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Sir Thomas Malory

Updated on July 22, 2010

Sir Thomas Malory probably had the most interesting and adventurous life among the classics of British literature. 

Thomas Malory was born in Newbold Revel, Warwickshire. His family lived in the central section of England for centuries. His father, John Malory, was a somewhat wealthy landowner, having lands in both Warwickshire and in the neighboring counties, Leicestershire, and Northamptonshire. In Warwickshire he was a man of popularity and power; John Malory was elected sheriff twice, member of Parliament five times, and the justice for many years. Thomas’ mother was Philippa Chetwynd, and he had three sisters.

The life of the young Malory is very mysterious. Not much is known about it. When he was twenty-three years old he was a fine young gentleman with growing interest in politics, so his father was probably very proud of his little son. He dealt with his family’s lands, was a parliamental elector, and was proclaimed knight in 1441. He married Elizabeth Walsh of Wanlip, Leicestershire. They had a son called Robert. Very soon something will happen to him that will stop this idyllic, peaceful, and happy life.

In 1443 Malory is charged with wounding and stealing the values of Thomas Smith, however he is able to justify himself. Although it probably received great publicity, he is elected a Member of Parliament two years later. Until 1449, Malory is an ordinary landowner, but it is about this time that he, for some unknown reasons goes through some radical changes. From now on he becomes a real criminal;

  1. On January 4, 1450 he and twenty-six other men attacked the Duke of Buckingham.
  2. On May 23, 1450, Malory rapes Joan Smith at Coventry. Charge is not for abduction but for real raping, as it puts it, “he carnally lay with her.” However it is her husband who sues him.
  3. On May31, 1450, extorts money from two people in Monks Kirby by threatening them.
  4. On August 6, 1450, he rapes Joan Smith again and extorts values of forty pound from her husband in Coventry.
  5. On August 31, 1450, he extorts money from a third person in Monks Kirby.
  6. On March 5, 1451, a warrant is issued for his arrest. Few weeks later Malory steals a cattle, seven cows, two calves, three-hundred and thirty-five sheep and a cart that worth twenty-two pounds at Cosford, Warwickshire. Buckingham, with sixty other men from Warwickshire tries to arrest Malory, but in the meantime he raids his hunting house, killing a deer and causing enormous damage of five-hundred pounds.

Malory finally gets arrested and is thrown in the prison of Coleshill, but two days later he escapes by swimming the moat around it. Then he raids Combe Abbey with a band of a hundred men. He again steals money. In the January of 1452 he is captured and imprisoned in London. There he waits for his trial for eight years in vain. Then he escapes again. He starts stealing horses throughout all of eastern England. He ends up in the Colchester jail. He escapes again, using swords and daggers, but he is recaptured again and goes to a London jail. After this he is taken from one prison to another, however in 1460 King Henry VI pardones him, and soon he is released. He never had a trial against him.

Malory is very thankful for his deliverers. He took part in the king’s attacks against the castles of Alnwick, Bamburgh, and Dunstanborough. After these castles are taken, he settles down, and tries to live peacefully for the rest of his life.

However, in 1468 and in 1470, the Lancastrians create lists that cancels all pardons for crimes, he might have committed while was free. However the Morte Darthur shows that he was in prison during that time. On October 1470, because of political changes, he is released from his London cell. Six months later, on April 1471, Sir Thomas Malory dies.

Sir Thomas Malory probably had the most interesting and adventurous life among the classics of British literature.


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