When you gotta go, you gotta go

This is a case that Euan Roger has tweeted about, with a toilet humour twist, but also some interesting early uses of mitigation claims in court (i.e. defendants’ appeal to loopholes to escape capital punishment). On 4 February 1402 a coroner was summoned to the church of St. Mary Somerset in London to hear theContinue reading “When you gotta go, you gotta go”

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”

“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”

Brutal breach of sanctuary?

An escaped robber and disputed accounts of his arrest: was he violently seized in a church in great disrespect of the sacral space and sanctuary—or simply taken into custody on the city street? In February 1490, Richard Reynold, yeoman of Hendon Middlesex, ran into the London church of St Olave in Old Jewry, escaping arrestContinue reading “Brutal breach of sanctuary?”

Crime and Credibility

This case features a serial horse-thief and serial sanctuary-taker with a wee bit of a credibility problem. In May 1489 John Whatman, a roper of Ticehurst, Sussex, stole a horse at Wadhurst, a few miles away. Then in September 1489 Whatman stole another horse, at Heathfield in Sussex. He was arrested for this second theftContinue reading “Crime and Credibility”

Pleading sanctuary at King’s Bench

Another sanctuary breach case: in 1493, Richard Crokker and John Parker appeared at the bar at King’s Bench and were asked why they should be acquitted on felony charges. Crokker responded that on 9 February 1493 he entered the church of St Anne Aldersgate, London, and sought sanctuary there for several felonies. But while heContinue reading “Pleading sanctuary at King’s Bench”

Treason and sanctuary: the case of Thomas Bagnall

The 1495 claim of sanctuary made by Thomas Bagnall, traitor, supporter of Perkin Warbeck, thorn in the side of Henry VII, is one of the most famous sanctuary cases of the Tudor period. I also think it’s been misinterpreted. In 1495 five men—Thomas Bagnall, John Heth, John Skotte, John Kenyngton, and Alexander Synger—were accused ofContinue reading “Treason and sanctuary: the case of Thomas Bagnall”

The Widow’s appeal of homicide

In 1496 a woman launched a “widow’s appeal”: that is, a private prosecution of homicide undertaken by the dead man’s wife against the accused murderer. This one has a sanctuary angle because the alleged murderer took shelter in a Hospitaller property. Margery Rollesley, widow of Humphrey Rollesley, accused William Toft, a tailor of Denby, Derbyshire,Continue reading “The Widow’s appeal of homicide”

Incarceration as punishment

Theoretically incarceration wasn’t used as punishment for felony in medieval England; it was used instead for detention pre-trial and during proceedings. At times, though, lengthy delays in proceedings seem deliberate, imprisonment serving unofficially as a middle way between acquittal and the noose. This seems to have been the case for two sanctuary seekers in 1497.Continue reading “Incarceration as punishment”

The savvy criminal

George Sawyer alias Wolmer, a Surrey man variously identified as husbandman, yeoman, and sawyer, was a walking example of the escape hatches, legal and illegal, available to the savvy late medieval criminal. In 1499, Sawyer took sanctuary at St. Mary Overey in Southwark after a string of burglaries in Kent, but three men dragged himContinue reading “The savvy criminal”