Bill of Information against Elizabeth Crane, and her Answer (February 11, 1590; May 17, 1590)

Elizabeth Crane (died in or before 1606) and her first husband, Anthony Crane (died 1583), had been active in the reform movement since at least the early 1570s (ODNB); in 1589, the year after she harbored the press in her house, she married George Carleton (1529-90), a prominent figure among the puritan gentry in the midland counties and a friend of Sir Richard Knightley’s (ODNB). Consequently, in the depositions and summaries of evidence she is called “Mistress Crane” or “widow Crane,” but in later documents like these Elizabeth Carleton. She is listed in her ODNB entry under Crane.

The second document below, the original “Bill of Information” or “Bill of Complaint” brought against Elizabeth Crane by Attorney General John Popham, says that she was “sythence the firste daie of October nowe last paste called before certeine of your Majesties most honorable pryvye councell and others to be examined.” The reference evidently means “sometime after October 1, 1589” because the first examination of Elizabeth Crane appears to have been in later December 1589 or January 1590, after her servant Nicholas Tomkins was examined on November 29 (document 9). Testimony from Crane does not appear in the summary of evidence produced after the Tomkins examination but before other examinations held in mid-December (document 15). But she had been examined by the time the “Puckering Brief” was compiled, in late January or early February 1590 (document 16).

The “Puckering brief” notes that “The sayd Mistris Crane being called before the Commission to be examined upon these matters refused to answere upon oath or without oathe to any question either concerning her selfe, for that as she sayd she woulde not be her owne hangman or concerning others for that she coulde not in her conscience be an accuser of others” (document 16). Her refusal to answer is what prompted Popham’s Bill of Information reproduced below, dated February 11, 1590: “she the said Elizabeth, refused not onlye to aunsweare for anye matter of the premisses concernynge herself, But also to anye mattter or questyon by them required of her for or concernynge anye the said misdeamenors of the said other personnes in further most manifeste disobedience and contempte to your Majestye your lawes, crowne, and dignitye.” Popham requests that Crane therefore be commanded to answer questions in Star Chamber.

The first document below is Crane’s answer to the examination before Star Chamber that followed Popham’s Bill of Information. An added note at the top indicates that Crane was sworn to her answer in the Fleet on May 17, 1590, but this might not have been the exact date of this examination. She would eventually be fined 1000 marks (£666) for contempt of court, a further £500 for harboring the Marprelate press, and committed to prison (British Library Harley MS 2143, fols. 48v-49). It is not known if her fines were later remitted, as they were for other defendants who harbored the press.

An interesting document in Acts of the Privy Council (n.s. XIX, 68-69) indicates that after Crane’s husband George Carleton died in January 1590, his goods had been left to his widow for her to sell to pay off his debts. But as a result of her being under “restraint, beinge yet her Majestie’s prisoner,” many of the goods were embezzled and sold, “without her privity and without any lawfull warraunte or juste cause.” On April 18, 1590, the Council in response contacted four local authorities, including Valentine Knightley (whose father was also in jail at the time for harboring the press) to look into the matter and to redeliver the goods “into the hands of the saide Mistres Caraleton.” Their actions show the Council’s care over property rights, even for a woman in prison for potentially treasonous acts.

Source: National Archives, Star Chamber 5/A 30/32. Not published previously.


[Added note in upper left margin:] [illegible word beginning ‘In’ or ‘Iu’] per [or, pro] respe in tantum xvii Maii in le fflete An 32 Elizabeth Reginiae [i.e., 1590] / Willm Mill [i.e., William Mill, clerk of Star Chamber]

The Aunswere of Elizabethe Carleton widdow to the Bill of Informacion Exhibited
againste her by John Popham Esquier her Majesties Attorney generall.

