Published online by Cambridge University Press: 11 December 2020
Dates appear in the Old Style, but the year is assumed to have begun on 1 January rather than on 25 March. For money, I have used the pre-decimal form in effect until 1971: 20 shillings equaled one pound; 12 pence equaled one shilling. A mark, which was a money of account and not a coin, was worth 13 shillings and 4 pence. Spelling and punctuation have been modernized, except in the case of personal proper names in epitaphs and on tablets and similar objects.
At a time when a laborer in the building trade earned less than £4 a year and a master mason less than £8, the minimum landed income of a nobleman was £1,000 a year and that of an average knight £200-£400 a year. These figures give some idea of the relative wealth of the aristocracy.
Throughout the book, I have called aristocratic women by the titles that they and their contemporaries used. In the case of noblewomen, they were known by their husbands’ titles. Knights’ wives were called ‘Lady’ during their husbands’ lifetimes, a title that lapsed when their husbands died, because a knighthood was not hereditary. As widows, they were addressed using the honorific title ‘Dame’. These are the usages in the women's wills, the only sources in which the great majority of them ever referred to themselves by name. The dates in parentheses after women's and men's names are either the year they died or the year they wrote their wills.
Legal terms, religious terms, terms referring to items of clothing and textiles, and other obscure terms are explained in the glossary.
The books and articles in the footnotes are listed in abbreviated form; the full details are available in the bibliography.