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Lot 137: 21 Year Old Queen Victoria Pardons a Convicted Forger
Presidential Letters, Free Franks & Speeches: Washington to Bush + Important Autographs in History, Science & the Arts
26 October 2016
New York, NY, USALive Auction
Description: Young Queen Victoria Pardons a Convicted Forger ********** VICTORIA. (1819-1901). Queen of Great Britain and Ireland; Empress of India. Manuscript DS. (“Victoria R”). 1½pp. Small folio. London, September 11, 1840. To the Sheriff of the County of Norfolk (Henry Villebois of Marsham House). ********** “Whereas Henry Pike was at the Gaol delivery holden in and for the County of Norfolk in July 1838, Convicted of Forgery and Sentenced to be Transported Fifteen Years for the same. We in consideration of some circumstances humbly represented unto Us, are graciously pleased to extend Our Grace and Mercy unto him, and to Grant him Our Free Pardon for the Crime of which he stands Convicted… And for so doing this shall be your Warrant. Given at Our Court at St. James’s the Eleventh day of September 1840 in the Fourth Year of Our Reign…”********** Raised in near isolation by her mother, who feared future political influence, Victoria inherited the throne in 1837 at the age of 18, a fiercely independent woman. Exiling even her mother from the realm of politics, she resolved to govern alone. However, her commitment to remain independent was conquered after she married her first cousin, Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha on February 10, 1840. The two formed a memorably fulfilling partnership and Albert eventually shared in governing the empire. Following Albert’s death, the queen ruled for almost 40 years according to what she thought her late husband would have done. Our pardon was signed seven months after Victoria and Albert’s wedding and two months before the birth of her first daughter, also named Victoria. ********** The end of the Napoleonic Wars and subsequent economic downturn as well as a series of bad harvests swelled the ranks of the poor whose survival depended on workhouses. However, suspecting abuse, Parliament launched a royal commission to investigate how relief was distributed. The 1834 Poor Law Amendment Act indirectly led to the establishment of the Aylsham Union workhouse two years later. Pike, as clerk to the board of guardians that governed that workhouse, forged the name of one of the guardians, John Cross, on a payment voucher in 1837. He was convicted by a jury in 1838 and held in jail in the County of Norfolk, adding to the number of prisoners who, at the time, were taxing the British prison system. A dramatic increase in crime in the first four decades of the 19th century, led to overcrowding and deplorable conditions in prisons and prison ships, where convicts languished waiting to be transported to one of England’s penal colonies. The problem prompted the construction of new prisons as well as a prison reform movement that gained momentum in the first part of the 19th century. The Gaols Act of 1835 required inspections of prisons and, in 1839, the first standardized rules for punishment were established. Our pardon releases Pike from being transported for 15 years in lieu of two years of time served. ********** Signed at the head of the document, which is in overall fine condition; the paper seal intact.