30 March, 2009

Law and Order in Edward II's Reign

Some random examples of murder, assault and candidates for Darwin awards, etc, in Edward II's reign that I found amusing or noteworthy, taken from the patent and close rolls, inquisitions miscellaneous, petitions, records of parliament, chancery warrants and so on.

On Sunday 25 September 1323 in Nottinghamshire, Henry de Mustiers and Hugh de Whassyngbourn, chaplain, went walking in the fields between Elston and Syerston with a woman called Jonetta de Staunton. They encountered three brothers, Robert, Nicholas and Thomas de Sireston, "who politely saluted Jonetta. And Robert embraced her, upon which Henry angrily put away Robert's hands and whispered to Hugh to go to his [Henry's] home and bring his men with arms." Hugh returned with three named men and unnamed, uncounted others, "who met Robert and his brothers and bade them 'Stand' and abused them. Hugh attacked them with an iron-pronged fork wounding Robert, who then killed him with a knife. No man received Robert or his brothers. Nicholas and Thomas are in no way guilty." Robert de Sireston was pardoned in April 1325 for Hugh's death and "any consequent outlawry."

A salutary lesson on the perils of embracing strange women in fields and carrying pitchforks around, I suppose.

On 1 August 1324, Robert Anlek of Jersey (Channel Islands) was pardoned for the death of Joan Hamond, "on his petition showing that, as he was passing through the town of Haumouns, he threw a stone at a dog that was following to bite him, and the stone by accident struck the said Joan and killed her."

In May 1311, William Bereford, chief justice of the Court of Common Pleas, claimed that Sir John Somery had "obtained such mastery in the county of Stafford that no one can obtain law or justice therein; that he has made himself more than a king there; that no one can dwell there unless he buys protection from him, either by money or by assisting him in building his castles; and that he attacks people in their own houses with the intention of killing them, unless they make fine for his protection." Somery accused Bereford of defamation.

An inquisition taken at Stratford-on-Avon on 30 October 1320 found that Andrew le Frank "threw his knife at a wall" on 4 June 1319 at his house in 'La Whiteparosshe', wherever that is, and "Agnes his wife came in the way and was wounded in the leg, and so died by misadventure."

About Newgate Prison in London: James de Galduches, formerly imprisoned there, complained in September 1314 that Richard de Honewyk, keeper of the gaol, handed him over to his sergeant John le Parker, and "although the complainant for such cause ought not to have been placed in the depths of the gaol as a felon or thief, [Parker] did so immure him so that he might extort money from him, and detained him there, placed with notorious felons and thieves and horribly laden with iron fetters." Parker forced Galtuches to promise to pay him sixty pounds, an astonishingly large sum, and when he failed to pay it, Parker "procured grievous distresses" upon his goods.

My hero Stephen Dunheved was not the only man to escape from Newgate: a John Bourt of Mendham was pardoned in November 1310, on account of good service in Scotland, for "breaking Neugate prison and for abjuring the realm," and two men named Robert le Bakere and Stephen de Thresk also escaped from there before January 1325. In March 1315, Newgate was said to contain "certain chambers which are in a ruinous state to the injury of the city of London, and danger of the escape of prisoners who are in that gaol."

In June 1309, Ralph Bedel of Old Sarum in Wiltshire was released from prison, having "made a distress by a cow" on Nicholas Cope and John Smart, "sub-keepers of the peace in the town of Bradelegh."

Bertrand le Vylar, merchant of Bayonne, complained in December 1323 that "whereas he laded a ship of the parts of Malogret called a 'Galey' at La Skluse in Flanders with diverse wares to take to Spain, and ran towards Sandwich to take refuge from pirates,"* men of the Cinque Ports entered his ship while it was at anchor, assaulted him and stole his goods.

* Not Hugh Despenser the Younger. :-)

Inquisition taken at York, the Tuesday after Trinity Sunday 1324: "Dionisia Ketel fled for diverse larcenies imputed to her...and entered the sheepfold of Maud, late the wife of William Amyson of Hemmyngburgh, and killed two ewes; on hearing which the said Maud came to her sheepfold and found the said Dionisia skinning the ewes; when the said Dionisia perceived the approach of the said Maud, she attacked her with the knife with which she was skinning the ewes, and the said Maud, seeing the knife, fled to Clyff by Hemmyngburgh, and there the said Dionisia cornered her in a house to kill her, and the said Maud, seeing she could not escape death, found an axe lying at her feet with which she struck the said Dionisia on the head, whereby she died. The said Maud immediately journeyed to the king's court to seek the king's peace."

She just happened to find an axe lying at her feet? How convenient. Maud was pardoned for the death on 26 June 1324.

