Mervyn Tuchet, 2nd Earl of Castlehaven
He was knighted by James I in 1608, before he studied law at the Middle Temple. He served as Member of the Parliament of England for Dorset in the Addled Parliament of 1614, and was a Justice of the Peace (J.P.) for the counties of Dorset, Somerset and Wiltshire. He succeeded his father on 20 February 1616/7 as the 2nd Earl of Castlehaven and 12th Baron Audley. He left seven children upon his death.
Sometime before 1612 (the historical record is unclear), Lord Audley married Elizabeth Barnham, a sister-in-law of the philosopher and scientist Francis Bacon, with whom he had six children. By all accounts the marriage was a loving and successful one, ending with her death in 1622. His second marriage, on 22 July 1624, at Harefield, Middlesex, was to the former Lady Anne Stanley (1580–1647), elder daughter and co-heiress of Ferdinando Stanley, 5th Earl of Derby (by his wife, Alice Spencer), and widow of Grey Brydges, 5th Baron Chandos. They had a daughter, Anne Touchet, who died young. Lady Anne was significantly older than Castlehaven. Their marriage was not a success but in 1628 his heir was married to her thirteen-year-old daughter Elizabeth.
Trial on charges of rape and sodomy
At his trial by peers it was claimed that Henry Skipwith arrived at Fonthill Gifford in 1621 and within a few years was so close to the Earl that he sat at the family table and was to be addressed as “Mister” by the servants. Several years later Giles Broadway arrived at the mansion and received a similar treatment. It was not long before the Earl was providing Skipwith with an annual pension to spend and attempting to have Skipwith inseminate his daughter-in-law so as to have an heir from Skipwith instead of his son. In fact the countess and Skipwith had an adulterous relationship.
Castlehaven's trial aroused continuing public debate, witnesses were almost certainly suborned, he maintained his innocence to the last, the jury was split on both charges, almost evenly on the sodomy charge, and the case remains of interest to some as an early trial concerning male homosexuality. Ultimately the trial's greatest influence proved to have been as a precedent in spousal rights, the leading case behind an injured wife's right to testify against her husband.
The charges were brought against Castlehaven on the complaint of his heir, who feared disinheritance, and were heard by the Privy Council, under the direction of Thomas Coventry, Lord High Steward. The Countess described a household she said was infested with debauchery. The Attorney-General explained to the court the Earl had become ill because "he believed not God" and this impiety made Castlehaven unsafe. The Earl insisted he was not guilty but that his wife and son had conspired in this attempt to commit judicial murder.
All witnesses against him would gain materially by his death. "News writers throughout England and as far away as Massachusetts Bay speculated about the outcome."
Castlehaven was convicted, attainted, and three weeks later beheaded on Tower Hill for his sexual crimes: an "unnatural crime", i.e. sodomy, committed with his page, Laurence (or Florence) FitzPatrick, who confessed to the crime and was executed; and for assisting Giles Browning (or Broadway), also executed, in the rape of his wife Anne, the Countess of Castlehaven, in which Lord Castlehaven himself participated by restraining her.
The page who was executed, Laurence FitzPatrick, testified that Anne, Countess of Castlehaven, "was the wickedest woman in the world, and had more to answer for than any woman that lived." In The Complete Peerage, Cokayne adds that the death of the Earl was certainly brought about by the Countess's manipulations, and her unquestionable adultery with one Ampthill and with Henry Skipwith, renders her motive suspicious. According to historian Cynthia B. Herrup, Anne was the equal of Lord Castlehaven in immorality.
Under the attainder Castlehaven forfeited his English barony of Audley, created for heirs general, but retained his Irish earldom and barony since it was an entailed honour protected by the statute De Donis. When he was beheaded on Tower Hill on 14 May 1631, those Irish titles passed to his son James.
Mervyn Touchet's first marriage (c.1611) was with Elizabeth Barnham (1592–c.1622/4), daughter of London alderman Benedict Barnham and his wife, Dorothea Smith, and they had six surviving children:
- James Tuchet, 3rd Earl of Castlehaven (1612–1684), who married Elizabeth Brydges (1614/5–1679), daughter of his stepmother, but left no surviving children
- Lady Frances Touchet (born 1617)
- Hon. George Touchet (died c.1689), who became a Benedictine monk
- Mervyn Tuchet, 4th Earl of Castlehaven (died 1686)
- Lady Lucy Touchet (died 1662)
- Lady Dorothy Touchet (died 1635)
-  History of Parliament Online article.
- Herrup 1999, p. ix.
- Herrup 1999, p. 12.
- Cynthia B. Herrup, Touchet, Mervin, second earl of Castlehaven (1593–1631), Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004
- Herrup 1999, p. 19.
- Cynthia B. Herrup A House in Gross Disorder: sex, law, and the 2nd Earl of Castlehaven, Oxford University Press, 1999
- Herrup, Cynthia (1999). A House in Gross Disorder: Sex, Law, and the 2nd Earl of Castlehaven. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-512518-5.
- Lacey, Brian (2008). Terrible Queer Creatures: A History of Homosexuality in Ireland. Wordwell Books.
- Leigh Rayment's Peerage Pages [self-published source][better source needed]
- Rictor Norton, "The Trial of Mervyn Touchet, Earl of Castlehaven, 1631", The Great Queens of History. Updated 8 August 2009
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