Murderer of the princes in the Tower flees to sanctuary

In an earlier post, we saw the drama of the dowager queen Elizabeth seeking sanctuary at Westminster and the disappearance and likely murder of her two sons in 1483. Thomas More in his later account claimed one of the princes’ killers fled to sanctuary.

In his History of King Richard the Thirde, More said Richard III had deputized Sir James Tyrell to take care of the princes (“take care of” in the Tony Soprano sense). Tyrell in turn sent two servants, Miles Forrest and John Dighton, to smother them.

STC 18076

Afterwards, according to More, Forrest fled to St Martin le Grand for asylum. In sanctuary, More rather graphically related, Forrest “piecemeal rotted away.” More’s account is very partisan; in my original version of this post I had written that we don’t know what it was based on, but historian Tim Thornton has recently argued that More surely knew and likely got his information from Forrest’s sons, who worked alongside him in the king’s service. As I noted before I read Thornton’s piece, there was a man named Miles Forrest, termed “the king’s servant,” whose widow was given an annuity in 1484. Reward for services done?

Calendar of Patent Rolls 1476-85, p 473.

More’s text is the only evidence Forrest sought sanctuary, however – and we can only guess what could have caused him to “piecemeal rot away” between the summer of 1483 and September 1484 when his widow was given this grant.

Thomas More, in Complete Works 2:85, 87; CPR 1476-85, 473.

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