William Pottell: Stories and Storytellers

  • Jeremy Goldberg
Part of the The New Middle Ages book series (TNMA)


The narrative of Alice de Rouclif’s childhood culminating in her betrothal, her subsequent forced abduction, and lastly the court action that was provoked by her abduction is known to us almost entirely from the surviving court records. These records comprise a variety of documents, but it is the records of the testimony of witnesses that are far and away the most illuminating in trying to recover the experiences and perspectives of those touched by the case or even of the principal parties who by canonical convention did not testify in person. Oral testimony was recorded as written depositions. They record a variety of voices, each with its own story to tell. This chapter is concerned to explore this surprisingly complex process of story telling.


Legal Counsel Court Action Latin Text Recorded Deposition Oral Testimony 
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  1. 5.
    Elizabeth S. Cohen, “Court Testimony from the Past: Self and Culture in the Making of Text,” in Essays on Life Writing: From Genre to Critical Practice, ed. Marlene Kadar (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1992), pp. 83–93.Google Scholar
  2. 6.
    Arnold’s thesis, which draws heavily on Foucault’s notion of discourse, is most succinctly articulated in John H. Arnold, “Inquisition, Text and Discourse,” in Texts and the Repression of Heresy, ed. Caterina Bruschi and Peter Biller (Woodbridge: York Medieval Press, 2003), pp. 63–80.Google Scholar
  3. 12.
    Bartlett, The Hanged Man, pp. 53–7; Barbara Harvey, “Work and Festa Ferianda in Medieval England,” Journal of Ecclesiastical History, 23 (1972): 289–308; Ronald Hutton, The Rise and Fall of Merry England: the Ritual Year, 1400–1700 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1994).Google Scholar
  4. 18.
    X 4.2.9. The canon law is concerned with the growth of pubic hair, not the onset of menstruation, but it is the latter that is historically documented. For a discussion of age at menarche in the English later Middle Ages, see J.B. Post, “Ages at Menarche and Menopause: Some Mediaeval Authorities,” Population Studies 25 (1971): 83–7. Post would suggest that menarche often commenced at about fifteen, that is, at an earlier age than was true of much of the nineteenth century, though in practice there would have been considerable variation around this modal age. The development of such visible secondary sexual characteristics as breast budding (representing stage two of Tanner’s five-stage model of female puberty) and the first growth of pubic hair (stage three) would have preceded actual menstruation by two or more years. In this sense the canon law anticipated a possibility that was not solely hypothetical. Tanner’s stages are described in W.A. Marshall and J.M. Tanner, “Variations in Patterns of Pubertal Changes in Girls,” Archives of Disease in Childhood 44 (1969): 291–303.Google Scholar

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© Jeremy Goldberg 2008

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  • Jeremy Goldberg

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