Nicholas Gest was pardoned in November 1309 for the death of Emma Chappere, "killed by him before he had completed his seventh year."

Edward II ordered the treasurer and chancellor in December 1323 to make a visitation of the chapel of St Martin le Grand in London, "as it has come to the ears of the king that the ornaments and books are often wanting, officers and other ministers neglect their duties although they receive their stipends, and raise brawls, contentions and scandals amongst themselves; and that some carry on dissolute lives in other places."

An inquisition taken at Stafford on 21 August 1320 found that Sir Roger Swynnerton, Stephen Swynnerton, parson, and Thomas Ace of Newport killed Henry le Salt in Stafford "for insulting language." The same inquisition found that Richard Swynnerton killed Henry le Persons "on account of an old quarrel," and Stephen Swynnerton the parson killed Thomas de Vernay for the same reason. Those Swynnerton brothers were pretty murderous.

A fight broke out in a London tavern one Sunday in March 1326, during which a clerk, Luke Walram, hit a skinner called Robert de Aynesham on the arm with a stick and broke it (Aynesham's arm, not the stick), and Thomas de Popelingecherche hit another skinner called John de Arnhale and wounded Arnhale's right hand. A third skinner, Laurence de Lenne, was felled to the ground when Thomas de Haselhegh hit him with a stick, and stabbed Robert de Haselhegh's chaplain Richard in the thigh with his knife.

John Dunheved, brother of Stephen and Thomas Dunheved from my last post, murdered Oliver Dunheved, a rent-collector and presumably the brothers' cousin, on 9 February 1325. Oliver was staying at the house of William Mori in Dunchurch, when John, "designing Oliver's death, came by night with others unknown and attacked the house and would have set it on fire. This frightened William Mori so that he opened the door that Oliver might escape; but thereupon John shot Oliver to the heart with a bow and a barbed arrow, so that he died."

On 27 September 1324, the ship of one Richard de Wodehouse was floating in the river Ouse at Selby in Yorkshire, with Richard's son William sitting on the gunwale, when a post in the water struck William and threw him into the water, and he drowned.

On 1 March 1308, at Weybourne in Norfolk, it was found that William son of Thomas de Wabrone "wickedly slew William Bright with a dung fork, because he found him idling in his service."

After the execution of Bartholomew Badlesmere in April 1322, he was accused of having prevented Simon and Margery de Kinardsle from entering a messuage in London: "by his great power as the steward of the king's household, he would not allow them to enter, wherefore they brought the king's writ against him; whereupon the said Bartholomew grievously threatened them, and seized the said Simon by the beard, and otherwise vexed them."

On 18 May 1319, Edward II sent a letter to the chancellor, ordering him to write letters of pardon for Hugh le Smale regarding the death of Robert Spendelove: Hugh and Robert were together at the house of Robert atte Watre "about the hour of vespers at table, and Robert raised strife against Hugh and attacked him to kill him, and Hugh [words missing] caused the windows of the house to be closed to avoid his malice, and Robert [words missing] returned and broke the doors and entered the house and chased Hugh from corner to corner and got him in a corner towards the east, and Hugh in self-defence drew [words missing] struck Robert on the right shoulder and so killed him but not of malice or felony aforethought." Smale was pardoned the same day, and the letters say that he killed Spendelove "in the presence of the king."

May 1315: Edward II's garrison of Builth Castle, "maliciously seeking occasion against the said commonalty [of Builth] went forth by night from the castle, and feigned to besiege the castle and shot arrows at it; and afterwards, having secretly re-entered the castle, wickedly laid such attack upon the burgesses of the town, and on that account imprisoned very many of the burgesses in the castle and maliciously detained them in the prison there until they were delivered therefrom by the king's escheator."

In other words, they attacked the castle themselves and pretended that the inhabitants of the town were responsible as an excuse to arrest them. To add insult to injury, they "took away diverse kinds of victuals and other things of the same burgesses and men found in their houses against their will and carried the same away, [and] maliciously killed the swine of the said burgesses and men casually coming near the castle."


Susan Higginbotham said...

Moral: don't mess with Maud's ewes! Love these!

Gabriele Campbell said...

Some of them are so strange you can't make them up.

They'd have needed one of those real life TV shows were cases are judged. If you have them in the UK; they're pretty popular here (Alianore may have heard about Richter Hold or Barbara Salesch.).

Carla said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Kathryn Warner said...

Oops, Carla, accidentally deleted your comment! To answer your question 'how do you make a distress by a cow?', I wonder if the guy tipped a cow over onto the two men??

Jules Frusher said...

I still love that "made a distress by a cow" comment! I think these should be made into a spoof 14th C 'Crimewatch' (a show in the UK that highlights unsolved crimes).