24th October 1669

Jersey convict William Prynne dies

Author and lawyer William Prynne was a strict puritan who shunned Christmas and any other frivolity, including public entertainment. In 1632 he published a book running to more than 1000 pages damning stage plays and those who acted in them, claiming that they were immoral, illegal and against scripture. It backfired spectacularly as its publication, after eight years of writing, coincided with the Queen, Henrietta Maria, appearing in a play herself. Thus, the book was seen as a personal attack on her and the King, Charles I.

A campaign against frivolity

As a result, Prynne’s degree was revoked, he was fined, imprisoned for life and had his ears cut off. This would have been enough to have silenced most men, but not Prynne. He continued his campaign against frivolity and ended up in front of the court again. To his existing life sentence was added another term of life in prison, another fine, and further physical punishment, this time in the form of the letters S and L being branded on his cheeks. They stood for Seditious Libeller. His books and writing instruments were taken from him and he was banished from the mainland to Mont Orgueil from where it would be much harder for him to remain in contact with his friends.

However, Prynne won out in the end. Charles I was executed and the sentences passed against Prynne were declared illegal by the parliament set up by Cromwell. He was released and returned to the mainland in 1640.

Once back in public circulation, his campaigning on a wide range of religious issues was able to resume and, perhaps surprisingly considering the fate he’d suffered at the hands of his predecessor, he supported the restoration of the monarchy when Charles II came to the throne.


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