Stolen Women in Medieval England: Rape, Abduction, and Adultery, 1100-1500 (Cambridge Studies in Medieval Life and Thought: Fourth Series)

Stolen Women in Medieval England: Rape, Abduction, and Adultery, 1100-1500 (Cambridge Studies in Medieval Life and Thought: Fourth Series)

Caroline Dunn

Language: English

Pages: 274

ISBN: 1107017009

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


This study of illicit sexuality in medieval England explores links between marriage and sex, law and disorder, and property and power. Some medieval Englishwomen endured rape or were kidnapped for forced marriages, yet most ravished women were married and many 'wife-thefts' were not forced kidnappings but cases of adultery fictitiously framed as abduction by abandoned husbands. In pursuing the themes of illicit sexuality and non-normative marital practices, this work analyses the nuances of the key Latin term raptus and the three overlapping offences that it could denote: rape, abduction and adultery. This investigation broadens our understanding of the role of women in the legal system; provides a means for analysing male control over female bodies, sexuality and access to the courts; and reveals ways in which female agency could, on occasion, manoeuvre around such controls.

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suit. But did the authors of the ambiguous 1275 statute and the French portion of Westminster II intend for them to legislate against either rape or abduction, did they intend for raptus to cover both offences, or did they perhaps leave the statutes deliberately ambiguous? Contemporaneous cases offer some clues.The seizure of Amice, the wife of William de Hotot, has been proposed by Post as the incident that provoked the anti-ravishment clause found in the First Statute of Westminster, as her

dating to 1346 and 1372. Unfortunately, we do not know whether the linguistic shift stemmed from royal policy, judicial authority, the language used by attorneys, or scribal preference.The Dyffryn Clwyd court probably continued to use concubuit into the early fifteenth century because the procedures employed by the Marcher lord’s court lagged behind the official terminology employed at Westminster and among the king’s justices who travelled on royal judicial business. The linguistic evolution

into custody, two settled by marriage, and one settled by fine).106 Carter, Rape in Medieval England, p.108. 101 Hanawalt, Crime and Conflict, pp.272–3. 102 Karen Elizabeth Ellis, ‘Gaol Delivery in Yorkshire, 1399–1407’ (MA thesis, Carleton University (Canada), 1983), p.38; Edward Powell, ‘Jury Trial at Gaol Delivery in the Late Middle Ages: The Midland Circuit, 1400–1429’, in Twelve Men Good and True: The Criminal Jury in England, 1200– 1800, ed. James S. Cockburn and Thomas A. Green

hint that Johanna willingly slept with John and later departed her father’s household with her lover. According to the jury, John ‘feloniously ravished’ Johanna on 2 July, and then associated himself with her until a night over two months later 26 (2001), pp.324, 330; Geneviève Ribordy, ‘Faire les nopces’: Le Mariage de la noblesse française (1375–1475) Studies and Texts, 146 (Toronto, 2004), pp.19–23. For late and post-medieval France, see Danielle Haase-Dubosc, Ravie et enlevée: de l’enlèvement

nunnery, was allegedly kidnapped while she was travelling upon the king’s highway, but it emerged that the kidnapping was planned  – Agnes had deliberately apostatised and eloped.14 Sometime before June 1478, Joan Portsmouth and Philippa King were seized together. Not only had they voluntarily run off from Easebourne Priory with a chaplain and a servant of the bishop of Chichester, but they had also both conceived children with their lovers.15 The link between the 9 Wunderli, London Church

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