29 June, 2010

Basins, Crystal Cups And Illegitimate Children: Fourteenth-Century Wills

Inspired by Susan Higginbotham's recent posts on wills written by Anthony Woodville and other nobles of the fifteenth century, and partly by a recent comment here on the blog, here's a post about wills of the late thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. In this era, it was usual to write your will only when you were dying or thought you were dying, with the unfortunate result that a lot of people died intestate. Sadly Edward II was one of them, which is a huge shame. Anyway, here's a look at the wills of some of the people close to him (which are in French in the original).

As an exception to what I wrote above, Edward's father Edward I wrote his will while on crusade in June 1272 and, oddly, never updated it, though he lived for another thirty-five years. His father Henry III was still alive then - he died later that year - and Edward's heir at the time was his second eldest son, also Henry, born in 1268 (and died in 1274, shortly after Edward's return to England and his coronation). Edward appointed as his executors his brother-in-law John, future duke of Brittany, his half-uncle William de Valence, Anthony Bek, future bishop of Durham and patriarch of Jerusalem, his friend Sir Otto Grandisson, and others, whom he requested to bury his body wherever they saw fit and to look after his children should he and his father die while the children were still under age. "We will that the realm of England, and all other lands which should descend to our children, remain in the hands of our executors before named, and also in those of our dear father the archbishop of York..." Lastly, Edward requested his executors to ensure that the dowry of "our dear wife Eleanor" (nostre chere femme Alianore) be administered as well and profitably as possible.

Edward II's son Edward III made his will on 7 October 1376; he was seriously ill at this time and had just buried his eldest son the prince of Wales, and was not expected to live much longer. (See Ian Mortimer, The Perfect King: The Life of Edward III, pp. 387-388.) In the end, as it happened, Edward lived a few more months and finally died in June 1377 at the age of sixty-four. The king left to his nine-year-old grandson and heir Richard of Bordeaux, the future Richard II, "an entire bed, marked with the arms of France and England, now in our palace at Westminster," and to Richard's widowed mother Joan of Kent (daughter of Edward II's half-brother executed in 1330) the generous sum of a thousand marks (£666). Edward also left 300 marks to his eldest daughter Isabella, countess of Bedford, and one of the ten men he appointed as his executors was his eldest surviving son John of Gaunt, carefully referred to as "king of Castile and Leon and duke of Lancaster" (Gaunt was married to Constanza, elder daughter and heir of King Pedro the Cruel of Castile). Edward requested burial at Westminster, and left money for masses to be sung for the souls of himself and Queen Philippa, who had died in 1369.

Edward II's niece Elizabeth de Clare (b. 1295) made her will on 25 September 1355, though she lived until November 1360; the will is extremely long, and Elizabeth appears to have left bequests to just about every person she had ever met. She left money for masses to be sung for the souls of her three husbands John de Burgh, Theobald de Verdon and Roger Damory, whom in typical fourteenth-century fashion she called 'my lords', mes seignours. The heir to Elizabeth's vast lands and properties was her granddaughter Elizabeth de Burgh (b. 1332), only child of Elizabeth's son William, earl of Ulster; the younger Elizabeth married Edward III's son Lionel, and her grandmother bequeathed her, rather snippily it seems, "all the debt which my son, her father, owed me on the day he died" (tote la dette qe mon fils son piere me devoit le jour q'il morust). Elizabeth, however, clearly enjoyed a close relationship with her youngest and only surviving child Elizabeth (Damory) Bardolf, to whom she left a "bed of green velvet," bed hangings and coverlets decorated with parrots and cockerels, and her - enormously expensive - travel carriage (char) with all its necessary equipment. She also left items to various friends and relatives: to her first cousin Jeanne de Bar, an image of St John the Baptist; to her close friend Marie de St Pol, a "little cross of gold with a sapphire"; to Henry, duke of Lancaster, a psalter. One of Elizabeth's executors, and one of her most trusted household officials for many years, was Sir Nicholas Damory, who I assume must have been a relative of her third husband Roger Damory, though unfortunately the precise connection still eludes me. Elizabeth asked for her body to remain above ground for fifteen days after her death and then to be buried at the 'Sisters Minories beyond Aldgate' in London, and left money for 200 pounds of wax to burn around it.

