Dame Alice Kyteler (also Kytler, de Keteller) is remembered as the sorceress of Kilkenny. Sometimes said to have been the last witch in Ireland, Kyteler was when in fact the first person accused and condemned for witchcraft in Ireland according to the book The Sorcery Trial of Alice Kyteler: A Contemporary Account.
Kyteler was born in 1280 in her Norman family’s home, Kyteler’s House, in County Kilkenny, Ireland. Her family settled there after the Norman invasion of Ireland in 1169. By the time Alice Kyteler was born, her family was an established noble Irish family and a wealthy, important, influential part of the community.
Four Weddings & Four Funerals
Dame Alice was first married to William Outlaw (also Outlawe). She bore him at least one son, also named William Outlaw. By 1302, Outlaw had died and Kyteler was wed again, this time to Adam le Blund. For a brief period, Kyteler and le Blund were accused of killing husband number one.
After Adam le Blund died, Kytler was married a third time to Richard de Valle, and she participated in her fourth nuptial event when she married John le Poer. Poor le Poer became seriously ill in 1324 and let people know he thought he was being poisoned. When he passed away, le Poer made four husbands who had married Dame Alice Kyteler and died under at least somewhat suspicious circumstances.
Suspicions & Accusations
With the wasting sickness of her fourth spouse, the children of John le Poer and her other husbands accused Kyteler of poisoning their fathers and of using sorcery against them. They also claimed she was partial to her first-born son William Outlaw and cast some suspicion on him. Among some of the claims was that Dame Alice could be seen at night sweeping the dirt of the town up to William’s door while murmuring secretly: “To the house of William my son, hie all the wealth of Kilkenny Town.” (www.sacred-texts.com)
She was accused of leading a secret society of people who had turned away from the church to pursue sorcery: sacrificing animals; consorting with demons; blasphemously imitated the power of the Church; using of powders, unguents, ointments, candles and incantations; among other things.
The sensational case was brought to trial in 1324 to Bishop of Ossory, Richard de Ledrede, an English Franciscan friar, but thing got complicated. The bishop wrote to the Chancellor of Ireland to have Kyteler arrested, but the Chancellor of Ireland was in fact Roger Utlagh, and Utlagh is another form of Outlaw. The Chancellor was her first brother-in-law and did not believe the charges. He insisted forty days must elapse before an arrest, no doubt hoping the furor would die down and the whole thing blow over.
The Bishop would not accept the 40-day delay and was jailed by Sir Arnold le Poer, the Seneschal of Kilkenny. If the name rings a bell it is because Sir Arnold le Poer was Kyteler’s fourth brother-in-law. While her children and the Bishop were trying to have her condemned, her brothers-in-law were rallying to her defense, so her accusers tried a new tactic. They arrested one of her servants, Petronella de Meath. De Meath was imprisoned, tortured, and eventually confessed to witchcraft, and implicated Kyteler.
A Sorceress, Magician & a Heretic
From this point on, Dame Alice Kyteler was a condemned woman, charged with being a sorceress, magician, and heretic. She fled the Ireland and is thought to have gone to England. No further records of her appear. Petronella de Meath was not as lucky. She was burnt alive at the stake.
Was Kyteler an innocent woman who sadly lost four husbands or did she poison them, one by one? Were her brothers-in-law men of common sense who astutely chose not to believe the rumors, or were they victims of her apparent charms and alleged sorcery?
In a twist of irony, today the home of this infamous woman accused among other things of poisoning four husbands is a restaurant called Kytler’s Inn in Kilkenny.
Would you want to eat in the former home of a woman condemned as a witch and believed to have poisoned four husbands? Let us know what you think in the comments below.
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