Edinburgh World Heritage - News Article


Archive Anecdotes

Snippets from the city's archives

Jul 3, 2014

Last century newspapers reported on the trial in Edinburgh on 3 July 1914 of Maude Edwards, a suffragette protester.

Miss Edwards was charged with slashing the King's picture in the Royal Scottish Academy. It is clear from the article that she was not inhibited by the proceedings and was determined to promote her cause throughout:

'Miss Edwards immediately on being put into the dock commenced a running fire of commentary on the Court procedure, which she kept up during the course of the trial. Over a score of police were on duty in various parts of the Court . . . When Miss Edwards entered the Court loud applause from a large number of women greeted her, and cheers were raised on her name being called.

When asked to answer the indictment, Miss Edwards replied "I will not be tried. I am not going to listen to you or anyone whatever." '

The applause which followed led to the Sheriff ordering the Court to be cleared. Many of the women resisted and were forcibly ejected by the police.

'At that stage the Sheriff addressed a question to the Clerk of Court which Miss Edwards promptly  answered. "I am not speaking to you," said the Sheriff. "But I am speaking to you," replied Miss Edwards, "and that makes all the difference!" '

Miss Edwards continued to speak loudly as the names of the jurymen were announced saying:

"One day we will sit in judgement on you. This is nothing but a Star Chamber. . . I am going to talk all day, and it will do you good."

The trial proved however to be very brief. After only twenty minutes of evidence the jury, without retiring for discussion, found her guilty and she was sentenced to three months imprisonment.She remained defiant:

'As she left the dock Miss Edwards cried that neither three months nor fifty years' sentence would make any difference to her. Even after she had left court her protests were still audible. After being sentenced Miss Edwards was taken to Calton Gaol, where pickets were already stationed; within three hours however she was removed to Perth prison.'

Maude Edward's prison experience was harrowing. In common with many jailed suffragettes, she refused to eat and as a result was forcibly fed in spite of having a heart condition. Following medical advice,  she submitted, on July 10, a request, reproduced on the right, to be liberated on the grounds of health and with an undertaking to 'refrain from militancy in the future'. She was released under licence on 14 July 1914 having completed twelve days of her sentence.

Photos: (C) Crown copyright. Data supplied by National Records of Scotland.

Other sources: 'Scottish Archives For Schools' and 'Alternative Perth'.

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