Westmorland coroner screws up

When early modern governments introduced new legal procedures, a challenge was to make sure those who had to implement the new policies knew about them. Sometimes apparently that didn’t happen, as in this tale of a Westmorland coroner in 1542. I feel certain that he was really apologetic. Way up in the north in theContinue reading “Westmorland coroner screws up”

Sanctuary in the reign of Mary I

There were few seekers in the 1540s – and I’ve found none at all in the short reign of Edward VI. In theory sanctuary was still operating in the sanctuary cities and parliament tweaked the legislation twice, suggesting it was being used. But no actual records of cases. Perhaps unsurprisingly, though, there was a smallContinue reading “Sanctuary in the reign of Mary I”

Just like the old days

In Mary’s reign, something like the traditional privilege was exercised again at Westminster Abbey. The historian who’s written about this, David Loades, argues (sensibly) that this was a strategic demonstration of the abbey’s rights and immunities. So we see a few cases of debtors and a few accused of homicide in Westminster. There are aContinue reading “Just like the old days”

Henry Machyn, George Darcy, and sanctuary in the 1550s

Much of our (scant) knowledge of sanctuary at Westminster Abbey during the reign of Mary I comes from the diary of London citizen Henry Machyn, who recorded notable events in his tumultuous lifetime. Machyn had several entries related to a gentry feud in far-away Yorkshire between the West and Darcy families. First, on 25 MayContinue reading “Henry Machyn, George Darcy, and sanctuary in the 1550s”

Escape from the Tower

On 29 July 1557 Henry Machyn wrote in his diary that the constable of the Tower of London went to Westminster sanctuary to take “one Waxham” into custody. Waxham, Machyn said, had earlier broken out of the Tower and run to sanctuary. Machyn’s diary entry matches with the minutes of the Privy Council regarding oneContinue reading “Escape from the Tower”

A bookseller’s slaying

On 6 November 1556, a coroner’s inquest convened over the body of John Obett of Westminster, accidentally killed in a silly quarrel with a schoolboy. Obett had a stall near Westminster Hall where he sold maps, charts, and books. At 11am a group of schoolboys came out from the “common school of the city ofContinue reading “A bookseller’s slaying”