Sunday 16 December 1660

In the morning to church, and then dined at home. In the afternoon I to White Hall, where I was surprised with the news of a plot against the King’s person and my Lord Monk’s; and that since last night there are about forty taken up on suspicion; and, amongst others, it was my lot to meet with Simon Beale, the Trumpeter, who took me and Tom Doling into the Guard in Scotland Yard, and showed us Major-General Overton, where I heard him deny that he is guilty of any such things; but that whereas it is said that he is found to have brought many arms to town, he says it is only to sell them, as he will prove by oath.

From thence with Tom Doling and Boston and D. Vines (whom we met by the way) to Price’s, and there we drank, and in discourse I learnt a pretty trick to try whether a woman be a maid or no, by a string going round her head to meet at the end of her nose, which if she be not will come a great way beyond.

Thence to my Lady’s and staid with her an hour or two talking of the Duke of York and his lady, the Chancellor’s daughter, between whom, she tells me, that all is agreed and he will marry her. But I know not how true yet.

It rained hard, and my Lady would have had me have the coach, but I would not, but to my father’s, where I met my wife, and there supped, and after supper by link home and to bed.

17 Dec 2003, 1:47 a.m. - Bradford

Any volunteers to verify the string round your head and nose test? Anyone who understands just what maneuvers these instructions denote?

17 Dec 2003, 3:14 a.m. - Alan Bedford

It's a long way from current events to history... Sam (and the social crowd he runs with) continue to speculate on the intentions of the Duke of York vis a vis Anne Hyde. We know, historically, that they exchanged vows about three and a half months ago. What do you suppose the Duke's purpose may be in suppressing news of the marriage?

17 Dec 2003, 4:15 a.m. - dirk

"as he will prove by oath" Does this refer to a specific legal procedure: proof by oath (as I think existed under Roman law), at the time admitted as proof in commercial (and other?) disputes? Or is Overton just going to swear he "didn't do it"?

17 Dec 2003, 5:03 a.m. - vincent

Oath; I do believe Hand raised and hand on book and signing appropiate document[and having it sealed with the right wax and fee]; It should have My Liege, Dreaded Sire, and the rest of the niceties of faawning, Knees deep in the pile. Look into the eyes and no devious clance and voice tones strong and convincing [no lie detector test device needed].

17 Dec 2003, 8:36 a.m. - PHE

Scotland Yard Interesting to note that 'Scotland Yard' is the current headquarters of the London police force (the Met)- albeit 'New' Scotland Yard. Thus, although there was no police force at the time, there is pressumably some continuous link with the 'Guard'. By 'maid', Sam pressumably means virgin. I wonder if he ever tried it out.

17 Dec 2003, 11:10 a.m. - A. De Araujo

"and there we drank and in discourse I learnt a pretty trick to try wheather a woman be a maid or no" see, they were gossiping about Anne Hyde and that lead to this conversation; there were no taboid press at the time.

17 Dec 2003, 12:33 p.m. - Christo

The Duke''s marriage . . . . . . dates from the contract (24/11/59) not the avowal (03/09/60). At that date James was an exile with no money and few prospects. Now he is the King's brother and requires his consent before he can marry. The lady, of course, is a commoner.

17 Dec 2003, 2:36 p.m. - Michael T.

What a great entry! A little bit of everything - treason, things to try with the ladies and some hot gossip to round out the day! Speaking of treason, was this a serious plot or just some "house cleaning"?

17 Dec 2003, 3:25 p.m. - David A. Smith

"... he will marry her. But I know not how true yet" Answering Alan: The Duke of York is the kingdom's most eligible bachelor, and Anne Hyde is a lowely commoner, not only of no geopolitical significance but a social laughingstock. From the future James II to take himself out of eligibility in this way is a gaffe of the first order (spoiler alert: James is going to make many, many more such) that will infuriate his brother and complicate his life. James is hiding from his brother's future wrath ...

