This is a rural Essex case of lovers pledging their love over a fruit tart eaten in a field – until a father’s hostility split them up. In 1489, Robert Philipson sued Joan Corney to enforce a marriage contract he claimed they had made. Corney, when examined, said that she had agreed to marry him only if she could get the consent of her parents and her employer; though Philipson did not appear, the testimony indicates that he claimed they had contracted marriage unconditionally and that Corney had only backed out when her father’s hostility became clear. One witness said that banns were read in their parish church twice: Joan Corney heard them both times but only objected at the second reading, forced by her father to repudiate the contract.
LMA, MS DL/C/A/001/MS09065, fols. 52r-53r.
Testimony of Joan Corney, Defendant, 7 Feb. 1489
In the year etc. 88, seventh indiction
Responses personally made by Joan Corney, 7 February, before Master Thomas Ian, Official, [in] his [house], in my, Spencer’s, presence
Joan Corney, sworn etc. on the positions, etc. To the first and second articles, she says that within a month before last Christmas and many other times, Robert Philipson in the fields of Rayleigh [Essex] asked this witness whether she would or could find in her heart to love him for the sake of having him for her husband, and she said yes, if she could obtain the consent of her parents and John Pyke, her master. And she does not believe its other contents. To the third article, she says that she received the tokens for the sake of having him as her husband if she could obtain her parents’ and master’s consent and not otherwise. To the fourth article, she says that she does not believe its contents. To the fifth article, she does not believe its contents. To the sixth article, she believes what is believed and denies what is denied and she does not believe the fame.
Testimony of Thomas Ann, 6 Mar. 1489
On behalf of Robert Philipson c. Joan Corney
6 March in the house of the lord Official, by Ian, in my, Richard Spencer’s, presence
Thomas Ann of Rayleigh [Essex], London diocese, where he has lived and was born, illiterate, of free condition, fifty years old and more as he says. Inducted as a witness etc. on the libel etc., he says that he has known Robert Philipson for two years, and Joan Corney for three years. To the first and second articles of the libel, he says that on a certain day within a fortnight after the feast of the Epiphany [6 Jan.] last past, Robert and Joan were standing near a fence in a field called Coxlond in the parish of Rayleigh, talking and eating together a certain flan1, and as they were standing there and talking, this witness, intending to go to the mill in that field, crossed near by them. And there, standing about the distance of two cartways wide from the parties, he heard Joan say to Robert, “Robert, while it is so forward as it is between us, I pray you let us be wedded, for I shall have much anger specially with my dame.” And he said, “By my faith Joan, I will wed you fortnight afore Whitsundtide2 next or a fortnight after.” Joan told this witness that she received from Robert the gifts and a pair of items for the feet, in English socks, and this witness saw when Joan offered Robert the 30d., a ring, and a pair of gloves in the field of that town. And he refused to accept them. To the fourth article, he says that its contents are true by this witness’s knowledge, because in the town of Rayleigh and other places Robert and Joan were reputed as betrothed to one another. To the fifth article, he knows nothing concerning its contents. To the sixth article, he says that what he said above is true and that public voice and fame in the town circulated and circulates that Robert and Joan contracted marriage together, as he says.
Testimony of John Ward, 6 Mar. 1489
John Ward of the Rayleigh aforesaid, where he has lived for twenty years and there was born, illiterate, of free condition, forty-eight years old, as he says. Inducted as a witness etc., he says that he has known Robert Philipson for four or five years, and Joan Corney for a year and more. To the first and second articles, he says that he knows nothing concerning their contents, except that he says that in Christmas week last past Joan said to this witness that she had never loved any man better or as well as she loved Robert. To the third and fourth articles, she says that on a certain Wednesday a little before the feast of Christmas, he was present in the house of John Pike of Rayleigh, together with John Pike, John Corney the father of Joan, and Joan, when and where Joan, asked by John Corney whether she had contracted marriage with Robert Philipson, said first to him thus, “In faith I have made him a promise, thou has made no such bargain I trow, but I know of it, I ought to know of it.” And in the meantime Robert came along, and in his [this witness’s] presence Joan said to Robert, “I made you promise but on my father’s good will,” Robert asserting the contrary. And he says that John Corney since last coming back from London said to this witness, “I love not the law, I will not let them.” And afterwards banns were issued between them, at Rayleigh one day, Joan being present and not at all contradicting them, and a second time Joan objected to them as it was commonly said in the parish, by means and instigation of her father. To the fifth article, he says that on that Wednesday at the time of the discussion Joan showed 30 d. in gold, one pair of gloves, and a silver ring, which she admitted then that she had received from Robert, and a silken lace, and she offered them to Robert who refused to accept them. And then John said, “Robert, if ye will take them again it shall never be the worse for you.” To the fifth [sic] and sixth articles, he agrees with the first witness examined above.
1. A fruit tart. Although the OED oddly does not record its use in English before the 19th c. [s.v. flan, n5], and the word does not occur in the MED, the Yorkshire town of Beverley had a guild of pie-, pastry-, and flan-bakers in the fifteenth century (VCH York East Riding, 6:43.
2. Whitsuntide or Pentecost was celebrated the Sunday, Monday and Tuesday seven weeks after Easter, in 1489 falling 7-9 June.