The saide defendent by protestacion not confessinge that the Bill of Complainte againste her exhibited into this honorable courte is certaine or sufficiente in the Law to be aunswered unto, yet Notwithstandinge all advantage of exception to the incertaintie and insufficiencye of the saide Bill of Complainte to this defendant at all tymes heareafter saved for aunswere shee saiethe that howsoever the wordes of the Bill of Complaint doe tende to touche or accuse her of contempte or disloyaltie to her Majestie that shee dothe and ever did yeilde all hartie obedience to her Majestie, and hathe and dothe from tyme to tyme bothe pryvatelie and publikelie prayed for her Majesties longe life and good prosperitie, even as for herself, and hathe bene so farre from gyvinge her assente or Allowance to anye thinge that may hurte or annoye her Royall person, as that shee woulde not abstayne to accuse hir brother or deareste friend rather then to conceale or consorte them in anye disloyall acte againste her person. And towchinge the particuler offences wherwithe shee is charged shee saiethe that allthoughe throughe the coulor of a loade of stuffe laide in her saide howse at East Moulsey in Surrey shee then and a good parte before abydinge and dwellinge at London, her howse moughte be abused. Yet shee beseechethe that the same may noe further be enforced againste her then by due processe it may appeare that shee is guiltye therein, for it is not unknown to this honorable courte that some of her Majesties good subjectes have had their howses sometyme in their absence abused, and yet the faulte therof noe further enforced but againste the parties proved therin guiltie, for this defendant in all humblenes and simplicitye of harte acknowledgethe unto this honorable courte bothe towchinge the men and the supposed books or Pamphlettes named in the saide Bill that it is true that neither John Udall nor John Penrie or either of them ever tolde this defendant that they woulde print anye suche saide Bookes or Pamphlettes or ever asked her leave to printe anye suche books or Pamphlettes in her saide howse as are named or supposed in the saide bill, neither did shee before anye suche facte of printinge supposed in her saide howse, knowe either the contentes of anye the saide Booke or bookes or Pamphlettes neither whoe was the Author of anye suche booke or bookes or Pamphlettes, neither dothe shee yet knowe whoe was the Author or Authors of the saide booke or bookes or Pamphlettes. And further shee likewise affirmethe that shee never gave money to cherishe or relieve the saide persons named in the saide Bill, nor anye of them, abowte or for the doenge of anye suche facte laide downe in the saide bill of Informacion. And towchinge the contempte supposed in this defendant for not aunsweringe to suche Articles or questions as were mynistred unto her shee aunswered to this effecte, that shee woulde willinglie confesse so muche as her accusers coulde instelie accuse her of, if they were brought before her, or els for a matter of heresie or Treason or suche like crymes wherbye Evell did remayne in the lande to remove that, shee would accuse her father or dereste frende, but otherwise shee humblie praied that she mighte not be forced to be her owne accuser, or els that shee mighte have her articles and tyme for counsel wherby shee mighte not hurte herself or godes people. Then shee could aunswere so farre as was meete. And then offred and requested to take the othe that shee was a loyall subjecte to her Majestie, and noe papiste, noe Annabaptiste, noe Barowiest [i.e, Barrowist] nor of the famylie of love, but a duetyfull & loving subjecte to her Majestie, which she was and is readie to showe in all humbleness as becommeth her. Wherin Notwithstandinge shee humblie subjectes herselfe to this honorable Courte. And without that, that shee this defendant did knowe before anye suche facte supposed to be done in her saide howse that printinge was forbidden excepte in London and the two universities. And without that, that the facte of printinge supposed by the saide Bill to be done in her saide howse yf anye suche were was facte [two illegible words] her Majesties proclamacions published in that behalfe as in the saide bill is informed againste her. And without that, that shee did knowe that the saide Bookes or pamphlettes therin supposed in the saide Bill to be printed in her saide howse to be sedicious sclanderous or disturbinge unto the great estate of the Realme. In all which shee this defendant humblethe herselfe to this honorable courte, and beseechethe that which the lawfull favoure of the same shee may be dismissed.

[illegible word or signature: * lowoe?]

[Second document, attached to the above:]

[Endorsed on verso:] Mer[?] ximo Ao xxxii Elizabeth Regnie [i.e., 1590] per imediate William Mill [clerk of Star Chamber]

To the Quenes most Excellent Majestye

Most humbly informing your most excellent Majestye, John Popham your Majesties Attorney generall. That wheras for the avoydinge of sedicious and sclaunderous Bookes, pamphlettes and libelles, It is by your highnes Injunctions, proclamacions, and sundrye orders and ordinances, prohibited that their shoulde be anye manner of printinge used, or exercised out of the cittie of London, or the universityes of Oxford and Cambrydge, and wheras their were divers sclaunderous, and sedicious Bookes, tendinge to the disturbaunce of the [undeciphered word] quiett peace and state of the Realme devised, written and sett furthe by one #John# Udall and others as namely a Booke intituled the Demonstracion of dyscyplyne, Martyne Mar-prelate, and others such like, and ment & intended by them to be putt in printe, and after to the intente aforesaid to be dispersed amongest her Majesties subjecttes. Nowe so it is if it maye please your most excellent Majesty, That one Elizabethe Carleton late of Moulsey in the Countie of Surrey widdowe the thirde daie of November in the xxxth yeare of your Majesties most happye Reigne and at divers and sundrye tymes (aswell before as after) knowinge the said Bookes, soe purposed to be printed, to tende to the purposes and intents aforesaide Not regardinge your Majestyes said lawes and ordynaunces, nor her dutie to your highnes in the premisses, did on the said thirde daie of November and sundrye other tymes aswell before as after, not onlye received the said #John# Udall and one #John# Penrye and others the devisers and setters furthe of the said Sclaunderous and sedicious Bookes & Robert Waldegrave a printer with his letters and presses for the printinge of the said Bookes But also at the same tymes permitted and suffered the printinge of the said Sclaunderous and sedicious Bookes in her howse at Moulsey aforesaid. And then and their maynteined & comforted the said Sedicious personnes, in and aboute the doinge of the same in great contempte of your Majestye and of your highnes lawes, proclamacions, & ordynaunces, made to the contrarye therof. And wheras by your Majesties appointment the said Elizabeth Carleton was sythence the firste daie of October nowe last paste called before certeine of your Majesties most honorable pryvye councell and others to be examined, uppon certeine questions to her to be ministered for & concernynge the said misdeamenors, by herself and the said others, in the behaulfe beforesaid comitted, and was by them, required to make aunsweare, to certeine questions by them ministred in that behaulf, she the said Elizabeth, refused not onlye to aunsweare for anye matter of the premisses concernynge herself, But also to anye mattter or questyon by them required of her for or concernynge anye the said misdeamenors of the said other personnes in further most manifeste disobedience and contempte to your Majestye your lawes, crowne, and dignitye. Nowe to the ende that suche haynous offences misdeamenors and contemptes, may not escape unpunished, But that she the said Elizabeth maye receive condigne punishement, accordinge to her demeritt therin, aswell for reformacion of herself, as per example to others, for comittinge the like, Yt maye please your most excellent Majestie to graunte your highnes writt of subpena to be directed to the said Elizabeth Carleton, therbye comaundinge her under a certeine paine therin to be lymetted, fourthwith to appeare, before your highnes, and your councell, in your Courte of Starrchamber, then and their, to aunsweare to the premisses and further to stande to, and abyde suche order and direccion therin as by your highnes and your said Courte shalbe appointed.

[Signed:] J Popham

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