07 June, 2010

Crime And Punishment, Medieval Style

Hope everyone is well and enjoying good weather! It was great to go on holiday, and it's also great to be online again and back to Edward II. Before I went away, I was looking through the Calendar of Inquisitions Miscellaneous for (most of) Henry III's and Edward I's reigns, from 1219 to 1307 - as you do - and found some interesting entries which are full of lovely details about medieval life...

Inquisition taken in Shropshire, 4 June 1276: "Philip the Taylor of Clun broke the house of Reynold Kaym of Upton in the night-time; the same Reynold came out with his sword and wished to attach [i.e. arrest] the said Philip, who shot the said Reynold with an arrow through the testicles and fled; the said Reynold followed him with cry and horn, and killed him with his sword as a robber and a fugitive."

Reynold managed to run after Philip with an arrow through his testicles? Ouch.

Inquisition taken in York on 18 September 1268: "A certain stranger being new-married was taking his wife and others who were with her to one end of the town of Byrun, when William Selisaule asked for a ball [pelota], which it is the custom to give; and they having no ball gave him a pair of gloves for a pledge; afterwards other men of Byrun asked for a ball, and they said they would not give one, because they had already given a pledge for one, and the men of Byrun would not believe them, but still asked for the said ball; and so there arose a dispute, and the wedding party, being slightly drunk, assaulted the men of Byrun with axes and bows and arrows, and wounded very many..."

I find that one interesting for the statement that it was then the custom to 'give a ball'. Give a ball to whom, precisely, and only after weddings?

Inq. taken on 6 May 1249: "Ughtred Smith of Botland came to Peter Grapere at the house of Richard de Boteland, and asked him to come to the wood to kill a wood-pigeon. Peter agreed, and Ughtred went on a long way in front till he came to a hill outside the wood and waited there. Peter wishing to try his bow shouted to Ughtred to look out for his arrow as he was going to shoot towards the hill. So having shot, from a longer distance than any bow was thought to carry, he came to the hill and asked Ughtred where his arrow was. "Here," said Ughtred, "stuck in my head." On this Peter fell on his face groaning and crying; but Ughtred bade him not to grieve since he felt no hurt, and said "Let us go to that knoll and do you pull out the arrow from my head, so that my wife may not see it, for she would perhaps grieve over-much." So they went and pulled out the arrow, and went home. And Peter went to Horsele for William the leech and brought him to see the wound, which he thought he could heal in a day or two. But Ughtred died, of the wound as it is thought. However the jurors believe that it was by misadventure, and the whole county witnesses the same."

That one jumped out at me because of Ughtred's dignity and courage, and Peter's very physical demonstration of his deep distress; it seems that English people of the Middle Ages weren't nearly as unemotional and stiff-upper-lipped as they gained a reputation for being in later centuries.

Inq. taken at Carlisle on 11 April 1287: "Ralph Deblet on All Saints' Day 13 Edward I [1 November 1285] at evening was so drunk that he did not know what he was doing and went by night into the house of Thomas le Tayllor at Carlisle, and walked up the stairs of a solar and fell upon Thomas as he lay asleep in bed. Thomas woke up crying out and asking what had fallen on him, and Ralph going down the stairs in his drunkenness, fell upon a cartload of wood and was wounded to the head even to the brain. He died by misadventure."

Inq. taken in Northamptonshire, 26 October 1254: "As Robert son of Robert de Olneye and others with him stood in the king's highway singing drunk, there came one William de Yerdelegh in a cart, likewise drunk, and drove his horse and cart over the singers. AndRobert pursued William and struck him on the head with a hatchet, but not feloniously or with malice prepense, since they were unknown to each other. And William was carried in the cart to his father's house in Yerdel' and lived there fifteen days and more and then died. Verdict: Robert slew William by misadventure."

Driving under the influence and road rage, thirteenth-century style.

Inq. taken in Kent, 30 October 1257: "On the occasion of a wedding in the town of Romenal, John Loterich and others were tilting at the quintain. John having run twice and broken two lances, as he had begun to ride a third time, Laurencia daughter of John le Portur, an infant of four or five years old, came out among them opposite her father's house; and owing to the crowd the child was trampled under their feet, and under the feet of John's horse, by misadventure."

Poor little girl, what a tragic accident.

