A Terrible Tragedy in Knightsbridge by Hannah Bayliss

Auguste Mariottini was found guilty but insane for the wilful murder of his wife Maria Mariottini in 1897.[i] This was an interesting verdict because ‘the Victorian era saw a major intensification, as crimes of violence came to be taken more seriously by the state than ever before.’[ii] Furthermore, ‘the killing of “good wives” had always been viewed…

Sympathy in the Victorian Courtroom by Sophie Griffin

In 1845 Eliza Huntsman was found insane following the murder of her five-month-old daughter, Emily Huntsman.[i] This trial reveals much about how childbirth was believed to cause mental strain in mothers and how the McNaughton Rules, the legal criteria for insanity, were sometimes ignored in women’s cases.  Eliza Huntsman’s aunt assured the court that Huntsman…

Poverty, Illegitimacy and Insanity by Maisy Corner

The case of Asneth Cohen depicts a young, single woman who murdered her child in March 1898 by throwing her out of her bedroom window.[i] Cohen was tried at the Old Bailey and found insane, and throughout this post I’ll examine elements of the trial that influenced this verdict as well as what this tells us…

Poverty, Motherhood and Infanticide by Pete Osborne

In January 1844, Sarah Dickinson murdered her two children by cutting their throats with a razor, before attempting to commit suicide via the same method.[i] She was subsequently found not guilty of her crimes, ‘being at the time in a state of insanity’.[ii] Within this trial, the themes of poverty and motherhood are raised in a number…

Jealousy, Wife Murder and the Victorian Courtroom by Mollie Birtles

On 22nd October 1888, John Brown stood trial at the Old Bailey Courthouse for the murder of his wife, Sarah Brown. Accused of slitting his wife’s throat, Brown was ultimately found guilty of the act but insane, resulting in him being ‘detained during her majesty’s pleasure’.[i] Brown’s trial is significant as it reveals the shifting attitudes of…

Middle-Class Women, Theft and Insanity by Eilis Crawley

On October 27 1873, Charlotte Anne Fitzgerald was found ‘not guilty on the grounds of insanity’ of theft and small larceny from a jewellery store.[i] Throughout this trial, there is evidence to show that Fitzgerald had expressed symptoms of being a kleptomaniac and that she had no control over her actions due to suffering from delirium…

Textures of the Victorian Courtroom: Paternal Infanticide and the Insanity Plea by Ellie Quirk

Fatherhood, intemperance, and the McNaughton Rules were all influential factors in paternal infanticide cases in the late nineteenth century; and the trial transcript of James Hayes, who was found insane after murdering his baby in 1875, illustrates this. [i] As Shepherd outlines, early Victorian alienists associated infanticide as a ‘maternal’ offence, thus meaning that ‘scholars have tended…

‘If there is any branch of human disease upon which it is more difficult to form an opinion, without doubt it is with reference to this disease of the mind’: The Trial of Charlotte Annie Fitzgerald and the Kleptomania Defence by Kelly Quinton Jones

In early 1872 Charlotte Annie Fitzgerald stole several items from Mr Collingwood’s store, including a golden pencil case and a diamond ring. She then travelled to India with her husband, Major Fitzgerald, where she sold the stolen items to a Mrs Gosling. Upon her return to England in 1873, Charlotte was indicted for simple larceny.[i]…