Kyteler (Kettle, Keyetler), Dame Alice
By 1324, therefore, she had acquired a substantial fortune and a large landed interest. She also used her capital to engage in money-lending, which led to further animosity towards her. As early as 1302 she had been accused (and acquitted) of murder and other crimes. Evidently her stepchildren, lacking the evidence of a natural crime, suspicious of their fathers’ deaths, and bitter over their loss of income, became convinced that she had access to supernatural powers and had used these powers first to beguile, and then to dispose of, her husbands. They couched these suspicions in the popular terminology of the time – maleficium (the ability to harm one's neighbours through occult powers supplied by the devil). They approached the zealous Franciscan bishop of Ossory, Richard Ledrede (qv), with their suspicions early in 1324. Ledrede summoned an inquiry, and the witnesses – many from the local community, no doubt some in debt to Kyteler and her son; the rest, her stepchildren and their families – accused her and William of being sorcerers and heretics. Ten others, men and women, were included as their accomplices in terrible crimes, which went beyond simple maleficium. It was asserted that this group, headed by Kyteler, concocted powders and potions made from all sorts of vile ingredients, which – mixed in the skull of a decapitated robber, surrounded by candles made from human fat, and accompanied with horrible incantations – brought illness or death to innocent Christians. Indeed, it was reported that Kyteler's last husband, who died early in 1324 from a wasting illness, having been warned of his wife's activities by a maid, had discovered many of these ingredients in her chests and forwarded them to Ledrede. In order to make their spells and potions even more effective, all the members of this circle were alleged to have renounced Christianity and, going further, to have sought the aid of demons, to whom they sacrificed animals. Dame Alice was said to have had a private demon, her incubus, with whom she had sexual relations. Through him she gained her unheard-of wealth.
After the inquisition Petronilla of Meath was flogged on the bishop's orders, and ‘publicly’ confirmed that each of the charges made at the inquiry was true. She had seen Kyteler's demon lover with her own eyes. With such evidence at his disposal, Ledrede wrote to the chancellor of Ireland, Roger Outlaw, and demanded that all of Kyteler's associates be arrested. Outlaw refused and Ledrede was forced to act on his own authority. He summoned Alice to appear before him, but she fled from Kilkenny to Dublin, where she may have found refuge with Roger Outlaw. Next he charged William Outlaw with heresy, but before he was due to attend the hearing, Arnold le Poer (qv), the seneschal of Kilkenny, intervened. Le Poer, a relation of Dame Alice's fourth husband, whose support may have been bought by Outlaw, went with Outlaw to the bishop's residence to try and reason with Ledrede. When this failed, le Poer threatened him and then had the bishop arrested and imprisoned in Kilkenny jail till the day for which Outlaw had been summoned had passed. Undeterred, Ledrede again summoned Outlaw to appear before him, excommunicated Alice, and placed his entire diocese under interdict. She in turn sued the bishop for defamation of character, and Arnold le Poer – probably with another of her allies, Walter Islip (qv), the treasurer – caused him to be summoned before the parliament at Dublin in May 1324. There the bishop pleaded his case with persuasive eloquence against Alice, William Outlaw, and Arnold le Poer. By July the justiciar, John Darcy (qv), had ordered the arrest of Alice and her son. Shortly afterwards Darcy went to Kilkenny to aid Ledrede. In front of the king's Irish council and several lay and ecclesiastical judges, Dame Alice was accused of heresy and sorcery. The arrest of her co-conspirators was also agreed to and Ledrede interrogated some of these, though others were released on the payment of securities. Some of those arrested were publicly flogged, others banished and declared excommunicate, and Petronilla of Meath was later burned alive for her crimes, on 2 November. Ledrede must have been horrified that the chancellor and treasurer, when they accompanied Darcy to Kilkenny, stayed at Outlaw's residence in the city. Kyteler, now convinced nothing more could be done to avoid persecution, fled to England in July with the daughter of Petronilla of Meath and (according to the Anglo-Irish annalist) was never seen nor heard from again.
William Outlaw (d. p.1326), Alice's son, was arrested and imprisoned. He was cited to answer all the charges against him before the justiciar, the chancellor, the treasurer, and Ledrede. At that meeting some sort of compromise was reached. While Ledrede strenuously denied that he had been bought off, Outlaw, in return for his full confession to all of the crimes he was charged with (Ledrede had drawn up a comprehensive list of thirty-four indictments), had his prison sentence commuted to penance. He was to hear mass at least three times daily for one year, feed a particular number of poor of the diocese, and (most expensive of all) pay for the roofing of the cathedral church of St Canice with lead. Ledrede quickly became convinced that Outlaw's submission and penance were insincere and had him cited to appear before his ecclesiastical court once again. Towards the end of October or the beginning of December 1324 William was arrested and imprisoned in Kilkenny castle for two months before another compromise was negotiated on 17 January the following year. William's uncle, Roger, undertook to act as security for William's payment for the roofing of the church; if it was not completed within four years Roger would pay for it himself. Also, Roger Outlaw granted the fruits of two churches to the dean and chapter of St Canice's. This seems to have been commuted for a money payment to the bishop; Roger and ten prominent landholders agreed they owed Ledrede £1,000, which the bishop later acknowledged he had been paid. This money had evidently been guaranteed by William Outlaw, for in August 1326 he acknowledged his debt to Roger of £1,000. Thereafter William disappears from the records, though if he was still alive in 1332 he may have taken some pleasure in the fact that much of the church of St Canice was wrecked when the bell tower – and presumably the lead roof which he had funded – collapsed and destroyed the chancel and sacristy.