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”

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”

Serial sanctuary seeker runs out of luck

Some people took sanctuary more than once — but in this case, the double sanctuary-seeker still ended up on the gallows. In 1425, John Holand, a shoemaker from Stone, Staffordshire, took sanctuary at the parish church in Hackney. He told the coroner that he, together with two soldiers and a horse-dealer, had murdered a LondonContinue reading “Serial sanctuary seeker runs out of luck”

Angry townspeople vs. cathedral clergy

In 1425, the bailiffs and citizens of Canterbury drew up a list of complaints against the prior of Canterbury cathedral; one grievance was that the prior refused to hand over to them a goldsmith “from across the seas” named Bernard Oswyck, who had taken sanctuary in the priory precinct. The early historian of English sanctuaryContinue reading “Angry townspeople vs. cathedral clergy”

William Wawe and Beaulieu Abbey

Circa 1426 William Wawe, a husbandman of Worcestershire, was indicted for many horse thefts (at least eight) and a litany of other crimes. It seems, in fact, that he became the poster-boy for uncontrolled crime in the kingdom. His name was notorious enough that it would be invoked in following years to smear political opponentsContinue reading “William Wawe and Beaulieu Abbey”

Ex-soldiers and violence in the 1430s

Around 1431, an argument broke out on an agricultural estate just outside Rochester in Kent. Two farm servants, thresher William Wynter and ostler William Pope, quarrelled over a belt decorated with silver. Wynter was an ex-soldier, a veteran presumably of the French wars (there are various William Wynters, archer, in and perhaps Pope, too,Continue reading “Ex-soldiers and violence in the 1430s”

The evil sheriff Leoffstan

An early English king, a woman seeking asylum, an evil sheriff, and an avenging fiend: these are all part of a story written by poet and monk John Lydgate to influence the impressionable young king Henry VI. In the later 1430s, John Lydgate, poet and monk of the abbey of St Edmunds, translated the lifeContinue reading “The evil sheriff Leoffstan”

London Sheriffs Get Aggressive, 1440

In 1440, a conflict between the City of London and ecclesiastical institutions in and near the City heated up to boiling point over the issue of those churches’ independent jurisdictions. The City was concerned not just about sanctuary, but even more about liberties’ other economic privileges. The liberties were independent jurisdictions and could ignore CityContinue reading “London Sheriffs Get Aggressive, 1440”

“Pleading sanctuary” in court

In the late 1440s, Edward Wyrley was arrested in Westminster for felony and taken to prison to await trial, but somehow escaped and ran into Westminster sanctuary. Wyrley claimed he was then forcibly removed from the precinct and brought back to stand trial. Felons thus seized could “plead sanctuary,” i.e. asking the court to restoreContinue reading ““Pleading sanctuary” in court”

Henry VI: Defender of sanctuaries

In 1448, a prisoner named Thomas Brodeley escaped from pre-trial custody in Wakefield, Yorkshire and made his way to the (impressively large) parish church of Wakefield to take sanctuary. The sheriff of Yorkshire seized him from the churchyard and took him to the presumably more secure prison in York castle. The archbishop of York promptlyContinue reading “Henry VI: Defender of sanctuaries”