In all our sanctuaries we sit at risk

Westminster is empty


It is thought that the poet John Skelton wrote his satirical poem “Speak, Parrot” while living in the sanctuary of Westminster. For the medieval laws of sanctuary still operated in England at that time, leaving certain delegated areas under church jurisdiction. It meant that a significant number of people were able to live beyond the reach of state powers, and therefore, by extension, “safe” from state, or secular, law enforcement. It has been suggested that while Skelton, safe in the sanctuary of Westminster, was writing his poem attacking Cardinal Wolsey, the cardinal was continuing in his efforts to modernise the state, efforts which included doing away with the laws of sanctuary…