William de Okebourn was pardoned by King Edward III on 12 October 1346, dated at Calais, of all homicides, felonies, robberies etc.” (Calendar of Patent Rolls 1345-1348)
What were the dastardly deeds which required such a pardon? -It seems reasonable to assume that William took part in the Battle of Crécy (one of England’s most famous victories, won against great odds) 6 weeks earlier, but why should a pardon be necessary for action in battle ?
It is also puzzling that Edward did not capture Calais until August 1347, but was apparently able to issue the pardon there in 1346.
The details of the prelude and aftermath of the battle offer some obvious explanations. Edward landed his army of 4,000 knights, and 10,000 English and Welsh longbowmen in 1,000 ships at St Vaast-de-la-Hague near Cherborg on 12 July 1346, plundered his way through the orchards and cornfields of Normandy and sacked Caen with merciless brutality. He by-passed Paris and eventually made camp at Crécy.
The Battle of Crécy took place on August 26 1346, and the victorious Edward then moved on to Calais, arriving on 4th September. An assault of the well defended town looked impossible, and instead Calais was blockaded. This lasted until 4 August 1347, and therefore perhaps the pardon of William de Okebourn should have been dated ‘outside Calais’. When Edward eventually entered the town he proceeded to evacuate almost all the inhabitants, in order to people it with the English colonists whose descendants were to hold it for another 200 years.
The execution of a number of the burgesses of the town was prevented by the personal plea to Edward of his wife Queen Phillipa. Pope Clement VI had felt obliged to intervene with King Edward in 1347, writing to him of “the sadness of the poor, the children, the orphans, the widows, the wretched people who are plundered and enduring hunger, the destruction of churches and monasteries, the sacrilege in the theft of vessels and ornaments of Divine worship, the imprisonment and robbery of nuns.”