Christopher Layer Esq

Perp: Christopher Layer Esq

Date:  March, 1723

The Crime : High Treason. Plotted to destroy the king, and the subversion of the government

Victim: British Government and the Monarchy

Motive : Dethroning King George. The Jacobite Risings were a series of uprisings, rebellions, and wars in Great Britain and Ireland occurring between 1688 and 1746. The uprisings were aimed at returning James VII of Scotland and II of England, and later his descendants of the House of Stuart, to the throne after he was deposed by Parliament during the Glorious Revolution.

Punishment: Hanged

Location : Tyburn

The Story : Mr Layer was a barrister of considerable standing and reputation, at the time when he was convicted and executed on a charge of being the projector of a scheme for the destruction of the king, and the subversion of the government, which had for its object the elevation of the Pretender to the throne of England.

Numerous were the plots which had been laid for the same purpose, and frequent were the proceedings which had been had upon complaints laid before the various courts of criminal justice in the kingdom, since the year 1713, when the rebellion first broke out ; but the plan laid by Mr. Layer was one of those which gained the greatest degree of notoriety.

This infatuated man had received a liberal education, and was a member of the society of the Inner Temple ; but being impressed with the possibility of the success of a scheme for the dethronement of the existing monarch, and the elevation of the Pretender to the rank, to which it was contended that he was entitled, he made a journey to Rome, in order to confer with that prince upon the propriety of putting his design into execution, promising that he would effect so secret a revolution in England, that no person in authority should be apprised of the scheme until it had been actually completed. Having procured the concurrence of the prince, he instantly returned to London, and proceeded to the completion of his preparations. His plan was to hire an assassin to murder the king on his return from Kensington ; and, this being done, the other parties engaged in the plot were to seize the guards ; and the Prince of Wales and his children, and the great officers of state, were to be secured, and confined during the confusion that such an event would naturally produce.

Mr. Layer having settled a correspondence with several Roman Catholics, non-jurors, and other persons disaffected to the government, he engaged a small number of disbanded soldiers, who were to be the principal actors in the intended tragedy.

A meeting of the whole of the partisans having, however, been held at Stratford, they talked so loudly of the plot, that their designs were suspected, and information was conveyed to the authorities ; upon which Mr. Layer was taken into custody, under a secretary of state's warrant, and conveyed to the house of a king's messenger for security.

His chambers being searched, papers were found, the contents of which sufficiently indicated his intentions, and witnesses as to repeated declarations on his part, in reference to the rebellion, having been discovered in the persons of two women, who were living under his protection, it was determined that a prosecution should be instantly commenced against him. But it was not until he had nearly given his jailers the slip, that this determination was carried into execution with effect; for it appears that the prisoner became convinced of the practicability of an escape from the room where he was confined, through an ale-house, which was situated at the back of the messenger's house, and resolved to make the attempt to procure his liberty.

He therefore formed a rope of his blanket, and, dropping from the window of his apartment, he fell into the yard below, unscathed ; but in his descent, he overset abottle-rack, and from the noise which was caused, the family of the house was disturbed Mr. Layer managed, nevertheless, to gain the street in the confusion which prevailed ; but being instantly pursued by officers, he was traced to have taken a boat at the Horse Ferry, Westminster, from thence to St. George's Fields ; and lie was at length overtaken at Newington Butts. On the following day he was committed to Newgate ; and a Grand Jury of the county of Essex having found a true bill against him for high treason, his trial came on before Chief Justice Pratt, and the other judges of the Court of King's Bench, in the month of January 1723, when, after an inquiry, which lasted sixteen hours, he was found guilty, and sentenced to death in the customary manner.

As he had some important affairs to settle, from the nature of his profession, the court did not order his execution till more than two months after he had been condemned ; and the king repeatedly reprieved him, to prevent his clients being sufferers by his affairs being left in a state of confusion.

After conviction, Mr. Layer was committed to the Tower; and at length the sheriffs of London and Middlesex received a warrant to execute the sentence of the law. He was carried to Tyburn on a sledge, on the 15th March 1723, to be hanged, being dressed in a suit of black, full trimmed, and wearing a tie-wig.

At the place of execution he was assisted in his devotions by a nonjuring clergyman ; and when these were ended, he spoke to the surrounding multitude, declaring that he deemed King James (so he called the Pretender) his lawful sovereign. He said that King George was a usurper, and that damnation would be the fate of those who supported his government. He insisted that the nation would never be in a state of peace till the Pretender was restored, and therefore advised the people to take up arms in his behalf. He professed himself willing to die for the cause, and expressed great hopes that Providence would eventually support the right heir to the throne. His body having been suspended during the accustomed time, it was quartered, and the head was afterwards exposed on Temple Bar.

Among others concerned in this strange scheme was Lord Grey, an ancient nobleman of the Roman Catholic religion, who died a prisoner in the Tower, before the necessary legal proceedings against him could take place.