Monday, February 7, 2011

Men Behaving Badly: Sir John Riddle

Monday, February 7, 2011
Loretta reports:

The upper ranks were not renowned for good behavior.  Drunken "gentlemen" knocked over watch-boxes, broke windows, and assaulted women with impunity.  It was perilous to take action against a titled gentleman, as this story shows.

In 1797 a sentry named Thomas Davis arrested Sir John Riddle.  Here's Davis’s version of events:

“ . . . about half past ten, this gentleman came through the gate, into the Green-Park, he looked at me very hard, he turned up towards the Bason in the Green Park, he turned back, and looked at me again, I did not know what he meant; I was very dry, and I went up and asked the women if they would give me some clean water, or table beer; they gave me some, and that gentleman came up to the window, what conversation they had I do not know; I did not think it prudent for me to stop there; I went to my sentry-box, and laid down my firelock behind my box, and soon after that, the gentleman came up to me, and said, "soldier, should not you like to have connections with these girls?" I said, I should not mind it in the least, if I had one of them here, and he made no more to do than to take hold of my breeches, "sentinel," says he, "do your p-s stand?" no, says I, if I had them here, I don't know but they might; he opened the slap of my breeches, and took hold of my t-s in his hand, I had my firelock in my hand, I immediately seized hold of his coat, and said, what did he mean by that; I called out for assistance and then Sharman came up; I said, I insist upon your taking charge of this man, he accordingly took hold of him, he made a scusstle to get away; I called out again for assistance, and then there came up another man, and then Sir John was still, he put some money into my hand, and said, I will give you any thing before I will be detained; no, says I, I will take you a prisoner to the Guard-room . . . and I laid my charge, that this gentleman did so and so with me; I shewed the Colonel the money he gave me, and I was confined all night."

The baronet retaliated for being arrested by charging the soldier with robbing him.

Guess who was punished, and how severely.

You can read the full record of the case at Old Bailey Online.

Illustration: Anacreontick's in full song, by James Gillray, 1801. Courtesy Wikimedia Commons


nightsmusic said...

Well, that just sucks. But in many ways, it's not so different now though I think we're finally starting to make progress in the last 20-30 years.

Anonymous said...

Love these posts. Hope you never run out of badly behaving men in history. Not that that will ever happen! ;->

Richard Foster said...

Now now ladies...Isn't it time for an equal opportunity post of Women Behaving Badly?

Anonymous said...

There'll always be a frat boy. . .

Carey said...

How unfair! That poor young man was only 22 as well.

I had forgotton about the Old Bailey site, what a fantastic resource.

Deb said...

Not intending to lower the tone here, but when I was growing up (in England, in the 1960s) "John Riddle" was slang for pee. I wonder if that euphemism was somehow related to this particularly badly-behaved gentleman.

Charles said...

Could be, though more likely just because it's rhyming slang for 'piddle'.

Deb said...

Charles--you're absolutely correct. How could I, the child of a genuine Cockney mother, have overlooked rhyming slang as the possible solution?

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