St Giles in the Fields, London
|Occupation||Coffeehouse proprietress, sex worker|
|Known for||Co-owning Tom King's Coffee House, Allegedly inspiring Daniel Defoe's novel Moll Flanders|
|Criminal charge||Theft, disorderly household|
Elizabeth Adkins (1696-1747) was a prominent figure in London's underworld during the early 18th century. She is most famous for being the joint owner of King's Coffeehouse with her husband Tom King, but she also allegedly supported herself as a sex worker and pickpocket. Her aliases included "Mary"' or "Maria Godson," although she is best known as Moll King.
Life and career
According to The Life and Character of Moll King, late mistress of King's Coffee House in Covent Garden, a pamphlet published anonymously in 1747, Adkins was born in 1696. However, Adkins has been connected in historical analysis to a London criminal named Moll King, and court documents suggest Moll King was born at least twenty years before 1747. The Life and Character of Moll King states that Adkin's father was a shoemaker and that her mother sold fish, fruit and greens in the street. It also suggests Adkins became a sex worker before the age of fourteen.
Adkins was married to a man named Thomas King, known around the area as Smooth'd-Fac'd-Tom, at fourteen, and was linked several years later to William Murray. When this second relationship ended, Adkins befriended with famous courtesan Sally Salisbury and began her own work in the sex trade. During this time, between 1715 and 1720, Adkins began using her aliases, Mary or Maria Godson. She also went into business with infamous London criminal Jonathan Wild, from whom she learned pick-pocketing.
In October 1718, Adkins, referred to in legal documents as Moll King, was arrested for stealing a gold watch from a woman near St. Anne's Church, Soho. She was sentenced to seven years transportation to America, and later, when she was discovered attempting to re-enter the United Kingdom, she was sentenced to death. It is assumed that Adkin's connection with Jonathan Wild facilitated her release.
Adkins returned to her husband King, and the two began a business selling nuts on the street. By 1717, the nut stand had grown into the storefront eventually called King's Coffeehouse. Guests at the coffeehouse included many of London's most famous sex workers, including Mother Needham and Mother Whyburn. Some sources, including The Life and Character of Moll King, insinuate that Adkins continued her criminal business alongside Jonathan Wild while helping her husband manage the coffeehouse. In her parallel life, Adkins became known as Moll King, a notorious loan shark.
In 1723, a man named John Stanley was hanged for murdering his mistress. According to a pamphlet which was published after Stanley's death, he had allegedly been intimate with Moll King as well. Adkin's husband, King, died in 1739, allegedly of complications due to his alcoholism. Adkins, who had since been released from prison, was arrested shortly after her husband's death for keeping a disorderly house. Her criminal activities increased, and she earned a new nickname, "The Virago". In 1734, Adkins was allegedly sentenced to transportation to America a final time. It is not clear when she returned to London, but in 1747, Adkins died in a house on Haverstock Hill. She was either fifty-one or seventy-one.
Inspiring Moll Flanders
While Adkins was imprisoned at Newgate in 1721, novelist Daniel Defoe began writing about her. Defoe was visiting his friend, the journalist Nathaniel Mist, when he began mentioning Moll King in his notes. Historical analyst Gerald Howson argues in his 1985 book, Thief-Taker General: Jonathan Wild and the Emergence of Crime and Corruption As a Way of Life in Eighteenth-Century England, that Elizabeth Adkins' story had inspired Defoe to write his novel, Moll Flanders. 
- Dan Cruickshank (2010). London's Sinful Secret: The Bawdy History and Very Public Passions of London's Georgian Age. Macmillan. p. 80. Retrieved 9 June 2015.
- The Life and Character of Moll King, Late Mistress of King's Coffee-House in Covent-Garden ... Containing a True Narrative of this Well-known Lady, from Her Birth to Her Death ... Also the Flash Dialogue Between Moll King and Old Gentleman Harry ... To the Whole is Added, an Epitaph and Elegy ... And a Key to the Flash Dialogue. 1747. Retrieved 9 June 2015.
- Karen Dolby (2013). History's Naught Bits. Michael O'Mara Books. Retrieved 9 June 2015.
- Catharine Arnold (2010). City of Sin: London and its Vices. Retrieved 9 June 2015.
- Nicola Jane Philips (2006). Women in Business, 1700-1850. Boydell & Brewer Ltd. p. 192. Retrieved 9 June 2015.
- Gerald Howson (1985). Thief-Taker General: Jonathan Wild and the Emergence of Crime and Corruption As a Way of Life in Eighteenth-Century England. Transaction Publishers. p. 167. Retrieved 9 June 2015.