William Oldhall, the speaker of the commons, indicted for treason

1452 an allegation was made to the King that Sir William Oldhall, speaker of the commons, had plotted to seize the King on 16th September of the previous year. The allegation was that the plot had been mooted at no less a place than at the King’s Bench. Furthermore, allegations were added that once the 16th September date had been and gone, Sir William had plotted the death of the King whilst at Hunsdon on 3rd November. It resulted in William Oldhall being indicted on charges of treason on 16th September 1452. 

William Oldhall, the speaker of the commons, indicted for treason

Additional suggestions stated that persons associated with the plot received treasonable letters from Richard Duke of York. These were incredibly serious charges against people of great influence: Sir William was Speaker of the Commons. Sir William entered sanctuary at St. Martins Chapel on 23rd November 1451, following an accusation of theft of the Duke of Somerset’s goods made by an esquire of the King’s house.

William Oldhall sought sanctuary

His decision to seek sanctuary sealed a guilty verdict at his trial, in his absence, for treason. Sir William was outlawed and attained for his crimes. He remained in sanctuary until July of 1455 when his attainder was reversed by the pro-Yorkist regime.

William Oldhall and the Duke of York

The mention of the Duke of York in allegations did little to ease tensions. As these allegations were being made, York was at the head of an army of 2000 enforcing peace in a private feud in the south west: one with national ramifications.

The Oldhall affair was one of a series of incidents that led to the standoff between York and the royal party at Dartford in 1452.


Primary Source: Petition by William Oldhall following his acquittal. National Archives.

Academic Blog: Sanctuary and coups d’état. by Dr Shannon McSheffrey

Dictionary of National Biography. Our Public Domain copy of the original National Biography for William Oldhall.

Academic (Requires login): Duke Richard of York’s intentions in I450 and the origins of the wars of the roses. R.A. Griffiths

History of Parliament Project Blog: Sir William Oldhall, Speaker in the Parliament of 1450-1. Article here.

Image Credits

Arms of Sir William Oldhall: Per pale Azure and Purpure a lion rampant Ermine. Via Wikipedia

Leave a Reply