A deadly duel
On the external southern wall of the chancel can be found an oval plaque commemorating the burial of two Danish soldiers in St Mary’s in 1689.
The soldiers were mercenaries employed by King William II of England. On their crossing from Denmark, the soldiers (Lieutenant Daniel Straker and Cornet Johannes Frederick Bellow) quarrelled, and later duelled, leading to Straker’s death. Duelling was illegal in Danish law, and if it resulted in a fatality, was punishable by death.
Following a court-martial, Bellow was executed in the Beverley market place on 23rd December. His death was the last ever execution by sword in England.
The two soldiers were interred side by side in St Mary’s, and a memorial plaque was commissioned and paid for by a Danish military commander.
The so-called ‘Danish Plaque’ bears the following inscription:
‘Here two young Danish Soldiers lye.
The one in quarrel chanc’d to die;
The other’s Head, by their own Law,
With Sward was sever’d, at one Blow.
December the 23rd 1689.’
The Danish Plaque is currently undergoing urgent restoration with support from Beverley Civic Society, The Friends of St Mary’s and other anonymous donors. To learn more about this, and how you might be able to help, please see our May-June 2020 Pilgrim Rabbit newsletter.