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Seeking SanctuaryCrime, Mercy, and Politics in English Courts, 1400-1550$
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Shannon McSheffrey

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780198798149

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: July 2017

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198798149.001.0001

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The Hospitaller’s Cloak

The Hospitaller’s Cloak

Mercy, Justice, Jurisdiction

(p.83) 4 The Hospitaller’s Cloak
Seeking Sanctuary

Shannon McSheffrey

Oxford University Press

This chapter explores sanctuary claims made in the properties of one particular religious order, the Knights of St John of Jerusalem (the Knights Hospitaller). The order had a special relationship with the English system of criminal prosecution (providing burial to hanged felons), exemplifying an amalgam of mercy, justice, and charity that had much in common with the ideology of sanctuary. Over the period between 1400 until the 1530s, the Hosptiallers made increasingly ambitious but impracticable arguments for sanctuary, claiming it in any of their real properties. Although the Hospitallers were forced largely to abandon this strategy by the 1520s, this chapter shows why this was not characteristic of other institutions’ sanctuary privileges, which were accepted by courts and kings into the 1530s.

Keywords:   sanctuary, Hospitaller order, crime, law, mercy, Middle Ages, early modern England

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