Richard Tymond c. Margery Sheppard

Around mid-year in 1487, Richard Tymond sued Margery Sheppard to enforce a marriage contract they allegedly made in May 1486. When examined, Sheppard said that Tymond had urged her to marry him in late March and again in late June 1486, but she had told him on both occasions that she would not marry without her father’s consent. Despite her denials, witnesses testified to a marriage contract between Tymond and Sheppard and Sheppard’s own father, John, testified that he had consented to the union.

The case took a turn during the proceedings; as was common for young women in disputed marriage cases, Sheppard had been sequestered (confined) to the house of the court’s clerk, Richard Spenser, in Ivy Lane near St. Paul’s cathedral, to avoid circumventing the court’s decisions by a hasty and irrevocable marriage. Sheppard admitted that as the case was ongoing she escaped from Spenser’s house and ran away to the city of Winchelsea with a man named John Sem, Tymond’s rival for her hand. She stayed in hiding in Winchelsea for some seven weeks. In November 1487, Sem and Sheppard appeared in court to tell the story of her flight. Unfortunately there is no resolution to this case, so we do not know what happened.

LMA, MS DL/C/A/001/MS09065, fols. 18r-20r, 38rv.

Testimony of John Hall, Witness for Plaintiff, 1487-05-28

Summary: Testifies that on 22 May 1486 in John Bolsar’s house in the parish of East Ham, he witnessed a future contract between Richard Tymond and Margery Sheppard.

On behalf of Richard Tymond c. Margery Sheppard

28 May in the house of the lord Official by him, in my, Spencer’s, presence

John Hall of the parish of East Ham, where he has lived for seven years, illiterate, of free condition, thirty-five years old or thereabouts, as he says. Inducted as a witness etc., he says that he has known Richard Tymond for fifteen years, and Margery Sheppard for the same time. To the first and second articles of the libel, he says that on Monday after the last feast of the holy Trinity[1] between eight and nine in the morning, he was present in John Bolsar’s house in the parish of East Ham, where this witness himself was living at the time, that is in the hall of the house, together with Richard Tymond, Margery Sheppard, Margery Hall this witness’s wife, Richard Pyrkyn, and none others, with the small daughters of this witness within the age of discretion there also. There and then, after communication between Richard and Margery concerning contracting marriage between them, Richard said this to Margaret, in English, “Margaret, how say ye, may ye find in your heart to have me to your husband, and forsake all other and love me as your husband?” After a certain interval as if she was deciding what to answer, she said to him thus, “yea, by my troth, no man in the world so soon.” And then Richard took her by her right hand and said to her, “Margery, will ye have me to your husband, and love me as a woman ought to do her husband?” With their hands joined together she immediately said, “ye, by my faith and my troth.” And they unclasped their hands. And then immediately Richard, taking Margaret by the right hand again, “And I will have you to my wife and thereto I plight you my troth.” They unclasped their hands and kissed one another. This witness deposes these things from his own sight and hearing, as he says. Questioned concerning the other articles in the libel, this witness says that he knows only that after the contract, the aforesaid Richard and Margaret were and are commonly said, held, had, and reputed in the parish as man and wife or at least as persons legitimately betrothed together. And he says that the things he said above are true and that public voice and fame circulated and circulate in the parish and in other neighbouring parishes that the aforesaid Richard and Margery contracted marriage, as he says. And otherwise concerning gifts and the other contents of the articles he knows nothing, and he says that he is a relative by marriage to Richard, as he married Richard’s sister. He does not care about victory but wants justice to be done. And he is not corrupt nor was instructed to depose what he deposed, as he says.

[1] The feast of the Trinity fell on 21 May in 1486, thus the Monday following was 22 May 1486.


Testimony of Richard Pyrkyn, Witness for Plaintiff, 1487-05-28

Summary: Testifies that he was present on 22 May 1486, at Richard Tymond’s request, when Tymond and Margery Sheppard contracted marriage; agrees with witness John Hall, except that Margery Sheppard, he claims, agreed to marry Richard Tymond only if her father consented to it.

