Office c. Emma Hasill and Sir William Gavon

The examination of Emma Hasill, though brief, gives us a complex and sad story. A priest, Sir William Gavon, counselled Hasill to leave her husband; this was evidently more than simply pastoral advice, as she then moved into his “chamber” (his bedroom). Her admission that he “held” her is a euphemism for sex. The rest is self-explanatory, though it is relevant that a wife could not simply leave her husband: spouses were required to live together and sleep together. That obligation could be interrupted through the grant of a judicial separation (divorce a mensa et thoro, from table and bed) by the Consistory court, but Hasill could not just decide to part with her husband on her own.

This is an “office” case, where the judge of the Consistory, the bishop’s official, decides to pursue an issue, rather than receiving a lawsuit between two or more people as in most other Consistory business. What transpired following this examination is unknown: most likely, Hasill was told to go back and live with her husband and Gavon was transferred to another parish or diocese. This likely came to the official’s attention through information from parishioners or another priest; such behaviour on the part of priests was a delicate matter for a church court, to use another euphemism, and so it was not heard in this court intended for laypeople. If one were cynical one might say it allowed the bishop to sweep it under the rug.

GL MS 9065, fol. 50r

Testimony of Emma Hasill, Co-defendant, 15 Jan. 1489

15 January in the year [14]88

Emma Hasill, sworn to tell the truth and examined, says that before Lent this witness by advice of Sir William Gavon left her husband and after she left him, she was in Sir William Gavon’s chamber, and he held her throughout all of Lent. And afterwards, by means of her neighbours, she was reconciled with her husband and because after the reconciliation her husband was very cruel to her she left him and went to the city of Salisbury.

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