407 Manwaring v Johnson

The Court of Chivalry 1634-1640.

This free content was Born digital and sponsored by AHRC and University of Birmingham. CC-NC-BY.


In this section


Roger Manwaring of St Olave, Silver Street, London, gent v William Johnson of Stepney, co. Middlesex, mariner

October 1638 - December 1640


Manwaring, a merchant, complained that between February and April 1638 in the port of Zacynthi, in the dominions of Venice, Johnson, master of the Resolution called him 'rogue, base rogue, dogge', and threatened to hang him from the yard arm. Johnson claimed to have been provoked by Manwaring calling him 'stinking Turpalin [sic] and many other scandalous names'. He also maintained that Manwaring's 'reviling speeches' were so provoking that 'divers of the better sort of the mariners' had wanted to throw him overboard. The quarrel arose when Manwaring, instructed by the Consul of Patras, warned Johnson to return the Resolution to Petras to pay duties to the Turkish officials, lest reprisals be exacted on other English merchants. According to Manwaring, this so incensed Johnson that he tried to stab him, but was restrained by his men. Dr Duck presented the libel, with witnesses to support it, in November 1638 and Dr Gwyn began Johnson's defence in the same month. It appears that Johnson lost the case because on 30 October 1640 Duck accused him and his surety John Harrigate of non payment of £50 in expenses. They were attached under custody on 4 December.

Initial proceedings

18/3l, Libel

1. Manwaring was from an ancient family that had been gentry for up to 300 years, whereas Johnson was a plebeian and master of the Resolution of the port of London.

2. Between February and April 1638 in the port of Zakinthhos in the dominions of Venice, Johnson 'called me rogue, base rogue, dogge, and [said] that he would hang me up at yard arme of the shippe'.

3. Johnson's contemptuous and contumelious words were provocative of a duel.

Dated 9 November 1638.

Signed by Arthur Duck.

Plaintiff's case

14/2r, Defence interrogatories

1. The witnesses were warned of the penalty for perjury and bearing false witness. Of what age, occupation and condition was the witness? Where did they live and how did they know the parties?

2. Whether between February and April last, the witness was a mariner in the ship of which Johnson was master. If yes, had they been discharged from serving on the ship by Johnson, and if so, upon what cause?

3. Did the witness feel hatred towards Johnson for discharging him, and had he said he would be revenged upon Johnson?

4. Had Manwaring provoked Johnson and called him 'stinking Turpalin[sic] and many other scandalous names', and what other provoking speeches could the witness remember?

5. If the witness was present at the time of the 'pretended words', where were they spoken; on shore, or what part of the ship?

6. How had the witness come to be present at the speaking of the 'pretended words'?

7. If the witness deposed that Johnson said the words in the libel, they were to be asked exactly what words he used, and exactly when.

8. Had Manwaring first so reviled Johnson that 'divers of the better sort of the mariners of ship would have flung Mannering overboard into the sea, if they had not been dissuaded therefrom by Johnson'?

9. 'Of what condition or trade of life' was the witness and how much were they worth, their debts paid? Were they a subsidy man or had they paid ship money? If so how much?

10. 'What is given and promised to be given you; or what do you expect for your deposition to be made in this cause?'

Introduced 8 November 1638.

Defendant's case

14/3aa, Plaintiff interrogatories

1. The witnesses were warned of the dangers of perjury and bearing false witness. What was the witness's age, occupation and condition over the last seven years? How did the witness know the parties and to whom would he give the victory were it in his power?

2. Had the witness conferred with anyone about how to depose? With whom? What were they instructed? Had the witness received or been offered reward to depose, 'and how long since is it that he came last from beyond the seas, and how long hath he been in England since his last arrival, and where hath he lived since'?

3. Whether Manwaring was descended of an ancient gentry family 'and so commonly accompted, reputed and taken'; and whether Johnson had been a mariner for some years, 'and been master of the Resolution of the Port of London for some years'?

4. Whether between February and April last, when the Resolution was 'in the port of Zant or Petras in the dominion of the Venetians', did not Johnson call Manwaring 'rogue, base rogue, dogges, and that he would hang him uppe at yeard arme of the shippe with other such like opprobrious and threatening words; and what other words of scorne, reproach or contempt were then uttered by William Johnson against Roger Manwaring'?

5. If any witness deposed of 'infamous and disgraceful words' said by Manwaring of Johnson, they were to be asked whether before these words 'did not Johnson steale out of the port of Petras in the ?Morea? with his shippe before he had discharged duties as belonged to the officers of the Turkes, and without firming the billes of larding of the shippes cargoes. And hath not Manwaring divers wares and merchandises in the shippe, and was it not feared and suspected by Johnson's going away from Petras in manner aforesaid, divers of the merchants of the English nation then at Petras would suffer losse thereby or have their goods seized on by the Turkes'?

