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National Library of Wales journal


Cyf. 14, rh. 4 Gaeaf 1966

Williams o Fron : cleric and satirist /

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A section of the Indictment preserved in the 'Proceedings' reads
as follows:
'DENBIGHSHIRE (to wit) It hath been found, by a certain inquisition
of the county, that William Davies Shipley, late of LLANNORCK PARK,
in the parish of Henllan, in the county of Denbigh, Clerk, being a person
of a wicked and turbulent disposition, and maliciously designing and
intending to excite and diffuse, amongst the subjects of this realm,
discontents, jealousies, and suspicions of our Lord the King, and his
Government, and disaffection and disloyalty and to raise very
dangerous seditions and tumults and to diaw the government of
this kingdom into great scandal, infamy and disgrace; and to incite
the subjects of our Lord the King to attempt, by force and violence
and with arms, to make alterations in the government, state and
constitution of this Kingdom wickedly and seditiously published
a certain false, wicked, malicious, seditious, and scandalous libel, of
and concerning our said Lord and King in the form of a supposed
dialogue between a supposed gentleman and a supposed farmer
The Dean pleaded not guilty, and strangely, 'the Treasury would not
In September 1783 the trial was put off on the application of the
prosecutor. In April 1784, the prosecutor, on the morning upon which
the tiial was to have come on (the special jury having been struck the
day before), produced a certiorari to remove the Indictment into the
Court of King's Bench, when the Court directed it to be tried at the next
assizes at Shrewsbury. The temptation to quote at length from the
Proceedings must be resisted. The Dean, as on another occasion mentioned
by Pennant, was 'backed by his friends he brought with him', and they
were an influential group of 'three or four gentlemen of great consequence
and reputation in that county where the Dean lives, to prove his general
deportment and behaviour'. Among the friends who testified on his
behalf were Sir Watkin Williams Wynn, Sir Roger Mostyn and Colonel
Myddleton. The verbal exchanges of Counsel make fascinating reading
even now almost two centuries later. One can still read Mr. Justice
Buller's caustic comments on the methods of Counsel for the Defendant;
and of the considerable severity of the Judge's technique of handling
the jury as he realised that they lacked impartiality. The Judge's summing
up and the general trend of his questions indicated that he was not
impressed by the Dean or by the defence put forward (at great length),
on his behalf. The details are no longer important, but such a case by
its unique nature, and by the enormous public interest it would in-
evitably engender throughout North Wales, must have left a legacy
of ill-feeling that was still present in the Diocese in 1786. Williams of
Fron might well have regarded as 'Shameless' the inclusion of the name
of the Dean at the head of the Loyal Address under these circumstances.
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