Acquittals never happened when treason was involved! At worst, you might get a single juror abstaining, and that would still be a pretty big deal: people were too afraid to acquit someone the monarch wanted convicted. On this day in 1554, the jury unanimously decided to acquit Nicholas Throckmorton, and it flummoxed the prosecution. They didn’t release Throckmorton – instead, they jailed the jury (gotta love Tudor-era justice!).
A little background for context: Sir Nicholas Throckmorton was accused of being part of the rebellion instigated by Sir Thomas Wyatt (son of the poet who wrote verses to Anne Boleyn) with the goal of preventing Mary I from marrying Philip of Spain. Although most of the country resented the marriage, very few joined in the uprising which was quickly put down. That’s where it got terribly dangerous for Elizabeth, the popular heir to the throne whom the rebels would likely crown in Mary’s place. Elizabeth was arrested and brought to the Tower for questioning while they tried to collect evidence against her (pretty much every rebel they captured was pressed to implicate her, some quite forcefully). Wyatt himself was promised mercy for testifying against her – but then the government reneged and he cleared her from the scaffold. That likely influenced Throckmorton’s jury – and between Wyatt’s dying declaration and Throckmorton’s acquittal, the decision was made to release Elizabeth to house arrest and allow the whole incident to fizzle out… So today’s event may well have saved her life.
PS: They finally released the jurors after about eight months and fines of five hundred pounds apiece (a fine which was lowered a bit for the three men whose entire earthly goods were worth far less than this sum). Throckmorton was set free the year after.
If you like my posts, you’ll love my books! My Seymour Saga trilogy tells the gripping story of the short-lived dynasty that shaped the Tudor Era. Jane the Quene skews romantic, The Path to Somerset is pure Game of Thrones (without the dragons), and The Boy King is a noir coming-of-age. Get them now through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and Apple, or even your local independent bookstore!
(PS Already read them? Did you love them? Then please review them – even just a stars rating! It makes a huge difference in helping new readers find them and would mean the world to me!)