Arraignment of Sir Richard Knightly, John Hale, and the Wigstons (13 Feb. 1590)

In early November 1588, the Marprelate operation moved to Fawsley Hall, Sir Richard Knightley’s mansion about twelve miles southwest of Northampton. Knightley (1533-1615) was a prominent figure in Northamptonshire: high sheriff and deputy lieutenant, he had long been a leading patron of the Presbyterian movement, using his lieutenancy to promote a puritan ministry in the county (see ODNB; Hasler, ed., History of Parliament, II, 405; Sheils, Puritans in the Diocese of Peterborough, passim; Collinson, Movement, 142-43). The press was set up in a locked room, and the printer Robert Waldegrave was installed under an assumed name with the cover story was that he was there to examine Knightley’s title-deeds. By late November he had printed the second Marprelate tract, the Epitome. At the end of his arraignment, Knightley would be fined £2000 and sentenced to “Imprisonment at her Majesties pleasure,” but the fine and sentence were eventually remitted at the request of Archbishop John Whitgift, who appears to have focused his rigor against reformist clerics rather than their lay supporters (BL Cotton MS Julius F vi, 76r; Paule, Life of Whitgift (1612), 39-40; Camden, Annales (1615), 498; Camden, Annales (1625), III, 290-91). Knightley’s case would set a legal precedent for a person being tried for “suffering a seditious booke to be printed in his house” (Crompton, Star-Chamber Cases (1630), 29).

Despite his support of the Marprelate project, Knightley was not out of favor long: the year after his arraignment, he appears in the Privy Council records in his old role of local leader, invited to conduct hearings on legal matters in Northampton in August and September 1591 (Acts of the Privy Council, n.s. XXI, 384, 422). Copies of the Epistle and Epitome, bound together, were in the library at Fawsley Park when Sir Richard’s descendant Sir Charles Knightly auctioned off the family books in 1914 (Knightley, Catalogue of the important and well-known library (1914), 132, #2496). These copies have not been traced, so there is no way to know with certainty if they were Sir Richard’s own.

Local rumors that a press had been installed at Fawsley spurred the Martinists to move the operation in early January 1589. At first the press was hidden in an unoccupied farmhouse Knightley owned in Norton, in Northamptonshire near Daventry. But in mid-January it was moved to White Friars, the house of John Hales in Coventry. Hales was Knightley’s nephew by his first marriage, and he suggests here that he had agreed to house the operation only because of his obligations to Knightley. Like Knightly and the Wigstons, his fines were eventually remitted. Waldegrave printed three texts at White Friars. He started with the third Marprelate tract, the broadsheet Certain Mineral and Metaphysical Schoolpoints, and completed the run of about 1000 copies in late January or early February. With Schoolpoints finished, Waldegrave printed John Penry’s A Viewe of Some Part of Such Publike Wants in February. Waldegrave then began work on the fourth Marprelate tract, Hay any Work, completing the print run of at least 1000 copies by the second half of March.

Soon afterward Waldegrave left the project, taking with him the type with which the first four Marprelate tracts had been printed (document 10). The Marprelate press would remain silent until John Hodgkins joined the project in mid-July, apparently recruited in London by Humphrey Newman (document 18). Hodgkins met John Penry and Job Throkmorton at Throkmorton’s Haseley manor, and learned that the press had been moved to The Priory in Wolston, about six miles southeast of Coventry. The printers were installed there under the guise of embroiderers, and by the end of July 1589 they had finished both Theses Martinianae (often known as “Martin Junior”) and the sixth tract, The Just Censure and Reproof of Martin Junior (often known as “Martin Senior”). The Priory was the residence of Roger Wigston, who confessed that he had harbored the operation at his wife’s request. She admitted that “zeale of reformation in the Churche caused her to give them entertaynment in her howse,” and asked that her husband not be punished. The court was not impressed: one judge thought Wigston “worthie of the greater punishment for givinge such a foolishe aunswear as that he did yt at his wiffes desire.” Wigston “for obaying his wiffe” was fined 500 marks, and his wife £1000; as with Knightly and Hales, both fines were eventually remitted.