Edward II's nephew Humphrey de Bohun, earl of Hereford - born in 1309 as one of the many children of Edward's sister Elizabeth and the earl of Hereford killed at Boroughbridge in 1322 - wrote his will on 4 October 1361, and died eleven days later. (He died unmarried and childless, and, given that he played no role whatsoever in his cousin Edward III's wars with France and Scotland, although his younger brother William, earl of Northampton did, must presumably have suffered some kind of illness or disability.) Humphrey asked to be buried with the Augustine Friars of London, "before the high altar, without any pomp, and that no great men be invited to our funeral, which shall only be attended by one bishop and by common people." He bequeathed to his namesake, nephew and heir Humphrey (William of Northampton's son) a gold brooch "surrounded with large pearls, a ruby between four pearls, three diamonds, and a pair of gold paternosters of fifty pieces, with ornaments, together with a cross of gold, in which is a piece of the true cross of Our Lord." Humphrey also left items to his sister Eleanor, countess of Ormond, his other sister Margaret and brother-in-law Hugh Courtenay, earl and countess of Devon, and his niece Elizabeth, future countess of Arundel; these items included "a large sapphire stone of a fine blue colour" and a basin "in which we are accustomed to wash our head." The earl remembered many of his servants in his will, and requested that "a chaplain of good condition be sent to Jerusalem principally for my lady my mother, my lord my father, and for us [himself]; and that the chaplain be charged to say masses by the way at all times that he conveniently can, for our souls." Rather pointedly perhaps, given that Humphrey's father had died in battle against Humphrey's uncle Edward II in March 1322, Humphrey left forty shillings to be offered at the tomb of Thomas, earl of Lancaster in Pontefract, but nothing for Edward's tomb.

William Beauchamp, earl of Warwick, died in June 1298, and was the grandfather of Edward II's favourite Hugh Despenser the Younger and father of Guy, earl of Warwick, who abducted Piers Gaveston in 1312. William made his will on 14 September 1296 and asked, if he died "within the compass of the four English seas," to be buried with the Greyfriars of Warwick or otherwise at the Greyfriars house nearest to where he died, and his heart to be buried where his wife Maud FitzJohn (who died in 1301) "may herself resolve to be interred." William left one hundred pounds "to the maintenance of two soldiers in the Holy Land" and all his silver vessels to Countess Maud, including the one which contained the inevitable fragment of the True Cross. His son Guy received his "best suit" and a gold ring with a ruby in it, and William also left fifty marks to two of his (unnamed) daughters, nuns at Shouldham Priory, though nothing to his daughter Isabella Despenser or her children.

Guy Beauchamp, earl of Warwick, son of the former and enemy of Edward II, wrote his will at Warwick Castle on 28 July 1315 and died on 12 August, probably in his early forties. He asked to be buried at Bordesley Abbey in Worcestershire "without any funeral pomp," and left his wife Alice Toeni "a proportion of plate, with a crystal cup and half my bedding, and also all the vestments and books belonging to my chapel." Two sons are mentioned: Thomas, the elder and future earl of Warwick, then only eighteen months old, received Guy's "best coat of mail, armour and suit of harness, with all that belongs thereto," and John was bequeathed the second best. Two daughters, Maud and Elizabeth, are mentioned, bequeathed half of their father's beds, rings and jewels; Maud also received a crystal cup and Elizabeth "the marriage of Astley's heir" (Thomas Astley, her future husband).

Henry of Grosmont, duke of Lancaster, Edward II's first cousin once removed, wrote his will on 15 March 1361 and died eight days later, probably in his early fifties. He requested to be buried in the Collegiate Church of the Annunciation of Our Lady in the Newarke at Leicester, which he had founded, three weeks after his death, and asked Edward III and Queen Philippa to attend the funeral. Henry appointed his eldest sister Blanche, Lady Wake, as one of his executors; his daughters Maud and Blanche are not mentioned in the will.

Edward II's nephew by marriage, John de Warenne, earl of Surrey, wrote his will on 24 June 1347 and died five or six days later, either on his sixty-first birthday or the day before. I've written before about John's will, which includes provisions for six of his (at least nine) illegitimate children and his mistress Isabel Holland, but not a single thing for his wife Countess Jeanne. The full text of the will, in English and the original French, is available here.

