According to the witnesses in this case, Katherine Williamson married two men in quick succession in 1482 and early 1483. This case is likely a suit to annul the second marriage rather than to enforce it: the headings indicate that Thomas Walker was the plaintiff, but the first three witnesses, apparently called on his behalf, testify that Williamson had married a man named John Hill in Stepney four months before she married Walker in the priory church of St Bartholomew in London. That first marriage – properly contracted according to the testimony – would take precedence. The first husband, John Hill, does not appear to be a party to the litigation: one wonders if he had to take up again with a wife who had been gone for seven years or if he was out of the picture.
LMA, MS DL/C/A/001/MS09065, fols. 77r-78r
Testimony of Alexander Chambir, 26 Nov. 1490
On behalf of Thomas Walker c. Katherine Williamson alias Walker
Thursday, 26 November, in the house of the lord Official, in my, Richard Spencer’s, presence
Alexander Chambir, of the parish of All Hallows Staining in Mart lane, London, where he has lived for half a year, and before that time in St. Clement’s lane for a year, illiterate, of free condition, thirty-six years old, as he says. Inducted as a witness etc., he says that he does not know Thomas Walker, he first knew Katherine Williamson on the day about which he will depose below, and he has known John Hill for twelve years. Questioned further on the contents of the libel, he says that around the feast of St. Michael the Archangel before the death of lord Edward, recently king of England [i.e. about 29 Sept. 1482], and within a fortnight either before or after the said feast, which day he cannot further specify, he was present in the dwelling-house that at that time belonged to Master Cliff in the parish of Stepney [Essex], that is, in a certain parlour of the house. There and then John took Katherine by her right hand and said to her, “I John Hill take Katherine to my wife, and thereto I plight thee my troth.” And Katherine took him by the hand and said to him, “I Katherine take thee John to my husband, and thereto I plight thee my troth.” Questioned about how he happened to be present there, he said that John Hill, this witness, and others were walking about the fields practising archery, and having finished went into the said house to drink. And John, as it appeared, was well known there, and after a discussion in the parlour, this witness was called into the parlour, and there he heard the aforesaid. There were present there the two people making the contract, Master Cliff, his wife, a certain man named Griffyn, and others that he does not now recall. And he has nothing to depose concerning the other contents of the libel.
Testimony of Griffith Lewes, 26 Nov. 1490
Griffith Lewes of the parish of St. Mary Staining, London, where he has lived for two years, illiterate, of free condition, thirty-six years old as he says. Inducted as a witness etc., he says that he has known Thomas Walker for a quarter part of a year, Katherine Williamson
for eight years and more for half a year before the death of King Edward IV1 and more, and John Hill he first knew the day about which he will depose below. Questioned further, he says that as for the marriage contract between John Hill and Katherine Walker, he agrees with the first witness, adding that the contract was made in the said parlour on the Sunday before the feast of St. Michael about which the first witness testified [22 Sept. 1482]. There were present at the contract the contracting parties, the landlord and landlady of the house, the said Alexander Chambir, and others.
Testimony of Margaret Cliff, 26 Nov. 1490
Margaret Cliff of Stepney, widow, recently wife of Richard Clyff of the parish of All Hallows Thames Street in the city of London, where she has lived for three years, and in Westminster for three years, and before that at Stepney for six years and more, of free condition, fifty-four years old, as she says. Inducted as a witness etc., she says that she [?does not] know Thomas Walker, and has known John Hill for eight or nine years and Katherine Williamson for almost nine years. Questioned further, she agrees with the first witness. And she says that there were present there this witness, her husband Richard Cliff, George Lewes, Alexander Chambir, and others whom she does not now recall.
Testimony of Sir William Tailour, 29 Nov. 1490
Penultimate day of November, in the house of the Official, in my, Richard Spencer’s, presence.
Sir William Tailour, canon regular of the house of St. Bartholomew,2 where he has been professed for twenty years, of free condition, thirty years old or thereabouts, as he says. Inducted as a witness etc., he says that he has known Katherine Williamson and John* Walker since the day of the solemnization about which he will depose below. Questioned further, he says that about seven or eight years ago, after Christmas and as he recalls on the feast of St. Paul [25 Jan.] this witness was present in the chapel of the infirmary of the priory of St. Bartholomew, where and when, as he recalls, Guy, then subprior and now prior of the priory,3 solemnized marriage between John* and Katherine, and although he did not hear the words of contract spoken between them, he was present at the mass and saw them, in the custom of those contracting in solemnization, genuflecting at the mass before the altar. And otherwise he has nothing to depose concerning the contents of the libel, except that he says that he does not know whether banns were issued between them or not, but he says that the mass was celebrated at about eight o clock.
[*Both this witness and the next referred to Walker as “John,” presumably an error on their part or the scribe’s.]
Testimony of John Cruse, 29 Nov. 1490
John Cruse, clerk of the priory of St. Bartholomew, where he has lived for sixteen years, literate, of free condition, fifty-six years old as he says. Inducted as a witness etc., he says that he knew John* Walker and Katherine Williamson for a quarter of a year before the day about which he will depose below. Questioned further, he says that on a certain day around the feast of the conversion of St. Paul seven years ago [25 Jan. 1483], he was present in the chapel of the infirmary about eight o’clock, when and where either Sir Guy then subprior, now prior, or a certain Sir John Parson, a canon regular of the priory, solemnized marriage between them, and celebrated a nuptial mass between them. They genuflected before the altar in the custom of the groom and bride. This witness was present at the mass until the end, and he ministered as clerk before them as befits his office. And otherwise he has nothing to depose concerning the contents of the libel.
[*Both this witness and the previous referred to Walker as “John,” presumably an error on their part or the scribe’s.]
Testimony of Joan Ussher, 29 Nov. 1490
Joan Ussher, living within the precinct of the priory of St. Bartholomew, London, where she has lived for thirty-eight years, of free condition, fifty-six years old as she says. Inducted as a witness etc., she says that she has known Thomas Walker for sixteen years, Katherine Walker alias Williamson for nine years. Further she says that on the feast of the conversion of St. Paul after the feast of Christmas seven years ago [25 Jan. 1483], this witness was present about seven o’clock in the morning in the chapel of the infirmary, where and when before Sir Guy then subprior, now prior of the priory, the parties contracted marriage together by these words, “I Thomas take thee Katherine to my wife, and thereto I plight thee my troth.” And in return Katherine said, “I Katherine take you Thomas to my husband, and thereto I plight you my troth.” And this witness was present in the nuptial mass from the beginning until the end, and after the mass was solemnized, they lived together as man and wife in this witness’s house, and they lay together in the same bed, for seven weeks or thereabouts, and as such they were said, taken, and reputed. And otherwise not.
1. Edward IV died 9 April 1483.
3. William Guy, who became prior of St. Bartholomew’s 4 June 1484 (see link above).