Series 2012 - The King's War On Witches: Revealed

The King's War on Witches

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In the late 16th century Europe was in the grip of a ferocious witch hunt, where thousands were tortured and burnt at the stake. The church was fully behind this terrifying crusade against the imaginary enemies of Christianity. In France and Germany alone up to 40,000 people may have been killed as witches. But England and Scotland were almost untouched by witch persecutions until King James himself decided to launch his own, personal war on witchcraft.

In 1597 King James VI of Scotland published 'Daemonology', a handbook on how to recognise and destroy, witches. The book explored the threat that 'those Detestable slaves of the Devil', posed to James himself. It fuelled waves of witch hunting throughout Britain.

The legacy of James' 'Daemonology' continued throughout the 17th century, and led to the torture and execution of hundreds of women in a series of infamous witch trials. No-one knows exactly how many men and women died in these trials, such as the Pendle trial of 1612, or how many others were killed in cases that never came to court. The documentary reveals the purges in many areas of Britain drew directly on King James' book. Also for the first time, remarkable new archaeological evidence from Cornwall, suggests that witchcraft was actively practiced for centuries, even during the most intense periods of witch-hunting. Experimental archaeologist Jacqui Wood has excavated strange pits lined with swan's feathers, and filled with animal skins and human remains. She believes the pits were ritual offerings inspired by witchcraft beliefs.



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Comments (25)

  • Dorothy

    6 months ago


    Why advertise the shows on Demand 5 and then not show them because of copyright issues on the time they are to be shown online has run out? What is the point?

  • Jenna

    over 1 year ago


    After watching the documentary, i am apsolutly appuled at the quality of the flim. This is the last ever time i am watching something with channel 5. I suggest that if the makers of this website, actually want people to watch their programs, I highly suggest that they FIX IT

  • This comment was removed by a moderator

  • Bill

    over 1 year ago


    No problems at all, using ie9 Complainers PCs and Internet obviously Substandard

  • Nickie

    over 1 year ago


    The programme stated that the last execution where in 1682. This refer to the three bideford Witches: Temperance LLoyd, Mary Trembles and Susanna Edwards. After the Bideford Witches there was a young lady named Alice Molland who was tried and sentenced to death, for witchcraft in 1685, 3 years after the three women from Bideford. There seems to be no written record of what happened to Alice after she was sentenced, did she swing at Heavitree, die in gaol or even escape? There is a plaque at the site of the old Exeter assizes which bears the names of Temperance, Susannah and Mary as well as Alice which would suggest she was indeed executed. In the extract called 'The context of witchcraft: The case of Jane Wenham' Phyllis.J Guskin writes that the last in witch in England to be executed is in 1684, although she does not name them. There's also the little matter of “Old Woman Coneman” at Coggeshall in1699, Elinor Shaw and Mary Philipps in Northamtonshire on 17th March 1705 and Mary and Elizabeth Hicks on 28th July 1716 in Huntingdon, to name just a few, who were all executed for witchcraft prior to the amendment of 1735. We will never know whether any of these women where witches of powerful covens, solitary practitioners, simple herbalists or simply unpopular yet totally innocent. I would recommend that you read the book by Montague Summers titled Geography of Witchcraft If your interested in the subject then the tale of Mary Bateman is a fantastic account of magic, deceit and murder. Mary, The Yorkshire Witch was hung at New Drop near The Castle of York on Monday 20th March 1809. She was referred to as “the Witch” by the witnesses and at the trial the prosecution states “witchcraft” as a source of her crimes.

  • 50sGazza

    over 1 year ago


    A terrifying account of witch hunts. Plays very jerkily on explorer, but no problems on google chrome


    over 1 year ago


    Why the hell isn't this episode available on ipad app? Been searching for this ep for ages every day - still no joy! Please sort it?!

  • Valerie

    over 1 year ago


    Wanna bet the pits from the 1970s were wannabe pagan hippies, probably after a long night of tuning in, turning on, and dropping out?

  • Ceri

    over 1 year ago


    Can't play, please put this on 5 demand so it can be watched via iPad

  • Nicole

    over 1 year ago


    It's now on Youtube, that works. Demand 5... first time I've used your service, last time I'll use your service!

  • wendyk

    over 1 year ago


    why is nothing being done.will not play

  • Victoria

    over 1 year ago


    Can't watch programme. Very disappointed !!! won't bother with 5 in the future.

  • EmmaSheffield

    over 1 year ago


    i cant play any vids from this site but all from itv bbc 4od all play fine

  • EmmaSheffield

    over 1 year ago


    i cant play any vids from this site but all from itv bbc 4od all play fine

  • witch

    over 1 year ago


    i to have had the same problems and have reported the video

  • Peter

    over 1 year ago


    Tried to watch it last night and it said something like "unable to unlock adobe conent" I downloaded the new flash as it said (even th I definately didn't need it) still doesn't work even today.

  • Jeff Warwick

    over 1 year ago

    Jeff Warwick

    If you are going to offer a product please make sure it works! Needless to say the M&S advert played like a dream even though I didn't ask to watch it. Shame the programme wasn't able to run. I'm on a super fast computer with optic fibre connection. I have no problems with ITV, BBC or Channel 4. Channel 5 fails to deliver.

  • cheryl dodds

    over 1 year ago

    cheryl dodds

    Took me ages to get access to programme but eventually got it. It should come on right away when you press play

  • David Chettleburgh

    over 1 year ago

    David Chettleburgh

    Just like the other complaints. Screen went black during the adverts and did not come back. I don't think I will bother to watch anything on Demand5 again. It's just a waste of time!

  • JoBo

    over 1 year ago


    Cannot access the programme, screen black during adverts and did not come back on - very disappointing

  • AmandaRoberts

    over 1 year ago


    brilliant am actually doing this subject in my history degree at goldsmiths!1

  • Byran Dwane

    over 1 year ago

    Byran Dwane

    had to give up watching. screen kept going black wile adverts are playing. freezing, buffering. terrible.

  • Barbara Ilott

    over 1 year ago

    Barbara Ilott

    A remarkable well-balanced and unprovocative account. I was impressed.

  • manda casey

    over 1 year ago

    manda casey

    terrible to watch, constatly buffering and taking forever to watch

  • Marie

    over 1 year ago


    where's the subtitles?????