27th April 1992.
From Sir John Bussy in 1394 until 1535 when Sir Thomas More fell out with Henry VIII, seven Speakers were beheaded (two on the same day); an 8th was murdered and a 9th was killed in battle.
Today in 1992 ex-chorus-girl, Betty Boothroyd MP was elected the first woman and 155th Speaker of the House of Commons nearly six hundred and sixteen years to the day after the first Speaker took office.
The 15thc Wars of the Roses, between Yorkists and Lancastrians was a dangerous time for Speakers: five were beheaded, murdered or killed in battle.
It was back in 1258 that usurper Peter de Montfort had a presiding officer or Speaker, termed ‘Parlour’ or ‘Prolocutor’.
By 1376 the reign of Edward III, the Knights of the Shire and the Borough Burgesses, had combined in the face of the Chancellor’s demands for a Tenth (tax) from clergy and a Fifteenth from the Laity for war against France.
The Earl of March’s, Steward, a Knight for Hereford, Sir Peter de la Mare, was elected to speak for the protesters in the ‘Good Parliament’, demanding a purging of the King’s chief ministers .(1)
However Edward was now senile and his son, Edward the Black Prince terminally ill; de la Mare was arrested and imprisoned by opposition leader John of Gaunt.
In the so called ‘Bad Parliament’ of 1377 a cowed Commons put forward Gaunt’s steward, Thomas Hungerford as the first official Speaker (as mentioned in the Rolls of Parliament), and in office, under Richard II, at the time of the 1381 Poll Tax Riots.(2)
Eighteen years later, Sir John Bussy, (Speaker 1394-8) was beheaded in 1399, by the new king Henry IV.
Two Speakers, who had been guilty of financial irregularity in the reign of Henry VII, Sir Richard Empson (1491-2) and Edmund Dudley (1504), were executed on the same day in 1510, by Henry VIII on trumped-up treason charges.
Sir Thomas More in 1535, was the final Speaker to be executed. Sir Thomas, Speaker in 1523 and Lord Chancellor (1529-32), was beheaded for High Treason by opposeing Henry’s Act of Supremacy.
In the modern era Michael Martin resigned in 2009 after Douglas Carswell MP had called for a Vote of No Confidence after the Speaker’s handling of the MP’s expenses scandal.
It was in 1695 that a previous Speaker, Sir John Trevor had resigned on a similar Vote.
(1) William Tresham, (1439-42, 1447, 1449-50) was murdered in 1450; Thomas Thorpe (1453-54) was beheaded in 1461; Sir John Wenlock, (1455-6) was killed at the Battle of Tewkesbury 1471 (when the Yorkists finally defeated the Lancastrians).
Sir John Tresham (son of William) (1459), was beheaded in 1471 and William Catesby (1484) was beheaded 1485.
(1) On 29th April 1376.
(2) The idea of a designated Commons spokesman came after 1376-7 when it was insisted that members were present when the Speaker met, on their behalf, the king, to make sure he was representing their interests.
Ref: theguardian.com/Speakers Through The Ages.23.6.2009/Pic.