Knightly was arrested and formally questioned on October 20, 1589 (document 17), a few days after Henry Sharpe had divulged details of the roles played by Knightly, Hales, and the Wigstons in harboring the press (document 10). John Hales and the Wigstons were likely arrested around the same time. On November 16, 1589, the Privy Council established a committee to examine Knightly, Hales, and Roger Wigston, all currently prisoners in the Fleet: they were “by all probabilitye acquainted with the said Martin, and can disclose who and where he is” (Acts of the Privy Council, n.s. XVIII, 225-26). The committee included Bishop John Young, eight privy councilors, Sir Edmund Anderson, lord chief justice of the Court of Common Pleas, Dr William Aubrey, master of Requests, and Dr William Lewin, judge of the Prerogative Court of Canterbury. Aubrey and Lewin would also conduct the second examination of Nicholas Tomkins on November 29 (document 9). From this large group, a select committee of four, including two privy councilors, were to conduct the examination. This examination led to the questioning of various members of Knightley’s household in December (examinations not extant, but summarized in document 17).

An almost identical directive appears in the Privy Council records in July 3, 1590, a few months after the three men had been arraigned (Acts of the Privy Council, n.s. XIX, 292-93). The distributor of the tracts, Humphrey Newman, had been arrested in June 1590 and would be examined on July 9: perhaps Knightly, Hales, and Wigston were re-examined to see if they could shed any further light on the authorship issue with respect to new details supplied by Newman. In addition, John Udall would be arraigned in late July 1590: perhaps the examiners were looking for additional information about his involvement. The Council appointed a large committee with similar membership as before, adding Francis Gawdy, judge of the Court of Queen’s Bench, who also participated in the examination and arraignment of John Hodgkins (document 20). The examination was to take place in Star Chamber, and the three were evidently still prisoners in the Fleet: their release would take place at some point afterward.

British Library Harley 6848, fols. 30-31, “About the martynistes in Star Chamber” (undated: ca. 1590?), comprises a manuscript list of extracts from various Marprelate tracts as evidence of the project’s treasonous purposes. This document was likely compiled by John Puckering, and may very well be a version of the materials on which he based his case at this arraignment, when he “begane to laye open the enormyties of theise bookes which they had in courte and divers clauses of them were read.”

Source: Caius College, Cambridge MS 197/103, pp. 206, 211-21 (mispaginated but apparently complete). Formerly Caius College MS Class A 1090. Printed (with modernized spelling and punctuation, and with omissions and inaccuracies) in State Trials, vol. 1 (1816), 1263-72. The original manuscript is largely unpunctuated and unparagraphed, though it often capitalizes the first word of new sentences. Original punctuation is retained when present, and punctuation and paragraph breaks are occasionally added for clarity.


[p. 206] On Fridaye the xiiitie [13th] of February [1590] were brought as prisoners to the barr before the lords in the hyghe courte of Star Chamber Sir Rich: Knyghtlye, Mr [John] Hales, Mr [Roger] Wyckston and his wiffe, whose offences here after folowe. And first Mr Atturney [Attorney-General Sir John Popham] beganne, that the prosperous and happie state of her Majestie was not unknowne unto them all that were present, and so dilated thereon, &c untill two enimies had chosen to disturbe this quietnes viz. the papists abroad who by foren armes &c and the seditious sectaries at home, whereof there are lewde people, next the Brownysts and there fellowes. But Justice had bine donne one theise men and the lawe executed. But there is another sorte of sectarie, that are of noe setled state but seeke to transforme [and] subvert all. Theise men would have a peculier goverment, on everie severall congregation, severally in eache province, in everie dioces yea in evere parrishe, whereuppon woulde ensue more myschef then any man by tounge can utter; they themselves cannot agree amonge them selves; but are full of envie and emulation: for what greater emulation then to fall to contention, and frome contention to proceede to violence. But they staye note heere, nor contended with raylinge against the Churche and state thereof; but proceede to courte and the comon weale that all thinges might be drawne to preserve unitie amonge the Bretheren; no lawe noe order left, all proprietie of thynges taken awaye and confounded. [p. 211] But of what sorte of people theis sectaries? Of the verie vileste and basest sorte, and theise must make confusion of all state and so advance themselves in their congregations, this their course and this theire purpose, so the heele showld governe the heade and not the head the heele, if theise men be allowed.

