Anne Greene was a young Oxfordshire woman, employed in the service of Sir Thomas Read. In the spring of 1650, Greene was seduced and impregnated by Read’s 16-year-old grandson, Jeffrey. Six months later, she went into labour while stirring a vat of malt. Greene later miscarried while “in the house of office” [lavatory]. The terrified maidservant buried the stillborn boy near a cesspit, however, it was soon discovered and reported to her master. In December 1650, Greene was put on trial in Oxford on a charge of infanticide. Despite a lack of evidence, she was found guilty and sentenced to death.
Greene’s hanging took place on December 14th 1650. Like many other hangings of the time, it did not proceed well:
“She was turned off the ladder, hanging by the neck for the space of almost half an hour… some of her friends in the meantime thumping her on the breast, others hanging with all their weight upon her legs, sometimes lifting her up and then pulling her down again with a sudden jerk, whereby the sooner to despatch her out of her pain… the under-sheriff, fearing they should break the rope, forbade them to do so any longer.”
Eventually, Greene appeared to expire and she was cut down. Her body was given to William Petty, a surgeon and anatomical researcher then based in Oxford.
“The coffin being opened she was observed to breathe… which being observed by a lusty fellow who stood by, he (thinking to do an act of charity in ridding her out of the small relics of a painful life) stomped several times on her breast and stomach with all the force he could.”
Dr Petty arrived shortly after and immediately began to revive Greene, dosing her with “hot and cold cordials”, tickling her throat with a feather and giving her a hot enema. Greene recovered and within days was well enough to eat a chicken. Petty and others lobbied the Oxford court for a pardon. This was readily obtained, not least because her former employer and chief prosecutor, Sir Thomas Read, had died three days after Greene’s hanging. Greene later married and had three more children. She is believed to have died in childbirth in 1665, aged about 37.