Thomas Becket (1119 or 1120-1170) is probably the Archbishop of Canterbury best known for meeting a violent death, but two others who did so were Alphege (c.953-1012), who was captured and killed by Viking raiders, and Simon Sudbury (c.1316-1381), who was killed during the Peasants’ Revolt.
Sudbury became Archbishop of Canterbury in 1375, having previously served as Bishop of London. As Lord Chancellor of England from 1380 he was seen by the insurgents during the revolt as one of the instigators of the hated poll tax. In June 1381 the rebels sacked Lambeth Palace and burned books and a range of other property. They then captured Sudbury at the Tower of London and led him to Tower Hill, where he was beheaded. His head is still preserved at St Gregory’s Church in the town of Sudbury in Suffolk, where he was born: https://www.stgregorychurchsudbury.co.uk/simon/
One of the oldest items which the Friends of Lambeth Palace Library have enabled the Library to purchase is an indenture dated 1 October 1378, which features Archbishop Sudbury’s seal (ref: MS 4837).
The indenture is an exchange of property between Sudbury and six leading men on the one hand, and Joan de Bohun, Countess of Hereford, Essex and Northampton on the other. Joan was one of the richest women in England and her daughter was soon to marry the future Henry IV. At the foot of the document you can see the red wax seals of the seven indentors of the first part, with Sudbury’s to the far left. Many of the Library’s medieval documents have lost their seals, so this was a valuable addition to the collection.
The details of Sudbury’s seal have sadly become slightly obscured, but it is still possible to make out a long cross, interlaced with a letter S and traces of the likely motto ‘Ihesus est Amor meus’, Latin for ‘Jesus is my love’.