And finally, Edward II's half-nephew by marriage Sir Walter Manny, whom he never met (Walter married Thomas of Brotherton's daughter Margaret, who married firstly John Segrave) and who died in 1371. I just wanted to mention Walter's will because of the terrific names of various members of his family: he left money to his two illegitimate daughters, Mailosel and Malplesant, and to a cousin named Cishbert.


- John Nichols, ed., A Collection of All The Wills, Now Known to be Extant, of the Kings and Queens of England...
- Nicholas Harris Nicolas, ed., Testamenta Vetusta: Being Illustrations of Wills of Manners, Customs...

22 June, 2010

Marie de St Pol, Countess of Pembroke (2)

This is the second part of my post (part one) about Edward II's cousin Marie de St Pol, who married Aymer de Valence, earl of Pembroke, in July 1321. Practically nothing is known of their married life together, which lasted slightly less than three years: Aymer died suddenly on his way to Paris on 23 June 1324, sent by Edward II to negotiate with Charles IV regarding the latest outbreak of hostilities between England and France over Gascony. Edward, in Kent, heard the news of Aymer's death a mere three days later, and sent his confessor Robert Duffield to Marie to break the news; she heard on the 27th. [1] Aymer, who was in his late forties or early fifties - Marie was about twenty - collapsed and died unshriven in his servants' arms, although the Brut chronicle includes a scurrilous story that Aymer was murdered while sitting on the toilet. This, thought the chronicler - as pro-Lancastrian as ever - was God's vengeance, as Pembroke had been one of the men to condemn 'Saint' Thomas of Lancaster to death and never repented of "that wicked deed." [2] Aymer de Valence was buried in Westminster Abbey on 1 August, where his tomb can still be seen; although it was Edward II's own decision to bury his kinsman in the abbey, the king was still in Kent at the time and did not attend the funeral.

As I've pointed out before, Edward II's treatment of the wives and children of his enemies in the 1320s was despicable, and Marie, although her late husband had long been a supporter of the king, suffered because Aymer had not supported the Despensers and had begged the king to exile them in 1321. Marie was later to claim - albeit surely with some exaggeration - that Edward II seized over £20,000 worth of her late husband's possessions and kept them in his own hands in return for a pardon of royal debts to Aymer. She also had to sell all her late husband's livestock to Hugh Despenser the Younger for 1000 marks, a sum certainly far below their true value, in order to pay for her husband's funeral, and was also forced to relinquish certain wardships and lands to Despenser. Fifty-three years later, Marie had still not paid off all Aymer's debts. [3]

In August 1324, Edward II went to war with his brother-in-law Charles IV of France, and in November that year granted protection for two years to Marie and several members of her household, as they were "of the power of the king of France" and thus enemy aliens. [4] Various modern writers claim that Marie de St Pol was a close friend of Queen Isabella and that this was probably a reason for the Despensers' hostility towards the dowager countess [5], although I'm not sure what evidence this statement is based on; Isabella and Marie were, at least, connected by marriage, as Marie's eldest sister was the third wife of Isabella's uncle Charles de Valois. Although some secondary sources state that Marie accompanied Isabella on her trip to France from March 1325 to September 1326, Marie in fact was not named as one of Isabella's attendants at the time of her departure, only appointed attorneys to act for her in England while she travelled overseas on 12 December 1325 (by which point Edward II knew that Isabella had refused to return to him so would not have permitted Marie to join her in France), was in England in August 1325 and June 1326, and was exempted from the order to arrest French people in England that summer. [6] There is considerably more evidence of Marie's close friendship with Edward II's niece Elizabeth de Clare, eight or nine years her senior, with whom Marie remained in frequent contact until Elizabeth's death in 1360. [7] Marie may well have been inspired by her friend's foundation of Clare College, Cambridge in 1338 (Elizabeth in turn was following in the footsteps of her Uncle Edward), and in 1347 founded Pembroke College, originally known as Valence Marie Hall, at Cambridge.

