Colonel Francis Charteris (baptised 4 April 1675 – 24 February 1732), nicknamed “The Rape-Master General”, was a Scottish soldier and adventurer who earned a substantial sum of money through gambling and the South Sea Bubble. He was convicted of raping a servant in 1730 and sentenced to death, but was subsequently pardoned, before dying of natural causes shortly afterwards.
Charteris was born at Edinburgh in about 1675, the son of John Charteris (died 1691 dead by 1702), a magistrate, and his wife, Mary, who was possibly the daughter of Sir Francis Kinloch, 1st Baronet. His family were land-holders and owned property in Amisfield, near Dumfries. Even before his conviction, he was notorious and despised by many in London as an archetypal rake. He had a serial military career, being dismissed from service four times; the third time in the Southern Netherlands by the Duke of Marlborough, for cheating at cards, and the fourth time by Parliament for accepting bribes. Despite his military dismissals, he amassed a considerable fortune.
Charteris married Helen Swinton, the daughter of Alexander Swinton, Lord Mersington; their daughter Janet married James Wemyss, 5th Earl of Wemyss, in 1720, and his grandson, Francis Wemyss Charteris, 7th Earl of Wemyss, adopted his mother’s maiden name in 1732 when he inherited his grandfather’s estates.
Charteris’ mistress, prostitute Sally Salisbury
Rape of Anne Bond
Charteris would send his servants out through the countryside to recruit women for him to have sex with. The methods and enticements he used made him disliked by the poor in some parts of England. His reputation preceded his trial for raping a servant named Anne Bond. When Bond was hired, on 24 October 1729, she was informed that her employer was “Colonel Harvey” for fear that his reputation would put off his prospective employee. Charteris had a number of contacts who regularly hired women to work as servants, who would then be trapped in the house and repeatedly “urged” to have sex with him. When Bond began to work, she was immediately besieged by “Harvey’s” advances, along with offers of money; but she refused. On her third day of employment, Anne realised that Harvey was in fact Colonel Francis Charteris and requested to leave. This request was refused, and staff were positioned to prevent her from escaping.
The next morning, 10 November, Charteris attacked and raped Bond. There were no witnesses, and Charteris’ servants in the next room later testified that they heard nothing. When Bond told Charteris she was going to the authorities over the crime, he ordered servants to whip her and take her belongings and throw her out the door, telling them that she had stolen money from him. With assistance from Mary Parsons, perhaps a former employer, Bond brought a complaint for the misdemeanour of “assault with intent to commit rape.” The Middlesex grand jury originally found grounds to proceed with this charge but later upgraded the charge to the capital felony of rape.
On 27 February 1730, Charteris was tried for rape at the Old Bailey. The trial was a media sensation. The defence attacked the virtue and motives of the complainant, accusing her of compliance, prostitution, theft, and extortion. Many of Charteris’ witnesses and documents were shown to be false, and the jury quickly found him guilty. On 2 March, he was sentenced to death and held in Newgate Prison.
The Earl of Egmont wrote in his diary ‘All the world agree he deserved to be hanged long ago, but they differ whether on this occasion;’ while Fog’s Weekly Journal of 14 March 1730 reported ‘We hear no Rapes have been committed for three Weeks past. Colonel Francis Charteris is still in Newgate.’ On 10 April 1730, George II granted him a royal pardon after a campaign that included the Scottish Lord Advocate Duncan Forbes, who rented a house from Charteris in Edinburgh, and Anne Bond herself, possibly prompted by the promise of an annuity.
As a convicted felon, his property should have been forfeit under the doctrine of attainder, but he petitioned the King for its return. In composition (fine) for his offence, he paid substantial sums to the Sheriffs of London and Middlesex. He was also suspected of having given substantial gifts to various important individuals. Jonathan Swift commented on Charteris in several poems. In Lines on the Death of Dr. Swift (1731), he explains “Chartres” as, “a most infamous, vile scoundrel, grown from a foot-boy, or worse, to a prodigious fortune both in England and Scotland: he had a way of insinuating himself into all Ministers under every change, either as pimp, flatterer, or informer. He was tried at seventy for a rape, and came off by sacrificing a great part of his fortune” (note to l. 189).
In 1732, he died from natural causes in Edinburgh, possibly from a condition caused by his stay in Newgate Prison. Shortly before he died, he was said to have stated that he would pay £150,000 to anybody who could prove to him that there was no hell. He was buried in Greyfriars Kirkyard; his coffin was attacked on its way to the graveyard, and it is said that dead cats were thrown into his grave. Upon his death, John Arbuthnot published “Epitaph on Don Francisco” in The London Magazine (April 1732). In it, he wrote that Charteris was a man,…who, having done, every Day of his Life,Something worthy of a Gibbet,Was once condemned to oneFor what he had not done.