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5 - ‘She Hym Fresshely Folowed and Pursued’: Women and Star Chamber in Early Tudor Wales

from Part II - Encountering the Law

Deborah Youngs
Affiliation:
Swansea University
Bronach Kane
Affiliation:
Bath Spa University
Fiona Williamson
Affiliation:
National University of Malaysia
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Summary

In recent years a growing number of studies have explored the legal experiences of fifteenth- and sixteenth-century women. Drawing on a range of court records, reassessments have been made on women's knowledge of the law, their engagement with legal procedure and their agency in initiating petitions. In considering the varying opportunities offered by different jurisdictions, the material generated by the central law courts at Westminster – notably those of King's Bench, Common Pleas and Chancery – has proved particularly fruitful. Less well-explored for this purpose, however, has been the court of Star Chamber, perhaps because it is considered to have the smallest female participation rate. This is unfortunate, because the documentation produced by the court makes for vivid reading and is important not simply for the stories told, but, as Geoffrey Elton pointed out over half a century ago, because the reported voices belong to people ‘who would never ordinarily make the headlines’. The oversight is particularly unhelpful for late medieval Wales where local jurisdiction in the marcher lordships meant its inhabitants were excluded from the central common law courts of King's Bench and Common Pleas. It was the king's claim to offer justice to all his subjects and provide ‘common treatment’, which gave the Welsh access to prerogative courts such as Star Chamber.

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Publisher: Pickering & Chatto
First published in: 2014

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