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This chapter tells the story of the witch hunts arrival in Little Oakley and Beaumont cum Moze, and reconstructs the life of the sole suspect there, Annis Herd. Using parish and manorial court records, and the records of the archdeaconry court, it shows how Annis interacted with the churchwardens of several parishes, her inter-related neighbours and the Beaumont Rector, Richard Harrison, leading to her accusation.
The chapter concentrates on two late medieval archives. The first preserves “act-books” or logs of daily court activity and annual fiscal information from the archdeaconry of Xanten on the Lower Rhine. The second keeps registers of sentences and the dossiers of complete suits or “cause papers” assembled by the bishop’s tribunal of Basel in Switzerland. Their examination establishes what Christians from both regions expected canonical adjudication to deliver in disputes over the validity of marriages. The ordinary judges of Basel and Xanten were heavily involved in inquests that did not exceed preliminaries from a legal standpoint. Decisions emanating from their activities found with greatest frequency that a supposed spousal union failed to rise to the level of lawful proof. Many of the defeated plaintiffs at Xanten were ready to take advantage of the outcome by bringing another suit in the same venue. Women who lost their claim to a spouse often returned to sue the winner for alimony, bridal money, or to compensate for the loss of their virginity.
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