Marie, whether a close friend of Queen Isabella or not, was, given the Despensers' shabby treatment of her which took place with Edward II's knowledge and consent, presumably very glad to see their downfall in 1326/27, and her uncle John of Brittany, earl of Richmond - first cousin of Edward II and second cousin of Isabella - supported the queen and Roger Mortimer. On 3 September 1327, Mortimer, the latest royal favourite and ruler of England, requested a grant of Marie's marriage to his second son, Roger. Given that the elder Roger was not yet earl of March, this was hardly a great match for a dowager countess, and in fact the marriage was destined never to take place, as the younger Roger died sometime before 27 August 1328. [8] Marie de St Pol, countess of Pembroke, would live for a staggering fifty-three years as a widow, and died on 16 March 1377 in her early seventies, failing by just three months to live into the reign of Edward II's great-grandson Richard II. Of her contemporaries, probably only Edward II's niece Margaret de Bohun, countess of Devon (1311-1391) and Blanche of Lancaster, Lady Wake (c. 1302-1380) lived to be older. Marie made her will three days before her death, bequeathed a gold cross to Westminster Abbey where her late husband was buried, and asked to be laid to rest at Denny Abbey in Cambridgeshire.


1) J.R.S. Phillips, Aymer de Valence, Earl of Pembroke 1307-1324: Baronial Politics in the Reign of Edward II, p. 233.
2) The Brut or Chronicles of England, ed. F.W.D. Brie, vol. 1, p. 232.
3) Phillips, Valence, pp. 235-237; Calendar of Patent Rolls 1324-1327, p. 165; The National Archives SC 8/66/3266.
4) Cal Pat Rolls 1324-1327, p. 57.
5) Natalie Fryde, The Tyranny and Fall of Edward II 1321-1326, p. 113; Alison Weir, Isabella, She-Wolf of France, Queen of England, pp. 131, 143; Frances A. Underhill, For Her Good Estate: The Life of Elizabeth de Burgh, p. 38.
6) Cal Pat Rolls 1324-1327, pp. 200, 275; Calendar of Close Rolls 1323-1327, pp. 412, 505, 557.
7) Underhill, Good Estate, pp. 103-107.
8) Cal Pat Rolls 1327-1330, p. 166; Ian Mortimer, The Greatest Traitor: The Life of Sir Roger Mortimer, pp. 201, 320.

15 June, 2010

Marie de St Pol, Countess of Pembroke (1)

Today, the first part of a post about Edward II's kinswoman Marie de St Pol, countess of Pembroke, who was a wife for less than three years and a widow for fifty-three, and who was born in Edward I's reign and failed by only three months to live into the reign of his great-great-grandson Richard II; she was born in 1303 or 1304 and died on 16 March 1377. Countess Marie is best known nowadays for founding Pembroke College, formerly the Hall of Valence Marie, at Cambridge University in 1347.

Marie de St Pol, who is also sometimes known as Marie de Châtillon, was the daughter of Guy de Châtillon, count of St Pol (d. 1317) and Marie de Dreux (d. 1339), daughter of Duke John II of Brittany, whose peculiar death I wrote about recently on Edward II's Facebook page: he was killed by a collapsing wall as he led Pope Clement V's horse around Avignon in 1305. Duke John II's wife, Marie de St Pol's maternal grandmother, was Beatrice, one of the sisters of Edward I of England, which makes Marie the great-granddaughter of Henry III and Eleanor of Provence and thus Edward II's first cousin once removed. Marie was very well-connected to European nobility: her aunts and uncles included the duke of Brittany, the earl of Richmond, the abbess of Fontevrault, the count of Blois and the countesses of Artois and Eu, and her brothers and sisters were count of St Pol, lord of Ancre, ladies of Coucy and Crèvecœur, and countess of Valois (Marie's eldest sister Mahaut married Philip IV of France's brother Charles de Valois as his third wife; Mahaut's children, half-siblings of Philip VI of France, were Holy Roman Empress, duchesses of Calabria and Bourbon and Louis, count of Chartres, who was proposed as a potential husband for Edward II's daughter Joan of the Tower in 1323). Marie de St Pol was also the first cousin of Earl Thomas of Lancaster: they were both grandchildren of Matilda of Brabant, who married firstly Louis IX of France's brother Robert, count of Artois (d. 1250) and secondly Guy de Châtillon the elder (d. 1289), count of St Pol.

