Today, I will share some short clips about the history of the witch trials and the people involved in the witch trials. I am using the Biographic Channel and the Today I Learned YouTube channel. These would be good to show to a classroom because they are short and give good information.
Matthew Hopkins – Witchfinder General
Simon explores the life of Matthew Hopkins, the witchfinder general. He hunted down more witches in English history. Not much is known about him or his education before 1640. The guesswork finally ends when he moved to Manningtree, England. He would take advantage of the chaos of the First English Civil War. Before, witches were often jailed in England and not executed. However, that changed when King James I came to the throne. King James, I brought his beliefs about witchcraft to England. Now instead of a prison sentence, witches were condemned to death. This is where Matthew Hopkins comes in. For a fee, he would hunt and get confessions out of supposed witches. Hopkins would extract confessions through torture and once he got those confessions the witches were put on trial and then found guilty of their crimes. Eventually, the people would start speaking against him. Hopkins passed away suddenly. This would end his position of Witchfinder.
Gilles de Rais: Serial-Killing Nobleman or Witch Hunt Victim
Gilles de Rais was the richest man in Frances. He fought alongside Joan of Arc. However, in a few years, he was put on trial for summoning a demon and killing over 100 children. Was he history’s first serial killer? Simon explores the life of Gilles de Rais. He was raised by his grandfather. He grew up during the 100 years war, it was a time of constant warfare. He would save the life of the Duke of Brittany. The Duke of Brittany would grant him lands. He would eventually marry an heiress in Brittany. Gilles de Rais soon became the Marshall of France. His court could rival the King’s. He retired from the army and could do what he wanted to with his money. He squandered his money on producing plays. Eventually, his in-laws would financially cut him off. He fought back, and the powers at be needed to stop him. He was accused of murder and that he was a witch. He was hanged after found guilty.
The Last Witch of Britain
Simon explores the life of the last woman who was imprisoned for witchcraft in Britain. He briefly gives a summary of the English witch-hunting. The laws that Parliament created were still on the books during World War II. Then he introduces us to the story of Helen Duncan. Duncan was the last woman imprisoned for witchcraft. She had natural psychic abilities and her husband convinced her to put those skills to good use. When she started practicing her skills, she found an eager audience. With her skills, she and her husband were able to afford a house. It was during World War II, she conjured the spirit of a sailor who had died onboard a ship. This shocked the naval officers who were in the audience. Eventually, the intelligence community got involved and she was charged with vagrancy. Then the authorities discovered the Witchcraft Act and charged her with witchcraft. Duncan was sentenced to 9 months in prison.
Was Anyone Really Burned at the Stake During the Salem Witch Trials?
Simon does a quick video on whether or not anyone was burned at Salem during the Witch Trials. He says no because under English law burning witches was banned. He quickly discusses folk magic and how folk magic made people suspicious around Salem. He also discusses how there was a family feud going on between two families. Tensions were high in Salem and it was the perfect storm for the Salem Witch Trials to explode.
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