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Medieval Sourcebook:
Manorial Marriage and Sexual Offense Cases


Manorial Marriage and Sexual Offense Cases

1. Alexander Wymer was attached to answer Vincent Buncheswell on a plea of wrong (trespass) in which (Vincent) says that A.W. on the Friday after St. Gregory the Pope's day in the 26th year of king Edward [1298] in the vill of "Estrudham" came and brought with him unknown men and others speaking ill with the friends [including kinsmen] and neighbors of the said V. and spread scandal about him with shocking ("enormis") words, and caused him to lose 20 m. value concerning Mary of Hecham whom he was supposed to marry, because the said Alexander told Mary that the said Vincent did not sow or plough his land in good time and was not a good farmer ("cultor"). Because of this, he lost Mary's love and marriage to the said Vincent's serious loss 40/-. He seeks a [jury] inquiry into the matter. [Gressenhall Manor Court, July 8 1298, MEDIEVAL STUDIES xlix (1987), 509, n. 59.]

 


2. John Page and Agnes his wife appear through their attorney John Chupm' against John Baker in a plea of a broken covenant alleging that the aforesaid John [Baker] sold to Agnes Page, John Page's wife, one Matilda John [Baker's] wife for one pig (cost 3 shillings) of which pig John Baker took pssession and with which he was well contented. Later the said John came and sought to have his wife back and he gave ("daret") Agnes 2 shillings, and on this he produces suit. And the aforesaid John Baker denies force and injury, and says that he broke no covenant to him and detained no money from him foir the abovesaid reason, and he seeks an inquiry, and the said Agnes does so too. Therefore etc. [m. 2, July 30 1330]

[Inquiry - margin] John Page and Agnes his wife appear through their attorney Peter Godsone against John Baker and Matilda his wife in a plea of broken covenant alleging that the aforesaid John Baker sold his wife Matilda to Agnes Page for one pig (3 shillings) etc. Later John Baker came and sought to have his wife again and he gave (offered?) 2 shillings which he did not pay. And he say he did not make any covenant with him, and he seeks an inquiry. [m. 3d, November 13 1330]

[Amercement 1 penny - margin] Because the aforesaid John Baker failed against John Page by inquest, it is therefore held that the aforesaid John Baker be in mercy and that the aforesaid John Page recover 2 shillings and his losses ("dampna") which are taxed at 2 d. etc.[m. 3d, Feg 5 1331] [Lewisham, Kent, All references from P.R.O., SC2/181/58, courtesy of John Beckerman.]

 


3. Henry Cook of Trotteslyve (Kent) and his wife were summoned because each has turned away from the other and they do not live together. Both appear in person. And Henry then alleged that he did not know why his wife left him but she behaved as badly as possible towards him, with contumelious words and other evil deeds, as he asserts. His [unamed] wife said that her said husband loved several other women and therefore had a malevolent mind towards her, and she could not go on living with Henry on account of his cruelty. Finally both of them swore after touching the gospels that they would live together in future and give each other the usual conjugal services ("suffragia"), and that she [blank left for name] will now be humble and "familiaris" with her husband and not fighting, contumelious or insulting; and that the husband will treat his wife with marital affection from now on ... [1347. REGISTRUM HAMONIS HETHE, ed. Johnson, p. 974, courtesy Larry Poos.]

 


4. John Marabel, a married man, is cited of adultery and incest with Alice, daughter of Robert de Wywell, daughter of the said John's wife. The man appears and admits (his sin). The woman is not found. And John is forbidden from coition with either the mother or the daughter in future, unless the mother, who is the wife, seeks the debt and he pays it with sadness. And he will have as penance to make a pilgrimage with bare feet to St. Mary at Lincoln, to St. Thomas [Becket] at Canterbury, and to [St. Thomas Cantilupe] at Hereford and to beatings in penitential fashion round the church and round the marketplace of Grantham. And he will forswear the sin and suspect locations for the said Alice under pain of 40/-. It is later held that the same John on his pilgrimage would take much from his said wife, (so) the penance was changed so that he will fast on bread and water as long as he lives every fourth and sixth week, unless work or sickness prevents this... We John warn thee, the aforesaid John, once, twice and a third time that you, having been parted for good from your wife, will eject the said Alice from your company within the next six days under pain of greater excommunication which is now (pronounced) most firmly on your person in these writings if you should disdain to carry out the aforegoing. [1347. Lincoln Dean and Chapter, A/2/24, fo. 72v, courtesy Poos.]

 


Translation by Paul Hyams of Cornell University. See his Course Page?. He indicated that the translations are available for educational use. He intends to expand the number of translations, so keep a note of his home page.

This text is listed as part of the Internet Medieval Source Book. The Sourcebook is a collection of public domain and copy-permitted texts related to medieval and Byzantine history.

Paul Halsall Jan 1996
halsall@murray.fordham.edu