In late March 1321, Edward II - then also corresponding with King Jaime II of Aragon regarding the possible marriage of his elder son Edward of Windsor to Jaime's daughter Violante - asked Pope John XXII to grant a dispensation for Marie (Mariam de Sancto Paulo) to marry Aymer de Valence, earl of Pembroke, another close relative of the king. [1] Aymer was many years Marie's senior, born around 1270 0r 1275 as the third but only surviving son of William de Valence, earl of Pembroke (1225-1296), one of the unpopular de Lusignan half-siblings of Edward II's grandfather Henry III (children of King John's widow Isabelle d'Angoulême by her second husband) and Joan de Munchesney or Munchensi (d. 1307), granddaughter of the great William Marshal, earl of Pembroke. Aymer had three sisters: Isabel, who married John, Lord Hastings and had issue; Joan, who married John the Red Comyn, lord of Badenoch, and was the mother of the Comyn sisters; and Agnes, whom the future Edward II rather poignantly addressed as his "good mother" in a 1305 letter and whose three marriages to the lords of Offaly, Balliol and Avesnes remained childless. Aymer's two elder brothers were William, killed at the battle of Llandeilo Fawr in June 1282 during Edward I's campaign in Wales, and John, who died as a child in 1277.

Aymer de Valence married firstly, before 18 October 1295, a French noblewoman named Beatrice de Clermont-Nesle, whose father Ralph de Clermont was constable of France and lord of Nesle in Picardy. [2] Almost nothing is known of their married life or of the lady herself - she seems remarkably obscure for a countess - and Beatrice died childless shortly before 14 September 1320. Edward II sent "five pieces of silk, embroidered with birds" to lie over Countess Beatrice's body at the conventual church of Stratford in London, and on 8 February 1321 attended a mass there in her memory. [3] The widowed Aymer de Valence, then aged about fifty, married Marie de St Pol, aged about seventeen, in Paris on 5 July 1321, on the same day that Isabella of France gave birth to her and Edward II's youngest child Joan of the Tower a couple of hundred miles away. [4] What is rather odd is that Aymer had no children by either of his wives, but did father an illegitimate son named Henry de Valence, old enough to serve in Aymer's retinue from about 1314 onwards and to marry a woman named Margery, but who pre-deceased his father, sometime before 23 June 1322. [5] Needless to say, the identity of Aymer's mistress is unknown.

Marie de St Pol, the teenaged countess of Pembroke, arrived in an England torn apart by the Despenser War and Edward II's subsequent successful campaign against the Contrariants. Although her new husband remained loyal to the king and played an important role in the king's victory, it seems that the Despensers never forgave Aymer for urging their exile in August 1321: Edward II forced Aymer to swear on the gospels in June 1322 that he would always be obedient and faithful to him, because "the king was aggrieved against him for certain reasons…and could not assure himself of the earl" and made Aymer swear that he would not ally himself against the king or "anyone whom the king will maintain," surely a reference to the Despensers. [6] Although an anonymous letter of April 1324 named Aymer, with Hugh Despenser the Younger, as one of the men closest to the king (les plus privetz le roi), in fact the remaining years of his life after the Despensers' return from exile in early 1322 were spent in the shadows, his influence over Edward II minimal to non-existent. [7] Edward's decidedly unfair and unjust mistreatment of Aymer, his cousin and a man who had been his faithful ally for almost all of his reign, was to have a profound effect on Marie de St Pol after Aymer's sudden death - which I'll look at in the second part of this post.


1) Foedera 1307-1327, p. 446.
2) J.R.S. Phillips, Aymer de Valence, Earl of Pembroke 1307-1324: Baronial Politics in the Reign of Edward II, pp. 5-6.
3) Thomas Stapleton, 'A Brief Summary of the Wardrobe Accounts of the tenth, eleventh, and fourteenth years of King Edward the Second', Archaeologia, 26 (1836), pp. 338-339; Phillips, Valence, p. 191.
4) Calendar of Patent Rolls 1321-1324, pp. 12-13; Phillips, Valence, p. 206.
5) Cal Pat Rolls 1321-1324, p. 141; Phillips, Valence, pp. 116, 255, 267, 302.
6) Calendar of Close Rolls 1318-1323, pp. 563-564.
7) Pierre Chaplais, ed., The War of Saint-Sardos (1323-1325): Gascon Correspondence and Diplomatic Documents, p. 42.

