Appendix: The treason of Sir Thomas de Turberville

Chronicles of the Mayors and Sheriffs of London 1188-1274. Originally published by Trübner, London, 1863.

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'Appendix: The treason of Sir Thomas de Turberville', in Chronicles of the Mayors and Sheriffs of London 1188-1274, (London, 1863) pp. 293-295. British History Online [accessed 11 April 2024]


The Treason of Sir Thomas de Turberville. See page 243, ante.

Turberville, who had been taken prisoner by the French, was induced, upon his return to this country, to act as their spy, and to give them secret information as to the state of affairs in England. For the due performance of this compact, he made homage to the Warden of Paris, and gave his two sons as hostages. He also made oath to a like effect; and a deed was duly executed, whereby land was secured to him to the value of one hundred livres. On his arrival in London, he pretended that he had made his escape from prison, and, availing himself of his opportunities, gave such information to the King of France as to lead to attacks upon Hythe and Dover, and depredations by the French in other parts of the kingdom. From a document formerly preserved in the Tower, we learn that his mission extended not only to England but to Wales, that he was arrested in the County of Kent, and that his treasonable letter was preserved in the royal Treasury in the Tower.

From Langtoft's Chronicle we also gather that the letter of Turberville to the Provost of Paris, was entrusted by him to one of his servants, who was to accompany the two Cardinals, on their return to Paris, who had been sent by the Pope, for the purpose of reconciling Edward and Philip, King of France; and that he was betrayed to a member of the King's Council by the clerk who had written the letter for him.

The following extract is translated from the Latin History of Bartholomew Cotton, (recently edited by Mr. Luard, under the direction of the Master of the Rolls) pp. 304-306:—

'In the same year [A.D. 1295] a certain knight, Thomas Turbevile by name, who had been taken by the French at the siege of Rheims, and detained in prison by the said King of France, came over to England with traitorous designs, and said that he had escaped from the prison of the said King of France; whereupon, he was kindly received by our lord the King of England, and much honoured. But after he had remained some little time in the Court of our lord the King of England aforesaid, he attempted to send a certain letter to the King of France; whereupon, his messenger carried the same to our lord the King of England, and gave him a full and open account of the treachery of his employer. The traitor, suspecting this, took to flight, but was taken shortly after. The tenor of his treasonable letter was as follows:— (fn. 1)

"To the noble Baron and Lord Provost of Paris, sweet Sire, at the (fn. 2) Wood of Viciens, his liege man (fn. 3) at his hands, greeting. Dear Sire, know that I am come to the Court of the King of England, sound and hearty; and I found the King at London, and he asked much news of me, of which I told him the best that I knew; and know, that I found the land of Wales in peace, wherefore I did not dare to deliver unto Morgan the thing which you well wot of. And know that the King has fully granted peace and truce; but be you careful and well advised to take no truce, if the same be not to your great advantage; and know that if you make no truce, great advantage will accrue unto you, and this you may say to the high Lord. And know that I found Sir John Fitz-Thomas at the King's Court, for the purpose of treating of peace between him and the Earl of (fn. 4) Nichole as to the Earldom of (fn. 5) Ulvester; but I do not yet know how the business will turn out, as this letter was written the day after that the Cardinals had been answered; wherefore I did not dare touch at all upon the business that concerns you. And know that there is little watch kept on the sea-coast towards the South; and know that the Isle of (fn. 6) Wycht is without garrison; and know that the King is sending into (fn. 7) Almaine two earls, two bishops, and two barons, to speak to, and counsel with, the King of Almaine as to this war. And know that the King is sending into Gascoigne twenty ships laden with wheat and oats, and with other provisions, and a large amount of money; and Sir Edmund, the King's brother, will go thither, and the Earl of Nichole, Sir Hugh le Despenser, the Earl of Warwyk, and many other good folks; and this you may tell to the high Lord. And know that we think that we have enough to do against those of Scotland; and if those of Scotland rise against the King of England, the Welsh will rise also. And this I have well contrived, and Morgan has fully covenanted with me to that effect. Wherefore I counsel you forthwith to send great persons into Scotland; for if you can enter therein, you will have gained it for ever. And if you will that I should go thither, send word to the King of Scotland, that he find for me and all my people at their charges honourably; but be you well advised whether you will that I should go thither or not; for I think that I shall act more for your advantage by waiting at the King's Court, to espy and learn by enquiry such news as may be for you; for all that I can learn by enquiry I will let you know. And send to me Perot, who was my keeper in the prison where I was; for to him I shall say such things as I shall know from henceforth, and by him I will send you the matters that I fully ascertain. And for the sake of God, I pray you that you will remember and be advised of the promises that you made me on behalf of the high Lord, that is to say, one hundred livres of land to me and to my heirs. And for the sake of God, I pray you on behalf of my children, that they may have no want so long as they are in your keeping, in meat or in drink, or in other sustenance. And for the sake of God, I pray you that you be advised how I may be paid here; for I have nothing, as I have lost all, as well on this side as on the other; and nothing have I from you, except your great loyalty, in which I greatly trust. Confide fearlessly in the bearer of this letter, and shew him courtesy. And know that I am in great fear and in great dread; for some folks entertain suspicion against me, because that I have said that I have escaped from prison. Inform me as to your wishes in all things. Unto God [I commend you], and may he have you in his keeping."

'The said Thomas was seized on the Saturday next before the Feast of Saint Michael, and taken to the Tower of London; and on the Saturday next after the Feast of Saint Faith [6 October] he had his trial, and departed in manner underwritten:— (fn. 8)

'He came from the Tower, mounted on a poor hack, in a coat of (fn. 9) ray, and shod with white shoes, his head being covered with a hood, and his feet tied beneath the horse's belly, and his hands tied before him: and around him were riding six torturers attired in the form of the devil, one of whom held his rein, and the hangman his halter, for the horse which bore him had them both upon it: and in such manner was he led from the Tower through London to Westminster, and was condemned on the dais in the Great Hall there; and Sir Roger Brabazun pronounced judgment upon him, that he should be drawn and hanged, and that he should hang so long as anything should be left whole of him; and he was drawn on a fresh ox-hide from Westminster to the (fn. 10) Conduit of London, and then back to the (fn. 11) gallows; and there is he hung by a chain of iron, and will hang, so long as anything of him may remain.'


  • 1. In Norman French, in the original.
  • 2. The Bois de Vincennes, of the present day.
  • 3. I. e. having made homage to him.
  • 4. Lincoln.
  • 5. Ulster.
  • 6. Wight.
  • 7. Germany.
  • 8. Written in Latin, the following description being in Norman French.
  • 9. I. e. rayed, or striped, cloth.
  • 10. In Cheapside.
  • 11. Probably, the Elms in West Smithfield.