« ПредишнаНапред »
collected, from the monkish historians, some singular instances of the exercise of female rights in the Saxon times. In the charters of the Saxon kings, made in their parliaments, we find Abbesses often named as witnesses : in the charter of King Offa to the abbey of Croyland is subscribed, “ J. Ceolburgha, abbesse of Berdea, have assented.”. (Ingulphus, Hist. p. 854.) In the charter of King Edgar, to the same abbey, made in parliament also, among the subscriptions of the peers is, “ I, Merwenne, abbesse of Rumsey, have made the signe of the holy crosse."* The same author also says, that the charter of King Etelwulphe was made “ in the presence of, and with the subscriptions of, first, the archbishops, after them of the kings of Mercia and East Angles, and an infinite multitude of abbots, abbesses, dukes, &c., and other faithful people of the land.” The extirpation of Druidism and the Druidesses, and the introduction of Catholicism, does not, therefore, appear to have infringed on female rights. It is not necessary, however, here to note the frequent instances when the “ virtual” influence of the fair sex even governed Christendom itself: the successors of St. Peter were not always hermetically sealed against the little deity Cupid : the “ Pope's nephews” occasionally succeeded to the chair : the “ cardinal virtues” of the pontiffs were not always proof against Italian beauty ;, exemplo, a little volume, the 6. Life of Donna Olimpia Maldachini, who governed the church during the time of Innocent X. 12mo. 1667 ;" cum multis aliis. : We proceed to the detail of the privileges of women subsequent to the Norman conquest, and as influenced by the progressive and mixed introduction of the feudal system, under that and the succeeding dynasties, to the present gracious family, who enjoy their dignities and power, by female inheritance, through the last limitation of the crown by parliament, viz. Stat. 12 & 13 William III. c. 2., the act of settlement, limiting the crown on Sophia the youngest daughter of Elizabeth queen of Bohemia (the grand-daughter of James I.) and the heirs of her body, protestant members of the church of England.
By a retrospective survey of English history we might collect some amusing particulars, exhibiting the constant “ vir
comport herself, that no difference, save that of her sex, appeared in her actions." - * We take it for granted, from the use of this substitute in lieu of the sign manual, that the Lady Abbess of Rumsey was not a Blue stocking; and that the sign of the cross was the original of the vulgar signature which we still occasionally meet with in despite of adult schools, viz. “ her mark.”
tual influence" of women in almost every male-administration. It has been, time immemorial, an old English adage," when a man reigns a woman governs," and vice versa. Sometimes this influence exceeded all bounds: such was the case during the ascendancy of Alice Perrers, in the second infancy of Edward III. Daniel (p. 72.) asserts, that her assurance was so great, that she was accustomed to sit on the bench with the judges in Westminster Hall, when she happened to interest herself in a cause. We recollect, in Madox, an entry on the Exchequer rolls, of a fine for allowance of justice against her, but cannot turn to the reference. An instrument, in Rymer, entitled De nave vocata la Alice, (vol. iii. part iii. p. 47. 50th Edw. III.) records the power and attention she enjoyed. In Petyt's Theatrum Criminalium, (vol. jii. p. 188.) an interesting narrative is given of the whole proceedings in parliament against her, and also, a writ of Edward III., reciting that many women had been guilty of Maintenance in causes, and specially forbidding Alice Perrers from interfering in such matters, under pain of banishment. In the same collection of manuscripts, also, is inserted, the copy of a petition to Richard II., from Robert Pikerell, complaining that Alice Perrers had retained all the advocates in Westminster Hall, so that he could have no advice : si il ne donneroit si grande summedor, qu'il ne point attainder.'
It is impossible, within the limits of this article, to enter at any length on the feudal principle of inheritance and titular rank : some particulars respecting them have baffled the penetration of our most industrious antiquarians, and their origin and precise construction are subjects of diversified and contradictory opinion. The consequences of the Norman inroad are, however, notorious in the forfeiture of most of the landed property throughout England; and the subdivision of it among William's foreign chiefs, and the few surviving English who submitted to his dominion. The lands were thenceforth held in chief under the crown, in capite, subject to certain annual services; of fines in aid of the royal revenues, of civil administration in their respective local districts, and of military service in event of civil or foreign war, - On the failure of the male line, the rights and privileges of the females in the succession to, and enjoyiaent of all the feudal privileges were recognised and respected by the crown. The king, bowever, was invested with a despotic power over their disposal in marriage, both when single and widowed ; being interested, of course, for the due performance of the duties attached to their property and titles.
