Elizabeth Cellier

Elizabeth Cellier (ca. 1650–1688).
Malice Defeated, or, a Brief Relation of the Accusation and Deliverance of Elizabeth Cellier, Together with an Abstract of Her Arraignment and Tryal, Written by Herself.
London: Printed for Elizabeth Cellier, 1680. (02826/E)

The Tryal and Sentence of Elizabeth Cellier, for Writing, Printing, and Publishing, a Scandalous Libel Called Malice Defeated.
London: Printed for Thomas Collins, 1680. (02826/C)

Elizabeth Cellier was an English woman who survived accusations of treason only to be imprisoned for publishing libelous pamphlets. A Catholic midwife in London, Cellier met a prisoner named Thomas Dangerfield while delivering charitable donations to inmates at Newgate prison. Dangerfield convinced Cellier to pay his bail and to introduce him to her patroness, Lady Elizabeth Powis. However, in 1680 Dangerfield planted documents in Cellier’s home that implicated her and Lady Powis in a Catholic plot to assassinate Charles II. Both women were acquitted of treason when Cellier effectively demonstrated, without the help of lawyers, that Dangerfield’s testimony was false.

In that same year Cellier published Malice Defeated, or, a Brief Relation of the Accusation and Deliverance of Elizabeth Cellier. This self-vindicating account of her trial included the claim that Catholics were being tortured at Newgate; this brought charges of libel from the state. Despite her clever and often witty testimony, recorded in the exhibited trial proceedings, Cellier was found guilty. Placed on the pillory at three public locations in London, she was fined £1,000 and imprisoned pending payment of the fine. Cellier finally earned her release in 1687. The following year she advocated the formation of a Royal College of Midwives and published a controversial pamphlet that argued for the value of midwives’ practical experience over the book-learning of male physicians.

Listen as curator Dr. Eric White talks about Elizabeth Cellier during a tour.

<a href="/items/browse?advanced%5B0%5D%5Belement_id%5D=50&advanced%5B0%5D%5Btype%5D=is+exactly&advanced%5B0%5D%5Bterms%5D=02826%2FE">02826/E</a> <a href="/items/browse?advanced%5B0%5D%5Belement_id%5D=50&advanced%5B0%5D%5Btype%5D=is+exactly&advanced%5B0%5D%5Bterms%5D=02826%2FC">02826/C</a>