(Following on from my earlier thoughts about duels, I have taken a quite long and detailed deposition from the files and rather than just pasting it in, I’ve turned it into a first-person narrative in modern English so you can read the story more easily.)
On 26 August 1661, Kenrick Edisbury of Sonlli (Denbighshire), gentleman, was examined by two JPs in relation to the death of Roger Grosvenor, esquire:
On 21 August I was at Chester for a foot race to be run to Wrexham, between a footman of Mr Roger Grosvenor [of Eaton Hall, Cheshire], and a footman called Astyn, formerly my servant, now ‘maintained’ by Mr John Pulford of Wrexham. [NB: The title ‘Mr’ in this period always denotes a man of gentry status.] Shortly before the start of the race, Pulford asked me to ride along with Astyn, and I went to Grosvenor and asked him if I could do so, if Astyn went into the lead, in order to encourage him. Grosvenor answered, ‘Yes, yes, I care not if two or three do ride with him but I will not have a crowd to come between them’.
After the race began, the two runners were together for about half a mile and then Astyn drew ahead by about ‘a stone’s cast’, at which point I asked Grosvenor, ‘Now that the fellow is far enough ahead, may I ride up to him, without prejudice to your footman?’, to which Grosvenor did not object. I rode up to the front, along with Mr Hugh Roberts and Mr Francis Edisbury, my brother. Although we avoided the beaten way to avoid raising dust, about half a mile on Grosvenor sent someone to call back Roberts, saying ‘it was uncivil, unhandsome and not like a gentleman’ to ride in front of Grosvenor’s man and raise the dust. Roberts responded that he was doing no harm and he would not go back.
On being told this, Grosvenor rode up to us and demanded ‘with passionate language’ that Roberts turn back. Roberts refused, and Grosvenor swore he would stop the race, to which Kenrick answered that he could stop his own man if he liked, but Astyn should continue.
Grosvenor went to strike Astyn, who ‘forsook his way’, and Roberts rode between Grosvenor and the footman. Grosvenor struck Roberts with a stick, and then suddenly leapt off his horse and drew his sword. He went up close to Roberts as he sat on his horse, forcing Roberts to dismount from the other side, and go backwards 3 or 4 steps, when he drew his own sword. Grosvenor ‘made a pass upon him’ which Roberts ‘put by’ and they ‘closed’ together.
When I saw the swords drawn, I also dismounted in order to separate them, and came up to them with only my whip in my hand, and thrust my hands between them, saying ‘Enough gentlemen I hope there is no hurt done to you’, to which Grosvenor replyed, ‘Yes, he has wounded me in the belly’. I said, ‘I hope not’. Grosvenor got down on hands and knees, I asked to see his wound, he got up and let down his breeches to show the wound in his belly. Meanwhile another man named Mr Jockut[?] and the footman came up to us, each with a drawn sword. I drew my own sword and stood upon my guard and said, ‘Put up your swords, I fear there is too much hurt done already’, at which they put up their swords and then I left and rode towards Wrexham.
(Francis Edisbury also gave a shorter deposition to the same effect which adds the detail that after Grosvenor and Roberts had been separated, Grosvenor said to Roberts, ‘I wonder you would do so by me’, to which Roberts replied that ‘he was never so much obliged to any as to let him kill him in a humour’. I should probably add the slightly technical detail that in both examinations the words ‘sayeth and confesseth’ were used at the beginning, which usually means that the examinant is under suspicion for something.)
So, was that a ‘duel’? (To be continued…)