Killing by “chance medley” in Hereford, 1511

An inquest was convened over the body of gentleman Henry Baskirville of Hereford on 1 September 1511. Jurors held he’d been killed two days before in a knife fight with Roger Lloide, also gentleman of Hereford.

The jurors used a term for the killing that was quite new then (earlier than the OED‘s first usage): “chaunce medley,” then generally meaning a killing without premeditation (by “chaunce”), usually in the context of the hot blood of a quarrel (sometimes “chaunce” was “chaude”).

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Following the murder, Lloide fled to the churchyard of St Ethelbert in Hereford. Mayor of Hereford Richard Bromwich immediately had the gates of the City closed and guarded, ordering men to keep watch at the churchyard to prevent his escape.

Nonetheless Lloide escaped from the churchyard and fled the city; he was outlawed in 1513. He may well be, however, the same as Roger Lloyd of Hereford who was pardoned in 1514. If he was pardoned, that fits into a pattern where killings by chance medley were considered excusable.

As Liz Papp Kamali argues in her new book Felony and the Guilty Mind, issues of intention and the “guilty mind” had long been matters of consideration in weighing felonies in English law. But she notes that in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, hot-blooded anger was usually not seen as mitigating. It was only a few decades before the time of this case that suddenly-arising quarrels like this (often involving gentlemen defending honour) were seen as less serious than killings in cold blood.

The homicide category of manslaughter and doctrine of provocation would develop over 16th and 17th centuries, as discussed in another new book – Krista Kesselring‘s Making Murder Public.

TNA, KB 9/458, m78; KB 29/144, m3; L&P, 1:no.2684(23). Top image source

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