Petronella de Meath was the first woman in Ireland to be burned for heresy in 1324.
She was the hand-maiden of Dame Alice Kyteler, the famous witch of Kilkenny. Dame Alice was married four times, and each husband died. On the death of her last husband, Sir John le Poer, Alice’s children accused her of using poison and sorcery to kill him. They brought their case before the Bishop of Ossory, Richard de Ledrede, in 1324 in the hope that their mother would be arrested and they would gain her fortune. It was ordered that Alice be burned at the stake.
Unfortunately for Petronella, Alice fled. This left a large, baying crowd standing outside Kilkenny City’s Tholsel. To satisfy the crowd, Petronella was made to take Alice’s place. She was burned alive and that would be the end of Petronella de Meath, the first woman in Ireland burned for heresy, a claim that should have fell to Dame Alice.