07 June, 2010

Crime And Punishment, Medieval Style

Hope everyone is well and enjoying good weather! It was great to go on holiday, and it's also great to be online again and back to Edward II. Before I went away, I was looking through the Calendar of Inquisitions Miscellaneous for (most of) Henry III's and Edward I's reigns, from 1219 to 1307 - as you do - and found some interesting entries which are full of lovely details about medieval life...

Inquisition taken in Shropshire, 4 June 1276: "Philip the Taylor of Clun broke the house of Reynold Kaym of Upton in the night-time; the same Reynold came out with his sword and wished to attach [i.e. arrest] the said Philip, who shot the said Reynold with an arrow through the testicles and fled; the said Reynold followed him with cry and horn, and killed him with his sword as a robber and a fugitive."

Reynold managed to run after Philip with an arrow through his testicles? Ouch.

Inquisition taken in York on 18 September 1268: "A certain stranger being new-married was taking his wife and others who were with her to one end of the town of Byrun, when William Selisaule asked for a ball [pelota], which it is the custom to give; and they having no ball gave him a pair of gloves for a pledge; afterwards other men of Byrun asked for a ball, and they said they would not give one, because they had already given a pledge for one, and the men of Byrun would not believe them, but still asked for the said ball; and so there arose a dispute, and the wedding party, being slightly drunk, assaulted the men of Byrun with axes and bows and arrows, and wounded very many..."

I find that one interesting for the statement that it was then the custom to 'give a ball'. Give a ball to whom, precisely, and only after weddings?

Inq. taken on 6 May 1249: "Ughtred Smith of Botland came to Peter Grapere at the house of Richard de Boteland, and asked him to come to the wood to kill a wood-pigeon. Peter agreed, and Ughtred went on a long way in front till he came to a hill outside the wood and waited there. Peter wishing to try his bow shouted to Ughtred to look out for his arrow as he was going to shoot towards the hill. So having shot, from a longer distance than any bow was thought to carry, he came to the hill and asked Ughtred where his arrow was. "Here," said Ughtred, "stuck in my head." On this Peter fell on his face groaning and crying; but Ughtred bade him not to grieve since he felt no hurt, and said "Let us go to that knoll and do you pull out the arrow from my head, so that my wife may not see it, for she would perhaps grieve over-much." So they went and pulled out the arrow, and went home. And Peter went to Horsele for William the leech and brought him to see the wound, which he thought he could heal in a day or two. But Ughtred died, of the wound as it is thought. However the jurors believe that it was by misadventure, and the whole county witnesses the same."

That one jumped out at me because of Ughtred's dignity and courage, and Peter's very physical demonstration of his deep distress; it seems that English people of the Middle Ages weren't nearly as unemotional and stiff-upper-lipped as they gained a reputation for being in later centuries.

Inq. taken at Carlisle on 11 April 1287: "Ralph Deblet on All Saints' Day 13 Edward I [1 November 1285] at evening was so drunk that he did not know what he was doing and went by night into the house of Thomas le Tayllor at Carlisle, and walked up the stairs of a solar and fell upon Thomas as he lay asleep in bed. Thomas woke up crying out and asking what had fallen on him, and Ralph going down the stairs in his drunkenness, fell upon a cartload of wood and was wounded to the head even to the brain. He died by misadventure."

Inq. taken in Northamptonshire, 26 October 1254: "As Robert son of Robert de Olneye and others with him stood in the king's highway singing drunk, there came one William de Yerdelegh in a cart, likewise drunk, and drove his horse and cart over the singers. AndRobert pursued William and struck him on the head with a hatchet, but not feloniously or with malice prepense, since they were unknown to each other. And William was carried in the cart to his father's house in Yerdel' and lived there fifteen days and more and then died. Verdict: Robert slew William by misadventure."

Driving under the influence and road rage, thirteenth-century style.

