ABOVE: Portrait of Henry VIII by Meynnart Wewyck, c.1509, the year of his ascension

Royal pardons were common in the Middle Ages and Early Modern period. They were often issued by the kings of England in order to celebrate momentous events, such as the 50th year of Edward III’s reign; times of benevolence, such as Christmastide; or during a slump in popularity in order to win the favour of the masses.

Upon his ascension on the 22nd April, 1509, Henry VIII was incredibly popular; he was viewed as a breath of fresh air after Henry VII and his extortionate tax policies. One the 30th April, barely a week as king, Henry VIII celebrated his ascension by declaring:

16th century woodcut of the coronation of Henry VIII of England and Catherine of Aragon. From Stephen Hawes, A Joyfull Medytacvon to All Englande, c.1509, printed Wynkyn de Worde

‘that whereas the late King granted a general pardon of all offences before the 10th Apr. last, the King now grants a more ample pardon for all things except debt; which pardon shall be passed under the Great Seal, to every one who will sue for it from the Chancellor. No one is to make disturbances, but any person wronged may seek remedy at law.’

What is even more interesting is a list at the bottom of the document: ‘The names of the persons exempted from the King’s general pardon.’ These were specific people who, along with debtors, would not be pardoned for their crimes. The first group of names are all political prisoners, imprisoned for their Plantagenet blood, association with Henry VII’s unpopular tax policies, or treason of some kind. The majority of the names, however, we have no information on. We do get some small pieces of information. Some are known by their place of birth or residence, such as ‘Ric. Morley of Fenystratford’; other include have their occupation mentioned, such ‘Jo. Poortwood, brewer’; we even get the crime of one ‘Rob. Porter, a murderer in prison at Cambridge’ – one has to wonder at the reason why Rob. Porter was notorious enough to be known to the King or his officers and mentioned here. But overall, we know very little of the people listed here, or their crimes. Hopefully most of them had committed heinous offences and deserved their imprisonment; though undoubtedly there were some who did not.


The names of the persons exempted from the King’s general pardon:—

Edm. De la Pole,

Will. De la Pole,

Ric. De la Pole,

Will. Cortney, son of the earl of Devon,

Tho. Grey, Marquis of Dorset,

Sir Geo. Nevyll, John Taillor, in ward in the Tower,

Sir Will. Capell,

Rob. Straunge,

Sir Ric. Emson,

Edmund Dudley,

Tho. Stanley,

Tho. Dalby, clk.,

Sir Ames Paulet,

Tho. Tynnyng, clk.,

Jas. Butler, clk., of Worcestershire,

Will. Smythe, late of the Wardrobe,

Blubery of Kent,

Will. Butteler of Sussex,

Pygeon of Yarmouth,

Cooke of Norf.,

Tyrry of London or St. Alban’s,

John Bapt. Grymald,

Hen. Toft of London,

Pecok of Oxfordshire,

Bampton of Hull,

Barker of Worcestershire,

Watkyns of the Isle of Ely,

Wygan late footman,

Bugge of Dorset,

Hampton of Southampton

Durrant of Derbyshire;

Frye, John Maynard, and Ootes Corbet of Devonshire;

Derby, bowyer, Simpson, sherman, Smythe, carpenter, Jo. Poortwood, brewer, Rob. Jakes, sherman, Hen. Stoughton, fishmonger, of London;

Will. Watts of Norwich,

Shemmyng of Kent,

John Burston of Gravesend,

Rob. Golding of Kent,

Rauf Brykheved of Cheshire,

John Dyson of Lichfield,

Kemer of Pole,

Ric. Morley of Fenystratford,

John Mylles of London,

Camby of the Countre,

Ric. Page,

John Michell,

Tho. Michell,

Rauf Haklet of Herefordshire,

Rowes of Devonshire,

Waren and Malham of the Chauncery,

John Myddelmore,

Sam. Prowar of Daventre,

Sir Humph. Lisle,

Rob. Porter, a murderer in prison at Cambridge,

Skynner of Devonshire,

Grove the escheator of Bucks,

Geo. Chauncye and Edw. Chauncye late of Pevensey,

Tho. Bretherton,

Jo. Chauncefeld,

Colsell, late messenger, of Lancashire,

Edw. Mynskyp of Cambridgeshire,

Ric. Sclatter of Eyton, in parish of Bleccheley, Bucks, yeoman,

Rob. Dod, gent.,

Tho. Hough, yeoman, of the same parish,

Thomas Turbrevyle,

Chr. Clapham, porter of Berwick,

Lord Dacre of the North,

Thomas Thomas of Southampton.






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