False Confessions

On 25 July 1457, Richard Grene of Lincolnshire was travelling on the king’s highway from the Louth fair when a stranger attacked him and threatened his life. He fled to a sanctuary, but his enemies appeared and tried to drag him out. To stop them, he called for the coroner, falsely confessed he’d been present at a killing 15 years before (which made him accessory to the homicide, itself a felony), and abjured the realm. He must have immediately appealed to the king for a pardon for this “false” confession as he was pardoned three weeks later.

So one more royal pardon for an abjurer who convinced the king he’d confessed falsely to long-ago homicides just to escape the clutches of his enemies (here’s a couple of previous posts, here and here). And for good measure, here’s another: In 1458 a husbandman of Gloucestershire, Richard Wode, had been labouring in a field when he was suddenly attacked by “certain riotous persons.”


In fear for his life, he fled to Bath Abbey. The prior of the abbey was not thrilled about this, fearing the rioters would also attack the monastery, so he advised Wode to confess to the coroner and abjure; Wode didn’t have a felony to confess, so the prior suggested a 12-year-old cold case, the homicide of John Withewes.


Wode, “though guiltless,” confessed he had been present when Withewes was murdered, and abjured. He, too, was pardoned.

CPR 1452-61, 361, 432. Top image: Source

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