GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies, 5.3 (1999) 255-265
On a Saturday in May 1631 Mervin Touchet, Lord Audley in the English peerage and the second earl of Castlehaven in the Irish peerage, was beheaded on Tower Hill. Three weeks earlier a jury of twenty-seven peers had condemned him on charges of rape and sodomy. The accusations in the case were manifold, but the three indictments alleged two instances of buggery between Castlehaven and Florence Fitzpatrick, his Irish footman, and one instance of rape, in which the earl had encouraged and then assisted a household servant named Giles Broadway in an assault on the countess of Castlehaven. Castlehaven had been under investigation since late 1630; a grand jury indicted him and Broadway in mid-March; a court of the lord high steward tried and convicted the earl in late April. Fitzpatrick and Broadway were tried after Castlehaven’s execution; they died by hanging in July. The case was the most spectacular scandal of the Caroline era; among other things, it vitiated the attempt of Charles I to distance his court from the sexualized reputation of his father’s.
According to the prosecution, the indictable felonies were a small part of the misbehavior condoned by the earl in his household. The evidence presented at the trial described sodomitical relationships between Castlehaven and at least three servants besides Fitzpatrick, as well as adulterous liaisons between various serving men and both the countess and Lady Audley (the pubescent wife of Castlehaven’s heir). Moreover, it impugned the earl for engaging in and orchestrating other sexual improprieties, including whoring, group sex, public sex, and “display and watching.”