There’s been another Murrrrdah…!

Maud Neville of Scotton, Lincolnshire, was the daughter and heiress of Sir Philip** Neville and Sarah (birth name unknown) and was born in about 1360. She married Sir William Cantilupe, a substantial landowner and member of a family which, historically, been of considerable importance in England.

** Some sources say Ralph. Take your pick.

Allegedly, on the night of Friday, March 23rd or 30th, 1375, Sir William de Cantilupe was murdered in his room at Scotton by twelve members of his household, including his esquire, his seneschal, Maud his wife, and Agatha her maid.

This was not just murder, but petty treason. For the women involved, the potential penalty was to be burnt alive. The men stood to be drawn on a hurdle and hanged.

The picturesque and gruesome details of the crime are supplied by the juries who made their presentments before the court of King’s Bench. They tell us that William was slain while sitting on his bed in his room at night, being ‘ in the peace of God and the king ‘, and that the murderers bathed his mortal wounds in water, presumably to close them up and staunch the blood ; they then put the body, naked, in a sack and carried it on horseback to Grayingham, some four miles away, where they threw it out into a field, clothed it afresh in fine garments, with spurs and a belt, and left it there, in order that people passing that way and finding it, would not suspect them, but would believe the crime to have been committed by unknown men.

Only two of these, Richard Gyse and Robert Coke, were actually condemned. They were first indicted before the justices of the peace, Gyse’s name being mentioned by six and Coke’s by five out of the seven juries. They were also appealed of the murder by Maud de Cantilupe in the county court of Lincoln on Monday, June 25th, 1375, before the sheriff, Sir Thomas de Kydale, and the coroners. When the King’s Bench came to Lincoln both the appeal and the indictments were removed before it and, at the same time, the two men were freshly indicted by the juries who came to make presentments there. When they came up for trial, Maud, who was herself under arrest, withdrew her appeal, for which she subsequently had to pay a fine, and they were therefore acquitted on that score. They were then tried on the indictments, convicted by the trial jury, and condemned to be drawn and hanged.

Anyone familiar with medieval ‘justice’ will not be unduly shocked to learn that all the others allegedly involved were either acquitted, pardoned, or simply vanished. We do not know what happened to most of them.

As for Maud, are you surprised to learn that she married the Sheriff? Sir Thomas Kydale may have been her lover all along; he was certainly heavily involved in all the proceedings. What could possibly have attracted him to wealthy heiress Maud?

He had her; but he did not keep her long. He himself died in 1381.

Maud had no problem securing another husband. No less a person than Sir John Bussey (sometimes rendered Bushey.) Bussey was to go on to have a long and successful career in the service of John of Gaunt and King Richard II. MP on numerous occasions and Speaker several times before being murdered by the spiteful Henry Bolingbroke in 1399 – without a shade of legal authority.

Maud did not live to see this. She passed from this world before June 1386, when Bussy married yet another wealthy woman, Mary, the widow of Sir Ralph Daubeney.

 

Sources: Rosamund Sillem, ed., Some Sessions of the Peace in Lincolnshire: 1360-1375, Lincoln Record Society, 30 (1937), lxvi et seq. (In which a very full account of proceedings will be found, including references to the lesser lights involved.)

History of Parliament – Sir John Bussy d 1399.

See also here.

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