Abjurers who don’t leave the realm

According to a coroner’s memorandum written at Cowley, Middlesex on 8 November 1400, the villagers of Cowley had arrested one John Smyth of Colham, Middlesex, for felony and imprisoned him, but Smyth escaped and fled to the Cowley parish church.

St Laurence, Cowley
St. Lawrence church, Cowley: photo John Salmon https://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/1094219

In the church Smyth confessed to the coroner that he had assaulted and killed a man he didn’t know who’d been walking on the king’s road in Berkshire towards London, and at a different time robbed another man near Uxbridge, Middlesex.

Smyth abjured, and was assigned the port of Bristol to leave the realm, but a note on the memorandum indicates he was hanged, so he must have been caught in the realm afterwards.

Note on the coroner’s memorandum — S9 for “suspensus,” hanged

Any abjurers caught in the realm after abjuring had already confessed a felony and so were supposed to be summarily executed. We’ll have other similar cases, but there were also a surprising number of pardons issued to abjurers who didn’t actually leave.

TNA, KB 9/185/2, m. 4. Top image: Master of the Dresden Prayerbook, Getty Museum https://artsandculture.google.com/asset/_/PwHAPk6GYXukIw

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