Gamblers and cheaters

In 1477 François Narbone of Gascony lured Bernard, servant and kinsman of Diego de Castro, a Spanish merchant, into a London tavern; there by “false and subtle means” he cheated Bernard of £28 by playing with a loaded set of dice.

Diego, enraged, had François arrested by London officials “to have him punished according to reason” and to get back his £28, but the case was referred to King’s Bench, where François was released on bail. He then promptly ran into sanctuary at Westminster.


From the safety of sanctuary François was then (or so Diego claimed) fabricating various lawsuits against Diego, so that he couldn’t go about his business. Diego complained to the Chancellor: “Please,” Diego wrote in his petition, consider that I am “a merchant stranger having no knowledge nor means how to help himself in this country.” Please, Lord Chancellor, help me out of this legal mess.


This was a bit disingenuous – as many Chancery complaints were – given that François was also a stranger, and obviously Diego had already used the English legal system quite effectively in having François arrested to try to recover his servant’s gambling losses.

TNA, C 1/1/168. Top image, Walters Art Gallery.

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