Journal Article

Sumptuous Apparel for a Royal Prisoner: Archbishop Melton's Letter, 14 January 1330

Roy Martin Haines

in The English Historical Review

Volume CXXIV, issue 509, pages 885-894
Published in print August 2009 | ISSN: 0013-8266
Published online July 2009 | e-ISSN: 1477-4534 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/ehr/cep186
Sumptuous Apparel for a Royal Prisoner: Archbishop Melton's Letter, 14 January 1330

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The survival in the Newdegate family's archives at Arbury Hall, Warwickshire, of an original letter sent by the archbishop of York, William Melton, to Simon Swonlond, the mayor of London, ostensibly lends support to the notion that Edward II did not die at Berkeley in 1327, but three years later was alive, in England, capable of being supplied with clothes appropriate to his station, and that a plan was on foot to release him. Printed for the first time, it reveals that Melton promised money to Swonlond for that purpose, repayable a year later. This was clearly treasonable. Two months afterwards, the former king's half-brother, the duke of Kent, was put to death for believing, like Melton, that Edward could be rehabilitated, even restored to his throne. Subsequently, according to a copy of the ‘Fieschi letter’, Edward escaped from Corfe, first to Ireland, and then to the continent, where eventually he died. Attempts have been made to conflate these accounts and even to suggest that both Roger Mortimer and Edward III had reasons to maintain belief in the former king's death, yet retaining him in custody. The present writer, while bearing these theories in mind, concludes that Melton's letter was based on misleading information. As for Swanlond, evidence for his collaboration is lacking. How could such an intelligent man as the archbishop have been so gullible, even in an England that was rife with rumours, some of them deliberately fostered for political purposes?

Journal Article.  5380 words. 

Subjects: British History ; World History ; European History ; International History

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