An Exorcism in Elizabethan London

Jessie Childs recounts the chilling story of an exorcism performed in an Elizabethan household in Hackney.

The devil attacking a window, a detail from St Anthony the Hermit by Matthias Grunewald (c.1470-1528)On New Year’s Day 1586 an English Catholic priest decided that ‘all was not well’ with a young female servant in the Hackney household of Lord Vaux. So he tied her to a chair, gave her a ‘hallowed drink’ that made her vomit and forced her to inhale burning brimstone until her face was as black as a chimney sweep’s. For more than ten hours, Sara Williams, who was in her mid-teens, was exorcised of the demon that was presumed to have possessed her. ‘It was,’ wrote an eyewitness:

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