40 Real People Executed for Witchcraft

Witches around a cauldron , woodcut from Reutlingen, 1489. Wikimedia Commons

39. Petronilla de Meath was the first person executed for witchcraft in the UK and Ireland

In Kilkenny, Ireland, in 1324, scheming relatives accused Lady Alice Kyteler of witchcraft. They said she’d killed several husbands, invoked demons, and cast spells. Naturally, this also implicated her maid and confidante, Petronilla de Meath. But whilst Lady Alice legged it to England, poor Petronilla lacked the wealth and connections to follow suit. She was tortured to extract incriminating evidence. Unsurprisingly, Petronilla told them what they wanted to hear, and even claimed Alice regularly had sex with a demon. She became the first person in Britain and Ireland to be burned at the stake for witchcraft in 1324.