17 Dec 2003, 3:31 p.m. - David A. Smith

"since last night there are about forty taken up on suspicion" Whew! One day we're puttering about the house supervising workmen, the next forty people are swept up by the secret police and bundled off to the Tower. That's the kind of chill wind that will make Our Sam trot ever more spaniel-close to Montagu, Montagu's favor, and Montagu's protection ....

17 Dec 2003, 5:11 p.m. - hanne

In re: Bradford's query about the measuring-with-string virginity test -- Yes, this was a fairly common type of virginity test. The notion that sexual experience would expand or dilate other parts of the body (as it was believed to do with the vagina and/or womb) dates back to Ancient Greece; Soranus of Ephesus's "Gynecology" notes the belief that the neck thickens as a direct result of losing virginity. There's thus a long history of virginity tests involving pieces of string or ribbon that were wound around a woman's neck or around her head. The salient point was, ostensibly, that a nonvirgin would "outgrow" a string/ribbon that had previously fit her perfectly. Pepys doesn't describe the technique in such a way that I can tell you exactly what part of the head the string was to encompass, and I'm not entirely clear on the role of the nose, but it appears from this that there may have been a belief that the size of the nose changed as a result of losing virginity. It'd fall into line with some of the other beliefs I've come across. Cheers, Hanne Blank author, Virgin: A History of Our Most Controversial Universal (Forthcoming, Bloomsbury, 2006)

17 Dec 2003, 6:17 p.m. - helena murphy

Had Anne Hyde been a grand English heiress with a huge dowry for James the marriage would have been acceptable.Although certainly an eligiable bachelor his marriage would pale in significance to that of his older brother Charles,as the king is expected to marry for dynastic,political, and sound financial reasons. At this stage nobody foresees that Charles'future marriage will be barren of children in the light of he having so many healthy if illegitimate children already.In hindsight James'marriage is of tremendous political,social, and religious significance as it will produce not only two future Protestant Queens of England,Mary(1688-94)and Anne(1702-1714)but in the course of whose reigns the monarchy itself undergoes radical change to become the constitutional monarchy which today we are familiar with.Little did James and Anne realise,or anyone else for that matter, that in their backstairs love they were indeed great future harbingers of change.

17 Dec 2003, 6:21 p.m. - Wim van der Meij

Dear Hanne, I am sure we are all looking forward to your book; only a couple of years to wait!

17 Dec 2003, 6:25 p.m. - Wim van der Meij

Prove by oath.. Could it be that the proof would be by fire: that he would walk on burning coal and remain unhurt?

17 Dec 2003, 7:13 p.m. - Peter

Wim, what you are describing is trial by ordeal. I don't think it was used any more by this stage. I'm sure that this oath is exactly as vincent describes it: one hand on the Bible and looking everyone staright in the eye.

17 Dec 2003, 7:34 p.m. - Andrew Hamilton

Secret Police, James, Anne and Virgins I am, once again, astounded by the knowledge and incisive comment that these comments draw forth. Thank you, David Smith, Hanne and Helena Murphy.

17 Dec 2003, 8:51 p.m. - Glyn

Would he use the string virginity test? Based on Pepys' character, I think that he very probably would have done so - he likes to try things out, and he also ikes to tease his female friends. I can see him in a tavern or elsewhere, casually asking some unsuspecting young woman just to put a string around her head, and then teasing her with his friends because it "proved" that she was - or wasn't - a maid.

18 Dec 2003, 12:44 a.m. - Gar Foyer

Helena, even some earlier passages in the diary allude to the fact that long before the marriage the chancellor was quite mindful of the likely historical significance of legitimizing his daughter's and the Duke's offspring... Since both Stuart brothers were w'mongers (in both possible usages, ie. wh...and wa....), the court's licentiousness and scandals were routine... Perhaps the Stuart brothers never countenanced another revolution but diary readers will recall Montegu's blunt skepticism that Charles would survive long on the throne. Charles, despite his flirtations with divine rights and popery, became an adept political pragmatist and dissembler. James did not. Sam's ultimate loyalty to the doomed and deluded younger brother is touching but foolish.

