Posted by: Jane Roberts   in Medieval Miscellany

Another Scrabble talk in form of a PowerPoint presentation, this time on the letter “T”.

Treason doth never prosper, what’s the reason?
For if it prosper, who dare call it treason

* Sir John Harington, Epigrams

Origins in Roman and Germanic Law
•    Treason Laws in England in the later middle ages had roots in Germanic and Roman Law
•    German – betrayal or breach of trust by a man against his lord (treubruch).  Direct lord rather than hostility towards the king
•    Roman – insult to those with public authority (maiestas – greatness, dignity, majesty)
•    Concepts that were inherited from the Roman concept:

  • plots as well as open acts
  • trials after death
  • damnation of memory
  • confiscation of property
  • denial to heirs of inheritance

Early Anglo-Saxon laws
•    First reference to treason appears to be in law of Alfred the Great.
•    Separated plotting against lord from plotting against king.

Achievement of absolutism
•    Notion of the king as supreme in temporal matters within a kingdom (emperor)

  • Fealty as compared to obedience
  • Fealty was reciprocal
  • Homage – tacit acceptance of ‘right’ to disobey

•    The Law of Treason in England in the Later Middle Ages – J.G. Bellemy

Treason Act 1351 (25 Edw. 3 St. 5 c 2)
•    Codification of the common law.
•    High Treason

  • Disloyalty to the Sovereign
  • Penalty – hanging, drawing and quartering (man) or drawing and burning (woman)
  • Property  – to Crown

•    Petty Treason

  • Disloyalty to a Subject  (murder of a superior)
  • Penalty – hanging and drawing (man) or burning (woman)
  • Property – immediate Lord

•    “when a man doth compass or imagine the death of our lord the King, or of our lady his Queen or of their eldest son and heir; or if a man do violate the King’s companion, or the King’s eldest daughter unmarried, or the wife the King’s eldest son and heir; or if a man do levy war against our lord the King in his realm, or be adherent to the King’s enemies in his realm, giving to them aid and comfort in the realm, or elsewhere, and thereof be probably attainted of open deed by the people of their condition:. . . and if a man slea the chancellor, treasurer, or the King’s justices of the one bench or the other, justices in eyre, or justices of assise, and all other justices assigned to hear and determine, being in their places, doing their offices: and it is to be understood, that in the cases above rehearsed, that ought to be judged  treason  which extends to our lord the King, and his royal majesty”
•    Last used to prosecute William Joyce in 1946 for collaborating with Germany in WWII.

Richard III
•    October 1469 – Constable of England

  • Treason involving raising war against Sovereign

•    April 1483 – Actions of Earl Rivers and Richard Grey not treason – Richard not then Protector
•    Compare Hastings in June 1483

Henry VII
•    Battle of Bosworth – 22 August 1485
•    Henry VII backdated his reign to 21 August 1485
•    Consequently Henry could charge with treason those who fought for Richard.
•    Treason Act 1495  (11 Hen. 7, c. 1)
–    An Acte that noe person going wth the Kinge to the Warres shalbe attaynt of treason


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