Mary Toft's Rabbit Tale

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Written by Colin Bytheway.

In 1726, 26 year old mother of three, Mary Toft gave birth to a rabbit.

And then another.

All were stillborn - some were just rabbit body parts - but all were the fruit of her loins.

Local surgeon John Howard confirmed the phenomenon, delivering several live rabbits himself.

He wrote of his findings to the Secretary of George I.

The King, intrigued, sent his personal anatomist Nathaniel St Andre to investigate who soon concluded that Toft was telling the truth and was preternaturally giving birth to rabbits.

Mary quickly became a national sensation and was brought to London to be studied at length but inevitably Mary broke and she confessed - the whole thing was a hoax.

Mary was imprisoned, and she, the medical profession and even the country were publicly ridiculed.

Mary herself was immortalized in a sketch by Hogarth.

After five months of incarceration Mary was released, returning to Godalming, her children, her husband and her old life.

She later claimed she made up the rabbit tale "to get so good a living that I should never want as long as I lived."

Cast:

Mary - Anna Madeley

Joshua - Will Young

John Howard - Rupert Graves

St Andre - Nickolas Grace

Sir Richard - Patrick Ryecart

George I - Ian Masters

Producer/Director: Celia de Wolff

A Pier Production for BBC Radio 4.

Dreaming of fame and fortune, Mary convinces doctors that she is giving birth to rabbits.

In 1726, 26 year old mother-of-three Mary Toft gave birth to a rabbit. And then another. And then another. All were stillborn, some were just rabbit body parts, but all were the fruit of her loins.

Local surgeon John Howard confirmed the phenomenon, delivering several rabbits himself. He wrote of his findings to the Secretary of George I. The King, intrigued, sent his personal anatomist Nathaniel St Andre to investigate - and he soon concluded that Toft was telling the truth and was preternaturally giving birth to rabbits.

Mary was imprisoned. She, the medical profession, and even the country, were publicly ridiculed. Mary herself was immortalised in a sketch by Hogarth. After five months of incarceration, she was released, returning to Godalming, her children, her husband and her old life. She later claimed she made up the rabbit tale "to get so good a living that I should never want as long as I lived."