19 Dec 2003, 4:07 a.m. - dirk

"proof by oath" I take it the oath would only be acceptable as proof in the absence of other more substantial forms of evidence to the contrary - which if these were produced, would mean the oathtaker would not only stand trial for what he had previously denied, but also for perjury. Anyone knows of a contemporary example of such proceedings?

19 Dec 2003, 4:24 a.m. - dirk

"proof by oath" Apparently the proof by oath could have far reaching consequences - also in criminal cases. Cfr. example from newspaper clipping anno 1730: "13 June 1730 Last Saturday one John Sheffield was committed to Newgate by Justice Lambert, on the oath of John Waller, for robbing him on the highway in Essex of eleven guineas, seven shillings, and several India handkerchiefs. It is remarkable that James Dalton was lately executed, having been convicted upon the evidence of the said Waller, for robbing, him on the highway; and four other persons were committed to Newgate upon his oath for robbing him, in order to take their trials last Sessions; but the Bills of Indictment against two were return'd Ignoramus, the other two were try'd and acquitted.” [Weekly Journal, or The British Gazetteer] Source:

19 Dec 2003, 7:09 p.m. - Nigel Pond

What Wim described is indeed trial by ordeal, similarly holding a red/white hot iron bar, and the trial of witches by dunking. In fact such trials did allow for a fair degree of latitude for the accused -- it would be up to the judge to decide how hot the bar should be, how long the dunking etc, so there was some discretion. Trial by ordeal and the even older trial by battle were long gone by Pepys' time.

20 Dec 2003, 3:16 a.m. - dirk

"Trial by ordeal" "In 1215 the Church abolished **trial by ordeal**. Trial by combat survived until the 1300s but was rarely used. (...)[Instead] Henry II fashioned the jury system: A group of local men (twelve - in imitation of Christ's disciples) were selected to tell the judges on oath what crimes had been committed in the area and whom they suspected. (...) To handle lesser crimes for which the royal judges had no time, monarchs began to appoint local gentry (smaller noble landowners) to the office of Justice of the Peace." Source:

20 Dec 2003, 8:03 a.m. - Hic retearivs

Trial by Combat One moment, please. We need a learned gentleman here. Did not trial by combat endure into the 19th century in England?

21 Dec 2003, 2:36 a.m. - dirk

Trial by combat Trial by combat means that the two parties in a judicial case fight it out (usually until one of them is dead) in front of the judge(s). The winner proves that his stand in the case was right. The loser is condidered to have lied, and is not only dead, but also lost the case. This is a medieval procedure, where God is supposed to make the true party win, and was no longer used in 19th century England.

21 Dec 2003, 4:26 a.m. - melinda trapelo

How is a "trial by combat" different from a "duel?" Is it that a trial by combat is done in front of a judge and a duel is done privately?

21 Dec 2003, 8:54 a.m. - Mary

Trial by combat. Trial by combat was, as explained above, part of an ancient judicial process and was held to be a method of delivering a heavenly verdict and sentence, often fatal. A duel was a private matter, usually arising from what was perceived as a matter of honour and honour could well be satisfied by the infliction of wounds that might or might not be fatal, but which were certainly humiliating.

23 Dec 2003, 4:12 p.m. - Jenny

Oath In England an "oath" is still a legal concept. If an individual has to give a statutory declaration (required for various reasons) it must be sworn (i.e. on a bible/religious text or confirmed if non-religous) in front of a solicitor (lawyer, for all you americans) or a "commissioner for oaths". Basically it would have added weight to the statement being made.

