Family history and 
one name study 
Star Chamber in 1579
A royal petition

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At the Public Record Office I was browsing through the various indices, and in the index of documents put before Star Chamber, I found a mention of John Glenister. The index contains only the name and the document reference number (STAC5 G.8/37), with no further details of the document, its content, or its context.

I discovered that Star Chamber was a court outside the jurisdiction of common law, and operated by using royal rights and privileges to address minor offences. The court was abolished in the 1600s.

A single sheet of yellowed parchment

I ordered the document, and when it was delivered I was not much the wiser. The document was a single sheet of yellowed parchment, not folded, about 18 inches across by 12 inches deep.

The document was a manuscript written in a style which I found very difficult to read. The writing started quite large, becoming smaller and smaller down the page. I could recognise some words, but there were many unrecognisable characters and abbreviations. I decided I needed expert help.

Expert assistance
I sent a copy of the document to Dr Peter Franklin, a professional palaeographer whose name I had found in the magazine "Family History".

Dr Franklin responded quickly with a brief letter, noting that the script was not particularly difficult (for him maybe!), and that only a few words were illegible, due to damage at the edges of the document. He dated the document as 1579, and provided a neatly typed transcript.

The transcript is reproduced below, retaining the original spellings.

To the Queenes most excellent Ma(jes)tie,

In most humble wise Complaininge, sheweth unto yo(u)r most excellent Ma(jes)tie yo(u)re poore, true, faithfull and obedient Subiect, John Glenister of Bed...e in the Countye of Bedf(ord), Labourer, That wheras heretofore, that is to saye, in the terme of St Hillary in the 21st yeare of yo(u)r most highnes p(ro)sperous raigne, one Richard Charnocke esquire sued fourth of yo(u)r highnes Court com(m)onlye called the kinges bench at westm(inster) A writt com(m)onlie called A Latitat against one Thom(a)s Spillinge of Clophill in the said Countie of Bedf(ord), husbandma(n), to the shierief [sic] of Bedf(ord) directed to Attache the body of the said Thomas to make awnsw(e)r to the said Richard Charnocke at A certeine day in the said writt p(re)fixed.

And for thexecutinge [sic] thereof, one John Colbecke, gent(leman), beinge then undershirief of the said Countye, did in the name of the high shirief then beinge, and under the sealle of his office, direct his warrant unto yo(ur) said Subiect as his sp(e)c(i)all bailief for that tyme to arrest the body of the said Thom(a)s Spillinge for his apparance accordinge to the tenor of the said writt, By v(ir)tue whereof yo(u)r ma(jes)ties said Subiect on the 24th day of M(ar)ch in yeare abovesaid did arrest the bodye of the said Thom(a)s Spillinge at Clophill aforesaid in the said County of Bedf(ord) according to the tenor of the said warrant to him directed, and shewed unto him the said warrant.

But so it is most gracious Soveraigne lady, that ymediatly uppon the said arrest beinge orderly made, the said Thom(a)s Spillinge very contemptuouslie & w(i)thout all feare or regard of yo(u)r ma(jes)ties lawes did not onelie make rescous unto yo(u)r said Subiect, disobeieing the said arrest & warrant, albeit it was shewed unto him, But also he together w(i)th one M(ar)garet Spillinge his wife & John Spillinge his son(n)e, w(i)th c(er)teine oth(ers) yet unknowen to yo(u)r said orator, did chiefly by the meanes & p(ro)curem(en)t of the said Thom(a)s, to thintent to deliv(er) him from the said arrest & from the custody of yo(u)r said Subiect, did then & there w(i)thout all feare of god or regard to yo(u)r Ma(jes)ties lawes, beinge riotouslie & unlawfully assembled & arrayed w(i)th div(er)s rioutous & forcible weapons, that is to saie w(i)th staves, daggers, spitts, Clubbes, pichforkes, w(i)th div(er)s oth(e)r forcible weapons as well invasive as defensive, make an assault uppon yo(u)r said poore subiect & did grevouslye beatte, wound and evill intreat, So that of his life he did dispaire, som(m)e of them run(n)inge fiercely at him w(i)th a spitt, thinkinge to run(n)e him thorough, oth(e)r of them holdinge him by the throte & thrustinge his handes into his mouth to choke him, & the said Thom(a)s Spillinge hiself crienge out and biddinge them to kill me, & most maliciously all of them togeth(er) did goe about & had almost lifted him hedlonge over a great hedge into a very deepe dich, so that if compan[[y]] had not bene by good happe there putt to assist him, he most likelie bene to have had his necke broken.

By reason of w(hi)ch rioutous, unlawfull & disorderly deallinge the same Thom[[(a)s]] Spillige was rescued most forcibly from yo(u)r said poore subiect & he him self very sore hurt, wounded & evill intreated to his great losse & hinderance & to the p(er)nic(i)ous & evill [[example]] of all oth(e)rs intendinge truely to extente yo(u)r ma(jes)ties p(ro)ces.

For remedy wherof & to thend that the riotous p(er)sons before named may reicive condigne punishm(en)t accordinge to there deserts, wherby oth(er)s may be discouraged from doenge the like, wherby yo(u)r ma(jes)ties lawes may be the more duely & speedly [sic] executed, w(hi)ch w(i)thout due servinge of p(ro)ces cannot be, May it therfore please yo(u)r most excellent Ma(jes)tie, the p(re)niss(e)s [sic] considered, gr(a)unt to yo(u)r said Subiect yo(u)r highnes most grac(i)ous writt of Subp(o)ena, to be directed to the said Thom(a)s Spellinge, M(ar)garet Spellinge & John Spellinge, Comaundinge them therby p(er)sonally to appeare before yo(u)r ma(jes)t(ie)s most hon(our)able p(ri)vy co(u)ncell in yo(u)r ma(jes)t(ie)s most hon(our)able Co(u)rt of Starre chamb(e)r at Westm(inster) a c(er)teine day & und(e)r a c(er)teine payne thereon to be limited, Then & then [sic] to awnsw(e)r to ye p(re)miss(e)s, And furth(er) to stand & abide such ord(e)r & direcc(i)on therein As to yo(u)r [[ma(jes)t(ie)]] shall seame agreable w(ith) right & Eq(ui)tie, And yo(u)r said Orator shall daily pray to god accordinge to his most bound duety for the longe continuance of yo(u)r Ma(jes)ties most grac(i)ous [[&]] p(ro)sperous raigne.


Original spellings are given throughout. Abbreviations are expanded within round brackets. Editorial notes are given in square brackets. Illegible or uncertain words or parts of words which have been conjectured are enclosed in double square brackets.

A latitat is a writ based on the supposition that the person summoned is in hiding.

I have no further details of John Glenister or of Richard Spilling, but perhaps these could be the subject of future research.

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