Robert Pakington was born to John Pakington and Elizabeth Washborne around the year 1489 at a place called Stanforn in Teme, Worcestershire in England. In total, there were four siblings together with his three brothers John Pakington, Augustine Pakington and Humphrey Pakington.
He was an apprentice from a young age at Mercer’s company until the year 1510. The company was one of London’s livery companies and specialized in exporting clothes and importing a variety of different wares. The Worshipful Company of Mercers, as it was known, was first formed as a trade association for general merchants. Their specialty included velvet, silk and other luxurious fabrics, hence its name mercers.
These worshipful companies guilds often sprouted from church parish fraternities, hence they had religious tendencies and sentiments. Robert Pakington would go on to work at the company for many years and from the years 1527 to 1528 he was made a warden of the company.
Religious Influence and Views on the Clergy
In the year 1523 and later on in 1529, Pakington was chosen together with others to write articles for a society called The Mercers, for parliament presentation. One of the articles written by Robert Pakington turned out to be critical and extremely anti-clerical. This was at a time when protestant sentiments were taking root and this did not go unnoticed. Pakington was first elected to parliament when a by-election arose in October of 1533 and later was re-elected for a full term in 1536. In parliament, Pakington would again reveal his anti-clerical sentiments. He was very outspoken against what he felt was covetousness and cruelty perpetrated by the clergy.
His thoughts are said to have been influenced by his close relationship and friendship with Thomas Cromwell. Though himself a Catholic official, Thomas Cromwell held reformist views. These protestant sympathies and anti-clerical sentiments did no go down well with the Conservative bishops of the time. Soon the church leadership began to take notice. In his final years alive, he would begin reporting on matters of Flanders to a fellow member of parliament called Thomas Cromwell.
The Assassination of Robert Pakington
Despite being a critic of the clergy, he was a staunch catholic and went to church daily. He worshiped in the local St. Thomas of Acon which was a catholic church across the road from his home. As he was heading to attend mass he found the street blocked by a man driving a cart. The man asked Thomas Pakington to identify himself and upon confirming his identity, he retrieved a handgun from his haystack and shot him. The single-shot caught him in the head killing him instantly. The shot was heard throughout the neighborhood and by several laborers who were said to have been standing at Soper’s Lane end.
This murder was reportedly the first ever to be committed by a handgun in the city of London. Despite the great reward offered for any information leading to an arrest, the killer was neither identified nor arrested. The bystanders and neighbors filed various reports but the identity of the assailant was never established. This is attributed in part by the dense mist. Nonetheless, this did not lead to lack of speculations and conspiracy theories which were abounding in plenty.
By the time he was dying, Pakington was described to be a’ man of substance’. He was assessed in the 1534 subsidy to be worth 500 marks. In 1535, he had exported some two hundred and fifty cloths to Antwerp. The cash bequest in his will was amounting to over 300 pounds. The wording contained in his will, which he had drawn by himself on November 23 in 1935, provided more evidence of his sympathetic sentiments to Protestant Reformation society views.
Pakington The Martyr and Clergical Conspiracy
This notion is supported in that the sermon during his funeral which was on 16 November was read by Lutheran activist, Robert Barnes. Protestant reformers interpreted Robert Pakington’s murder, as martyrdom. This led to many religious controversy theories.
In 1545 John Bale, who was a Protestant reformer suggested that the conservative Catholic Bishops were behind the murder. Edward Hall, who was among the members of parliament, also shared these sentiments. John Foxe also attributed the murder to the clergy but in doing so, gave a contradictory theory to how the crime occurred.
More theories would come up in proceeding years and Foxe this time alleged that John Incent, who was a retired Dean of St. Paul’s, had made a confession while on his deathbed. He said that he had arranged for Pilkington’s murder. A Catholic Apologist, Nicholas Harpsfield, at the time, accused Foxe of slandering incents. Foxe also came up with another theory that the assassination of Robert Pakington was carried out by an Italian. In later accounts, John stow, Raphael Holinshed and Richard Grafton were not keen to share in Foxe’s allegations. In fact, Holinshed came up with an entirely new version of how the events transpired.
He claimed that a certain felon had been sentenced to hang at Banbury and while on the gallows, he had confessed to Pakington’s murder.
Robert Pakington At Rest
Pakington was laid to rest in his Parish Church of St. Pancras. A monument was later erected in his remembrance. During his burial, protestant preacher Robert Barnes read the sermon.
Robert Pakington had written his will on 23 November 1935, which was said to have confirmed his leaning to the Protestant side of the church. In it, he had stated that he trusted to find his salvation only by the merit of Jesus Christ. He committed his children to be under the care of the executors, his wife and little brother Humphrey, and as the overseers, his elder brother John and the children’s maternal grandfather who was Sir John Baldwin.
At the time of his assassination, he had three daughters and two sons (these were his own children with his wife Agnes Baldwin, a daughter to Sir John Baldwin). These were Sir Thomas Pakington, John Pakington, Elizabeth Pakington, Anne Pakington, and Margaret Pakington.
As was the custom of London at the time, the children became orphans of the city. On 20 November 1537, the Court of Aldermen entrusted the eldest child, Thomas, to Sir John Baldwin. About five years later when Thomas presumably came of age, he acknowledged having received his share of his father’s estate.
In 1544 the younger son John, did the same after he had taken an oath to state that he was twenty-one years old. The assassination of Robert Pakington remains a mystery to date. He never got the chance to serve his full-term as a member of parliament, the first time was a by-election and upon re-election, he was assassinated mid-way through his term.
What are your theories about the assassination of Robert Pakington ?