Louis Houssart, c. 1684-1724

Bigamist and Wife Murderer

Louis Houssart was tried twice for the same crime - of murdering his wife.

Early Life and Marriage

Louis Houssart (or Lewis Hussare) was a Huguenot, born in Sedan, France around 1684. His family may have left France the following year after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes ended the toleration of Protestants. He claimed he was apprenticed to a surgeon in Amsterdam. At the time of his death he had lived in London for seven or eight years, earning his living as a barber. Shortly after his arrival in London, he met and married Ann Rondeau.1 At the time of her death they had been married for six years, but he had not lived with her for much of that time.

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On the night of 26 February 1724, Ann's mother, also called Ann, was lured away from their home, and when she returned she found her daughter with her throat cut. Ann Houssart's brother Solomon Rondeau went to Houssart's lodging with a constable and had him arrested. During his trial for murder it transpired that Houssart had married a second wife, Elizabeth Hearn (or Hern), about five weeks before Ann Houssart's death. Houssart was also reported as saying that "his Wife was of such a Religion, that she deserv'd to be burnt, and that it would be no more Sin to kill her than to kill a Dog" for she was a Socinian (member of a unitarian sect). There was insufficient evidence to prove Houssart had murdered his wife so he was acquitted, but was remanded in custody to face charges of bigamy.

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Trial for Bigamy

Houssart's trial for bigamy took place in April 1724. In this trial it was established that Henry Briel, a Minister of the French Church in Spitalfields, had married Houssart and Ann Rondeau on 15 March 1718, and that a Mr Lazenby, the minister of St Anthony Queenhithe, had conducted a marriage between Houssart and Elizabeth Hearn on 24 January 1724.

Houssart denied he was ever married to Ann Rondeau. As there was a dispute concerning the validity of the first marriage, it having been performed by a minister of the "French Church of the Presbyterian Persuasion", the jury brought in a special verdict which meant that Houssart had to remain in custody until this legal point had been determined by the twelve common law judges at Westminster.

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Second Murder Trial

While Houssart remained in custody, Solomon Rondeau, the deceased's brother, lodged an appeal against Houssart's acquittal for the murder of his wife. A second murder trial took place at the Old Bailey in October 1724. A new witness, James Ainsworth or Hensworth, had been traced, who identified Houssart as the man who had sent him to Mrs Rondeau's house on the night the murder was committed. With this evidence, Houssart was this time found guilty of the murder, and condemned to death. The substantial cost of the appeal and second trial were born by the government, as the king was "unwilling that so notorious, and barbarous a Crime" should go unpunished because of the poverty of the prosecutors. Solomon Rondeau died shortly thereafter, but his widow Charlotte and her neighbour who had financed the appeal submitted a bill of £52 8s.2

The Ordinary of Newgate gives a full account of Houssart's behaviour in Newgate, and his execution. He denied his guilt to the very end.

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External Sources

  • The National Archives (TNA), SP 44/81 f.372; SP 35/49/81.
  • The Lives of the Most Remarkable Criminals who have been Condemned and Executed. 1735, vol. 1 pp.388-400.


1 The Lives of the Most Remarkable Criminals who have been Condemned and Executed (1735), vol. 1 pp.388-400.

2 The National Archives (TNA), SP 44/81 f.372; SP 35/49/81.

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About this Biography

Created by

Mary Clayton 

Further contributions by