This Day in History: 1322-03-22

Thomas of Lancaster SealFollowing the defeat of Thomas Earl of Lancaster,  lord of Pontefract, and his supporters at the Battle of Boroughbridge on March 16th 1322, Thomas was tried and condemned in the Great Hall at Pontefract Castle. He was denied the opportunity to speak in his defence and was sentenced to be hanged, drawn and quartered. The sentence was commuted to beheading because Thomas was the king’s cousin and, it is rumoured, due to the intercession of Queen Isabella. He was taken on a mule  to St. Thomas’s Hill – as it has since been known – and executed on 22nd March 1322 in sight of his castle and whilst facing Scotland  (symbolic of his alleged treasonable correspondence with the Scots).  His was the first execution of a royal prince since the Norman Conquest. After his execution, the Monks of the Cluniac Priory of St John interred his body on the right hand side of their high altar. The Priory was situated on what is now Box Lane. The image is the seal of Thomas of Lancaster. Some thirty of Lancaster’s followers were also executed, among these Clifford and the baron John Mowbray. Clifford was hung from Clifford’s Tower in York, which is now named after him. The Chronicle of Lanercost records the events and aftermath in a more ‘poetic’ fashion:
‘This man, then, said to be of most eminent birth and noblest of Christians, as well as the wealthiest earl in the world, inasmuch as he owned five earldoms, to wit, Lancaster, Lincoln, Salisbury, Leycester and Ferrers, was taken on the morrow of S. Benedict Abbot ‘ in Lent and beheaded like any thief or vilest rascal upon a certain hillock outside the town, where now, because of the miracles which it is said God works in his honour, there is a great concourse of pilgrims, and a chapel has been built.’