NICHOLAS BROME & the Three Murders: Part Two
When last we left young Nicholas BROME in 1468, he was 18, and his father, John had been murdered while attending Mass at Whitefriars church in London by John HERTHILL, steward to Richard NEVILLE, aka ‘The Kingmaker.
We must note that the HERTHILL’s and the BROMEs were on opposite sides in the War of the Roses. Although both the families had been previously under the protection of the Beauchamp family now they are adversaries: The Yorkist, HERTHILL and the Lancastrian, BROME. Quite a backstory for our young Nicholas! By 1450 the manor was under attack by Yorkist aligned forces. Whereas, John BROME had enjoyed successful trade with King Henry VI his fortunes were tied to the King’s rise and fall. When Henry VI was deposed in 1461 by Edward IV he lost his important connections to the crown. Although he loses some of his land in Lapworth, due to well placed friends Simon Mountfort of Coleshill and Sir Richard Verney he manages to retain his other lands in Baddesley Clinton and Warwick.
This was a period of incredible tumult and danger. From the article Violent Death in Fourteenth- and Early Fifteenth-Century England by Barbara A Hanawalt we learn that death by homicide in the cities of Oxford and London was more likely than death by accident in the 14th and 15th centuries. And we learn that Sunday was the most dangerous day, for most murders occurred on Sundays and by those with whom the person was acquainted. John BROME was attacked on a Sunday by someone with whom he was well acquainted who also had a grudge. We must note that enforcement of both church and civil law was lax during this period. “We must also note that while the Yorkist King Edward IV was in power, “the Kingmaker’s” steward John HERTHILL would have enjoyed his protection. But the tides take a change as Edward IV becomes unpopular and Henry VI’s wife, Queen Margaret, who has been exile in Scotland, works a secret deal with “The Kingmaker” which leads to Henry VI retaking the throne in October of 1470. [Not hard to see why Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick came by that moniker.] But alas the Kingmaker meets his maker 14 April 1471 and with his death John HERTHILL’s protection dies.
THE SECOND MURDER
The 11th of April 1471, Edward VI is back on the throne. John HERTHILL is a free man and traveling regularly between Warwick Castle and Barwick, the court of the Earl of Warwick. HERTHILL would have left Warwick Castle and travelled on the west side of the River Avon perhaps with views like the one above. On his way to Barford he would travel through Longbridge field picture below.
On one such day someone else was marking his travels. Young Nicholas BROME confronts John HERTILL and an argument ensues. We must suspect that young Nicholas had vowed to avenge his father’s death since the law had not. And now he had reached the age of majority and the Kingmaker is dead, he must have felt it was his duty. In an event young Nicholas is successful and John HERTHILL is no more.
“Live by the sword, die by the sword.”
So what happens to our murderer? According to James William HAWES in his book Edmond Hawes of Yarmouth: “In wreaking private vengeance Nicholas BROME did nothing contrary to the habits of the time. During the Anglo Saxon period and for a century or more under the Normans private vengeance was recognized as a legal right and the injury done by a homicide could be compensated by payment of money (weregild).” Weregild otherwise known as “blood money.” So we find, not surprisingly, Nicholas in Arbitration at Coventry , 18 March 1472, is ordered to pay for a priest at Baddesley Clinton to say daily prayers for the souls of both his father, John BROME and John HERTHILL. Additionally he is to pay Elizabeth HERTHILL, John’s widow, 33 shillings and fourpence recompense. No matter which side the BROME family was on it, they retained friends in high places. The BROMES were benefactors of the church and had an extensive network of friends. In 1471 Simon Montford of Coleshill was appointed sheriff of Warwick and Leicester. He along with Richard Verney were good friends of his Nicholas’ father.
Although much remodeled Baddesley Clinton today and below as it may have been in Nicholas BROME’s time.
Marriage, at this time, was often a strategic decision involving lands and dowry. Young Nicholas, at 23, agrees on a marriage settlement the 20th of December 1473 with the widow of William WHITTINGTON who died in 1470. Born Elizabeth ARUNDELL and about 10 years Nicholas’s senior she comes with a son John, 16, and 4 daughters ages 8 to 14. An odd marriage considering that there was no large payment or land acquisition involved. His wife was heiress to her brother, John ARUNDEL a cleric, who is party to the agreement. Perhaps John ARUNDELL was looking to settle his sister in a good estate and Nicholas is hoping to make further amends in the eyes of the church by marrying a widow and taking in her children.
Shortly before 12 January 1474. Nicholas’ brother Thomas BROME dies without issue. This means Nicholas inherits all the lands of their father, that had previously passed to Thomas. [Thomas was married to Johan (Joan) MIDDLEMORE. She later married to Sir John MYTTON, and litigation ensues over the Manor of Woodloes.]
So widow Elizabeth and Nicholas are wed 10th of February 1474 likely at St Michael’s Baddesley. This map of the church shows only the Nave was extant at that time.
This shows the reverse view from the opposite side.
To this marriage we know two children are born: Isabel about 1474 and Constance about 1478 when her mother would have been 45. Also in 1478 Nicholas appoints William Foster to be the new parish priest at Baddesley Clinton. The 9 April 1483 King Edward IV dies suddenly and his son Edward V succeeds him.
The window at Baddesley Clinton showing the black and yellow of the BROME Coat of Arms. And the Red with yellow diamonds of FERRER family. Elizabeth and Nicholas’s daughter Constance marries Edward FERRER 1 Dec 1497.
We have another murder to contend with in our next chapter.
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