23 Dec 2003, 6:38 p.m. - hanne

Updated virginity-and-string info: I tracked down the test to which I believe this entry may refer, in two separate sources (one French, one Italian) dating from 1560 and 1608, respectively. The test was accomplished as follows. A string or ribbon would be wrapped around the head vertically, not horizontally, from the bone crest at the base of the skull above the spine, wrapping up and over the top of the head, coming down the forehead and going to the tip of the nose. A mark would be put on the string/ribbon at the point where it touched the tip of the nose. Then -- and this was considered the critical bit -- the string/ribbon would be wound around the young woman's neck. If the ends just met, she was a virgin. If her neck was substantially wider than the string was long, on the other hand, she was not. There is a hint in the later source that some people erroneously thought the same to be true if the string proved substantially overlong, and overlapped itself on being wrapped around the neck, suggesting that depending on where you were and/or who you asked, any deviation from the desired result (the string being *exactly* the right length to go around the neck) would be interpreted as proof of non-virginity. Cheers, Hanne Blank

24 Dec 2003, 1:51 a.m. - Bradford

Bravo to Hanne, and best wishes for upcoming publication. Anyone game to furnish test results to complete the inquiry?

16 Dec 2013, 2:55 p.m. - Bill

"where I was surprised with the news of a plot against the King’s person and my Lord Monk’s" Sam has had a kind of fantasy life this year. His competency and connections have started him on an interesting and lucrative career. It's been fun as a reader to see and to anticipate. But. This diary has stimulated many of us, I hope, to examine the time period before 1660. What a shock! That large army and navy we've seen being dismantled didn't just happen. Violence, disruption, crisis - it was a totally different world that seemed to change overnight to sweetness and light just as our diary opened. Sure, we've seen pesky Presbyterians (what do they want anyway?), a few regicides (who would defend them?) and Sam's problem with once being anti-monarchical (apparently a non-problem, as it was for many). All of little consequence. The "Restoration" must have seemed to him, as to me, an amazing and sudden event. And amazingly peaceful. But there is an underbelly; there are some who would resort to violence to overturn the new civic order. Sam has seemed oblivious to this possibility and even now, after seeing Overton in the morning, he can continue his frivolous drinking in the afternoon. I hope we can discover exactly what these "fanaticks" want to accomplish but I don't think we'll learn much about that from SP. Fanatics / Nonconformists:

17 Dec 2013, 3:36 p.m. - Gillian Bagwell

According to my research, the Duke of York and Anne Hyde were secretly married in Breda in November 1659, and secretly married again in London on September 3, 1660. She was already pregnant by the time of the second marriage. When they fell in love, the chances that Charles would be king seemed remote, much less that James would be king. By the time of the second marriage, Charles had been restored to the throne and they knew that he would be angry that James had married without his permission. Rumors were getting out by the time Sam is writing, and it's all about to hit the fan! The marriages and fallout are events in my novel "The September Queen" (UK title "The King's Mistress"), about Jane Lane, who helped Charles escape after the Battle of Worcester in 1651. I have her present at the first marriage (and, in fact, introducing the duke and Anne Hyde), and involved in the aftermath of the second. She could well have been involved in all of it--she and Anne Hyde were both ladies in waiting at the court of Charles's sister, Mary of Orange. I wrote a series of articles on the events in London in each month of 1660, including the huge and rapid developments in the theatre, which became legal again during 1660. If you're interested, links to the articles are on my website,

19 Dec 2013, 12:54 a.m. - Chris Squire UK

Hanne Blank's book's Amazon page:

1 Aug 2020, 6:53 p.m. - Terry Foreman

"In the afternoon I to White Hall, where I was surprised with the news of a plot against the King’s person and my Lord Monk’s; and that since last night there are about forty taken up on suspicion" L&M: Overton's Plot; hatched by discontented sectaries and disbanded soldiers, allegedly under the lead of Maj.-Gen. Lanbert, at the time a prisoner in the Tower. Its aims were said to include the burning of Whitehall Palace, and the killing of the King and Albemarle: CSPVen. 1659-61, pp. 228, 230-1; M. P. Ashley, John Wildman, pp. 161+. Some examinations of those arrested are summarized in CSPD 1660-1, pp. 413, 416+.