MP who died in the Tower had been found guilty of trea­son

Llanelli Star - - Letters - Philip Dewey

A WELSH MP who died in the Tower of Lon­don after be­ing found guilty of trea­son promised Eng­land and Ire­land to the King of Spain “if he could have Wales”.

Sir John Per­rot was born in Pem­brokeshire in 1528 and later went on to rep­re­sent Car­marthen­shire, Pem­brokeshire and Haver­ford­west in Par­lia­ment in sep­a­rate pe­ri­ods.

But his most prom­i­nent role was as Lord Deputy of Ire­land to Queen El­iz­a­beth I, dur­ing the Tu­dor con­quest of the coun­try.

It was heav­ily spec­u­lated dur­ing his life­time that he was the il­le­git­i­mate son of Henry VIII due to his tem­per­a­ment and re­sem­blance to the monarch. He was knighted in 1547 by Henry’s son Ed­ward VI and was ap­pointed High Sher­iff of Pem­brokeshire in 1551.

His as­so­ci­a­tion with Ire­land be­gan in 1570 when he be­came Lord Pres­i­dent of Mun­ster and be­gan a vi­o­lent cam­paign sup­press­ing na­tive rebels. He or­dered the heads of corpses to be cut off and fixed to a mar­ket cross and au­tho­rised 800 hang­ings by mar­tial law.

Per­rot re­turned to Wales in 1575 where he be­came Mayor of Haver­ford­west and vice-ad­mi­ral of the Welsh seas. It was dur­ing this pe­riod he was ac­cused of tyranny, sub­ver­sion of jus­tice and deal­ing with pi­rates but th­ese ac­cu­sa­tion were not taken se­ri­ously by the Crown.

He nar­rowly avoided death in 1579 when his ship was struck by a storm ap­proach­ing the Thames es­tu­ary, but was saved by the com­man­der of a Flem­ish pi­rate ship who was be­ing held cap­tive.

In 1584, Per­rot was ap­pointed Lord Deputy of Ire­land with the chief task of es­tab­lish­ing the Mun­ster Plan­ta­tion. But Per­rot made a num­ber of en­e­mies in the Dublin Gov­ern­ment due to his un­spar­ing crit­i­cism and in 1588 he was called back across the Ir­ish Sea at the height of the Span­ish Ar­mada threat.

Upon his re­turn, he be­came MP for Haver­ford­west, but in 1589 his en­e­mies started work­ing against him and he was ac­cused of trea­son based on al­le­ga­tions made by a for­mer priest and pris­oner in Ire­land.

Ev­i­dence was pro­vided of let­ters be­tween Per­rot, while Lord Deputy of Ire­land, to King Philip II of Spain, in which prom­ises were made for the King to take own­er­ship of Eng­land, Wales and Ire­land.

It was even sug­gested by some of his en­e­mies that Per­rot had bar­gained with the King to “keep Wales for him­self”.

Per­rot urged an in­quiry to look into how the al­le­ga­tions had been raised, but fur­ther ac­cu­sa­tions arose from his for­mer sec­re­tary Henry Bird, who re­ferred to Per­rot’s use of “vi­o­lent lan­guage” to­wards the Queen in pri­vate conversati­on.

He was sent to the Tower of Lon­don in 1592 and stood trial on charges of high trea­son, in which his com­ments about Queen El­iz­a­beth were used against him. He was quoted as say­ing: “God’s wounds, this it is to serve a base b ****** p ****** woman, if I had served any prince in Chris­ten­dom I have not been so dealt withal.”

It was also claimed he had ques­tioned the Queen’s le­git­i­macy to the throne, but Per­rot ar­gued his loy­alty to the Crown and in re­sponse to ques­tion­ing, he said: “You win men’s lives away with words.”

Per­rot was found guilty of trea­son by the jury and was im­pris­oned in the Tower of Lon­don in­def­i­nitely. It is be­lieved that his sen­tenc­ing was de­layed for months in the hope Queen El­iz­a­beth would give him a royal par­don, but he died in Septem­ber 1592.

It is be­lieved by some that Per­rot was poi­soned while im­pris­oned when it was thought he would be re­leased from cus­tody, but it is gen­er­ally thought he died of nat­u­ral causes.

A por­trait of Sir John Per­rot by Ge­orge Powle.

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