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CRIME AND JUSTICE Florilegium Urbanum

Keywords: medieval York homicide arbitration pardons ceremony

Subject: Citizen begs forgiveness for a homicide
Original source: York City Archives, Memorandum Book A/Y, f.162
Transcription in: Maud Sellers, ed. York Memorandum Book, part II (1388-1493), Surtees Society, vol.125 (1914), 30-31.
Original language: Latin
Location: York
Date: 1391


Memorandum that on the last day of February (that is, the 27th) 1391, there were gathered in the mayor's chamber on the Ouse Bridge in York, Robert Savage, then mayor, John de Hoveden and John de Doncastre, then bailiffs, John de Ripon, Robert del Gare, Robert Warde, John de Bolton, William de Rumlay, Hugh Straunge, and many other reputable men, into whose presence came in person Ralph del See, son of Richard del See of York. Following – indeed being led by – him came a certain Robert de Ellerbek mercer, barefooted and head uncovered, into the chamber before the mayor, bailiffs and other reputable men. He sinking down to the ground on bended knee before Ralph del See, humbly and tearfully implored Ralph in these words: "I beg you, Ralph, for the love of our Lord Jesus Christ, who redeemed humanity on the cross with his precious blood, to pardon and forgive me for the death of your father Richard del See." Upon which words, the mayor, bailiffs and other reputable men added their voices to that of Robert de Ellerbek, asking Ralph to pardon him for the death of Richard, his father, for the love of God. Ralph, his anger against Robert dispelled, responded: "In reverence of God, at the request of these respectable men, and for the good of Richard's soul, I forgive and release you forever for the death of my father Richard del See."


Nothing is known of the circumstances surrounding this case, nor is it clear whether Ralph's forgiveness released Robert from the risk of prosecution, although it may at least have paved the way to purchasing a royal pardon. As a mercer, Robert may well have been of the same society as the influential men who ran the city government, and perhaps was related to the Thomas de Ellerbek who was one of the attornies retained by the city; since he did not enter the franchise at York until 1395, he was probably in the early part of his career. Richard del See was perhaps of the same class, possessing multiple properties in York which Ralph had already (in January) sold to a London merchant; Ralph being referred to as "esquire" during those dealings.



"reputable men"
In the original, probi homines, probably referring to other members of the city council.

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Created: August 18, 2001. Last update: November 23, 2002 © Stephen Alsford, 2001-2003

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