Anabilla Wascelyne: The Ties of Kinship

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


The preceding chapter focused on the way deponents and litigants were bound by associations of neighborliness, community, or tenure. These, however, are but one set of elements in a more complex web of relationships. Ties created by birth or marriage are no less important and these are the focus of this present chapter. Interestingly these are ties that take us beyond the coresident group of the household so beloved by demographic historians.1 There are two principal kin groups associated with the case. There are also several cases of husband and wife testifying. The most conspicuous of these two groups is that represented by Alice de Rouclif’s kin, the minor gentry family of the de Rouclifs. Less conspicuous, but not necessarily so much less significant, is that represented by the kin of Alice’s would-be husband, John Marrays.


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  1. 1.
    The literature on later medieval English kin networks is comparatively slight, but pertinent are two urban will-based studies: Jenny Kermode, “Sentiment and Survival: Family and Friends in Late Medieval English Towns,” Journal of Family History 24 (1999): 5–18; Lynne Bowdon, “Redefining Kinship: Exploring Boundaries of Relatedness in Late Medieval New Romney,” Journal of Family History 29 (2004): 407–20. Zvi Razi has argued for functionally extended families before the plague using manor court roll evidence: Zvi Razi, “The Myth of the Immutable English Family,” Past and Present 140 (1993): 3–44.Google Scholar
  2. 5.
    The Heads of Religious Houses: England and Wales, 1216–1377, ed. David M. Smith and Vera C.M. London (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2002), p. 88; Dugdale, Monasticon Anglicanum, III:539.Google Scholar
  3. 6.
    BI, CP.E.132. The case was an action for breach of promise brought by Master Robert, as former rector, against the current rector claiming that, having agreed to the joint arbitration of the abbot and Master Walter Skyrlaw, he had failed to honor in full the damages subsequently awarded by the arbitrators against the rector. In effect the damages awarded would have given Master Robert control over the glebe at Huggate. We may surmise that the abbot was the arbitrator nominated by his namesake, although we cannot know their actual relationship. The case represents a further example of Marrays family interests located in the western part of the Yorkshire Wolds, Huggate being only a few miles from Kennythorpe. Apparently Master Robert hade previously exchanged Huggate for a living at Uldale in the diocese of Carlisle: David M. Smith, Ecclesiatical Cause Papers at York: The Court of York 1301–1399, Borthwick Texts and Calendars 14 (1988), p. 52. A Robert Marrays was presented for fornication with Agnes Wetby within the Dean and Chapter’s jurisdiction in York in 1360: YML, M2(1)f fol. 4v.Google Scholar
  4. 10.
    Another monk of St Mary’s is noticed in a cause dated 1432 traveling to the horse fair at Pontefract and eating in lay company at “The Lion” there before going on to spend the night in Doncaster: BI, CP.F.104. Cf. David Knowles, The Religious Orders in England, 3 vols. (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1948–59), II:209–12.Google Scholar
  5. 16.
    The returns are headed “Bretton,” which can be identified with Burton, later Burton Salmon in the parish of Monk Fryston: The Poll Taxes of 1377, 1379 and 1381, ed. Fenwick, 3:370; A.H. Smith, The Place-Names of the West Riding of Yorkshire, part IV (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1961), p. 40. I am grateful to Colin Hinson for helping clarify the identity of this settlement. The “Monk” of Monk Fryston relates to Selby Abbey, which held lands here, rather than St Mary’s, York.Google Scholar
  6. 18.
    Register of the Freemen of the City of York, 1272–1588, ed. Francis Collins, Surtees Society 96 (1896), p. 85. The form of the entry would suggest that John Marrays, junior, was admitted by right of patrimony, that is, his father was himself a citizen prior to the birth of his son. The conventional, but essentially unsubstantiated, understanding is that a son could be admitted by right of patrimony on achieving his majority at twenty-one. If this were the case here, and the John Marrays, senior, is indeed the plaintiff in the case, then Alice would have had to have conceived and given birth within a year of the court’s verdict, even though she could hardly have been more than thirteen and may well have been younger. This seems unlikely. If, however, majority was attainable after fifteen, then the circumstances would fit quite well. I am grateful to Sarah Rees Jones for discussion of this last. For a discussion of the franchise at York see: R.B. Dobson, “Admissions to the Freedom of the City of York in the Late Middle Ages,” Economic History Review, 2nd series 23 (1973): 1–22.Google Scholar
