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XLIV: An attempted escape from Dublin castle: the trial of William and Walter de Bermingham, 1332

  • Philomena Connolly (a1)


On 11 July 1332 William de Bermingham, brother of the earl of Louth, was hanged at Dublin by order of the justiciar, Anthony de Lucy. This event is recorded by Clyn, by the author of the Annals of Ross and by the Dublin annalist, all of whom praise Bermingham for his military excellence but do not give any explanation for the execution. All the chroniclers mention Bermingham’s arrest earlier in the year, but the connexion between the two events is never stated.

In February and March 1332 William had been indicted by juries at Clonmel and Limerick of involvement in two alleged conspiracies, one in 1326 and the other in 1331, both of which had as their supposed object the establishment of the earl of Desmond as king of Ireland. The surviving indictments do not mention William’s son Walter, but he is later described as also having been indicted of felony. Both William and Walter were arrested by the justiciar at Clonmel in February 1332, held locally until Lucy had concluded his business in Munster, and then transferred on 19 April to Dublin castle, where two of the other named conspirators, Desmond himself and Henry de Mandeville, had been imprisoned since the previous year. Yet another conspirator, Walter de Burgh, was in the custody of his cousin, the earl of Ulster, in Northburgh castle.



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1 The Annals of Ireland by Friar John Clyn and Thady Dowling, together with the Annals of Ross, ed. Butler, Richard (Dublin, 1849), pp 23-4, 44; Chartul. St Mary’s, Dublin, ii, 376–7. For a full account of the events of this period see Sayles, G. O., ‘The rebellious first earl of Desmond’ in Watt, J. A., Morrall, J. B. and Martin, F. X. (eds), Medieval studies presented to Aubrey Gwynn, S. J. (Dublin, 1961), pp 203-29; Frame, Robin, English lordship in Ireland, 1318–1361 (Oxford, 1982), pp. 177216.

2 Sayles, G. O., ‘The proceedings against the first earl of Desmond’ in Anal. Hib., no. 23 (1966), pp 6, 12.

3 Cal. fine rolls, 1337–47, pp 10–11.

4 Henry of Marlborough, ‘Chronicle of Ireland’, trans. Sir James Ware, in idem (ed.), Ancient Irish histories (Dublin, 1809; repr. London, 1970), p. 10.

5 The records are currently held in Chancery Lane but are expected to move to Kew in 1996.

6 The order for his release was made on 25 November 1333 (Cal. close rolls, 1333–7, p. 187).

7 Cal. pat. rolls, 1334–8, p. 95.

8 P.R.O., E 101/239/30. The payment was made in Michaelmas term 1332.

9 Gabel, Leona C., Benefit of clergy in England in the later middle ages, Smith College Studies in History xiv (1928-9) (repr. New York, 1969), p. 33.

10 Rot. pat. Hib., p. 199b, no. 60.

11 Stanihurst, Richard, ‘A treatise containing a plain and perfect description of Ireland’ in Holinshed’s Irish chronicle, ed. Miller, Liam and Power, Eileen (Dublin, 1979), p. 49.

12 Bellamy, J. G., Crime and public order in England in the later middle ages (London, 1973), pp 178-9.

13 University Library, Cambridge, Add. MS 3104, p. 61b.

14 This is implied by the order from England dated 4 August 1332 ‘to cause execution against any magnates of Ireland who may be imprisoned for felonies committed by them to be stayed until the king’s arrival in that country or until further orders’ (Cal. close rolls, 1330–33, p. 484).

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XLIV: An attempted escape from Dublin castle: the trial of William and Walter de Bermingham, 1332

  • Philomena Connolly (a1)


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