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On September 14, 1665, Winter, accompanied by two witnesses, barged into the Council chamber and made several accusations against the Agent, in the full presence of the rest of the Council. Foxcroft flew into a rage and an argument ensued, William Dawes in particular being vociferous in support of his new boss. Winter went out and published his indictment of the Agent in the form of a notice. Foxcroft in retaliation ordered the confining of Winter to his chambers.

But Winter was not without supporters. Two days later, on September 16, Francis Chuseman, Captain of the Guards ordered the arrest of Foxcroft and his son on charges of treason. He asked the Agent to surrender so that bloodshed could be avoided. When Foxcroft refused, musketeers were ordered to march to the Council chamber whereupon Foxcroft, his son Nathaniel, Jeremy Sambrooke (another member of the Council) and William Dawes came “hastily running downe, with pistoll cocked and swords drawne”. In the ensuing scuffle, the Foxcrofts were arrested, Sambrooke injured and Dawes was killed. Foxcroft’s account has the full gory details – “ all my clothes on my left side burnt by a shott levelled particularly at me, but did only burne my clothes and race the skin off my side, and went forward to Mr Dawes that was behind me, and went quite through him, in at the belly and out at the backe”. Sambrooke records that death was not instantaneous and that Dawes “dyed that afternoone”.

Winter became Agent once again. From a letter written by Foxcroft to the EIC while he was in prison, we know that Winter did not spare the Dawes family. He “seized on Mr Dawes his house and all that he had, leaving his wife destitute wherewith to feed her family” writes Foxcroft on September 6, 1666. From this it can be seen that Ascentia, assuming that she was the wife of the William Dawes, was not under arrest even a year after her crime.

Meanwhile, the Company, having received Sir Heneage Finch’s legal opinion, wrote back to Foxcroft, unaware that Winter had taken over. The letter, dated sometime in March 1666, stated that the respective “Governours and Councells Established by us in any of our fortes, Townes, etc., have power to exequute Judgement in all Causes Civill and Criminall”. It also pointed out that this was arrived at after consulting the King’s counsel (namely Finch). To clarify matters further, a letter to this effect had been obtained from the King, a copy of which was enclosed. To vest the Agent with proper authority, it was deemed fit to “Constitute you Governour of our Towne and Forte where the fact was Committed, as well as Agent, and to appoint you a Council under our Seale, which together with some Instructions and directions how to proceede in the Triall of this woman, and of such as were Assistants to her, if any were, wee have likewise herewith sent you”.

This despatch reached William Jearsey, the Chief at Masulipatnam, who was sympathetic to Foxcroft. Following the coup, he had warned ships to stay off Madras in order to deprive the Fort of vital supplies. The vessel bearing the documents avoided Madras and berthed at Masulipatnam. Knowing that Winter would probably arrest or worse, kill him if he came to Madras, Jearsey sent his assistant Robert Fleetwood, who was known to be friendly to Winter, to deliver the King’s commission and the EIC’s letter. Winter received him in the Fort on March 28, 1667, and permitted him to publicly read the King’s Commission. Also read was the warrant issued by Jearsey, commanding Winter to set free and reinstate Foxcroft, in the light of the papers received from England. Winter however chose to ignore the latter. He in fact wrote back to the EIC stating that he was certain that the documents were counterfeit and wondered at the boldness of Jearsey in issuing warrants of such high consequence!

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