Murder in the Savoy liberty

In 1501 the Middlesex coroner was summoned to the parish of St Mary le Strand to call an inquest over the body of Laurence Starke, who’d worked in the Savoy liberty prison, where the Savoy hotel is today. The Savoy liberty was an independent jurisdiction belonging to the duchy of Lancaster, which had been foldedContinue reading “Murder in the Savoy liberty”

Three sanctuary breaches

The last years of Henry VII’s reign (he died in 1509) are often seen as rife with judicial corruption. That might not be completely fair, but there were lots of cases with odd outcomes in these years. Three sanctuary breach cases ended up in King’s Bench on the same day in 1508. The first involvedContinue reading “Three sanctuary breaches”

Insult and murder in Staffordshire

In July 1502, Nicholas Stonewall, a husbandman of Longdon, Staffordshire, confronted his neighbour Robert Wright for having called Stonewall’s father a “carlabundum,” a bound churl or serf. That started a quarrel. Stonewall assaulted Wright and Wright struck back, killing Stonewall. The inquest jury might have recounted the fight to put the blame square on Wright:Continue reading “Insult and murder in Staffordshire”

Get-out-of-jail-free card?

There were quite a few sanctuary breach cases 1500-10, suggesting that either local authorities were pushing the envelope on sanctuary, or felons were trying to use allegations of breach as a get-out-of-jail-sort-of-free card. Though some have seen these cases as part of a “judicial assault” on sanctuary, that’s not quite accurate. In cases coming toContinue reading “Get-out-of-jail-free card?”

Scheming to escape

In 1504, two felons took sanctuary at St Mary Overey in Southwark. Two constables, John Rogerson and John Laurence (both with day jobs, as tailor and cooper), duly called the coroner so the felons could abjure. The next day, the constables brought the coroner, but the two felons – John Sampyre, yeoman of Shrewsbury, andContinue reading “Scheming to escape”

Robert the hermit

In 1537 London butcher George Isotson told a story in court about a long-ago sanctuary seeker at St Martin le Grand named Robert. Robert’s story stuck in Isotson’s mind because he later became a hermit. One day around 1508, Isotson said, Robert escaped from the Marshalsea prison and ran to the sanctuary of St MartinContinue reading “Robert the hermit”

The “Blessed” Adrian Fortescue, violent thug and sanctuary seeker

Sir Adrian Fortescue was amongst a number of aristocrats in Henry VIII’s reign who took advantage of sanctuary to get out of sticky situations. This is one episode in a lifetime of falling in and out of trouble, balanced several centuries later, perhaps, by a (rather questionable) beatification as a Catholic martyr. At 17 Fortescue’sContinue reading “The “Blessed” Adrian Fortescue, violent thug and sanctuary seeker”

Killing by “chance medley” in Hereford, 1511

An inquest was convened over the body of gentleman Henry Baskirville of Hereford on 1 September 1511. Jurors held he’d been killed two days before in a knife fight with Roger Lloide, also gentleman of Hereford. The jurors used a term for the killing that was quite new then (earlier than the OED‘s first usage):Continue reading “Killing by “chance medley” in Hereford, 1511″

Death of a stranger

In October 1518 a coroner’s inquest was called in St Clement Danes parish, just west of the City of London, over the body of one Anthony Niger alias Liegard. Niger’s name suggests he was likely a stranger, the term used then for foreigners: perhaps Dutch? The coroner’s inquest jurors found that Niger had died fromContinue reading “Death of a stranger”

Treason, gunpowder, heresy, bagpipes

In 1515, John Cowley, yeoman of London, was arrested with five other men and accused of treasonous plots against the king and chief minister Cardinal Wolsey. Cowley’s treachery had evidently begun while he served as part of the king’s forces in the French war, at the siege at Tournai in 1513. Amongst his charges wasContinue reading “Treason, gunpowder, heresy, bagpipes”