Seeking sanctuary during Richard III’s regime: Sir William Brandon

During Richard III’s short-lived regime, many took refuge in sanctuaries to escape arrest and execution for treason. One such was Sir William Brandon, marshal of the Marshalsea Prison. As with many office-holders, Brandon had remained in place when Richard III seized the throne, but in 1484 Richard became more and more suspicious of plots to overthrow him (probably with good reason) and began to purge those deemed disloyal. Brandon was amongst those deprived of his office.

As Sir William later put it, after his removal from office he was “so put in dread of his life by Richard, late in deed but not of right king of England the third, that he was fain for salvation of his life to take tuition and privilege of the sanctuary at Colchester.”

TNA, KB 27/898, rex m 7d

Sir William entered the sanctuary of St John’s Abbey in Colchester, staying from 29 September 1484 until the battle of Bosworth in August 1485. Henry Tudor’s victory at Bosworth must have been bittersweet for Brandon, as his son and heir, also Sir William, was killed in the battle.

St John’s Abbey, Colchester

The new king Henry VII restored Sir William senior to his office as marshal; he died in 1491. His grandson, Charles, would go on to be boon companion to Henry VIII and duke of Suffolk.

TNA, KB 27/898, rex m 7d; PROME, 1485-11, 6:291-92

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