6. Whether 'after the shippe the Resolution was gone in manner as aforesaid from the port of Petras unto Zant did not the Consul of Petras unto Zant, [hearing] of some great damage that might happen to the English merchants there, give order and advise Roger Manwaring to take a boat and goe to Zant, and go aboard the shippe the Resolution and charge Johnson in his Majestie's [name] to returne with the said shippe again to Petras and discharge the duties there to be paid to the Officers of the Turkes and firme the billes of lardeing. And did not Johnson, after Manwaring had done as the consul had directed and commanded him, give Manwaring verie opprobrious and scornefull wordes, as in the fourth of these interrogatories is menconed, or the like in effect; and what other words of reproach, contumelie, scorne and contempt did Johnson then and there utter, speake, unto of or against Manwaring immediately after and upon delivering of his message or command from the consul unto Johnson'?

7.Immediately after Manwaring told Johnson the Consul's directions, did Johnson grow so 'incensed with rage and furie against Manwaring that he offered and attempted in a violent and furious manner to stabbe Manwaring', but was prevented by some of the ship's company? Had Johnson then attempted to sail for England and 'bring Manwaring by force for England who had... then of great weight as a merchant of Petras and had he not done so... by the merchants of Zant... of Johnson's boate belonging to the shippe' [last two lines badly faded].

No date.

Signed by Arthur Duck.

Summary of proceedings

Dr Duck was counsel for Manwaring and Dr Gwyn for Johnson. On 20 October 1638 Johnson was warned to appear in person to answer the charges. Dr Duck gave the libel in November 1638 and produced the witnesses Andrew Burdett, John Babin and Thomas Richardson. On 28 November and 5 December Dr Gwyn related material for the defence, and mention was made of the Admiralty Court. Dr Duck was required to publish the testimony of Manwaring's witnesses on 23 February 1639. William Johnson had to appear in person on 10 October 1640 and John Harrigate had to give surety for him. On 30 October Dr Duck accused William Johnson and John Harrigate of non payment of £50 in expenses. On 4 December 1640 Dr Duck accused Johnson and his surety John Harrigate of non payment of expenses and decreed they be attached under custody.


Neither Roger Manwaring nor William Johnson appeared in the Visitations of London: J. J. Howard and J. L. Chester (eds.), The Visitation of London in 1633, 1634, and 1635 (Publications of the Harleian Society, 15, 1880); J. J. Howard (ed.), The Visitation of London in 1633, 1634, and 1635 (Publications of the Harleian Society, 17, 1883).


  • Initial proceedings
    • Libel: 18/3l (9 Nov 1638)
  • Plaintiff's case
    • Defence interrogatories: 14/2r (8 Nov 1638)
  • Defendant's case
    • Plaintiff interrogatories: 14/3aa (no date)
  • Proceedings
    • Proceedings before Arundel: R.19, fos. 434r-449v (20 Oct 1638)
    • Proceedings before Maltravers: R.19, fos. 454r-468v (6 Nov 1638)
    • Proceedings before Maltravers: R.19, fos. 400v-412v (20 Nov 1638)
    • Proceedings before Maltravers: R.19, fos. 422r-428r (28 Nov 1638)
    • Proceedings before Maltravers: R.19, fos. 474r-484v (5 Dec 1638)
    • Proceedings before Marten: R.19, fos. 488r-490v (12 Dec 1638)
    • Proceedings before Maltravers: 1/9 (28 Jan 1639)
    • Proceedings before Arundel: 1/6, fos.1-9 (23 Feb 1639)
    • Proceedings before Maltravers: 8/31 (4 Feb 1640)
    • Proceedings: 1/11, fos. 56r-64v (10 Oct 1640)
    • Proceedings before Maltravers: 1/11, fos. 19r-30v (30 Oct 1640)
    • Proceedings before Maltravers: 1/11, fos. 79r-87v (4 Dec 1640)

People mentioned in the case

  • Babin, John
  • Burdett, Andrew
  • Duck, Arthur, lawyer
  • Gwyn, Thomas, lawyer
  • Harrigate, John
  • Howard, Henry, baron Maltravers
  • Howard, Thomas, earl of Arundel and Surrey
  • Johnson, William, mariner
  • Manwaring, Roger, gent (also Maynwaring, Mainwaring)
  • Marten, Henry, knight
  • Richardson, Thomas

Places mentioned in the case

  • London
    • St Olave, Silver Street
  • Middlesex
    • Stepney
  • Italy
    • Venice
  • Greece
    • Patras
    • Zakinthos
  • Turkey

Topics of the case

  • assault
  • Court of Admiralty
  • denial of gentility
  • nicknaming
  • other courts