The curious case of the Welsh knight

Another felony-inventor, this time a curious case of a Welsh knight who took sanctuary for an already-pardoned killing. His chequered career – including dabbling in Lollard revolts – suggests he was quite a guy.

In London in 1431, Sir Nicholas Conway of Caernarfon, recently returned from the war in France, killed gentleman Robert Bowdon of Ireland. He was arrested but released on bail, and in 1434 he presented a pardon for the homicide.

By 1438 Conway was again arrested at Westminster for unspecified offences, but managed to escape, running from the Marshalsea prison to St. Saviour in Bermondsey. He took sanctuary, using as his felony of convenience the same homicide – the killing of Robert Bowdon in 1431 – for which he’d already been pardoned: a safer option perhaps than confessing the offence for which he had just been arrested (whatever that might have been)? There’s no indication on the coroner’s memorandum that Conway abjured the realm and so he may just have waited a while before running off when the coast was clear.

He next shows up a month later, back in custody, this time in the Tower: he had apparently gone from Bermondsey to Tenterden, Kent, to lead a small and unsuccessful Lollard revolt. Five men were executed for that rising, but somehow Conway got out of that situation too, again with a pardon, granted 1440: maybe his earlier military service still counted for something.

And still that is not the end of his story: on 2 May 1441, a coroner’s inquest over the body of Peter Broun of London found that Conway had attacked Master Thomas Frank, a physician (interestingly, a Greek), and when Broun came to Frank’s aid, Conway killed him. Conway fled following that slaying and was never found; he was outlawed in 1442. Presumably at this point a third pardon was unlikely and he just disappeared.

Story pieced together over a range of sources: KB 27/693, rex m7d; KB 29/71, m16d; KB 9/230B, m145; CPR 1436-41, 398; KB 9/236, m14; KB 29/74, m34d; medievalsoldier.org; JAF Thompson, “A Lollard Rising in Kent”; Talbot and Hammond, Medical Practitioners, 343-44.

Image: http://www.bl.uk/manuscripts/Viewer.aspx?ref=harley_ms_4205_f034r

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