Mary Hobry (died 1688), also known as Mary Aubry or Defermeau, the name of her first husband,[a]Neither Mary nor her husband spoke English, and their English neighbours found it difficult to understand their surname. was a French Catholic living in the parish of St Martin-in-the-Fields, London, convicted of murdering her abusive husband Denis, and subsequently burnt at the stake.
Mary had been married to Denis Aubry for four years. He was a drunkard who squandered the money she earned working as a midwife, and he frequently physically abused her. After his refusal to agree to their mutual separation, tired of the constant beatings she received, Mary warned Denis that if he did not mend his ways, she would kill him.
On the night of 27 January 1687 Denis returned home, inebriated, at five o’clock in the morning. He forced himself upon Mary, and when she resisted he beat her violently. After he fell asleep, Mary acted on her earlier threat and strangled Denis with a piece of packthread he used as a garter. She spent several days considering how best to dispose of the body, before dismembering it on 30 January. She then disposed of the trunk behind a dunghill on Parker’s Lane, the limbs in one privy in the Savoy and the head in another.
Unfortunately for Mary the body parts were discovered, and the corpse reassembled and put on display in the St Giles bone house in the hope that someone could identify the victim. Once it was determined to be Denis, Mary was arrested, on 2 February. She appeared at the Old Bailey on 22 February, charged with petty treason and murder, to which she pleaded guilty. The following day she was sentenced to be burnt, which was carried out at Leicester Fields on 2 March.
Mary’s crime was widely reported in England, and was the subject of a pamphlet written by the English author and courtier Roger L’Estrange. Her crime took place during the reign of the increasingly unpopular King James II, the last Catholic King of England, who was deposed in the Glorious Revolution of 1688 just a few months after Mary’s execution. Being herself a Catholic, Mary’s actions were seen by some at the time as an example of the social and political disorder which could flourish under a Catholic king.
- Burning of Women in EnglandBurning was a legal punishment imposed on women found guilty of high treason, petty treason or heresy. Over a period of several centuries, female convicts were publicly burnt at the stake, sometimes alive, for a range of activities including coining and mariticide.