirs".


Dictionary of National Biography

Cobbett, State Trials

Bray, Homosexuality in Renaissance England

Herrup, Cinthia, The Common Peace: Participation and the Criminal Law in Seventeenth-Century England (1987) and A House in Gross Disorder: Sex, Law, and the Second Earl of Castlehaven (1999).


For More information See:

Rictor Norton, "The Trial of Mervyn Touchet, Earl of Castlehaven, 1631", The Great Queens of History"


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