Her Majestie in her great wisdome dewly considered the great dangere of these inconvenyences, tooke order that no pamphletes or treatieses shoulde be put in print, but such as showld be first seene and allowed. And further lest that were not sufficient she ordayned that no printinge showld be used anye where but in London in Oxford and Cambridge. Notwithstandinge all this served not. But they woulde print in corners and spreade abroade thyngs, imprinted. Wherefore her Majestie set fourthe a proclamacion in Anno 25 [1583: STC 8141], that all Brownistes bookes and suche other sedicious bookes showld bee suppressed and burnt. After wardes when theire newe sedicious, and infamous libells were spread abroade her Majestie in Februarie last [1589: see document 3] sett fourthe another proclamation that all her subjectes might take warning. But because no reformation is had they now hold yt necessarie to proceede in justice. And therefore theise men, now prisoners at the bare [i.e., bar] but aunsewer to their offences and receave according to their demerits.

And first for their faultes. Sir Richard Knightely beinge a great man in his countrey [i.e., county] a deputy lieutenante who had the goverment thereof a sedicious and leud rebell came unto him to have place and intertainment with him and theire Sir Richard receaved him to print. Sir Richard dothe confesse that [John] Penry towld him he would set fourthe such a like boke as he hade before time set forthe for the goverment of Wales [STC 19611]. That booke containes sedicion [p. 212] and slander most opprobrious, and yet Sir Richard was contented suche a like booke showld be printed.

But further Sir Richard sent his man a ringe for a token to receave the press into his howse who did soe, and theire they printed the Epitomi [the second Marprelate tract] Wallgrave himselfe beinge the printer, this is a most sedicious and libellous pamphlete fyte for a vice in a playe and no other, but then the parson of the parishe havinge founde oute the printinge told Sir Richard yt was verie daungerous whereuppon Sir Richard caused him to take it downe but neither dysliked nor discoverede yt but kept it secret and reade the books himself, again when yt was tould him that his howse would be searched for the press he said he woulde course them that would com to search his howse besides at his recomendacion Walgrave was comended unto Mr Halles and their had entertainement and there The supplicacion to the parliament [STC 19613, John Penry’s A viewe] was printed by Walgrave and published [i.e., distributed] by Newman Sir Richard his man, and another booke viz. Have you anye Work for the Coper [the fourth Marprelate tract] was there printed likewise. Thereine the sectaryes them selves confesse that inconvenience would insewe of this government, which they so sought to establishe but yet yt must neades be brought in because they were so determined: and from Mr Halles his howse in Coventrye theis bookes and this presse must be convayed to Mr Wyckstonnes where Martyn seneor and Martyn junior [the fifth and sixth Marprelate tracts] war bothe printed wherein these libellers say that all lawes that any waye impugne this doctryne of theares are not to be obayede in anye cause then if this bee suffered confusion and disorder, must neades enseue, but farder in these bookes they affirme that the tyme doth offer them a great oportunytie as thoughe all thinges would bee suffered in this so troubellsum a tyme rather then they should any waye be disquieted. And for Mr Wyckstone [p. 213] albeyt he knewe the presse was in his house yet he kept it secrat and would never discover yt but came manye tymes and did visitt there at the press and his wiffe by whose procurement and perswasions with her husband they were first receaved into his howse did often releve them with meat and drinke, and gave them monye in theire purses. This is the substance and somme of thear Offence which if they will denye anye confessyons and manifest proofes shall be produced agaynst them and so he concluded.

