Sir Thomas Malory, His Turbulent Career: A Biography

By Edward Hicks | Go to book overview

Chapter VII
BEFORE THE KING'S BENCH

WE HAVE to go to the Coram Rege Roll to find what next happened. There it is recorded that the Sheriffs of London were ordered to bring Sir Thomas Malory before the King at Westminster. "And having been asked, in reference to what had gone before, if he desired to be acquitted of the premisses, he says that he is not in any wise guilty thereof, and for good or ill puts himself upon his country, etc. And thereupon the said Thomas Malory was handed back to the said Sheriffs for safe custody until, together with the other causes," etc.

Had Sir Thomas refused to plead, it is worth remarking, he could not have been tried at all. According to mediæval law, a trial by jury could be held only with the consent of the accused; he must "put himself on the country." If he refused to plead, he could not be con- victed, but the justices could keep him in prison and make life unbearable for him. A curious point to be noted here -- and one which seems highly significant -- is that 24 jurors who were summoned at Westminster to try the case against Malory failed to answer their names. It is recorded that a levy was ordered to be made of their goods and chattels.

Another important fact to be observed is that when Sir Thomas died, in 1471, he was found to have no landed estate whatever. in spite of having inherited from

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