An overzealous gaoler

Not surprisingly, when an accused felon in custody escaped from gaol (or jail in North American spelling), the gaolers were angry – incensed because their authority was flouted, and worried because they themselves were liable to be charged with negligence for allowing the prisoner to scamper away. The gaolers’ frustrations, however, didn’t give them licenceContinue reading “An overzealous gaoler”

Sanctuary at Hospitaller properties

Around 1500, the Hospitaller Order (also known as the military order of the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem) compiled a record of cases that (they contended) showed the Hospitallers had always had permanent sanctuary privileges in their properties. This was, as I’ll explore another in another post, a bold but entirely fictitious claim, andContinue reading “Sanctuary at Hospitaller properties”

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 theContinue reading “Celebrity knight flees to sanctuary”

Undead kings and treasonous conspiracies

In 1399, Henry of Derby overthrew his cousin, King Richard II, to seize the English throne, having himself crowned as Henry IV. Though Richard was probably murdered soon after the coup at the orders of his cousin, his death was concealed and rumours circulated through Henry IV’s reign (1399-1413) and into that of his son,Continue reading “Undead kings and treasonous conspiracies”

The king’s favour

In the early days of the reign of Henry V, several sanctuary seekers who were somehow connected to the king or at least to his military forces were given special signs of favour. Some were offered pardons so they could fight in the war; in this case the king gave the abjuring felons expensive gownsContinue reading “The king’s favour”

Sanctuary men and Oldcastle’s Revolt

On 9-10 January 1414, Sir John Oldcastle led an ill-fated and probably poorly conceived uprising against Henry V, which may (or may not) have been inspired by Oldcastle’s adherence to ideas of an unorthodox religious group, the Lollards. Although the insurrection was suppressed, Oldcastle himself escaped and remained on the loose for the next severalContinue reading “Sanctuary men and Oldcastle’s Revolt”

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’sContinue reading “The Felonious MP”

A Glastonbury brewer burgles

In September 1416, Edmund Bisshop, brewer of Glastonbury, ended up in Essex for some reason (most probable backstory: normally his pub did really well at festival time, but 1416 was a bad year for pop music). He burglarized a house in Harlow, stealing very ordinary household goods: a pot, a belt, some knives. Moving onContinue reading “A Glastonbury brewer burgles”

Heresy and corruption in 1410s London

London was a very tense place in the 1410s: a new king, a renewed war in France, accusations of corruption, and the first major rounds of heresy executions in the kingdom’s history. In 1416, John Russell, woolpacker, went around London spreading the story that alderman and former mayor Thomas Fauconer had gone ahead with theContinue reading “Heresy and corruption in 1410s London”

On surrendered stolen goods

In the 1410s, tensions between the City of London and the two metropolitan-area sanctuaries, Westminster Abbey and St Martin le Grand, began to heat up. In 1417, a London citizen, Edmund Chymbeham, sued two canons of St Martin’s, Simon Floure and William Gerveys, in the court of Common Pleas. He claimed that a thief namedContinue reading “On surrendered stolen goods”