"Inquisition taken Monday after Lady Day 45 Henry III [28 March 1261] whether John Harpetro killed Belechera his wife by misadventure: - By misadventure: John had a carcass of beef hanging in the house, and saw a cat eating the meat. He threw his knife at the cat, but by sudden chance Belechera came between and was wounded in the leg, the wound causing her death."

Belechera, what an extraordinary name! Here's a similar case, from Suffolk in May 1259: "It happened that William Huctred came to the house of Avice de Buchanne, intending no evil, and Alice Canun sister of the said Mabel [what Mabel? Are Avice and Mabel different forms of the same name?] attacked him with quarrelsome words, and then took a stool to strike him maliciously on the head; and the said Mabel came in and, trying to hinder her, came between them; and he, having a knife in his hand, not for any evil purpose, but because he was cutting a rod, she chanced to get a wound with it between her elbow and her body on her right arm and of this and of other sickness she died three weeks after; and whatever befell there was by mishap and not of malice aforethought."

Inq. taken in Worcestershire, 28 July 1280: "One Roger Shitte [!!], bailiff of the earl of Warwick, took the horse of one John de Ledene, by way of distress, out of a cart full of wheat-sheaves. John charged the bailiff with unlawful distress, but he being very drunk struck John hard on the right hand with a stick. And Walter Codard, the bailiff's man, ran up to strike John with a knife. A woman called Felicia Hende saw this and called to John to "Turn round, Walter Codard will strike you with a knife." John turned to defend himself and struck Walter on the head with a hatchet, of which he died within a fortnight. On account of this John has absconded."

Inq. taken in Lincolnshire, 3 March 1287: "Thomas del Boure of Alkewbarwe killed Gilbert Nade in self-defence. Thomas came to his own house at Alkebarwe on Thursday before Candlemas 14 Edward I [31 January 1286] after sunset and was surprised to find nobody there, and found his beasts which were in the keeping of his servant Gilbert Nade straying about the house and court. At bedtime Gilbert came back and found Thomas sitting on his bench. Thomas asked him why he was so late and why his beasts were so badly kept; and Gilbert took a wooden candlestick and struck Thomas on the head, of malice, because of previous quarrels, so that he fell to the ground. Thomas rose and fled to a chamber, but the door was shut, and Gilbert pursued him with the candlestick and struck him again, but part of the blow fell on the door. And he found a spade by the door and hit Gilbert back in self-defence so that he died of the blow."

Inq. taken in Yorkshire, 25 August 1280: "Peter de Baddesworth killed John de Duffeld by the greatest misadventure. Peter threw a stone, together with many other men then in York Castle, and John ran in the way; the stone struck him on the head and killed him."

Which of course begs the question, why on earth were lots of men in York Castle throwing stones? Did it not occur to anybody that this might be a bad idea? Did they have no concept of elf n safety in 1280??

A very sad one next, I'm afraid, taken on 25 July 1276. "Commission to John de Lovetot to enquire whether Richard de Cheddestan, said to be imprisoned at Norwich for killing his wife and two children six years ago in a frenzy was then mad, and whether he may now safely be released...The jurors say that as Richard and his wife came from Refham market and came by a marl-pit full of water, Richard was taken with a frenzy, threw himself in and tried to drown himself, but his wife dragged him out with difficulty. Afterwards, being taken home, and there behaving quietly, when his wife went out to get necessaries, he was taken with a frenzy and killed his two children. His wife came home and found the children dead and cried out for grief, and tried to hold him, but he killed her in the same frenzy. When the neighbours heard the noise and came to the house they found Richard trying to hang himself, but prevented him. They say that Richard committed all these acts in a frenzy and that he is subject to it.
Richard is at present sufficiently sensible, but it cannot be said that he is so far restored to sanity as to be set free without danger, especially in the heat of summer."

Inq. taken in Northumberland, 7 September 1280: "Henry son of William de Ellinton while playing at ball at Ulkham on Trinity Sunday with David le Keu and many others, ran against David and received an accidental wound from David's knife from which he died on the following Friday. They were both running to the ball, and ran against each other, and the knife hanging from David's belt stuck out so that the point, though in the sheath, struck against Henry's belly, and the handle against David's belly. Henry was wounded right through the sheath."

