Richard Averty

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Richard Averty ( -1555)

Richard Averty was a priest in the reign of Queen Mary, responsible for the restoration of Catholicism in Jersey. He was hanged after admitting strangling a baby born to his domestic servant.

Background

Averty is believed to belong to the family of this name in St Clement which produced many priests. He is known to have had land in the parish. although at the time of his death he was living in St Brelade's Bay.

Zealous priest

He was not a parish priest but was Proctor of the Ecclesiastical Court. Contemporary records show that he was zealous in his attempts to restore Catholicism and catholic values. He "grievously troubled the poor folk who were faithful to the Reformation, and especially wrought much harm to the unfortunate Priests who had married, forcing them not to consort in any way soever with their wives, and causing them to be punished bitterly if they disobeyed".

Infanticide

In 1555 he was arrested for murder. A Court act states:"On 27 June 1555 Richard Averty, who claimed to be a Priest, prisoner on a capital charge, who had tried to escape, but had been arrested by prompt pursuit, and detained in prison on demand of the King's Attorney and Solicitor, confessed freely for a second time before the Full Court that on the Wednesday before Pentecost, Marie Bellèe, domestic servant, who had been long in his employ, was brought to bed, and without the aid of any woman was by his help delivered of a live boy, he alone being present, and that when the child was born, he baptized it (so he said) and then straightaway took it by the throat, and deliberately strangled it, and the same evening buried it beneath the hearth in his dwelling, where it was found, and disinterred by order of the Court.

"The3refore on account of the enormity of his deed he was sentenced to be dragged to the gallows, and hanged till he was dead, his body to be left on the givvet till it should rot away.

"Whereupon Sire John Poulet, Dean of the isle, appeared before the Court and demanded that, inasmuch as Averty was a Cleric, he should be handed over for trial to the Bishop's Court, which the Dean held in the Island. To which the Jurats made answer that the crime was so heinous that they could not allow Averty to pass outside the Royal Jurisdiction, but that the sentence must be carried out (which was done), and his goodsw confiscated into the hands of the King and Queen."

Hanging

Averty was draggedto Gallows Hill chained to a hurdle and wearing a surplice provided by Dean Poulet. It was taken from him before he mounted the scaffold. The baby's mother and another woman were tried as accomplices, aquitted and handed over to the Ecclesiastical Court to be punished for immorality.

Sources

G R Balleine's Biographical Dictionary of Jersey

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