Kyteler, Alice (fl. 1324)

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Kyteler, Alice (fl. 1324)

Irish noblewoman tried for witchcraft. Name variations: Alice Kettle. Flourished in 1324 in Kilkenny; married William Outlawe (died); married Adam le Blund (died); married Richard de Valle (died); married Sir John le Poer (died).

The trial of Alice Kyteler represents one of the earliest prosecutions of a woman for witchcraft in Europe. She was an Irish noblewoman of Kilkenny who seems to have actually been a practitioner of the ancient Celtic pagan religion. She survived all four of her husbands, each wealthier than the previous. After her fourth husband John le Poer died, his entire estate fell to Alice and to his eldest son. His other children contested his will; when Alice refused to settle to their satisfaction, they accused her of witchcraft to discredit her. The local nobility supported Alice in her defense, but the bishop of Ossory believed the charges and excommunicated her. She was then indicted on charges ranging from animal sacrifice to prophecy.

Alice mounted a spirited defense, having her guards capture the bishop and imprison him in her castle. But she could not kidnap the entire church hierarchy and eventually she was forced to flee to England for refuge. She escaped to safety, though several of her fellow practitioners were arrested, and one of her servants was condemned to death for assisting her. Alice's house, the oldest in Kilkenny, has been restored and now serves as the Kyteler's Inn.

Laura York , Riverside, California

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