The Quartering of Hotspur

I’ve been involved in the making of three casebooks so far: on The Battle of Brunanburh, Owain Glyndwr, and the Battle of Crécy.

One of the great things about working on these projects has been seeing how they bring forgotten documents to light – a fact that has been much on my mind this week as I’ve started looking at sources for the Battle of Shrewsbury, which might well be the next casebook.

Shrewsbury was an important battle both in history and literature, and it brought onto one field of conflict a number of fascinating figures: not least among them King Henry IV, the future Henry V, and the man Shakespeare made famous as Hotspur.

Henry “Hotspur” Percy was in rebellion to the crown that day, and for a moment it seemed he would win and seize the crown. Only the decisive actions of the future Henry V – actions taken with an arrow embedded six-inches into his skull – saved the kingdom as it stood.

Hotspur died in the battle, and his corpse was first buried and then later disinterred, displayed, and then beheaded and quartered. The parts of his body were distributed across the realm as a warning to others who might rebel.

Fascinatingly, I’ve found that we have in the Exchequer Rolls the report of William Banastre, the sheriff who was placed in charge of this process. We know what he had to do, and we know how much it cost:

Salop. The account of William Banastre, sheriff of Salop, of the costs and expenses set forth and paid by him for the transporting of the four quarters of the body of Henry Percy and the head of the baron of Kynnerton, as well as the head of Richard Vernon, knight, who lately made insurrection against the king and his royal majesty and against the debt of their allegiance at Husefeld near Salop on Saturday on the vigil of the blessed Mary Magdalene in the fourth year of this king and by him conquered and sent from Salop: one quarter to the city of London, a second quarter to Bristol, a third quarter to the town of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, and the fourth quarter with the aforesaid two heads to the town of Chester, in the said fourth year, by writ of the king under his Great Seal dated the 26th day of July in the said 4th year to the aforesaid sheriff there directed, and over this account delivered, by which writ the king commanded the aforesaid sheriff, firmly enjoining him that he should receive from the bailiffs of the town of Salop the said four quarters of the body of the aforesaid Henry Percy and the aforesaid two heads, who lately made insurrection against the king and his royal majesty and against the debt of their allegiance, and should send with all the speed that he could by those for whom he would answer one quarter of the body of the aforesaid Henry to the mayor and sheriffs of London, another quarter to the mayor and bailiffs of the town of Bristol, a third quarter of the body to the mayor and bailiffs of the town of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, and the fourth quarter of the aforesaid body together with the aforesaid heads to the mayor and bailiffs of the town of Chester, and deliver the same on the part of the King to be placed over the gates of the aforesaid towns to stay there as long as they were able. And the king commanded the aforesaid mayors, sheriffs, and bailiffs that they should receive the aforesaid quarters and heads in form aforesaid. And the king commanded the aforesaid sheriff to make an allocation of the costs and expenses which appear about the premises in an account to the king’s exchequer, etc. And the aforesaid sheriff made an account of his costs and expenses, as below.

The same accounts in 12 rods of cane bought and expended in 4 sacks thence made for the carriage of the aforesaid quarters and heads, and wax and rosin bought and expended for the waxing of the sacks, also cloves, cumin, anise, and other different spices and salt to be placed in the said sacks to keep the aforesaid quarters and heads, on account of their putrefaction and decay, in the said fourth year, and also in parboiling the same 4 quarters, 21s 9d by the aforesaid writs of the king above in the title of this account in the same year as is contained in a certain schedule of particulars here into the treasury delivered. And in money paid to 4 valets journeying from Salop to London for the carriage of one quarter of the aforesaid body, and thence returning to Salop, according to agreement made with them, in gross 53s 4d by the same writs of the king as is there contained. And in money paid to three valets journeying from Salop to Bristol, for the carriage of a second quarter of the aforesaid body, and thence returning to Salop, according to agreement made with them, in gross 40s by the same writs of the king, as is there contained. And in like money paid to 4 valets journeying from Salop to the town of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, for the carriage of a third quarter of the aforesaid body, and from thence returning to Salop, according to agreement made with them, in gross £4 by the same writs of the king, as is there [contained]. And in like money paid to 6 valets journeying from Salop to Chester, for the carriage of the fourth quarter of the aforesaid body and the two heads aforesaid, and thence returning to Salop, according to agreement made with them, in gross £4, by the same writs of the king, as is there contained.

Sum expended: £13 15s. And in account to the same sheriff in the fourth [year] of the king, etc.

Note: I’ve not yet edited this document from the original manuscript, so I’m very much reliant on the extant translation, from which this has been adapted.

One Comment

  1. Very fascinating stuff. It was a tough life during those times to be sure.

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