Hereupon Sir Richard Knightleye began to answear and most humbly besought thear Lordships to consider of his simpell wytte and weake capacytie not able to speke in suche a place and before so honorablle an assemblye; and sayde that theise myshappes which were nowe so aggrevated against them, weare a punishment imposed by god for to put him in mynde of other his grevous crimes comytted agaynst the majestye of the most hyghest. He affirmed constantly that he was no sectarye but of that religion, that selfe same religion which he hoped all they which weare then present weere off and so he trusted were all other her majesties lovinge subjects: and if he should speake any thinge amisse he desired them not to impute it to his ill disposicion but to his wantes which wear manye, and the more by reason of his latt imprisonmente and said he was right glade that theire honors wear ordayned by god and apoynted by her majestie to be his judges at whose handes he was shure to receave nothinge but justice wherfore he besought them to be an intercessor and medyatore to her majestie in his behalfe against whom for any offence comyted or against the estate to his knowledge he was as clear as any present; and as good a subjecte as ever came to that barre. He uterly disclaymed in the bookes and denyed to have any famlyaritye to his knowledge with those that were the wryters of them; and shewed that the presse was brought into his howse upon this reason: theare was a booke that befor tyme was printed in Oxford which to his [p. 214] knowledge was never caled in this booke was wrytten by one Mr Penrye [STC 19611] who requested Sir Richard that theis booke might be printed againe in his howse and in respect of the want of learninge which he knewe to be in the mynistrye he did the rather inclyne an hear unto, for allthough he must neades confesse there weare in the ministereye some good yet to his thinkinge for one good thear wear fortye badd; yea so bad as he thought them not worthye to sweepe the Church and therefore his zeale for the furderance of godes glorye caused him to allowe of this booke. This as hee said was about St James tyde [July 25, 1588] was twelve moneth: and he heard nothinge thearof agayn until Allhollowtyde [November 1, 1588] following, and said that the presse was never in his owne howse but in a howse at the farder end of the towne, and he said that at Christmas fowllowinge [1588] Wallgrave came to him and desired the presse and sayd that Mr [Thomas] Cartwright had writen a booke against the Jesuites which hee hoped to print this is the truth sayth hee. He wrat to Mr Hales to defende a house for a poore man all this was done before the proclamacion [document 3, issued February 13, 1589] since which tyme he never medled therein as he saide. For my lord Chaunceller [Sir Christopher Hatton] most honorably gave him warninge to looke unto that which he hath accomplished like a good subjecte to her Majestie to whom he confessethe himselfe most bounden as he thinkethe all the world is besides and now hath learnede of David not so muche as to tuche the hemme of the lordes Anoynted. He hopeth her Majestie will likwise forgive him as she hath forgiven greater offences and besought them all to bee good unto him, and he for his parte would saie with Moyses and Paule that he woulde rather desier to be wyped out of the booke of life then not performe his dewtie to her Majestie and so he concluded. [p. 215]

Mr Hales begann that albeit it were a great greife unto him to bee convented before their lordships yet in this he joied that they were his judges that were the governores and sages of the land which cowld and would doe him nothinge els but justice, he confessed the blessinge of god to be exceedinge greate unto the Comonwealthe for placinge her Majestie over the same by whose meanes, we enjoye that peace which other nacions want and wee happie that live under her. He disclaimed in the bookes which he had great reasone as he thought to gratify Sir Richard Knightleye in any thinge to whome he owed muche reverence as him that had married his great aunte. Sir Richard desired him to lend his howse for a poore man, to the which he condescended but he knewe not the man nor his intent. He met with Penrye in Coventrie at a sermone who desired him to directe him to his house theire he had the suplication to the parliament that was printed in Oxforde he towld him he would print Mr Cartwright his booke against the Rhemishe Testament he was privie that there was a presst there but nothinge else. It was an easie matter for a wiser man than himselfe to bee thus overtaken. Penrye himself was not indicted nor impeached. And he hoped if a man ignorantly did receave a treaytor or Jesuit that it was no treason unless himselfe knewe of yt.

Atturney: You acknowledge you had a booke of him. Hales: I doe.
Atturney: And you came to the maker of yt.
Hales: It was before the proclamacion.
Atturney: It was after.
Hales: It was after the first proclamacion and before the second. Hereupon was read the first proclamacion made in 25 Eliz. against schismaticall and sedicious libeles Dr. Browne and suche others [in June 1583, STC 8141]. [p. 216]
Hales: But Mr. Penries was no libelle for he subscribede his name.
Atturney: There is no doubte but it is a libell though yt be subscribed whereunto Hales said nothinge. And then was reade the other proclamacion in 31 Eliz. and the order in the Star chamber made in 28 Eliz. whereby printinge was allowed only in London Oxforde and Cambridge [the June 1586 Star Chamber Decree for order in printing: see Arber, Transcript, 2: 807-12].