Inq. taken in Kent, 30 October 1257: "On the occasion of a wedding in the town of Romenal, John Loterich and others were tilting at the quintain. John having run twice and broken two lances, as he had begun to ride a third time, Laurencia daughter of John le Portur, an infant of four or five years old, came out among them opposite her father's house; and owing to the crowd the child was trampled under their feet, and under the feet of John's horse, by misadventure."

Poor little girl, what a tragic accident.

"Inquisition taken Monday after Lady Day 45 Henry III [28 March 1261] whether John Harpetro killed Belechera his wife by misadventure: - By misadventure: John had a carcass of beef hanging in the house, and saw a cat eating the meat. He threw his knife at the cat, but by sudden chance Belechera came between and was wounded in the leg, the wound causing her death."

Belechera, what an extraordinary name! Here's a similar case, from Suffolk in May 1259: "It happened that William Huctred came to the house of Avice de Buchanne, intending no evil, and Alice Canun sister of the said Mabel [what Mabel? Are Avice and Mabel different forms of the same name?] attacked him with quarrelsome words, and then took a stool to strike him maliciously on the head; and the said Mabel came in and, trying to hinder her, came between them; and he, having a knife in his hand, not for any evil purpose, but because he was cutting a rod, she chanced to get a wound with it between her elbow and her body on her right arm and of this and of other sickness she died three weeks after; and whatever befell there was by mishap and not of malice aforethought."

Inq. taken in Worcestershire, 28 July 1280: "One Roger Shitte [!!], bailiff of the earl of Warwick, took the horse of one John de Ledene, by way of distress, out of a cart full of wheat-sheaves. John charged the bailiff with unlawful distress, but he being very drunk struck John hard on the right hand with a stick. And Walter Codard, the bailiff's man, ran up to strike John with a knife. A woman called Felicia Hende saw this and called to John to "Turn round, Walter Codard will strike you with a knife." John turned to defend himself and struck Walter on the head with a hatchet, of which he died within a fortnight. On account of this John has absconded."

Inq. taken in Lincolnshire, 3 March 1287: "Thomas del Boure of Alkewbarwe killed Gilbert Nade in self-defence. Thomas came to his own house at Alkebarwe on Thursday before Candlemas 14 Edward I [31 January 1286] after sunset and was surprised to find nobody there, and found his beasts which were in the keeping of his servant Gilbert Nade straying about the house and court. At bedtime Gilbert came back and found Thomas sitting on his bench. Thomas asked him why he was so late and why his beasts were so badly kept; and Gilbert took a wooden candlestick and struck Thomas on the head, of malice, because of previous quarrels, so that he fell to the ground. Thomas rose and fled to a chamber, but the door was shut, and Gilbert pursued him with the candlestick and struck him again, but part of the blow fell on the door. And he found a spade by the door and hit Gilbert back in self-defence so that he died of the blow."

Inq. taken in Yorkshire, 25 August 1280: "Peter de Baddesworth killed John de Duffeld by the greatest misadventure. Peter threw a stone, together with many other men then in York Castle, and John ran in the way; the stone struck him on the head and killed him."

Which of course begs the question, why on earth were lots of men in York Castle throwing stones? Did it not occur to anybody that this might be a bad idea? Did they have no concept of elf n safety in 1280??

A very sad one next, I'm afraid, taken on 25 July 1276. "Commission to John de Lovetot to enquire whether Richard de Cheddestan, said to be imprisoned at Norwich for killing his wife and two children six years ago in a frenzy was then mad, and whether he may now safely be released...The jurors say that as Richard and his wife came from Refham market and came by a marl-pit full of water, Richard was taken with a frenzy, threw himself in and tried to drown himself, but his wife dragged him out with difficulty. Afterwards, being taken home, and there behaving quietly, when his wife went out to get necessaries, he was taken with a frenzy and killed his two children. His wife came home and found the children dead and cried out for grief, and tried to hold him, but he killed her in the same frenzy. When the neighbours heard the noise and came to the house they found Richard trying to hang himself, but prevented him. They say that Richard committed all these acts in a frenzy and that he is subject to it.
Richard is at present sufficiently sensible, but it cannot be said that he is so far restored to sanity as to be set free without danger, especially in the heat of summer."

