Simon Armitage presents the story of the most disturbing witch trial in British history and the role played in it by one nine-year-old girl. Jennet Device, a beggar from Pendle Hill in Lancashire, was the star witness in the trial in 1612 of her own mother, brother, sister, granny Demdike, and, thanks to her testimony, they were all hanged.
Armitage explores the lethal power of one child’s words – a story of fear, magic and demonic pacts. He discovers how Jennet’s appearance in the witness box cast its shadow way beyond Lancashire, impressing even King James I himself. Finally, in a dramatic twist to the tale, twenty two years after the original trial, Jennet herself was put on trial, accused of being a witch by a 10-year-old boy.
Armitage attempts to get inside Jennet’s head and understand how the youngest child of a family of beggars could become both pawn and player in a much bigger story of 17th century religion, power, law, science and the monarchy.