Sunday, 25 May 2014

Writing - The first ever assassination?

Is this the first ever assassination?

A 16th Century Handgun

At around 6am on Monday 13th November 1536, Robert Packington left his house in London's Cheapside to attend early Mass in the Mercer's Chapel on the north side of West Cheap. He was probably carrying a lantern because the morning was dark and smoke from a thousand chimneys mingling with early morning mist reduced visibility to just a few yards. As he crossed a thoroughfare only a few yards from his destination a shot rang out and Packington fell down dead.

A crowd gathered pretty quickly as it was a gathering point for the unemployed hoping for work but no one noticed a gun man which was unusual. At that time the weapon of choice was a rather large and cumbersome arquebus but it would seem Packington was shot with a smaller more discreet wheellock pistol. In fact poor Robert Packington holds the dubious distinction of being the first person in England to be killed with a handgun.

The reasons for the murder were probably rooted in the fact that Packington had been outspoken regarding the 'cruelty of the clergy' and perhaps had imported a copy of the banned English translation of the New Testament by William Tyndale along with other heretical publications. Packington was in fact a messenger between merchants in the City and exiled members in Antwerp.

In fact twenty two years earlier there was a similar killing of Richard Hunne, by hanging in St Paul's Cathedral, and he was also a critic of the then religious hierarchy. Dean John Incent, dean of St Paul's, confessed to involvement in the murder on his deathbed and may have been the paymaster. Even John Stokesley, Bishop of London, was believed to be involved having paid someone 60 gold pieces for the commission of the crime.

Stokesley was  a passionate believer that the vernacular of the Bible should not be available in England and ruthless and rich enough to carry out the crime. He'd been fighting a losing battle for years to prevent Tyndale's translation and frustration could have taken over and been focussed against the confidant of Thomas Cromwell, Robert Packington.

We'll never know for sure.

God Bless