Execution of W. Palmer

[Stafford?: 1856?]

This grisly souvenir records the death in June 1856 of William Palmer; known as the ‘Prince of Poisoners’, he killed several members of his family, including his wife, brother and (it seems likely) four of his children, for financial gain. A crowd of 30,000 witnessed his execution, some of whom will have bought copies of this poem. In it Palmer comforts his mother and surviving son from the grave, and solicits the empathy of his community: “Behold poor William Palmer, hurried to his dismal tomb”. The thought of crowds singing songs at an execution is a discomfiting one, but such spectacles were, in the nineteenth century, a form of public entertainment.

Broadsides.B.85.4