Tag Archives: Edward IV

The Art of Law: important article on images in rolls of the late medieval Court of Common Pleas

An area in which many legal historians have become increasingly interested in recent years is the visual composition of legal records. I gave a paper on this at the British Legal History Conference in 2013 (http://www.gla.ac.uk/media/media_282282_en.pdf ), highlighting the need to integrate the images from the Common Pleas rolls into the King’s Bench-dominated view acquired from Erna Auerbach’s work, and have also made some comments on visual material in this blog (http://vifgage.blogs.bristol.ac.uk/2013/04/07/p-is-for-profile-henry-viii-in-the-rolls-of-the-common-pleas/ ). The appearance of a thought-provoking study of the visual material in the CP rolls in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries is a welcome addition to this area, and certainly one for reading lists in medieval legal history.

Elizabeth A Danbury and Kathleen L Scott, ‘The Plea Rolls of the Court of Common Pleas: an unused source for the art and history of later medieval England. 1422-1509’. The Antiquaries Journal, 95  (2015), 157-210 looks at the rise of decoration and illustration in the CP rolls in this period, and explored the iconography of the images and the meanings of words and mottoes associated with them. There is much of interest in the identification of particular kings and other characters, and the discussion of the way in which particular images fit in with contemporary political events. I am also intrigued by the mysterious popularity of dragons in these records. Helpfully, there are several good-quality photographs of key images.

Medieval historians are naturally drawn to the political ramifications of the images. I think that legal historians can and should also consider the implications of the illustration and decoration which relates to the image or self-image of particular courts. Auerbach’s work saw the inclusion of loyal, royal pictures in the KB rolls as something which flowed from the particular connection of the monarch with that court. Noting that the CP also included such images makes that conclusion less secure. There is also the issue of the inclusion of decoration and mottoes associated with the names of judges, which deserves some consideration in connection with the image they were trying to project. Finally, there is the intriguing issue of the expected ‘consumers’ of these images: who would have seen them? Did our ‘clerk-illustrators’ imagine that they were drawing only for their immediate colleagues and contemporaries, or for posterity?

Gwen Seabourne

11/12/2015

Whele meet again: the continuing adventures of a suspected Scot

Whele meet again: the continuing adventures of a suspected Scot

DRAFT: PLEASE DO NOT USE WITHOUT THE AUTHOR’S PERMISSION

Anglo-Scots tension and uncertainty amongst those in the south of England as to who is and is not a Scot seems to be something of a theme in cases of the last years of Edward IV’s reign. I have noted previously the case of John Marcyell v. Thomas Hannfert (1482, CP 40/882 m. 410d, AALT image 1970; see blog post 12/1/2014), a Lincolnshire case alleging trespass, removal of cattle and threats to John,  interrupting his business, in which the defendants pleaded that they did not need to answer John, because he was an alien, in Scotland, in the allegiance of the king of Scots, the king’s enemy, and had entered England without safe conduct.

Another contemporary suspected Scot, known to the Year Books, was Richard Whele, a clerk of the King’s Bench. Richard and Isabel Whele’s case (1483) appears in YB Hil. 22 Edw IV; Seipp 1483.009 and 010. Here, Whele claimed that both husband and wife had been imprisoned without proper cause, he on the supposed grounds that he was a Scot and she on suspicion of insanity, after being informed of her husband’s arrest. Both cases as reported in the Year Books spent most time discussing pleading technicalities (the ‘only obeying orders’ defence and the details of pleading an insanity-based justification) but there is also much food for thought here on the ‘national’ tensions made evident in the cases. One relevant plea roll entry is at KB 27/885 m. 39d, and there is more on Richard Whele’s problems with the allegation of being a Scot on KB 27/884 m. 91. Here, we see description of a dramatic scene – Whele accused in court, during a session before Chief Justice Huse and his fellows, of being a Scot. His accuser was one John Popley, ‘holyer’, and Holyer’s words are quoted: ‘I defy the[e], proud Scotte: thow art no better and that shall I prove.’

As with John Marcyell, who claimed that he was not an alien, but a native of England, in King Edward’s allegiance, born at Black Heddon  in the parish of Stanford[ham], co. Northumberland, Richard Whele claimed to have been born in the far north-east of England: in his case at Newcastle-upon-Tyne.

In both cases, nationality was a question put to a jury from the location of the claimed birth, but while I have not found the conclusion of the Marcyell case, Richard Whele certainly managed to secure confirmation that he was English, and was able to produce documentation under the privy seal to this effect. He won his case and recovered £48 6s 8d.

The real story behind such characters and events remains murky. It may have been entirely made up in an attempt to discredit a reasonably prominent individual, but I am very interested in the possibility of there having been confusion, away from the border, over who was and who was not a Scot. It appears in other Year Book and plea roll cases, and is well worth further consideration – one of my ‘back-burner’ projects.

GCS 2/3/2014

 

 

‘But he’s Scottish’: an allegiance-based defence in the reign of Edward IV

DRAFT – PLEASE DO NOT USE WITHOUT PERMISSION

With the Scots independence vote on the horizon and Linda Colley’s interesting series about ‘union and disunion’  on the radio, it is not surprising that a case with a Scots flavour caught my attention in today’s trawl through the plea rolls.

The case appears in the roll of the Common Pleas for Michaelmas term 1482, CP 40/882 m. 410d, AALT image 1970. It is a Lincolnshire case, brought by John Marcyell of Girsby against Thomas Hannfert and others, alleging trespass, removal of cattle and threats to John,  interrupting his business.

Thomas and his colleagues pleaded that they did not need to answer John, because he was an alien, in Scotland, in the allegiance of the king of Scots, the king’s enemy, and had entered England without safe conduct.

John argued, however, that he was not an alien, but a native of England, in King Edward’s allegiance, born at Black Heddon  in the parish of Stanford[ham], co. Northumberland.

The question of whether John was or was not from Northumberland was to be inquired of in that county.

Accusations of being a Scot are certainly not undocumented in this period – see CJ Neville’s work. Whether there was a trespass, and, if there was, whether it was connected to John’s supposed nationality and allegiance cannot, of course, now be known. Maybe this was a complete fiction, to delay or derail the case, but could it be that  there was confusion over who was a Scot. Other cases in the Year Books and Plea Rolls suggest confusion over the origins of ‘foreigners’ of one sort another.