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