Monday, 8 September 2014

The murder of Henry Shirley

Henry Shirley (1591-1627) was a playwright whose works included "The Martyr'd Souldier", "Giraldo, the Constant Lover" and "The Dumb Bawd". In 1627 Henry Shirley was murdered by an MP for financial reasons.

Children of Thomas Shirley (1542-1612) and Anne Kempe (1542-1623);
+ Thomas Shirley m. Frances Vavasour
                             + Henry Shirley (d.1627)
+ Anthony Shirley m. Frances Vernon
+ Robert Shirley m. Teresia Khan
+ Cecily Shirley m. Thomas West
                          + Essex West
+ Mary Shirley m. John Crofts
+ Anne Shirley m. John Tracy
+ Elizabeth Shirley m. Edward Onslow
+ Margery Shirley m. Pexsall Brocas
+ Jane Shirley m. John Shirley
+ Henry Shirley
+ Eleanor Shirley
+ Edward Shirley

In 1622 Henry's grandmother Anne left him a bequest in her Will of £40 a year;

"Item, I give and bequeath unto my true and loving friend, the said Sir Thomas Bishop, the
sum of three hundred pounds current money of England being now in his own custody,
upon the trust and confidence hereafter following, viz., that he, the said Sir Thomas
Bishop, shall retain the same forever, and in lieu thereof shall pay or cause to be paid by his heirs or assigns unto Henry Shirley, my grandchild, during his natural life only for
and towards his maintenance, the full sum of forty pounds yearly of current English
money at two usual feasts in the year, viz., the feast of Sir Michael th’ Archangel and the
Annunciation of Our Blessed Lady St. Mary the Virgin by even and equal portions, the
first payment thereof to begin at such of the feasts as shall first happen after my decease,
and I do charge my executor that he see and provide that the same yearly sum of forty
pounds be wholly used and employed according to my true intent and meaning, viz. for
the only maintenance of the said Henry Shirley during his natural life and not otherwise"- Will of Anne Shirley, 1622

The fact that Henry was left the money outright, but was to be given the money in yearly installments can be seen as an indication of his inability to spend his money wisely and perhaps previous behaviour where he has wasted his money.
The executor of Anne Shirley's Will, Thomas Bishop (1553-1626), maintained the payments to Henry until his own death in 1626. In Thomas' own Will he made the request that his son, Edward Bishop MP (1602-49), take over the management of payments to Henry Shirley, indicating which property to use the rents from to pay him.
The Friday before the 31st October 1627, Henry Shirley visited the house on Chancery Lane of Edward Bishop and demanded the money that he was owed. The unarmed Henry Shirley was then run through with a sword by Edward Bishop, who many reported was drunk at the time. Shirley died immediately.
After the coroner's inquest into the incident, Edward Bishop fled and went into hiding. He was found guilty of manslaughter and sentenced to be burnt on the hand, but was later pardoned on the 21st October 1628. The money, a sum of £279, which was found in the household of Edward Bishop was paid to a cousin of Henry Shirley. The pardon came as a result of Bishop promising to pay the £40 annuity that Henry was receiving, to Henry's older brother in his place. However, Edward Bishop did not pay the money due in arrears, nor did he pay the promised annuity. Due to this Shirley's creditors, to whom he owed money to before his death, petitioned the Privy Council to force Bishop to pay them.
In addition to the money not paid to Henry Shirley, another grandchild of Anne Shirley's named Essex West was to receive £100 when she reached the age of fifteen years. This money was also not paid by Edward Bishop, despite his father mentioning it in his Will.

It would appear that Edward Bishop's actions were due to his own dire financial situation which occurred after the death of his father.

"There is a foul murther committed on Friday last by Sr Edward Bishop, of Sussex, on Mr
Henry Shirley of the same shire, whom he run thro’ with his sword (having no weapon
about him), as he came to him in his lodging in Chancery Lane to demand of him an
annuity of 40l., which the said Sr Edward Bishop was to give him, whose lands (which
are reported be of 1500l, or 2000l, by the year) were presently begged or given away, but
himself not yet found out."-Mr Beaulieu to Sir Thomas Puckering, 31st October 1627

The murder was still remembered by many as it was mentioned four years later in William Prynne's 'Histriomastix' (1633);
Given as an example of "the sudden and untimely ends of all those ancient play-poets" is mentioned the case of "Sherly, slaine suddenly by Sir Edward Bishop, whiles hee was drunke, as most report".

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