At the coronation of King Henry IV. Thomas Dymocke officiated as champion, in right of his mother Margaret. The office of a justice of the forest was anciently executed by a woman. Margaret, countess of Richmond, mother to King Henry VII., was a justice of the peace. Lady Bartlet was commissioned a justice of the peace by Queen Mary in Gloucester. And one Rowse, in Suffolk, did usually sit upon the bench, at assizes and sessions, among the justices, gladio cincta. (Hart. MS. No.980. 166.) Many interesting particulars of their manorial rights and succession are collected in Blount's Fragmenta Antiquitatis by Beckwith, and of the petit serjanties performed in the king's household, by finding him, and the queen, clothes and provisions ; by keeping and taking care of their laundresses, female servants, &c. Occasionally, grand serjeanties were performed by them at the coronation of the kings and queens of England and Scotland, in respect of baronies, lands, manors, and tenements. Ela, countess of Warwick, held the manor of Hoke Norton, Oxfordshire, of the king, in capite, by the serjeanty of carving before the king, on Christmas-day, and to have the knife with which she carved. (Pla. Coron. 13 Edward I. Rot. 30.) Lady Lora de Saundford held, in dower, the manor of Hornmede, Hertfordshire, by being chamberlain to the queen. (Pla. 7th Edward I. rot. 39.) The prioress of St. Leonard of Stratford, held fifty acres of land in Brambelegh, Middlesex, by the service of finding, for the king, a man to hold the towel at the coronation. (22 Edw. I.) Emma de Hamton, held of the king in the town of Niwenton, forty shillings of land, by the service of cutting out the linen clothes of the king and queen. (Testa de Nevil, p. 107.) Lady Hawis de London held the manor of Esegarston, of the king, in capite, by serjeanty, as part of Kidwelly, to conduct the vanguard of the king's army as often as he should go into Wales with one, and, in returning, to bring up the rear-guard. (1 Edward I. Harl. MS. No. 2087. p. 23.) This martial duty illustrates the third part of Henry VI., act. iii. sc. 3, where Queen Margaret bids Warwick teli Edward VI. :
“My mourning weeds are laid aside, And I am ready to put armour on.” On these occasions the female nobility clad themselves in coats of mail. Queens themselves have appeared in armour at the head of their armies; and the suit which Elizabeth is said to have worn, when she rode through the lines at Tilbury, may be still seen in the Tower. Dr. Meyrick must, however, be consulted on this point.
We have before stated, that the king had a despotic veto. over the matrimonial rights and feelings of the English female noblesse, to the great discomfiture of the widows and old maids who speculated in match-making. The releasing them from his inquisitorial and obnoxious prerogative constituted a con
siderable item in the fines paid to the royal Exchequer. The exercise of this power, therefore, by vicious and profligate kings, was limited by their necessities, which forced them to compound for the veto, in consideration of pecuniary recompence. We have no doubt that the purse of many a noble and tender heart paid dear for the liberty of contracting matrimony with the object of her passionate love ; and the instances of disappointed love from the immoveable opposition of the monarch, have originated many a melancholy Old English ballad and early romance, “ founded in fact.” Madox, in his invaluable history of the Exchequer, has preserved numerous examples of these fines. Celestia, widow of Richard son of Colbern, paid £40 sterl. that she might have her children in wardship, with their land; and that she might not be married except to her own good-liking : “ pro habenda custodia filiorum suorum cum terra eorum, nec nubat nisi cui voluerit.” (Mag. Rot. 32 Henry II. Rot. 13.) These pecuniary licenses were of various kinds to both sexes, tenants in capite, for liberty to marry; to remain single a certain time ; or that they might not be compelled to marry at all. Gilbert de Maisnil gave X marks of silver that the king would give himn leave to take a wife--" Ut rex concederet ei ducere uxorem.” (May. Rot. 5 Stephen.) Walter de Cancy gave £15 for leave to marry when and whom he