“The violence of the sea”: logistical problems of exile

Abjuring the realm – specifically the part about finding a ship to take overseas – was not always a straightforward affair. In late October 1452, labourer Thomas Kendale was indicted for murder and fled to the church in Norton, Hertfordshire, to escape arrest.

He confessed the homicide to the coroner, abjured the realm, and made his way to his assigned port of Portsmouth to find a ship. He waited there several days “owing to the violence of the sea” but no one was sailing – it was November, difficult weather on the Channel.

This was a structural problem in the process of abjuration – not only was it difficult to get captains to take abjurers for free (really, why would they want to?), but in winter it was too rough to sail. [And there might be large sea-creatures.]

The delay getting a passage overseas allowed Kendale to get his side of the murder indictment to the king: he had only confessed to the killing, he said, to save his life, and the indictment was untrue and “made of malice.” In March 1453, Henry VI pardoned Kendale.

CPR 1452-61, 64. Image at top, TNA.

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