Richard Pyrkyn of the aforesaid East Ham, where he has lived for the last two years and more, illiterate, of free condition, thirty years old or thereabouts, as he says. Inducted as a witness etc., he says that he has known Richard Tymond and Margaret Sheppard for two years and a half and more. To the first and second articles of the libel, he says that on the Monday after the last feast of the Holy Trinity [1], Richard told this witness, at that time labouring at feeding […] at West Ham, that on the Sunday immediately previous he and Margery Sheppard had met and agreed that on that day they would meet in the dwelling-house of John Hall for the sake of contracting marriage with him, and he asked this witness to be present at the contract and to bear witness of the truth concerning it. At this request this witness went to the house between the hours of nine and ten in the morning, where he found Richard and Margery. As for the discussion and the words of contract, he agrees with John Hall examined above, except that at the time of the contract Margery said that she would have Richard as her husband before all others if Margery’s father would consent to it, as he says. And otherwise regarding their contents, he knows nothing, and questioned concerning the other articles and concerning the fame, he agrees with the same John Hall. He is related neither by marriage nor by blood to the party that called him as a witness, nor does he care about victory as long as justice is done.

[1] The feast of the Trinity in 1486 fell on 21 May, thus the Monday following was 22 May 1486.


Testimony of Margery Hall, Witness for Plaintiff, 1487-05-28

Summary: Agrees with previous witness, John Hall, and testifies to both the unconditional marriage contract between Margery Sheppard and Richard Tymond and to Sheppard’s father’s consent.

Margery Hall, wife of John Hall of East Ham, where she was born, and has lived from the time of her birth, of free condition, thirty-two years old, as she says. Inducted as a witness, she says that she has known Richard Tymond and Margery Sheppard for sixteen years and more. Questioned further regarding each article of the libel, she agrees with John Hall examined above. And she says that the contract was simple and without condition added, but she says that after the contract Margery said thus: “How shall I do that my father may wit of this to know what he will say?” And then the husband of this witness agreed that he would tell him about the contract, and he did this within two or three days following as he told this witness, and the same father was well contented with the contract as he said. And she says that she is Richard’s sister on the father’s side, because they had the same father although not the same mother, and she does not care about the victory but desires that justice be done between the parties, as she says.


Testimony of John Sheppard, Witness for Plaintiff, 1487-05-28

Summary: Testifies that it was common knowledge in the parish of West Ham that his daughter, Margery Sheppard, and Richard Tymond had contracted marriage and that he approved of the contract.

John Sheppard of East Ham, father of Margery Sheppard, where he has lived for fifty years and was born, illiterate, of free condition, fifty years old as he says. Inducted as a witness etc. concerning the fame etc., he says that he has known Margery since her birth, and Richard Tymond for eighteen or nineteen years. Questioned further concerning only the fame, about which the party asked him to be examined, he says that from the feast of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist [1] and before, public voice and fame circulated and circulate at present in the parish of West Ham that the aforesaid Richard and Margery had contracted marriage, and this witness approved and approves of this contract and he gave and gives his consent in the matter.

[1] 24 June [1486].


Testimony of Margery Sheppard, Defendant, 1487-06-27

Summary: Responds that Richard Tymond had urged her to contract marriage on 26 March and 24 June 1486, after which she replied that she would not marry any man without her father’s consent. Responds that Tymond twice sent her silk laces; she returned one of them and paid 4d. for the other.

Responses personally [made] by Margery Sheppard, 27 June.

Margery Sheppard sworn etc. concerning the positions etc. To the first position, she says that in Lent a year ago and after the feast of Easter [1], Richard spoke to her and urged her to contract marriage between them. To the second position, she says that after Easter and before the last feast of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist [2], Richard spoke to her in the dwelling-house of John Hall in East Ham, in the presence of the same John, his wife, and none others, to contract marriage between them, and she said thus: “I will do as my father will have me, I will never have none against my father’s will.” She did not speak any other words sounding of marriage as she says in the truth of her oath, as she says. To the third position, she says that in Lent a year ago she received from Richard a silk lace, and after Easter another lace, but she did not receive these as his wife or on occasion of any contract, but one he has had back and for the other he received from her 4d. To the fourth position, she does not believe the contents to be true. To the fifth position, she believes what is believed and does not believe the rest. To the sixth position, she does not believe its contents to be true.

[1] In 1486, Easter was 26 Mar.

[2] 24 Jun.


