A quarrel between two priests

On 19 November 1435, a London chaplain, William Burght, was found dead in the parish of St. Gregory, right by (attached to, really) St. Paul’s cathedral. The coroner’s inquest jurors reported that Thomas Curteys, parson of Shere, in Surrey, had lain in wait to kill Burght, brutally stabbing him many times with a “trencherknife” –Continue reading “A quarrel between two priests”

Mercy and the young Henry VI

Henry VI (r. 1422-60; 1470-71) came to the throne as a baby; in the 1430s and into the early 1440s as he moved through his teens he gradually began to assume personal control of the royal government. A hallmark of the early years of his rule was his determination to govern in a Christian fashionContinue reading “Mercy and the young Henry VI”

No felony, no sanctuary

A curious aspect of medieval English sanctuary is that if you (blameless) were being chased by your foes (bad guys) and spotted the safe haven of a parish church, you could only take sanctuary there if you invented a felony. To receive the “protection of holy church” from pursuers sanctuary seekers had to be felonsContinue reading “No felony, no sanctuary”

Another fake confession

Another felony-inventer, this time to escape creditors. On 6 February 1438, Thomas Homnale, yeoman of Bury, fled to St Margaret, Southwark and confessed a two-year-old horse theft. He abjured, but nine months later he was found in the realm and taken into custody. At King’s Bench the justices asked him whether there was any reasonContinue reading “Another fake confession”

The curious case of the Welsh knight

Another felony-inventor, this time a curious case of a Welsh knight who took sanctuary for an already-pardoned killing. His chequered career – including dabbling in Lollard revolts – suggests he was quite a guy. In London in 1431, Sir Nicholas Conway “of Caernarfon in parts of Wales,” recently returned from the war in France, killedContinue reading “The curious case of the Welsh knight”

An exile’s after-story

Here, a rare case where we know what an abjurer did when he went into exile across the Channel. On 4 June 1438, William Roper of Goudhurst, Kent, took sanctuary in the church at Marden after killing one John Sponle in what he described as self-defence. Presumably he thought the circumstance would not give himContinue reading “An exile’s after-story”

Felonious monk

William Lane, a monk at Abingdon Abbey, fled to a church after having been indicted of horse theft. He abjured the realm, but did not actually leave; when he was caught and brought before the king’s justices, he then claimed benefit of clergy. He was delivered into the custody of the bishop of London, whoContinue reading “Felonious monk”

Jack Cade’s Revolt and Sanctuary: Could traitors seek sanctuary?

Another Jack Cade’s Revolt story (see the first one here), this time a challenging one for Henry VI, as one of the rebels who sought to overthrow him sought shelter in a sanctuary. Over recent entries from the 1440s, we’ve seen Henry VI as protector of sanctuary, part of his exercise of royal mercy andContinue reading “Jack Cade’s Revolt and Sanctuary: Could traitors seek sanctuary?”

“The violence of the sea”: logistical problems of exile

Abjuring the realm – specifically the part about finding a ship to take overseas – was not always a straightforward affair. In late October 1452, labourer Thomas Kendale was indicted for murder and fled to the church in Norton, Hertfordshire, to escape arrest. He confessed the homicide to the coroner, abjured the realm, and madeContinue reading ““The violence of the sea”: logistical problems of exile”

Fake your own death, run to sanctuary

One day in 1452 William Bowre, pre-trial prisoner in Cambridge castle, fell mortally ill and called for a priest to hear his last confession. The castle’s keeper, believing Bowre was living his last hours allowed him to go out to the castle garden with the priest to confess in privacy. Bowre was, of course, fakingContinue reading “Fake your own death, run to sanctuary”