Recent Translation of 16th Century Pardon from Queen Elizabeth I
Sheds New Light on Agecroft Hall’s Original Owners
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE January 7, 2016
Centuries after it was issued on January 15th, 1559, the coronation day of Queen Elizabeth I, a royal pardon is shedding new light on one of Agecroft Hall’s original owners, Robert Langley, thanks to the expertise of Dr. David Routt, Assistant Professor of History at the University of Richmond.
The pardon is an artifact of a tumultuous, violent age. Its Tudor-era handwriting, abbreviated vernacular Latin and often abstruse legalese make translation into modern English no light task. As a result, while the pardon has long been part of Agecroft Hall’s collection, the specifics of the political document remained a mystery.
Then one day Agecroft’s Executive Director, Anne Kenny-Urban, and Dr. Joanna Drell, Associate Professor of History at the University of Richmond were discussing opportunities for the two institutions to collaborate. When the topic of the pardon arose, Dr. Drell suggested that her colleague and husband, Dr. Routt, could lend his skills. Dr. Routt’s areas of expertise include medieval English and European history and the Latin that bound together the literate classes of that world. He pored over the pardon for weeks. The process was laborious: Dr. Routt spent hours at Agecroft meticulously transcribing the document. Then he expanded the abbreviated Latin into complete words before translating the pardon into English. Lastly, he provided numerous explanatory footnotes for the nuances of the medieval legal and historical points unfamiliar to modern readers.
The translation revealed that the pardon’s sophisticated legal protections covered a wide range of potential crimes against the kingdom and its sovereign. It provided the nobleman Langley with a reprieve from any stain of complicity in “all and sundry treasons…….and indeed rebellions, insurrections, and conspiracies against us, our crown, and our dignity……….also we pardon all and all manner of homicides, felonies, robberies, and acts of accessory to the same.” Given the broad range of charges, the pardon is, in many ways, a rather generic pardon. However, the Agecroft staff were stunned at the implications of the more serious charges for Robert Langley.
While the pardon might simply have been a shrewd political insurance policy at a time of transition from a Catholic sovereign to a Protestant one, the document suggests that those pardoned were in fact wrongdoers who were fortunate to have deep pockets to pay their way out of trouble with the crown. (It was not uncommon for depleted royal coffers to be replenished, at least in part, from the sale of such crown pardons to all but the most dangerous, recalcitrant nobles.) Evidently, that was the case with the pardon at Agecroft Hall.
So, was Robert Langley of Agecroft Hall a loyal subject, or a hell-raiser in Lancashire, long a hotbed of discontent in the rebellious north of England? The staff at Agecroft can’t be certain yet, but given the high price of the pardon - well out of the reach of all but the wealthy - and the specific provisions that nullify the pardon in the event that Langley carried out acts of treason in the future, it seems unlikely that he was entirely innocent.
For the staff at Agecroft, the translation has provided long-awaited answers to the royal document’s contents and simultaneously opened new questions to ponder. As Mrs. Kenny-Urban explains, “Dr. Routt’s work has opened up new educational opportunities for Agecroft. Not only do we have more specific information about the document and insights into one of Agecroft’s original owners at the dawn of the Elizabethan Age, but we have information to enrich our tours, and new lines of research to pursue.”
Agecroft Hall and Gardens, located at 4305 Sulgrave Road in Richmond, is open for tours Tuesday-Saturday 10am-4pm and Sundays 12:30pm-5:00pm. Go to agecrofthall.org for details.
For Further Information:Please contact Anne Kenny-Urban, Executive Director, at email@example.com / 804.353.4241 x-117