Friday, 6 April 2012

Murder of a Transylvanian Prince at Gad's Hill, Kent

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Rochester Cathedral is my favourite cathedral in England and the one I know best. Quite by accident I twice came across, once in the Cambridge University Library and once in a second hand bookshop, the same monograph that discusses the truth behind the story of the 'Prince of Transylvania' who was given a state funeral in the cathedral in 1665, the year of the Great Plague of London. He was certainly not the a Transylvanian Prince and the monograph very persuasively suggests that he and the servant, who may have murdered him, were probably spies spying on the Chatham dockyards. I wish I had bought the monograph, instead of reading the whole thing in the shop (I found it so absorbing) or that it was on the internet. It was well written and a real mystery worthy of Sherlock Holmes.  

This is what I have found now on the net, but I am short of time. As I recall the 'Prince' is buried underneath the cathedral bookshop. Interesting that Transylvania in those days was completely terra incognita in England, but then it is not very much better known in England today.



Murder of a Transylvanian Prince at Gads Hill
Samuel Pepys -

Pepys records a visit to Chatham in 1665:" October 2nd.
Having sailed all night (and I do wonder how they in the dark could find
the way) we got by morning to Gillingham, and thence all walked to
Chatham; and there with Commissioner Pett viewed the yard; and
among other things, a team of four horses come close by us, he being

Cossuma Albertus, a Prince of Transylvania, in the
dominions of the King of Poland, being worsted by the
German forces, and compelled to seek for relief, came
to our gracious King Charles II. for succour, from whom
it is said he found a kind reception and a sufficient main-
tenance.

On the evening of Tuesday, Oct. 15, 16G1, this Prince
Cossuma was approaching Rochester in his chariot, at-
tended by his coachman and footboy, when within a
mile of Strood (and here I do not hesitate to lay the
scene at the famous Gad's Hill, called by one of our
previous travellers, that " high old robbing Hill ? ")
the vehicle stuck fast in the mire ; whereupon the
Prince resolved to sleep in the coach, pulling off his
coat and wrapping it about him to keep himself warm.
Being fast asleep, his coachman, Isaac Jacob, a Jew,
about midnight takes the Prince's hanger from under
his head, and stabs him to the heart ; and calling to his
aid his companion - whose name was Casimirus Karsagi
- they both completed the tragedy by dragging him out
of the carriage, cutting off his head and throwing the
mutilated remains into a ditch near at hand. The
Prince was dressed in scarlet breeches, his stockings
were laced with gold lace, with pearl-colour silk hose
under them. The two men having possessed themselves
of a large sum of money which the Prince had about
his person, then took back the carriage and horses to
Greenhithe, where they left them " to be called for."
On the following Saturday, an arm of the murdered
Prince was brought by a dog belonging to a Doctor of
Physic of Rochester, who was riding by the spot, where-
upon search being made, the other remains were dis-
covered.

Not long afterwards the Jew and the footboy were
both taken in London, and being brought before the
Lord Mayor, the footboy confessed the whole murder.
They were tried at Maidstone Assizes before Sir Orlando
Bridgman, and were sentenced to be executed - the
coachman being hanged in chains at the place where
this horrible and cruel murder was committed; of which
there are two different printed accounts in the British
Museum, dated respectively 1661 and 1662.

The Prince was buried with great solemnity in Rochester
Cathedral, the particulars of which are extracted
from the ' Mcrcurius Publicus ' Newspaper for October,
1661

" Rochester, 26 Octob. On Tuesday last [22 d ] the body of
Cossuma Albertus, a Prince of Transilvania (which, was most
inhumanely murthered, robb'd and mangled, in the parish of
Strood, within a mile of this place by his own servants Isaac
Jacob, alias Jacques, by religion a Jew, his coach-man, and
Cassimirus Kansagi his footman) was honorably interred in
this place : the manner thus ? His body being brought to the
parish of Strood, was accompanied from thence to the West
door of the Cathedral Church of Rochester by the Prebendaries
of the said Church in their formalities, with the gentry and
commonalty of the said City and places adjacent, with torches
before them. Near the Cathedral, they were met by the Choir,
who sung Te Demn before them ; when Divine service was
ended, the Choir went before the body to the grave (which was
made in the body of the Church) singing Nunc Dimittis. Thou-
sands of people flockt to this Cathedral, amongst whom many
gave large commendations of the Dean and Chapter, who be-
stowed so honorable an intermeiil on a stranger al their own
proper costs and charges."

1 comment:

  1. I've always known of Pepys but never read him

    Now I have

    Good stuff

    Keep up our education if you will

    Rupert Wolfe-Murray

    ReplyDelete