The Bewitching of Anne Gunter
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HST 402: Seminar in European History
1000 Word Paper
Throughout the history of witchcraft it has been hard to establish if any of these accusations on ‘witches’ were actually true due to lack of records and proof, although it now seems certain that the vast majority of women incited were innocent. In the book “The Bewitching of Anne Gunter” we can see how these allegations can be completely fabricated for personal gain and revenge.
The British Isles, was a tense and troubled time in the late 1500’s/early 1600’s where the book is set. Anxiety arose between the Catholics and the Protestants, which would eventually lead to the English Civil War. Family feuds, politics, poverty, religion and views of witchcraft inflamed this delicate time. The case of Anne Gunter is an interesting one in particular as the book tells two tales. One is the clear witchcraft case, notable only by the huge amount of documentation it generated, and the fact that the father deliberately devised the plan and coerced his daughter to carry it out. And secondly is the fact that it was investigated by Oxford dons, by a bishop and an archbishop, and even by King James I, which in itself is extraordinary.
The case appears to have begun when Brian Gunter and his family moved to the small Oxfordshire village of North Moreton. They were considerably more wealthy and powerful than several of the other families in the village and did not get along with a number of yeomen who ran things there. Sharpe describes him as “an interloper who was creaming off wealth from local farmers” (p.39) which wouldn’t have endeared him to the local community.
The story starts in 1598 during a football match where Anne’s father, Brian, was a spectator. It appears that a fight broke out during the match and one of the Gregory boys was involved. Brian Gunter approached the brawl to try and separate it, which resulted in the Gregory boy turning on him with his brother. During this fracas Brian allegedly beat the boys with the pommel of his dagger; the injuries they both sustained during this attack later killed them.
The Gregory family later tried to get Gunter charged with manslaughter, they failed but Gunter never forgave their attempt.
A few years later in the summer of 1604 when Anne collapsed with what all believed to be an attack of “the mother” (hysteria), Brian Gunter saw his chance to get revenge on the Gregory’s and discredit them.
At first Anne claims she didn’t attribute this sickness to witchcraft in anyway. It was only later that year in October when the illness came back; that she maintains her father and the neighbours concocted the bewitchment with the aim of blaming Elizabeth Gregory. If we look for motive, Brian bringing the Gregory family into disrepute in this manner would be a fitting form of revenge.
Throughout the supposed bewitching, Anne feigned fits and trances, saw familiars, vomited pins, showed