Testimony of John Sem, Third Party, 1487-11-22

Summary: Testifies that he abducted Margery Sheppard, then in sequestration at Richard Spencer’s house during Richard Tymond’s suit. She had told him that she loved him more than she did Tymond, and he brought her to Winchelsea because it was outside of the bishop of London’s diocese.

In the year 87, sixth indiction[1], fourth year of the pope

Responses personally made by John Sem, 20 November, 22 November, in the place of the Consistory, before the lord Official

John Sem sworn etc. concerning the interrogatories etc. To the first interrogatory, he admits its contents. To the second interrogatory, he admits its contents and says that Margaret was put in my, Richard Spencer’s, house to be held in custody[2]. To the third interrogatory, he admits its contents. And he says that he believes that Margaret remained in my, Richard’s, house under sequestration for about a fortnight. To the fourth interrogatory, he says that on a certain day after the aforesaid things, that is on a day around the last feast of St. John the Baptist,[3] this witness met Margery in Lombard Street and asked her where she was going and whether she wanted to come and drink with him. She said that she was going to her father in Gracechurch street and entered with this witness into the house of a certain Robert Scimon, in which house this witness said to her that he was making great expenditures for love of her and that he understood that another man was prosecuting her and he said, “If ye love him better than ye do me, go home again, and if [ye] love me better than ye do him, I desire that ye come with me.” And she agreed to go with this witness and said that she did not want to return any more to the house of Richard Spencer. And that same night Margery, with the knowledge and by arrangement of this witness and the butler of the mayor of the city of London, along with this witness, stayed the night at the home of Robert Scimon, and the next day, that is at four in the morning, this witness and Robert led Margery to the town of Winchelsea and then to the house of Master John Confers, recently mayor of Winchelsea, where they left her in safekeeping, and he went back to London. Asked why he took her to that town, he said that he did this [………][4] would proceed against her and suspend her, would not pursue anything [………..] her because that town is outside the diocese of the lord bishop of London and he says that at the time of this abduction, he knew well that Margery’s sequestration had been ordered by the Lord Official of the diocese of London. And he says that on the day after […] William Acham of [blank] counseled this witness to take Margery those parts and marry her there […………………..] until […..] he would nothing further against him [………………………..] as he said above. And he says that if the aforesaid had not given this witness such advice, he would not have led her to those parts as he says in the truth of his oath.

[1] For dominical letters and indictions, see Cheney, Handbook, 2-3, 8-9. Innocent VIII was pope from 1484 to 1492.

[2] See the remarks at the top of the page.

[3] 24 Jun.

[4] The manuscript is unfortunately damaged in this section.


Testimony of Margery Sheppard, Defendant, 1487-11-29

Summary: Responds that while sequestered in late June 1487, she spoke to Robert Scimon, who, after she said that she wanted to see her father in Gracechurch Street, told her he would bring her there. At Scimon’s own house, she met John Sem. She admits that she agreed to leave sequestration with Robert Scimon and John Sem, after Acham told her she should. The following morning she, Sem, and Scimon left for Winchelsea, where she stayed for seven weeks.

Responses personally made by Margery Sheppard in the Consistory place, penultimate day of November

Margery Sheppard, sworn etc. concerning the interrogatories etc. To the first, second, and third interrogatories, she says that while the pretended matrimonial cause was pending in the Consistory between Richard Tymond and her, this witness was sequestered and committed to Richard Spencer to be kept in his house as a place of sequestration and she was there with him for three weeks. To the fourth interrogatory, as far as it concerns what she did, she says that on the Friday before the last feast of the nativity of St. John the Baptist[1], this witness spoke to Robert Scimon, crossing by Richard Spencer’s doorway in Ivy Lane, and she said that she wanted to go to her father in Gracechurch Street, London, and then the same Robert said, “I will bring you almost there,” and thus this witness followed him and at the same Robert’s house in Lombard Street John Sem met them. He spoke with her as John said in his responses, with whom she agrees in that part. And she says that Acham counseled this witness that she should go with John Sem, and when she stood in doubt about whether she could return to Richard Spencer’s house, he said, “Thou art well at ease, if thou be happy thou mayst go whether thou wilt.” And thus this witness in the early morning left with John Sem and Robert Scimon to the town of Winchelsea, where she stayed for the next seven weeks, as she says.

[1] 24 Jun.

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