pleased, -"Ut ducat uxorem ad velle suum.” (Ib. Rot. 3.) Lucia, countess of Chester, gave D marks of silver that she might not be married within five years," Ne capiat virum infra V. annos.” (16. Rot. 10.) Maud, countess of Warwick, (31 Henry II.) “ DCC. marcas, pro habenda terra patris sui, et dote sua, et ut non nubat cui voluerit.” Geoffrey de Mandevill, (Mag. Rot. 2 Henry III.) gave twenty thousand marks that he might have to wife, Isabell, countess of Gloucester, with all her lands and knight's fees. Ralph Fitz-william, 10 Edward I., gave 100 marks that he might marry Margery, widow of Nicholas Corbet, who held of the king in chief, and that Margery might be married to him—“quod possit ducere in uxorem Margeriam et quod eadem Margeria possit se maritare eidem.” Sometimes the royal authority appears to have been delegated ; for instance, Bartholomew de Muleton gave C marks to have the custody of the land and heir of Lambert de Ybetoft, and that he might marry Lambert's wife to whom he pleased—“ Bartholomæus de Muleton rc de C marcis, pro habenda custodia terræ et hæredis Lamberti de Ybetoft, et pro uxore ipsius Lamberti maritanda cui voluerit in loco ubi non sit disparagiata, et ut possit illam conferre cui voluerit.” (Mag. Rot. 4 John. Rot. 16. b. Lincollsira. tit. Nova Oblata.) . Nor does it appear that the king could be defrauded of these his feudal rights with impunity. By an entry on the exchequer roll, 31 Henry II. Rot. 5., we find Adam, son of Norman, fined in xviij l. and odd, for marrying his daughter to William de Leelay's son; and William de Leelay, in xxij s. and viij.d., for the same. In the same year, also, (Rot. 3.) William de Beaumont was fined in L mark's for marrying Maurice de Barsham's daughter, contrary to his agreement made for marrying the daughter of Ranulf de Gedding : and Maurice de Barsham in C marks, for giving his daughter to the said William, contrary to the said agreement. There is an entry of the amercement of Alice Bertram, for not coming at the king's summons to be married" quia non venit ad summonitionem Regis ad se maritandam.” (Mag. Rot. 1 John. Rot. 10.) By some entries it would appear that clandestine marriages frequently occurred, by the elopement of our female ancestors with more favoured swains than those proposed to them by the Crown. We apprehend some nearer spot than Gretna Green must have been sought by the fugitive lovers of former days; for whatever might be the mental spirit, certainly their physical prowess could never have been equal to a journey so far northwards, day and night, on a single horse and pillion.
The wardship of orphan heirs appears also to have been delegated, as at present, by the chancellor. Thus Philip FitzRobert gave ccl. and c. bacons, and c. cheeses, for the wardship of the land, and heir, of Ivo de Munby, till the heir attained age, with the reservation, however, of the approval of his marriage by the king and archbishop of Canterbury. (Mag. Rot. 1 John, Rot. 11.)
In Madou's Exchequer, vol. i. chap. 15, is a very interesting chapter, of the royal revenue arising by aids; and a detailed enumeration of the various levies of the aid pur fille marier, for the marriage of the king's eldest daughter: a minute account is given of the levies for the marriage of Maud, daughter of Henry II., with the duke of Saxony. This aid was one mark per fee. It was paid by the several barons and knights holding in capite, according to the number of their respective fees. It was also assessed and paid to the king, on this occasion, by the towns and manors, or lands, which he held in demesne, and was assessed by the Justiciers Itinerant, or subject to their approbation. So also the bishops, abbots, and abbesses rendered aid for the fees belonging to their bishopricks and abbeys. Henry III, anno 5, had an aid to marry his sister Isabel to the Emperor. It was two marks out of every knight's fee; and was granted to him by the Commune Concilium Regni. The payment made to this aid by the prelates and abbesses was called auxilium prælatorum, and was entered in a roll by itself. The same king had an aid to marry his eldest daughter: it was raised out of the baronies and knights' fees holden in capite, by authority
VOL. X. PART I.