“Peine forte et dure” in London, 1512

At Newgate gaol delivery in late January 1512, Robert Williamson, a London tailor, was charged with stealing 20s 5d worth of goods from yeoman Thomas Newman a few weeks before. Williamson pleaded sanctuary, though not in the usual way. His plea was, in fact, so unconventional that the justices ordered him to be tortured inContinue reading ““Peine forte et dure” in London, 1512″

Hitting for the cycle: sanctuary, benefit of clergy, pardon

Here, another felon cycling through the three major forms of mitigation available to accused criminals in England circa 1500. Though hardly unpunished, George Courtenay of Hampshire was able to avoid the noose and after twenty years walked free. Courtenay, called in different records gentleman or merchant of Romsey, Hampshire, took sanctuary in 1514 in Caistor,Continue reading “Hitting for the cycle: sanctuary, benefit of clergy, pardon”

Prison fight

In 1515 a coroner’s inquest at the Marshalsea prison for prisoner Robert Croke found another prisoner, Thomas Tyler, had killed Croke in a knife fight. Tyler came before the justices at King’s Bench on Croke’s homicide two years later (which seems a long delay). At trial, Tyler – rather oddly – pleaded sanctuary, not becauseContinue reading “Prison fight”

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”

Another Savage sanctuary seeker

In 1518, about two years after the assassination of John Pauncefote by the two Sir John Savages and their retinue, one of those retainers, Anthony Savage, took sanctuary as an accessory at Durham Cathedral. Anthony Savage was named in the private prosecution of the homicide by Pauncefote’s widow; it’s unclear why it took him untilContinue reading “Another Savage sanctuary seeker”

Cornered in the York Minster churchyard

In mid-April 1518 at five in the afternoon, William Stokall of York attacked William Rygg alias Scaff, a yeoman also of York, in the churchyard of York Minster. In order to defend himself, Rygg struck back, killing Stokall. In describing the circumstances of the killing, the coroner’s inquest gave the standard self-defence narrative of beingContinue reading “Cornered in the York Minster churchyard”

“The white hare should drive the white greyhound into the root of an oak”: Prophecies and mitigations

Thomas Cheselet was an operator who knew his way around mitigations – and a dab hand at treasonous prophecies. The tale starts in 1519 when Cheselet, a tailor of Mere, Wiltshire, took sanctuary at the Dominican priory at Fisherton Anger. He asked for the coroner, confessing to him that earlier that year he had stolenContinue reading ““The white hare should drive the white greyhound into the root of an oak”: Prophecies and mitigations”

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”

Two sides to a story

In late August 1524, two husbandmen of Worth in Kent quarrelled, and one ended up dead. Two different versions of this homicide were presented in court when the case came up for trial: one laying guilt on the perpetrator, the other on the victim. When a coroner’s inquest was convened over the body of EdwardContinue reading “Two sides to a story”

Death of a tinker

A 1526 coroner’s inquest jury reported that Stafford dyer John Ithel had been minding his own business in the suburb of Forebridge when tinker Gilbert Hethe attacked him. Ithell struck back (the jurors said) in self-defence. Immediately after their encounter, as Hethe hung between life and death from the wound Ithell had inflicted on him,Continue reading “Death of a tinker”