I always said football was dangerous! ;-) Here's another one, from Staffordshire in April 1266: "Alan the hayward of Hertil and William of Wyndhul were playing at ball; and both running together, trying which could get the ball first, each caught the other on the shoulder and fell to the ground. Alan falling on Walter's knife, which was in its sheath received a wound in the shoulder between the shoulder and the elbow, by no fault of Walter's. They got up and went on playing, as Alan did not feel much hurt, and afterwards went to the tavern and drank new ale together, and afterwards went peacefully home. The next day the arm swelled up, and Alan, saying this was due to the new ale, asked Walter to send for a leech to heal his arm. Treatment was applied, but he died the following Saturday; and Walter, seeing that he had died of the wound, absconded and has not returned."

Inq. taken in Warwickshire on 30 September 1276: "It is stated on behalf of the priory and convent of Kenyllwurth [Kenilworth] that one William le Hare, the Nativity of Our Lady last, without the knowledge of the prior and convent, climbed alone up a new work of theirs adjoining the church of Kenyllewurth to take squabs in the hollows of the said work; and setting his foot in a piece of wood placed in one of the hollows, high up from the ground, the wood broke and he fell to the ground and was smashed to pieces and immediately expired. And when two servants of the prior and convent, Robert de Tene and John Corbyn, knew of the accident they secretly bore the body outside the convent into a wood by Kenyllewurth and left it there as though William had been slain by robbers."

Robbers who smashed him to pieces, apparently.

Inq. taken at Westminster, 26 December 1248: "Cunrad de Bruneweye had a dispute with his man Terry de Estland in his own house, and Terry knocked down his master and lay on him. Conrad being unable to escape without danger of death, wounded Terry in the shoulder with a knife. He survived ten days and died of drinking half a gallon of wine after dinner on the day of his death."

Inq. taken 19 November 1263: "Richard son of William de Swerdeston came along Newgate in Norwich, and a dog belonging to William Garlonde came and bit him. He followed the dog to Garlonde's house, demanding justice [some text missing]. Robert Winter was sitting at supper with three women. And so they quarrelled, and Robert struck Richard on the head with a pint pot full of beer, and the three women came on either side of him and pulled at his supertunic till they tore it, and took it from him, so that he barely escaped alive. Richard came back with a companion, to recover his supertunic, and Robert Winter again took a pint pot and struck him on the head. So Richard in self-defence took his knife, with the sheath, and tried to defend himself. But by misadventure he struck Robert with the point. He then took up a basin and pursued Robert and put him to flight. And Robert afterwards died, but he would not have done so had he not neglected the wound."

Hard not to neglect your wound when you're being pursued with a basin, really.

And finally, an undated inquisition "upon the death of Nicholas son of Thomas Kouke: Rose de Bokland kept a tavern at her house at Sutton, to which Thomas Kouke and Mabel his wife, the parents of Nicholas, came, and also one Margery de Totewell, whom Thomas was accused of frequenting lecherously. Thereupon Mabel and Margery quarrelled and fought; but Alard, Rose's son, being in the house, took Mabel and put her out. So she being angry went to her son Nicholas, saying that Alard had thus put her out, and that it was most disgraceful that Margery had committed this trespass against her, and that before her husband Thomas. So Nicholas went to the tavern to thrash Margery. But when he came, and sought to lay hands on Margery, Alard would not allow him, and put him out against his will. Nicholas was angry with Alard for this, and took to him his brother William Koc. And in the evening they went, armed with bows and arrows, and attacked the house where Rose and Alard were. Alard defended the house, but Nicholas broke down the door and entered. And Alard in self-defence wounded Nicholas severely with an arrow and killed him. He did this in self-defence and by misadventure, not feloniously."

20 comments:

Susan Higginbotham said...

Love these, especially the "wedding ball"!

Elizabeth said...

Thanks for sharing these - it is such an interesting look into Medieval English law, which unfortunately a lot of students in my country think that after the fall of Rome and before the Renaissance, there was lawlessness and toothless barbarians running amok, so it's great that we have such documented proof to the contrary! Welcome back from your vacation :)

Kathryn said...

Susan, that one's great, isn't it? Wonder what on earth people were meant to do with the ball they received!

Thanks, Elizabeth! (Also for your great comment on my last post, which unfortunately I never got round to responding to!) Medieval law is a fascinating topic,isn't it - I might have to write more about it in the future...

