The Felonious MP

In 1414, a former Member of Parliament took sanctuary for homicide, one of a number of MPs who sought asylum for their felonies. If a criminal politician seems just a bit too relevant, consider also that he’d likely originally sought public office a decade before in order to avoid charges in an earlier crime.

Let’s start with the 1414 sanctuary-taking: John Ninezergh, esq., of Westmorland, took sanctuary in the church of St. Anne Aldersgate in London on 22 July of that year. He confessed to the coroner that he had killed William Gerard at Burton, Westmorland, the previous March.

Ninezergh’s sword may have been busy in 1414: an anonymous London chronicler reporting the sanctuary-taking indicates that it was for a different homicide, that of a London cleric, Master John Tybbay. According to the chronicler, Ninezergh and four of his men who accompanied him into the church were “mured [walled] up,” to prevent them from escaping from the church. All five, according to the chronicler, abjured the realm (though only Ninezergh’s record survives).

A Chronicle of London, ed. Nicholas Harris Nicolas, 1827, https://archive.org/details/chronicleoflondo00nicouoft/page/98/mode/2up

Ninezergh had sat as an MP in 1406, and even that may have been connected to yet another homicide: his biographer Carole Rawcliffe speculates he became MP as a ploy to gain support for his defence in that case. It seems that following abjuration in 1414, however, Ninezergh never returned to England. His wife Margaret, formerly wife of Sir Roger Lescrope, petitioned the king in parliament that following John’s abjuration for felony the dower lands she had brought with her into her second marriage had been seized by her Lescrope son, and then when her son died with no heir her lands had gone to the crown; Margaret was told to take it to court (it’s unclear if she was able to gain her land back).

TNA, C 260/126/33; Nicolas and Tyrell, ed., Chronicle of London, 98-99; Carole Rawcliffe, “Ninezergh, John,” History of Parliament Online; Parliament Rolls of Medieval England, 1421-12 (4:164; PROME Petition 2). Top image: Members of the House of Commons, http://www.luminarium.org/renlit/henry8parl.jpg

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