Thomas Malory illustration

Biography of Thomas Malory

Sir Thomas Malory was a fifteenth century poet best known for “L’ Morte D’Arthur”.

When and Where was he Born?

Early fifteenth century circa 1416. Possibly of Welsh extraction but there is some evidence he was Sir Thomas Malory of Newbold Revel, Warwickshire on the borders of Leicestershire and Northamptonshire.

Family Background:

Thomas Malory was probably a Knight and therefore a member of the minor gentry. His father John Malory was a squire with land in Warwickshire, Leicestershire and Northamptonshire. He was twice a Sheriff and five times a Member of Parliament in Warwickshire. His mother was Philippa Chetwynd who had three daughters besides Thomas.

Education:

Probably from local clerics and members of his family.

Timeline of Thomas Malory:

1441: He had by now become a Knight.

1443: He is charged with wounding and imprisoning Thomas Smith and stealing his goods but the charge was later dropped.

1445: He is elected a Member of Parliament (MP) for Warwickshire.

1450: In January Malory and 26 other men laid an ambush for the Duke of Buckingham in the Abbot of Combe’s woods near Newbold Revel. In May he allegedly raped Joan Smith at Coventry but the charge was brought by her husband not Joan herself. He is said to repeat the crime in August and steals £40 worth of goods from her husband.

1451: Malory is finally arrested after stealing some of the Duke of Buckingham’s livestock and imprisoned at Coleshill but he escapes by swimming the moat at night.

1452: He is recaptured and taken to prison in London but escapes and goes on a horse stealing expedition in East Anglia that ends at Colchester jail. He escapes from that prison too but is eventually re-imprisoned in London and kept under very close guard and is moved around from prison to prison.

1460’s: Malory is pardoned by King Henry the Sixth on at least one occasion but is also excluded from pardon by both King Henry the Sixth and Edward The Fourth. Once the Yorkists gained power he is freed and no charges were brought against him. He repaid King Edward the Fourth by taking part in the Earl of Warwick’s raids against the Northumbrian castles of Alnwick, Bamburgh and Dunstanburgh which had been seized by the Lancastrians.

Bamburgh Castle
Bamburgh Castle as restored by William Armstrong (copyright Anthony Blagg)

1468: He seems to have changed sides again being named in lists of irreconcilable Lancastrians and is exempt from any royal pardons and is again in prison putting the finishing touches to his work L’Morte D’Arthur.

1470: The Lancastrians return to power and free their people in London jails including Malory.

When and Where did he Die?

14th March 1471, London.

Age at Death:

Late 60’s.

Written Works:

1470: “L’ Morte D’Arthur”. (Possibly written whilst the author was in prison).

Marriage:

To Elizabeth Walsh of Wanlip in Leicestershire.

Site of Grave:

Chapel of St. Francis at Grey Friar’s, near Newgate, London.

Places of Interest:

NORTHUMBERLAND:

Bamburgh Castle.
Alnwick Castle.
Dunstanburgh Castle.

WARWICKSHIRE:

Newbold Revel.