A husband and wife from Edmonton, Middlesex, testified in 1494 about a quarrel amongst women on the street outside their house. A physical altercation was followed by insulting words, and it was the words and their effect that were at issue here (as assaults were not in the Consistory court’s jurisdiction).
LMA, MS DL/C/A/001/MS09065, fols. 185rv
Deposition of John Horwode, 8 Feb. 1494
On behalf of Maude Bywel c. Elizabeth Jeld
8 February in the church of St. Paul by the lord.
John Horwode of the parish of Edmonton [Middlesex], London diocese, where he has lived for twelve years and more, illiterate, of free condition, forty-five years old or thereabouts, as he says. Sworn as a witness etc., he says that he has known Maude Bywell for sixteen years, Isabel* Jeld for two years. To the first, second, and third articles of the libel, he says that their contents are true. To the fourth and fifth articles of the libel, he says that on the feast of St. John the Evangelist [27 Dec.] in Christmas week last past, this witness, coming from mass at the parish church of Edmonton, saw in the king’s highway not far from his dwelling house Elizabeth* Jeld and a certain Alice Bayly arguing and fighting. And Elizabeth was stronger and was prevailing, and was holding her down on the ground ready, as it seemed to this witness, to strangle her. And as they were thus fighting Maude came along, who was godmother to both quarrelers, and she put her hand to separate them and to lift Alice off the ground. And then Elizabeth, Alice having left, became angry with Maude, and Maude said, “Remember that I was your godmother, don’t hit me.” Elizabeth responded, “I defy thee, strong whore, I am as able to hold thee by the head as thou me.” This witness testifies to these things from his own sight and hearing. To the sixth article, he says that he believes its contents are true, because through such words a person’s fame deteriorates more quickly than it improves. He says also that Maude’s husband often since the speaking of those words has reproached her because of the words, and turned the words often back against her in the hearing and knowledge of this witness. To the seventh article, he says that its contents are true as far as this witness ever knew or understood. To the eighth and ninth articles, he says that their contents are true. To the tenth article, he says that what he said above is true and that public voice and fame circulated and circulate about it in the parish of Edmonton and in other neighbouring places.
*Note that the names Isabel and Elizabeth were often interchanged in medieval records: they seem to have been regarded as different forms of the same name.
Deposition of Maude Horwode, 8 Feb. 1494
Maude Horwode, wife of John Horwode of Edmonton, where she has lived for thirteen years, of free condition, forty-two years old or thereabouts. Sworn as a witness etc., she says that she has known Maude Bywel for thirteen years, Isabel Jeld for a year. To the first, second, and third articles, she says that their contents are true. To the fourth and fifth articles, she agrees with her husband examined above, adding this, that at the time the words were spoken this witness was in her dwelling house and saw and heard the aforesaid things. To the sixth articles, she agrees with him, adding that the said William has treated his wife badly since the speaking of those words, and she has heard him saying to his wife, “Walk, art thou a strong whore, it shall be proved whether it be so or no before ever thou come more in my bed.” To the seventh, eighth, ninth, and tenth articles, she agrees with him.