Mary Lakeland, Witch or Royalist
The punishment for witchcraft in England was hanging, unlike popular theory that witches were burned at the stake, that punishment was only carried out in the Americas and Europe. It was the punishment that Matthew Hopkins and John Stearne served if a person was found guilty of witchcraft. However, when it came to Mary Lakeland, something made Hopkins change tact, which has led to my theory of the true crime of the woman. Hopkins tried her as a traitor and not a witch and if that’s true. Why?
In late 1645 a pamphlet was published titled Confessions of Mother Lakeland of Ipswich in Suffolk which described her as an admitted witch of nearly 20 years. However there was some evidence that suggested that Hopkins was purposely sent to accuse her of witchcraft when really she was believed to be a Royalist agent. At her trial, four other people were accused of witchcraft and they were acquitted and Mary burned.
One theory was that Mary was not only accused of murdering her husband but was also accused of taking revenge on a man who had broken a courtship with her granddaughter. However, the man had links with the shipping industry something that he had in common. There is a strong possibility that the two men in communication with each other used the guise of witchcraft in order get rid of a bothersome future family member. But she was also responsible for Royalist publications and with the area of East Anglia being predominately Parliamentarian this would have been seen as treason.
Hopkins used the walking method on Mary and this is when she confessed. The walking method was a favourite technique of Hopkins. By keeping the accused awake for hours by walking them around the room constantly and eventually exhaustion would extract a confession. However, Mary Lakeland was described as a strong willed woman who should have been able to stand her ground. So this causes me to wonder was the reason she chose not to save herself was due to political reasons. This may seem a little weak. After all why risk her life? But the English Civil War was a war that tore even families apart. The belief in their course was a strong one. Even today religion and politics are always a hot topic. So it’s not unreasonable to believe that Mary Lakeland died for her Royalist belief and Hopkins burned her for it.
As for Hopkins’ motives, my belief is that his popularity was starting to wane and he was desperate for some official endorsement. My theory is that desperation caused him to be swayed into the way of politics. If he impressed the right people or even Oliver Cromwell then Hopkins career as witch finder would be an official one. It would make sense to why he chose to burn her rather than hang her as was customary. I believe that the burning of Lakeland did nothing but backfire on Hopkins. Already the tide was turning and people in power either were losing interest or not interested at all. Cromwell, could very well have heard of what Hopkins was doing, but the General had more important things to worry about than an overzealous man who killed a female Royalist.
So was Mary Lakeland a witch or Royalist, my opinion is that she was indeed killed for political reasons, however, to prove it is hard. But you have to ask yourself why Hopkins steered away from methods he knew well and used on every other witch and risk everything.