08 December, 2019

Thomas Romeyn (d. 1312/13) And His Daughter Rohese Burford (d. 1329)

Thomas Romeyn or Romayn was a wealthy pepperer, i.e. spice-trader, in London late in the reign of Edward I and early in the reign of Edward II. His last name is believed to indicate Italian birth or ancestry, i.e. 'Roman', and indeed many pepperers in London in the early fourteenth century were Italian or of Italian origin. Thomas was sheriff of London in 1290/91, mayor in 1309/10, and one of the city aldermen from 1294 until his death in or a little after late 1312. He made his will on 21 December 1312 and probably died soon afterwards, and certainly before 19 May 1313.

Sometime in or before the mid-1280s, Thomas Romeyn married Juliana Hauteyn, sister of Philip Hauteyn (d. 1304), also a pepperer from London. The couple had four daughters: Rohese (or Roesia or Rose), Margery, Alice, and Joan. Alice and Joan both became nuns at Holywell Priory in Shoreditch. Rohese Romeyn was born around 1286 and her sister Margery around 1290; they were said to be forty and thirty-six years old respectively in their mother Juliana's inquisition post mortem of June 1326. Rohese married John Burford, a pepperer originally from Southampton, and Margery married Robert Upton, sometime before 21 December 1312 when their father mentioned his two sons-in-law in his will. Margery Upton née Romeyn was widowed and married her second husband William Weston sometime before June 1326. Thomas Romeyn's will also mentions another member of the family, his daughters' aunt, 'Dame Cristina de Kent'. [1]

The spice trade made Thomas and Juliana Romeyn very well-off: they owned lands, tenements and houses in London, Middlesex, Surrey, Kent and Sussex. The Romeyns lived in the parish of St Mary Aldermary on Watling Street, one of the many London churches which would be badly damaged centuries later in the Great Fire of 1666, and was rebuilt by Christopher Wren. Their eldest daughter Rohese and her husband John Burford lived for years on Soper Lane in London, possibly in a residence owned by Thomas Romeyn. John Burford died in or before October 1322, and Rohese did not remarry. [2] The couple had a son, James, born in about 1320 when Rohese was about thirty-four, and daughters Katherine and Joan. James Burford was knighted in the early 1340s. [3] Joan Burford must have been older than her brother James as she was already married by 1329 when James was only about nine years old; she married Thomas Betoyne, who, like her father John Burford and her maternal grandfather Thomas Romeyn, was a pepperer.

Juliana Romeyn née Hauteyn outlived her husband Thomas by a few years and died in May 1326; an inquisition post mortem for her was held the following month, because some of the many houses, tenements and lands the Romeyns owned were held of the king in chief. Rohese Burford née Romeyn was ill at the time of her mother's death in May 1326 and for some weeks afterwards, and it was said that "from weakness [she] cannot exert herself without danger." She had recovered enough by 16 June 1326 to do fealty to the king with her brother-in-law William Weston, her younger sister Margery's second husband, and they received Juliana's lands. [4

As the executor of her late husband John Burford's will, Rohese had to petition Edward II on several occasions asking for two loans of £142 John had made to the king to be repaid to her. [5] In or before January 1325, Rohese was able to lend a man the sum of 1,000 marks or £666. In modern terms, this is over a million pounds. A successful businesswoman in her own right, Rohese made a living from exporting wool as well as running her late husband's spice business. [6] She displayed yet another of her talents in 1316, when she made and embroidered a cope Edward II sent as a gift to the newly-elected pope, John XXII, and the king paid her 100 marks for it. [7]

Rohese Burford née Romeyn wrote her will on Friday, 31 March 1329, and died shortly before 12 April at the age of about forty-three, leaving her nine-year-old son James Burford as her heir. [8] In her will, Rohese bequeathed forty shillings for repairs to be carried out on London Bridge, and requested John Pulteney, then mayor of London, to act as the guardian of her two young unmarried children Katherine and James until they came of age. Rohese's younger sister Margery (b. c. 1290) had a daughter with her first husband Robert Upton, whom she named Juliana after her mother Juliana Romeyn née Hauteyn, and a son called Richard Weston from her second marriage, who was her heir. Rohese's son Sir James Burford married a woman named Katherine Strecche, and had a daughter and heir Margaret. According to a book written in the late nineteenth century, Rohese née Romeyn and John Burford had a third daughter named Margaret, who married John Pulteney, the mayor of London who was also James Burford's guardian in and after 1329. This would make James and Pulteney brothers-in-law, and may well be true, though there is no mention of a daughter named Margaret in Rohese's will.


1) Calendar of Wills Proved and Enrolled in the Court of Husting, London, vol. 1, p. 238; Calendar of Inquisitions Post Mortem 1317-27, no. 696.
2) Calendar of Patent Rolls 1317-21, p. 533; CPR 1321-4, p. 207.
3) CIPM 1327-36, no. 229; Calendar of Close Rolls 1341-43, pp. 550-51; Calendar of Wills Proved and Enrolled, p. 352.
4) Calendar of Fine Rolls 1319-27, p. 393; CCR 1323-27, pp. 582-85; CIPM 1317-27, no. 696.
5) The National Archives SC 8/178/8894, SC 8/158/7871 and 7872, SC 8/113/5604 and 5605.
6) CCR 1323-27, p. 336; TNA SC 8/178/8894.
7) Thomas Stapleton, 'A Brief Summary of the Wardrobe Accounts of the tenth, eleventh, and fourteenth years of King Edward the Second', Archaeologia, 26 (1836), p. 322.
8) Wills Proved, p. 352; CIPM 1327-36, no. 229.

1 comment:

sami parkkonen said...

Very interesting and informative!

I read from somewhere that even in Rome there were women in very powerful and rich position outside the emperors closest circle. One of the biggest bread providers was a woman who ran her own bakery business and from whom the senate and emperors bought the bread which was then dispersed for free among the population.

I also recollect that at least in some regions some women ran their own cloth factories and other businesses in medieval Europe. These women were not allowed to join the various guilds but that was not just bad for business. Since they were not part of the local cartels they could sell their products to any one outside the local cartel sphere of influence. Thus a wool manufacturer from Brabant could sell her products to any town in Italy or elsewhere as she saw fit.

Some of these wealthy business women were protected by the local lords or strong men who guaranteed protection against the male dominated guilds if need be.

So the situation of the women has never been so simplistic the historians have believed. Actually the idea of women totally shunned from public life and business is an victorian idea which reflects the ideas of that age more than the medieval or Roman life in reality.