Trial, condemnation and execution of Clarence

The Trial and Execution of George duke of Clarence, from the Croyland Chronicle. The circumstances surrounding the allegations against the king’s brother and his trial, condemnation and execution are explored in this post: Was George, Duke of Clarence guilty?

Other relevant pages: Edward IV, Flight of Clarence and Warwick, Clarence becomes disillusioned, Battle of Empingham/ Losecote Field, Contemporary view on the readeption, Clarence, Gloucester and the marriage to Anne, Attainder of George Duke of Clarence, Trial and execution of George duke of Clarence.


Trial, condemnation and execution of Clarence


The indignation of the duke was probably still further increased by this ; and now each began to look upon the other with no very fraternal eyes. You might then have seen, (as such men are generally to be found in tiie courts of all princes), flatterers running to and fro, from the one side to the other, and carrying backwards and forwards the words which had fallen from the two brothers, even if they had happened to be spoken in the most secret closet. The arrest of the duke for the purpose of compelling him to answer the charges brought against him, happened under the following circumstances. One Master John Stacy, a person who was called an astronomer, when in reality he was rather a great sorcerer, formed a plot in conjunction with one Burdet, an esquire, and one of the said duke’s household; upon which, he was accused, among numerous other charges, of having made leaden images and other things to procure thereby the death of Bichard, lord Beauchamp, at the request of his adulterous wife. Upon being question in a yeiy severe examination as to his practice of damnable arts of this nature, he made confession of many matters, which told both against himself and the said Thomas Burdet. The consequence was, that Thomas was arrested as well; and at last judgment of death was pronounced upon them both, at Westminster, from the Bench of our lord the king, the judges being there seated, together with nearly all the lords temporal of the¬†kingdom. Being drains to the gallows at Tyburn, they were permitted briefly to say what they thought fit before being put to death; upon which, they protested their innocence, Stacy indeed but faintly ; while, on the other hand, Burdet spoke at great length, and with much spirit, and, as his last words, exclaimed witii Susanna, “Behold! I must die; whereas I never did such things as these.”

On the following day, the duke of Clarence came to the council-chamber at Westminster, bringing with him a famous Doctor of the order of Minorites, Master William Goddard by name,, in order that he might read the confession and declaration of innocence above-mentioned before the lords in the said council assembled ; which ho accordingly did, and then withdrew. The king was then at Windsor, but when he was informed of this circumstance, he was greatly displeased thereat, and recalling to mind the information formerly laid against his brother, and which he had long kept treasured up in his breast he summoned the duke to appeal on a certain day in the royal palace of Westminster : upon which, in presence of the Mayor and aldermen of the city of London, the king began, with his own lips, amongst other matters, to inveigh against the conduct of the before-named duke, as being derogatory to the laws of the realm, and most dangerous to judges and jurors throughout the kingdom. But why enlarge? The duke was placed in custody, and from that day up to the time of his death never was known to have regained his liberty.

The circumstances that happened in the ensuing Parliament mind quite shudders to enlarge upon, for then was to be witnessed a sad strife carried on between these two brethren of such high estate. For not a single person uttered a word against the duke, except the king ; not one individual made answer to the king except the duke. Some parties were introduced, however, as to whom it was greatly doubted by many, whether they filled the office of accusers rather, or of witnesses: these two offices not being exactly suited to the same person in the same cause. The duke met all the charges made against him with a denial, and offered, if he could only obtain a hearing, to defend his cause with his own hand. But why delay in using many words? Parliament, being of opinion that the information which they had heard were established, passed sentence upon him of condemnation, the same being pronounced by the mouth of Henry, duke of Buckingham, who was appointed Seneschal of England for the occasion. After this, execution was delayed tor a considerable time; until the Speaker of the Commons, coming to the upper house with his fellows, made a fresh request that the matter might be brought to a conclusion. In consequence of this, in a few days after, the execution, whatever its nature may have been, took place, (and would that it had ended these troubles in the Tower of London, it being the year of our Lord, 1478, and the eighteenth of the reign of king Edward.

After the perpetration of this deed, many persons left king Edward, fully persuaded that he would be able to lord it over the whole kingdom at his will and pleasure, all those idols being now removed, towards the faces of whom the eyes of the multitude, ever desirous of change, had been in the habit of turning in times past. They regarded as idols of this description, the earl of Warwick, the duke of Clarence, and any other great person there might then happen to be in the kingdom, who had withdrawn himself from the king’s intimacy. The king however, although, as I really believe, he inwardly repented very often of this act, after this period, performed the duties of his office with such a high hand, that he appeared to be dreaded by all his subjects, while he himself stood in fear of no one. For, as he had taken care to distribute the most trustworthy of his servants throughout all parts of the kingdom, as keepers of castles, manors, forests, and parks, no attempt whatever could be made in any part of the kingdom by any person, however shrewd he might be, but what he was immediately charged with the same to his face.

Croyland Chronicle

Image Credit

George duke of Clarence, from the Rous Roll. Public Domain.

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