Inq. taken in Northumberland, 7 September 1280: "Henry son of William de Ellinton while playing at ball at Ulkham on Trinity Sunday with David le Keu and many others, ran against David and received an accidental wound from David's knife from which he died on the following Friday. They were both running to the ball, and ran against each other, and the knife hanging from David's belt stuck out so that the point, though in the sheath, struck against Henry's belly, and the handle against David's belly. Henry was wounded right through the sheath."

I always said football was dangerous! ;-) Here's another one, from Staffordshire in April 1266: "Alan the hayward of Hertil and William of Wyndhul were playing at ball; and both running together, trying which could get the ball first, each caught the other on the shoulder and fell to the ground. Alan falling on Walter's knife, which was in its sheath received a wound in the shoulder between the shoulder and the elbow, by no fault of Walter's. They got up and went on playing, as Alan did not feel much hurt, and afterwards went to the tavern and drank new ale together, and afterwards went peacefully home. The next day the arm swelled up, and Alan, saying this was due to the new ale, asked Walter to send for a leech to heal his arm. Treatment was applied, but he died the following Saturday; and Walter, seeing that he had died of the wound, absconded and has not returned."

Inq. taken in Warwickshire on 30 September 1276: "It is stated on behalf of the priory and convent of Kenyllwurth [Kenilworth] that one William le Hare, the Nativity of Our Lady last, without the knowledge of the prior and convent, climbed alone up a new work of theirs adjoining the church of Kenyllewurth to take squabs in the hollows of the said work; and setting his foot in a piece of wood placed in one of the hollows, high up from the ground, the wood broke and he fell to the ground and was smashed to pieces and immediately expired. And when two servants of the prior and convent, Robert de Tene and John Corbyn, knew of the accident they secretly bore the body outside the convent into a wood by Kenyllewurth and left it there as though William had been slain by robbers."

Robbers who smashed him to pieces, apparently.

Inq. taken at Westminster, 26 December 1248: "Cunrad de Bruneweye had a dispute with his man Terry de Estland in his own house, and Terry knocked down his master and lay on him. Conrad being unable to escape without danger of death, wounded Terry in the shoulder with a knife. He survived ten days and died of drinking half a gallon of wine after dinner on the day of his death."

Inq. taken 19 November 1263: "Richard son of William de Swerdeston came along Newgate in Norwich, and a dog belonging to William Garlonde came and bit him. He followed the dog to Garlonde's house, demanding justice [some text missing]. Robert Winter was sitting at supper with three women. And so they quarrelled, and Robert struck Richard on the head with a pint pot full of beer, and the three women came on either side of him and pulled at his supertunic till they tore it, and took it from him, so that he barely escaped alive. Richard came back with a companion, to recover his supertunic, and Robert Winter again took a pint pot and struck him on the head. So Richard in self-defence took his knife, with the sheath, and tried to defend himself. But by misadventure he struck Robert with the point. He then took up a basin and pursued Robert and put him to flight. And Robert afterwards died, but he would not have done so had he not neglected the wound."

Hard not to neglect your wound when you're being pursued with a basin, really.

And finally, an undated inquisition "upon the death of Nicholas son of Thomas Kouke: Rose de Bokland kept a tavern at her house at Sutton, to which Thomas Kouke and Mabel his wife, the parents of Nicholas, came, and also one Margery de Totewell, whom Thomas was accused of frequenting lecherously. Thereupon Mabel and Margery quarrelled and fought; but Alard, Rose's son, being in the house, took Mabel and put her out. So she being angry went to her son Nicholas, saying that Alard had thus put her out, and that it was most disgraceful that Margery had committed this trespass against her, and that before her husband Thomas. So Nicholas went to the tavern to thrash Margery. But when he came, and sought to lay hands on Margery, Alard would not allow him, and put him out against his will. Nicholas was angry with Alard for this, and took to him his brother William Koc. And in the evening they went, armed with bows and arrows, and attacked the house where Rose and Alard were. Alard defended the house, but Nicholas broke down the door and entered. And Alard in self-defence wounded Nicholas severely with an arrow and killed him. He did this in self-defence and by misadventure, not feloniously."