Wickstone said he was an ignorant man and cravede he might answere by counsell which might direct him whereunto the Lorde Chancellor aunswered that his [was] mater in fact which laye most properly in his owne knowledge and that he must provid to aunswer for himselfe and that he needed no counsel. Wherupon Wickstone confessed, that his wiffe desired him to permitt them a home in his howse which he consented unto knowing the purpose of them and that was all.

Mrs Wickstone confessed that the zeale of reformation in the Churche caused her to give them entertaynment in her howse and she was the cause that they came thether not thinkinge it had bene any waye hurtfull or daungerous to the estate, and she humbly besought that what fault soever she had comyted her husband might not be punished therfor since he was not privie but only by her meanes and request.

Hereupon Mr [John] Puckeringe begane to laye open the enormyties of theise bookes which they had in courte and divers clauses of them were read. First, he affirmed they tended to the ruyne of the whole state next to the abolishinge of all ecclesiasticall goverment to the removinge of all maneres of Service the overthrowe of lawes and yet saye they all lawes which restist [probably an aphetic form of arresteth] [p. 217] theis men are no more to be allowed then those which maynteyn the stewes [i.e., brothels]. But Penrye will never give that over he sayes though the Spanyards were overthrown and discomfited by famyn and by hunger yet the Lorde will raise them up againe and make a weake and feeble generation to overthrow us. So here was reade a great parte of the Epitome.

Puckeringe: This is most scornefull and seditcous but what is their conclusion? They conclude our parliament and counsells be assembled, where noe truthe beareth swaye which is most false and slanderous, but if this their goverment be not receaved those of the parliament house nor their seede shall never prosper nor they ever beare any more rule in England. And I Penry will never leave, till either this be performed or that the lorde in vengeance and bloude doe plague and punishe us.

For the other booke Have you any worke for the Cooper therein is affirmed that our church goverment is utterlie unlawfull. And albeit this forme of theires would be inconvenient in manye pointes yett everie christian is bounde to receive pastors, doctors, elders and deacons.

For Martin junior he affirmes that it is unlawful to have any other goverment, that all humane lawes mayntayninge any other forme are ungodlye and not to bee obeyed. That the warrant that Byshopps have to mayntaine there authoritie is no beter then that which did mayntaine the stewes, that antichrist is the head of their doctrine and they part of his bodye.

For Martin Senior he lewdlye termethe the booke of common service the starveus book at Lambeth [i.e., “starve-us book”: see Martin Marprelate Tracts, p. 181]. That 100,000 handes woulde signe to theirs positions and goverment which they seeke. And further that they are the strengthe of the land that it were no pollicie to rejecte theire suite at such a tyme when the land was invaded. [p. 218]

After this they read Sir Richardes examination wherein he confessed that Penrie came unto him as before but when [Edward] Sharpe the mynister [of Fawsley] towld him the bookes were leawd and dangerous he caused them [i.e., the press] to be pulede downe. He knewe of noe booke but the Epitome. He sent a ringe to his man Jackson by Penrie to receive a loade of stuffe into his house which was the presste and other necessaries for printinge. Newman the cobler wore his liverie, and Wastall his man helpte Walgrave awaye from his howse, to Mr Halles at Coventrie. Fox his scholemaster, and Wastall his man would comonly read the bookes in Sir Richards howse and scoffe and scorne at John of Canterbury.

[Henry] Sharp saythe that Sir Richard confered with Walgrave as Newman told him the Epitome was printed there. That when it was tould Sir Richard his house would be searched he aunsweared the knaves durst not searche his house, and if they had he would have coursed them [i.e., chased them out].

The printers man [Henry Kildale, Waldegrave’s assistant] sathe the Myndealls [i.e., “Minerals,” the third Marprelate tract] were printed there but Sir Richard answeared he never knewe so muche before. Have you anye worke for Cooper went in hand there but they went awaie then to Coventerye. The printers man woulde have submitted himselfe longe before but Sir Richard advised him not to doe soe in any case for the lordes were soe incensed as he should be hanged yf he were catched.

