Elizabeth Alkin was a spy for the earl of Essex, who was particularly notorious for her efforts to disrupt the underground royalist press in London in the late 1640s. Newsbooks called her an ‘old Bitch’, a ‘fat woman’, and a ‘clamerous woman’, and she was popularly known as Parliament Joan. Much of what is known about her concerns her activities for the state, and that – as Marcus Nevitt has made clear – is filtered through the patriarchal perspective of her critics. However, relatively little known seems to be known about her activities in the private sphere: her childhood, her husband, her family, her friends.
I have been trying to uncover the extent of Alkin’s links with other figures supporting the Parliamentary propaganda machine and in doing so have been grubbing around in parish registers in the London Metropolitan Archives. I think I may have found out some more about her early life.
In 1650 Alkin was described as being about fifty. If she married in her twenties, that would mean her marrying at some point in the 1620s. We know that her husband’s name was Francis – he was hanged in Oxford as a parliamentarian spy. There is a record in the parish register of St James Garlickhythe of an Elizabeth Shelton marrying a Francis Alkin on 20 Feb 1625/26. However, both seem to have been from St Clement Danes – their marriage licence from the day before states:
19 Feb 1625-6 Francis Atkinson, of St Clement Danes, Middlesex, Barbitonsor, & Elizabeth Shelton, of same, widow of Ellis Shelton; at St James, Garlick Hithe, or St Botolph, Bishopsgate, London.
They had a number of children:
- Elizabeth Alkin, 27 May 1627.
- Joyce Alkin, 14 September 1628.
- Ralph Atkin, 13 December 1629.
- Thomasine Alkin, 17 February 1631.
- Montteagle Alkim, 3 February 1632.
- Francis Alkin, 10 March 1633.
- John Alkin, 12 March 1635.
- Elizabeth Alkin, 3 November 1636.
I can find only one reference to an Ellis Shelton, born in 21 May 1605 in St Andrew Holborn. He is the son of an Ellis Shelton, and there are various other Sheltons born in St Clement Danes after that, so it seems that this may be a son from a previous marriage rather than Alkin’s first husband. I can’t find any marriage between an Ellis Shelton and an Elizabeth in the London registers for this period, which frustratingly means I can’t work out Alkin’s maiden name or where she was born yet.
Here the trail goes cold: at least for now. I’ll update this if I find anthing else. Still, I thought I would put this up in case it is useful for anyone else.