Alice Through the Looking Glass

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


The chapters thus far have focused on the relationships between witnesses and the relationship between witnesses and the testimony they proffer. As such the principal parties in this case have many times been observed, but always through the report of others. This, of course, is a product of the way such cases were conducted within the Church courts, but it need not preclude our attempting to read this evidence from a rather different perspective and to attempt to understand something of the thoughts and feelings of the parties themselves. In the present chapter, I shall attempt to do precisely this in respect of Alice de Rouclif.


Present Chapter White Wedding Public Ceremony Ecclesiastical Court Child Bride 
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    Cf. Ruth Mazo Karras, Sexuality in Medieval Europe: Doing unto Others (New York: Routledge, 2005), p. 154.Google Scholar
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    Modern legal definitions of rape tend to require that the woman experience penetrative sex without her consent as a consequence of force or threat or because the woman is incapable of giving consent. Sexual intercourse with children below the age of consent is often regarded as statutory rape. The English Sexual Offences Act, 2003, defines rape more simply as any act of sexual intercourse where the woman does not consent. This accords with current feminist thinking and is also the definition used here: The Scottish Parliament, The Legal Definition of Rape, Research Note RN 01/46 (Edinburgh, 2001), p. 5. English medieval legal conceptions of rape unsurprisingly stress force or violence, though Kim Phillips has argued that around the mid-thirteenth century, legal rape narratives tended to highlight the loss of virginity rather than violence whereas later medieval rape law tended to conflate rape and abduction: Kim M. Phillips, “Written on the Body: Reading Rape from the Twelfth to Fifteenth Centuries,” in Medieval Women and the Law, ed. Noel James Menuge (Woodbridge: Boydell, 2000), pp. 125–44. Medieval notions of rape are thus far removed from both the contemporary legal and feminist understandings. Indeed, ironically, medieval law would probably have considered Alice’s abduction by Sir Brian de Rouclif more akin to rape than Alice’s sexual initiation by John Marrays. Consequently, I do not feel it is either helpful or appropriate to apply later-fourteenth-century legal notions of rape in order to try an understand Alice’s experience.Google Scholar
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    Cf. Helen Cooper, “Good Advice on Leaving Home in the Romances,” in Youth in the Middle Ages, ed. P.J.P. Goldberg and Felicity Riddy (York: York Medieval Press, 2004), pp. 101–21.Google Scholar
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    Cf. Karen Sullivan, The Interrogation of Joan of Arc (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1999), pp. 12–15.Google Scholar
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© Jeremy Goldberg 2008

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  • Jeremy Goldberg

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