The Lord RUSSELS Farewel


The Lord RUSSELS Farewel


VVho was Beheaded for High Treason, in Lincolns Inn Fields, JULY 21st. 1683.


Lord William Russell was one of those implicated in the Rye House plot against Charles II and James, Duke of York, early in 1683. Although he pleaded not guilty and there seems to have been little ground for suspecting him, he was convicted of high treason and exeuted July 21, 1683. A number of good-night ballads were written upon his death (Simpson 1966).

Ketch's execution of Lord Russell at Lincoln's Inn Fields on 21 July 1683 was performed clumsily; in a pamphlet entitled The Apologie of John Ketch, Esquire he alleged that the prisoner did not "dispose himself as was most suitable" and that he was interrupted while taking aim.

On that occasion, Ketch wielded the instrument of death either with such sadistically nuanced skill or with such lack of simple dexterity - nobody could tell which - that the victim suffered horrifically under blow after blow, each excruciating but not in itself lethal. Even among the bloodthirsty throngs that habitually attended English beheadings, the gory and agonizing display had created such outrage that Ketch felt moved to write and publish a pamphlet title Apologie, in which he excused his performance with the claim that Lord Russell had failed to "dispose himself as was most suitable" and that he was therefore distracted while taking aim on his neck.

Digital Object

Image / Audio Credit

National Library of Scotland - Crawford, Shelfmark: Crawford.EB.1018; EBBA 34353

Set to tune of...


P Ride the bane of humane creatures, will corrupt the best of natures, when it soars
to its full height, who can stand it or command it, when the object is in sight?

Reason is no more our jewel,
When our dearest thoughts are cruel, all her Maxims are forgot:
Else what reason, was for Treason, or this base inhumane Plot.

Russel that injoy'd the treasure,
Every way repleat with pleasure, had Allegience quite forgot:
Hopes of Risiing did advise him, to this base inhumane Plot.

Who alas! could he desire,
That himself could not require, pride did only his besott;
To aspire to grow higher, By a base inhumane Plot.

Safely might have liv'd for ever,
In a gracious Princes favour, and more honour there have got:
Then his thoughts what e're they wrought, By any base inhumane Plot.

Those false hopes that did deceive him,
With his nature will not leave him,
nor with his poor body rot:
Whilst records, the world affords, his Treason ne'r will be forgot.

Better be the Earl of Bedford ,
Then for Treason loose his Head for't, and to make his name a blot:
In each Lybel as a Rebbell, In a base inhumane Plot.

If his Prince had ever left him,
Or of any Grace bereft him, e're his Treason force his Lot:
Yet Obedience and Allegience, should have kept him from this Plot.

Treason is a Crime 'gainst nature,
Against Kings the highest matter, sure can never be forgot:
he that blames him does prophane him and his soul is in the Plot.

Russel dy'd then unlamented,
By all men but who consented to this damn'd inhumane Plot:
To Distroy the Nations joy, the King and Monarchy should Rot.

But Heavens preserve the Crimson Royal
And bring all the rest to tryal who Alegience have forgot:
And confounded be each Round-head, in this damn'd inhumane Plot.

Composer of Ballad

John Dean

Method of Punishment



high treason



Execution Location

Lincoln's Inn Field

Printing Location

Printed for P. Brooksby, at the Golden Ball, in West-Smithfield.

Tune Data

Tender Hearts of London Cirty (Simpson 1966, p.699-701).


lord russels farewell.jpg


“The Lord RUSSELS Farewel,” Execution Ballads, accessed April 13, 2024,

Output Formats