In approximately December 1805 (one text gives the year as 1705), during war between England and France, and coastal villages on high alert for invasion forces, the French vessel Chasse Marée capsized and sunk off the North coast of England, near the small village of Hartlepool.
A small furry sole survivor, apparently dressed in a small military uniform, managed to swim to shore, with anxious villagers looking on.
The Hartlepool locals were suspicious.
"They could not understand its replies and, never having seen a monkey before, thought it was a strangely shaped human, speaking in a foreign language," either a Frenchman or a Frenchman in disguise.1
They considered shaving it to reveal who he really was.
The locals decided to convene a trial and Napoleon's suspected spy was questioned.
The spy was unresponsive to interrogation and, generally:
"The accused mounted a poor defence for himself and was duly found guilty of treason."2
According to local songs, the locals then tried torture, putting the monkey on a hot grid iron.
This did cause the suspect to yell out but in a language no one can understand, some in the crowd speculating that it was French; others, that the spy's language was Greek.
Someone got too close to the spy who by this time, had become quite emotional.
The suspect lunged at the local and bit off his nose.
In the result, a fishing boat mast was borrowed for the occasion and the monkey was sentenced to death and:
"... hanged on the Fish Sands, in front of the Town Wall".1
In retrospect, it seems as if the monkey had been a seaman's pet on board the Chasse Marée.
The trial of the monkey is so famous that it has become the image and mascot of the Hartlepool United football team.
The local rugby team is called the "Monkeyhangers".
There is a local song about event and in 2002, a mayor was elected while campaigning dressed as a monkey and under the banner "H'Angus X".
Some say the whole thing never happened.
It appears more likely that the story is true and because of its embarrassing characteristic, is suppressed by many by calling it a legend.