Continued from here

Winter had held back all despatches from Madras ever since he took charge and it was only on January 18, 1667, that the EIC got to know of the coup, thanks to a letter from another Foxcroft sympathiser, Sir George Oxinden, the Chief at Surat. There were also rumours that Winter had colluded with the Dutch and handed over Madras to them. The King asked the Lord Chancellor to investigate. Thomas, brother of Sir Edward Winter represented him while Foxcroft had his brother-in-law, Sir Jeremiah Whitchcott appear on his behalf. Consequent to this, a commission was issued on December 4, ordering the reduction of Fort St George and the restoration of Foxcroft to his office. A fleet of five ships and a frigate, fitted out for “warfare or trade” sailed under the admiralty of Captain Robert Price. The vessels arrived on April 21, 1668 and after a protracted negotiation with Winter, got him to yield. Foxcroft was made Governor by October, and permission was granted to Winter to stay on in Madras. All was set for the trial of Ascentia Dawes.

Sir Heneage Finch had set out the lines on which the case was to proceed. Dawes’ indictment was made on the form that he had prescribed and 24 persons were summoned to form a grand jury. This body returned the indictment as it was, thereby confirming that she had to be tried for murder. Following the instructions of Finch, it was decided that the jury for the trial would comprise twelve men, six English and six Portuguese. A total of 36 people were summoned for this, chiefly on the grounds that the accused may object to some of them sitting in judgment. In the event, she objected to just three – Sir Edward Winter (which prejudice is quite understandable), Robert Fleetwood (a Winter man) and Hugh Dixon, Gunner of the Fort and probably a participant in the coup.

Twelve people from the remaining 33 were selected and sworn in as jury. The foreman was Edward Reade, a son-in-law of Thomas Winter, the brother of the erstwhile Agent. Surprisingly, Ascentia appears to have not had any objections to his presence on the panel. The trial was held sometime in April 1669. The examination of witnesses went on for about two hours at the end of which the foreman sent in a note to the Governor and his Council, which constituted the Court. It said that the jury found Ascentia guilty of murder but not in the manner and form described in the indictment. It also sought further instructions from the Court which responded stating that it was the duty of the jury to bring in a verdict of guilt or not.

The jury then went into a huddle and after a short while declared that they were ready. Edward Reade was asked to speak on their behalf and he contrary to all expectations said that the accused was not guilty. The Court, thinking that this was a mistake, asked him again and he repeated that Ascentia was not guilty. The Court then asked the jury, which agreed with the foreman. With that Ascentia Dawes was free and she passes from the pages of history forever. Did she live on in Madras or did she return to England? We don’t know.

Continued here