In this letter from John Paston the youngest to his father, Sir John Paston, the flight of the Duke of Somerset [to Queen Margaret] in early 1464 is alluded to. It talks of the efforts taken to capture several men whom had been conspiring with the Duke of Somerset and enabling his flight to the north. The aiding and abetting of the Duke’s return to the Lancastrian fold is seen as treasonable, and the younger John Paston’s Lord, John Mowbray Duke of Norfolk, is overseeing dispensation of justice upon these men.
The letter also notes that the commons of Cheshire and Lancashire ‘wer up to the nombyr’ of 10,000 at one point, but that figure had dropped. This will most probably allude to the Lancastrian revolts that took place in 1463 and 1464, which culminated in Lancastrian defeats at the Battles of Hexham and of Hedgely Moor [25th April 1464]. Unrest had taken several forms in Northern Wales, the North West of England, and in the North East where the Lancastrians retained a military presence by holding some Castles in the region until shortly after the Battle of Hedgely Moor. The letters figure of 10,000 men being involved in Cheshire and Lancashire is hard to verify. It had been an area of Lancastrian strength prior to the Yorkist victory at Towton, so an element of loyalty to the previous regime is likely, but ten thousand seems somewhat exaggerated as it would have required a major campaign to suppress a force of that size, which simply didn’t happen.
Treason: Aiding the Duke of Somerset’s return to the Lancastrian fold
John Paston the Youngest, to his father John Paston. 1st March 1464
To my rygte reverent and worchepfull fadyr, John Paston, dwellyng in Castyr, be thys delyveryd.
RYTH reverent and worchepfull fadyr, I recomand me on to yow, besechyng yow lowly of your blyssyng, desyryng to here of yowyr wellfar and prosperyte, the whyche I pray God preserve on to Hys plesans, and to yowyr hertys desyir; besechyng yow to have me excusyd that ye had no wrytyng fro me syth that I departyd frome yow; for so God me helpe, I send yow a lettyr to London anon aftyr Kandylmas, by a man of my Lordys; and he forgat to delyver yt to yow, and so he browt to me the lettyr ayen; and sythe that tyme I kowd get no messenger tyll now.
As for tydyngs, syche as we have here I send yow. My Lord and my Lady ar in good hele, blyssyd be God, and my Lord hathe gret labore and cost here in Walys for to take dyvers gentyllmen here whyche wer consentyng and helpyng on to the Duke of Somersettys goyng; and they were apelyd of othyr se[r]teyn poyntys of treson, and thys mater. And bycause the Kyng sent my Lord woord to keep thys contre, is cause that my Lord terythe here thus longe. And now the Kyng hathe geve my Lord power, whedyr he wole do execusyon upon thes gentyllmen, or pardon hem, whedyr that hym lyst; and as fertheforthe as I kan undyrstand yet, they shall have grase. And as sone as thes men be come in, my Lord is perposyd to come to London, whyche I supose schall be within thys fortnyght. The menys namys that be apechyd ar thes, John Hanmer, and Wylliam hys sone, Roger Pulyston, and Edward of Madok; these be men of worchepe that schall come in.
The Comenys in Lancasher and Chescher wer up to the nombyr of a x. ml. [10,000] or more, but now they be downe ayen; and one or ij. of hem was hedyd in Chestyr as on Saterday last past.
Thomas Danyell is here in Chesscher, but I wot not in what plase, he hathe sent iij. or iiij. letyrys to Syr John Howard, syne my Lord come hedyr.
And othyr tydynggs her we none here, but that I supose ye have herd before; I supose veryly that it schall be so nye Esterne er ever my Lord come to London, that I schal not move [q. mowe? i.e. be able] come home to yow before Estern; wherfor I besech yow, that ye wole wyche save [vouchsafe] that one of your men may send a byll to myne oncyll Clement, or to som othyr man, who that ye wole, in youyr name, that they may delyver me the mony that I am behynd of this quarter syn Crystmas, and for the next quarter, in parte of that some that it plesid yow to grant me by yer; for by my trowthe, the felawchep have not so myche mony as we wend to have had be ryth myche; for my Lord hath had gret costs syn he came hedyr. Wherfore I besech yow, that I may have this mony at Estern, for I have borowyd mony that I must paye ayen after Estern: and I pray to Allmyty God have yow in kepyng.
Wretyn in the Castyll of the Holte, in Walys, the fyrst day of Marche.Your sone and lowly servant, John Paston, the yongest.
Source: The Paston Letters. via The Gutenberg Project.