Captain Draper and Judith Neale

Captain Robert Draper was appointed a Poor Knight of Windsor in approximately 1673, having faithfully served King Charles I and King Charles II throughout the seventeenth century, latterly in the King’s Horse Guards. However, his retirement to Windsor was not to prove a peaceful one after he was accused of scandalous conduct within two years of his appointment.

The Chapter Acts – minutes of the meetings of the Dean and Canons – for 17 November 1675 record that “to the great dishonour of God and scandal of all good men, [Captain Draper] hath violated the laws of God and statutes of the Society he lives in by living incontinently with one, Judith Neale, his pretended maid servant” (SGC VI.B.4). The Dean and Canons declared that this rendered him “incapable of enjoying the place and profits of a Poor Knight any longer” and he was duly expelled from the Poor Knights.

It is not uncommon for the Chapter Acts to record a verdict on an individual’s behaviour without providing much explanation. Such entries are very mysterious to the modern reader. But in the case of Captain Draper, nothing is left to guess work. The evidence for Captain Draper’s misconduct is set out in eight points, followed by a statement from Judith Neale herself.

It begins with matters which seem fairly innocuous to a 21st century audience: Draper and Neale ate their meals together, Draper employed a footboy to wait on Neale, Neale’s apparel and ornaments were unfit for a maid servant. However, everything was brought to a head by an incident in February 1675. Captain Draper had been visited at home by a friend, Mr Mason, who was to witness his last will and testament. Their private meeting was interrupted by Judith Neale, who broke open the door, abused Mason with ill language and assaulted him, tearing his clothes. She cried out that Mason had come to cheat and defraud her of money that she had been promised by Draper.

Mason was surprised to learn that Neale should have been promised any considerable legacy, as she had only been his servant for six months. This triggered further investigation by the Dean and Canons and Neale confessed that she had yielded to Draper’s “attempts upon her chastity”. He had said that he was unable to marry her because he would lose his place as a Poor Knight, but he promised that she would have the enormous sum of £500 in his will if she would share his bed. The Dean and Canons were appalled by this behaviour and expelled Draper. There is no mention of what became of Neale.

But this was not the end of Captain Robert Draper. By 27 June 1676, the case was already being reviewed on the command of no less a person than King Charles II. The Dean and Canons now attempted to claim that there was a further objection to Draper, as his personal wealth exceeded £20 a year – the upper limit established by the College Statutes for a Poor Knight.

However, the King ordered that Draper be restored, unless he be “convicted of any crime” or “it can be proved that he hath an estate fallen to him which makes him uncapable (sic.) by the statutes to keep his said place”. He also ordered that he should be paid the arrears of his wages, fees and allowances since his expulsion as though it had never happened.

The Dean and Canons were now in slight difficulty, having appointed Thomas Wright in Draper’s place on 2 December 1675, and a further Poor Knight – Ferdinando Ivy – after him to fill a vacancy on the death of another knight. The places for Poor Knights had therefore become oversubscribed. They wrote to the King to ask who they ought to expel in order to readmit Draper. The King advised that it should be Ivy and he was accordingly dispossessed in 1676 until the next vacancy became available in April 1677.

There remained the question of how the arrears to Draper should be paid. Chapter summoned Captain Wright, who had taken Draper’s place after his expulsion, and tried to make the case that he should refund Draper out of the payments he had received between Draper’s expulsion and reinstatement. They felt this was fair, as Wright had had the money that would have been paid to Draper. Understandably, Wright saw this differently! He replied, quite reasonably, “that what he had received was lawfully due to him and therefore desired to be excused.”

The Dean and Canons then presented to Draper that they did not know who ought to pay his arrears. They hoped that he would be satisfied with his restoration and not trouble the King any further about arrears.

Here the case seems to have been settled. Draper remained a Poor Knight of Windsor until his death in 1681 and he was buried in St George’s Chapel, although no monument to him survives. He made a will, which was proved by the Dean and Canons, so a copy of it survives in the Archives to this day (SGC XIII.B.2). Several bequests were made to nephews and cousins and their children, but there is no single sum in the region of £500 and no mention at all of Judith Neale!

Kate McQuillian, Archivist and Chapter Librarian

The King's Free Chapel. The Chapel of the Most Honourable and Noble Order of the Garter. The Chapel of the College of St George.