Danvers v Broket 1433
Tampering with official documents
This was a high-level case concerning the integrity of Government records. It was heard before the Lord Chancellor of England in person in the Star Chamber in Westminster in the presence of:
- the Lord Treasurer of England, John Lord Scrope (brother of Henry)
- the Duke of Gloucester
- the Archbishop of Canterbury
- the Bishops of Durham, Lincoln, London, and Ely
- the Earl, later Duke, of Buckingham
- the Earl of Northumberland.
It was recorded at length in official records and has been reproduced since in several publications, including most recently in 1918.
An inquisition post mortem was strong evidence to title of two manors according to the claimant’s attorney Robert Danvers, but a rival claimant, John Lydeyarde, allegedly persuaded William Broket of the Exchequer to tamper with the inquisition. Danvers won the case and William was banned from working with the king’s records.
Summary of the case
The heir mentioned in the inquisition in 1354 on the death of Roger St John, owner of two manors in Oxfordshire, was his cousin Peter St John, aged 40+ years. In 1431 Thomas Sinclair and his feoffees hired Robert Danvers as their lawyer concerning the right and title to the manors. Danvers obtained formal permission for a transcript of the inquisition. The mention of the number 40 in the inquisition was strong evidence against a competing claim to title by John and Clemence Lydeyarde. But after the transcript had been made the number 40 on the inquisition itself was erased and rewritten in fresh ink, and Danvers had been defamed as the one who had done this, to the prejudice of the title of Thomas and his feoffees. In the hearing in the Star Chamber Danvers called as witnesses the men who had arranged and made the transcript and they acknowldged that in their transcript there were only the letters xl whereas the inquisition itelf had an erasure at that point. Regarding the erasure they said that William Broket, by mediation of the Master of the Rolls had come to the Tower to look at the inquisition and then asked the servant of the clerk in charge to look for other records while he, William, made a copy of the inquisition. No one else had been alone with the inquisition. Danvers then produced copies of an exchange of letters between John Lydeyarde and William Broket. William was then summoned to the council. He confirmed that the letters were genuine and confessed that at the request of John Lydeyarde he had gone to the Tower to erase the xl and to restore and blot it to make it look suspect. At the conclusion of the hearing, John Lord Scrope, the lord treasurer, who is said to have ‘laboured in diverse ways over the examination of the same William’ or in the Calendar’s translation to have been ‘in divers ways troubled about the said William’s examination concerning the erasure’ (Latin: qui circa examinacionem ejusdem Willelmi de rasura predicta diuersimode extitit laboratus), publicly proclaimed that William Broket should no longer remain in the exchequer of the lord the king. The lord chancellor then ordered that William should no longer write or serve in any court of the king where records were used or kept.
Fuller details can be found in:
- The Council and Privy Seal Account.
- The Close Roll Account of 20 June 11 Henry VI .