The Widow’s appeal of homicide

In this case we see a widow’s appeal: ie a private prosecution of homicide undertaken by the dead man’s wife against the accused murderer, here one who took shelter in a Hospitaller property. Margery Rollesley, widow of Humphrey Rollesley, accused William Toft, a tailor of Denby, Derbyshire, of having killed her husband. When he cameContinue reading “The Widow’s appeal of homicide”

The Savage case and sanctuary in the 1510s

The case of John Savage is one of the most famous of English sanctuary cases, about which some of the most influential scholarship on the subject has been written. I would argue, however, that the Savage case has been misinterpreted and its significance overstated. Nonetheless it reveals a lot about what was happening with sanctuaryContinue reading “The Savage case and sanctuary in the 1510s”

State visits, royal largesse, and exclusions from mercy

In May 1522, Emperor Charles V visited England. State visits are always an opportunity to showcase the ruler’s brand both domestically and internationally, and the emperor’s stay in England prompted a lavish series of pageants and demonstrations of regal power. As the Emperor Charles and Henry VIII ceremonially processed through the streets on the southContinue reading “State visits, royal largesse, and exclusions from mercy”

A serjeant of the mace slain

On 4 March 1533, John Ode alias Wode, serjeant of the mace (one of the London sheriffs’ officers) had an altercation with George Cornwall, a young Hereford gentleman known for his unruly life. Though the records don’t say so, it seems quite likely that their quarrel had something to do with Ode’s job, which includedContinue reading “A serjeant of the mace slain”

A pesky bit of youthful murder

One October afternoon in 1534, two lawyers fell into a quarrel. Both were at Barnard’s Inn (one of the “law inns,” where common lawyers received their training), and they may have been students. John Margettes, an Irishman, mortally wounded John Yaxley, stabbing him in the stomach. Margettes immediately fled to Westminster Abbey. This allowed himContinue reading “A pesky bit of youthful murder”

Gentry feuds, highway robbery, mistaken identity

In 1537, yeoman Thomas Foteman was among thirty-one men accused in the death of William Jackson in Gloucestershire. Foteman was a retainer of Sir John Brydges, later 1st Baron Chandos, career soldier and man of “intense personality,” as his ODNB biographer put it. Brydges was evidently feuding with another aristocrat, Sir John Huddleston, who’d hadContinue reading “Gentry feuds, highway robbery, mistaken identity”

Cheshire feuds

Cheshire was a hotbed of violent gentry rivalries. The violence wasn’t confined to Cheshire itself: in 1539, two killings occurred in the shadow of St Paul’s Cathedral in London. The first: on 10 February 1539, a coroner’s inquest was held over the body of gentleman Richard Cholmeley of Cheshire, who lay “feloniously murdered” near StContinue reading “Cheshire feuds”