Celebrity knight flees to sanctuary

In 1411, a minor celebrity knight, Sir John Prendergast, fled to Westminster Abbey for sanctuary. Retainer of John Beaufort, earl of Somerset, around 1400 Prendergast had been the recipient of a famous (but unfulfilled) tournament challenge from an Aragonese knight named Michel d’Oris, the challenge subsequently becoming a model of chivalric glamour even though the two knights did not actually meet.

As Adam Chapman commented on the original tweet thread, Prendergast seems to have risen up through the ranks, from archer to esquire by the end of the 1370s, then knighted sometime in the later 1390s. As Adam suggested, perhaps relatively humble origins made him more vulnerable to jealousy and accusation. By 1411, Prendergast was a leading figure in the king’s navy, but he was (or so chronicler Thomas Walsingham reported) falsely accused of piracy and corruption; as Adam suggested, perhaps his rise to prominence from relatively humble origins made him more vulnerable to jealousy and accusation. He thus “entered the sanctuary of St. Edward the king and claimed the protection of Westminster; yet he could find no home or room where he could rest his head, forbidden him by those who feared the king, so he had to find repose in tents erected in the vestry of St. Peter’s, with guards at his side to protect him from the terrors of the night which were plotted against him by his enemies.”

Soon after this sanctuary-taking, Prendergast was pardoned by the king and presumably exited. I have not been able to dig up anything about him after 1411.

The St Albans Chronicle: The Chronica Maiora of Thomas Walsingham, ed. John Taylor, Wendy R. Childs, and Leslie Watkiss (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2011), 2:597; CPR 1408-13, 347. Image: Paris, BN, Français 2695, fol. 45v/46r, https://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/btv1b84522067

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