Wednesday, August 31, 2011

A Stolen Child

It is quite strange that an era in which sleeping with another man's wife was considered a misuse or stealing of property yet there were no laws outlawing kidnapping.  No wonder people were worried about the gypsies stealing children- they certainly could with little to no legal repercussions.

An unfortunate mother who had to deal with the lack of child protection laws was Mary Davis, a military wife and landlady.  Mary's husband was fighting in Spain, leaving Mary and her six-year-old son alone in their Westminster house, which she rented out to lodgers.  One of the lodgers offered to watch over Mary's son while Mary went to her job as a washer-woman, an offer which the over-worked gladly accepted.  However, when Mary returned from work that night neither her son nor the babysitter could be found anywhere. 

The devastated mother searched high and low for her son, even after she delivered another son a few months after the incident.  Eventually Mary found herself and her newborn at an Inn in Folkingham (over a hundred miles away from London) where they stopped to rest for the night.  Mary was eating dinner at the Inn when the landlady insisted that two young chimney sweeps who just entered eat something as well.  To the dismay of everyone, one of the sooty children looked up from his dinner and jumped into Mary's arms with the joyful cry of, "That's my mother!"

Mary's story was one of the few with a happy ending (despite never finding the woman responsible for her son's indentured servitude) and thankfully, two years later in 1814 a law was finally passed outlawing the theft of children.


  1. So glad to know this story at least had a happy ending.

  2. There is always the story of James Annesley, a young boy destined to be the Earl of Anglesey who was kidnapped and taken to America so his uncle could have the title. He returned 12 years later to win the right to the title but the court was (purposefully) delayed and he died before proving himself.

    The BBC did a very interesting documentary about him,

  3. It's unfortunate that in many third world countries, this is still a daily occurrence. I watched a semi-documentary titled Red Light on this two days ago. Terrible and devastating.

    I'm so glad you posted a story with a happy ending!

  4. Yes, every once in a while I do actually tell a happy story :)

    @Grub Street, I hadn't know about that, how incredibly interesting and romantic!