For Halles, Have you any worke for Cooper was printed at his house he came once to the presst as they were in printinge. Mrs Wigston confessethe Martin junior and Martin Senior were printed in her howse she gave them intertainment, and placed them in a parler. Her [p. 219] Husband knewe it not till it was donne she told him it was workes of imbroaderinge and willed him to will his servantes not to peepe or prie into the parler since it pertained not to them. Hodgskins and two more printed them all. Hodgskins was desired to print more but he refused. Hodgskins confessethe that he printed them two. And so from Mr Wygstones they were conveyd to Warington in Lancashire. She gave them 2s 6d at their departure and her Husband two shillinges.

Uppon this Mr Solicitor [Thomas Egerton, Solicitor General] beganne to declare the daunger of theise boocks that they tended to confusion of all states to take awaie her Majesties prerogative royall to the diminucion of her yearlie revenewe where she at this tyme was forced to sell her revenewes for maintenance of her realme and peoplle to the desherison [i.e., disherison or disinheritance] of a great number of theire patronages and advosons [i.e., advowsons: rights to present a clerical benefice] and appropriations to the abrogatinge of the common lawe and the civill lawe in many pointes. Whereupon he desired their lordships to proceede to sentence.

All the Lords agreed that the bookes were most leuwd, daungerous and seditious and pernicious to the state, most scandalous in respect [to] the adversary the papist [who] tooke occasion of our disagreement, that they were slaunderous to her Majestie in accusinge her for not maintaininge religion. Whereas she for defence of Religion onlye hath scorned all the enemyes she hath, that the sword of warre had bene drawne out against her for that cause naye the sworde of deathe had compassed her chayre in her own chamber viz. Parrie [William Parry] and Barnewell [Robert Barnewell]. Notwithstandinge she nothinge dismayed beinge of princelie magnanimytie and fortitude hath not feared any of these dangers only for religion sake. That they tooke awaye her Majesties regall power disinherited noblemen and gentlemen tooke away all [p. 220] propertie abolishede the reverent estate and calling of bishoppes which are one of the three ancient estates of land. And so they meant to picke out one stone after an other till they pulled the whole house on there heades. That the faults of them their present were grosse and grievous. Sir Richard a man highlie favored of the Queene and muche bonden more than ordinarilie any of his estate.

Yet notwithstandinge said Mr. Vice-Chamberlain [Thomas Heneage] you be beloved of all of us yet justice must bee done without affection of compassion for puniantur hii ne tu puniaris let the magistrat punishe offenders least him selfe be punished. And againe St Augustine sayethe pereat unus ne pereat unitas let the offender rather be punyshed than the unitie of the churche be confounded. That theire ignorance was noe excuse that ignoraunce which was willfull and malicious only to escape the punishment of lawe which is as highe an offence as any privitie. That it was a sillie answer of Mr Wigstone to say his wiffe desyred him a great follie to be ruled by her and she past the modestie of her sex to rule him and Sir John Parrott [Sir John Perrot, privy councilor and former Lord Deputy of Ireland] said expresselye he thought him worthie of the greater punishment for givinge such a foolishe aunswear as that he did yt at his wiffes desire.

The lord chancelor [Hatton] gave the assemblie that stood by to note that theis prisoners were not the devisers and makers of these books for if they had another place had bene fitt for them and not this. That the countie of Northampton did swarme with these sectaries and in one place there was a presbyterie planted amonge them till at lengthe one of the bretheren had offended wherefore the other would have punished him but he when he should be punished fled and complayned to a justice of peace and so theire powere surceased and [p. 221] All revealed, whereby he noted the vanitie of their goverment yea said he it is proceeded so farre in that countrie that the peopel were full of contention and in some places had risen in armes about that quarrell whereby he concluded it was necessarie to prevent suche myschieffe and to make examplle of yt and desired the judges to notifie his accion herein in their circuites abroad to the ende the whole relme might have knowledge of yt and the peopell noe more seduced with these lewd libellers. For punishment they all agreed that Sir Richard should be fynde two thousand powndes, Mr Hales a thousande marrks [£666], Mr Wigstone for obaying his wiffe and not discoveringe it five hundredth marks [£333], Mrs Wigstone a thowsand pownds and all of them Imprisonment at her Majesties Pleasure.

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