  7. 21.
    For the social origins of nuns see Marilyn Oliva, “Aristocracy or Meritocracy? Office-Holding Patterns in Late Medieval English Nunneries,” Studies in Church History 27 (1990): 197–208. Barbara Harvey characterizes the monks of Westminster as predominantly “middle class” in social origin: Barbara Harvey, Living and Dying in England 1100–1540: The Monastic Experience (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993), pp. 75–7.Google Scholar
  8. 23.
    Scott L. Waugh, The Lordship of England: Royal Wardships and Marriages in English Society and Politics 1217–1327 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1988), p. 37.Google Scholar
  9. 35.
    Ellen appears to have owned part of a messuage in York from her first marriage: Feet of Fines for the County of York, III, ed. William Paley Baildon, Yorkshire Archaeological Society Record Ser. 52 (1915), pp. 38–9. The record refers to Gervase de Rouclif, Elena his wife and her heirs.Google Scholar
  10. 39.
    Barbara Todd’s study of widow remarriage in early modern Abingdon has demonstrated that it was widows with young children to support who were most likely to remarry: Barbara J. Todd, “The Remarrying Widow: A Stereotype Reconsidered,” in Women in English Society 1500–1800, ed. Mary Prior (London: Methuen, 1985), pp. 54–92.Google Scholar
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    York Memorandum Book, I, ed. Maud Sellers, Surtees Society 120 (1912), pp. 26–9.Google Scholar
  12. 61.
    CPR,1350–54, p. 425; Feet of Fines for the County of Yorkshire, III, ed. Baildon, p. 102. The land purchased in 1364 was to pass in time to Guy de Rouclif’s heirs. Guy was a career administrator with strong literary connections. He became a senior administrator in the Privy Seal Office and was at the end of his career the manager of the poet Thomas Hoccleve, referred to in his will as “my clerk” and to whom he bequeathed a book called The War of Troy. He was also associated with John Gower, who purchased two manors in East Anglia from Rouclif, and perhaps more generally as part of a “Langlandian reading circle”: J.A. Burrow, Thomas Hoccleve (Aldershot: Variorum, 1994), pp. 9–10; Kathryn Kerby-Fulton and Steven Justice, “Langlandian Reading Circles and the Civil Service in London and Dublin, 1380–1427,” in New Medieval Literatures, 1, ed. Wendy Scase, Rita Copeland, and David Lawton (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997), pp. 59–83, esp. pp. 64–5; TNA, Prob/11/1.Google Scholar
  13. 62.
    Sir Brian’s daughter, Ellen, married John de Ingleby who was associated with the founding of the Charterhouse of Mount Grace. Sir Brian’s wife’s identity is not recorded. The genealogical information here is largely derived from William Flower’s compilation of nearly two centuries later, but Lady Margery is not named in Flower’s genealogy of the Roclyff family: The Visitation of Yorkshire in the Years 1563 and 1564 made by William Flower, Esquire, ed. Charles Best Norcliffe, Harleian Society 91 (1881), pp. 265–6.Google Scholar
  14. 65.
    Cf. Rowena E. Archer, “‘How Ladies … Who Live on their Manors ought to Manage their Households and Estates’: Women as Landholders and Administrators in the Later Middle Ages,” in Woman is a Worthy Wight: Women in English Society c. 1200–1500, ed. P.J.P. Goldberg (Stroud: Alan Sutton, 1992), pp. 149–81.Google Scholar
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    Carole Rawcliffe, “The Great Lord as Peacekeeper: Arbitration by English Noblemen and their Councils in the Later Middle Ages,” in Law and Social Change in British History, ed. John A. Guy and H.G. Beale (London: Royal Historical Society, 1984), pp. 34–54.Google Scholar
  17. 68.
    Charles Clay, “The Family of Meaux,” Yorkshire Archaeological Journal 43 (1971): 99–111.Google Scholar

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© Jeremy Goldberg 2008

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  • Jeremy Goldberg

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