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.
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