Susan Higginbotham said...

"The Wedding Ball Blues." Sorry, couldn't resist.

Paul said...

Sounds to me like Peter tried to murder Ughtred and when it didn't go to plan got his friend Dr William the Leech to finish the job.

You've only got Peter's word for it that he was so upset - or that Ughtred didn't seem to bothered by the arrow sticking out of his bonce!

Christy said...

Lots of fatal infections from knife wounds. I suppose knives were used for eating, skinning creatures, and DIY projects, all without a disinfectant wash. And hmmm, I wonder if testicular arrow guy lived much longer after his attack.

Gabriele C. said...

They'd have needed a CSI Medieval. Some of those sound very suspicious to me, throwing knives at wives who just happen to enter the room, knife points going through sheaths and whatnot. ;)

Louis X said...

Good for Reynold! I have heard that sometimes one does not fully realize the pain of a wound, when one is in an excited state, so perhaps this was the case for Reynold. Bien sûr, he felt it after all had calmed down, poor man! At least he took his vengeance on the robber.

Kathryn said...

Susan, haha!

LOL, Paul! That hadn't occurred to me - you may well be right. ;)

Christy: very true - I've seen numerous cases of people dying a few days or weeks after receiving a wound.

Gabriele: yes, it does seem a tad suspicious, doesn't it...? ;)

Louis, good point! Reynold must have been so furious to be attacked in his own home!

Kate Plantagenet said...

Wonderful wonderful stuff. Thank you.

I can't believe that someone with the most splendid name of Ughtred has the surname Smith. Hilarious. Unless he was Ughtred THE Smith which would make my giggling silly. Which it is....so I shall stop now.

Kathryn said...

Thanks, Kate! Glad you liked it. That name is just brill, isn't it?? "Hello, I'm Ughtred...Smith." LOL. OK, you've got me giggling myself silly now, too, even though he almost certainly was THE Smith. ;-)

Carla said...

This is fascinating stuff - so many of these could be the basis for a story. Suspicious or otherwise :-)

Welcome back, by the way! I hope you had a good holiday.

Kathryn said...

Thanks, Carla! I had a lovely time.

Haha, yes, the chancery rolls and inquisitions would be such a rich source for fiction! ;)

Rachel said...

What fascinating info! What really strikes me about it is - despite societal norms back then being so different from ours - how human beings haven't really changed much at a fundamental level, especially as far as criminality is concerned. Road rage and home invasions were an issue even then! As for the awful fate of poor little Laurencia ... words fail.

I giggled at "Ughtred Smith" too. Paul has a fair point about Peter arguably being the only witness to what happened, and therefore we only have his word for it, but I imagine the verdict would be the same now as it was then, even with the benefit of any scientific evidence. Poor Ughtred, either way.

Kathryn said...

Rachel, how very true! Road rage, tragic accidents, people getting drunk and falling over - some things never change! There's nothing new under the sun...

Joanna said...

All the opportunities for septic wounds! Whenever I'm doing farm work (handling dung and animals) with any cuts on my hands, I just hope my immune system has built up a tolerance. Sounds like it didn't work for our ancestors though.

Rachel said...

One other thing ... the vision of Richard chasing Robert with a basin sounds like something out of a slapstick comedy. (It reminded me of that Monty Python sketch re how to defend yourself against a man armed with a banana. Actually, a colleague of mine had a case where this drug-addicted drongo tried to hold up a 7-11 store using a Mars bar. Needless to say, the extremely dangerous Mars bar didn't have the desired effect.

Kathryn said...

Joanna, that's an interesting comment about tolerance that I hadn't thought of before - I would have expected, in an age before disinfection and so on, that people would have built up high tolerance, but maybe not!

Rachel: haha, doesn't it just! ;) I can just picture that...

Trying to hold up a store with a Mars bar??? Oh lordy, the stupidity never stops...!

Anerje said...

So glad to have you back blogging! and what an interesting one to start back with. fascinating stuff. I am also intrigued about this ball after the wedding - was it actually a ball as we know it? or something else?

Kathryn said...

Thanks, Anerje! It's great to be back.

The original text uses the word 'pelote', which as far as I know means ball in the same way that we'd understand it, though unfortunately there's no indication of the size of the ball or what it was made of. Funny, isn't it??