Alice Norman c. William Clerk

This is a case about the last will and testament of a woman, Maude Mig, who died of leprosy around 1487. She and her husband had been judicially separated at the time of her death. The grant of separation, which allowed them to live apart though they were still legally married, may have been due to the leprosy which would have prevented cohabitation. There is also evidence in the witness testimony below, however, that her husband had robbed her and “broken her head” as she lay on her deathbed in the leper house, so possibly the separation had been granted on the grounds of cruelty. The litigation in the Consistory, however, related to a different issue, Alice Norman’s claim that Maude Mig had bequeathed to her a gown. She sued William Clerk, whose identity is unclear, though he appears to have been Mig’s executor. The witness below, William Chaunt, was a notary public and ecclesiastical lawyer and also involved both in settling Mig’s affairs while she was still alive and in helping execute her will.

LMA MS DL/C/A/001/MS09065, fol. 19rv.

Testimony of William Chaunt, Witness for Defendant, 1487-06-26

Further on behalf of Norman c. Clerk[1]

26 June, in the place of the Consistory, by the lord Official

Master William Chaunt, notary public, proctor general of the court of Canterbury, where he has been proctor for thirty-five years or thereabouts, sixty-one years old and more, as he says. Inducted as a witness etc., he says that he has known Alice Norman for twenty years, William Clerk for eight years and more, and Maude Mig for two years before her death. To the first article, he says that following the custom of the kingdom of England, a married woman, first having obtained license from her husband, can make a testament concerning her own property. To the second, third, fourth, and fifth articles, he says that their contents are true, and he says that for a year or thereabouts before the death of the same Maude, by his advice she was committed to the leper house at Knightsbridge. To the sixth article, he says that a little while before she moved to Knightsbridge, the aforesaid William gave to Maude for her support a certain gown lined with fur, the colour of which however this witness does not recall. To the seventh and eighth articles, he says that many and repeated times both at the time of Eleanor’s [2] widowhood and after the nuptials and the separation of goods made by William Clerk, Maude both at Knightsbridge and elsewhere, in the presence of Alice Norman and many other people whom he does not recall, said that Alice Norman would have her fur-lined gown, as he believes with boshes [3], but its colour he does not know. But about a month or […] seven before Maude’s death, she was in the leper house on her sick bed, and said to this witness that her own husband had been with her and looked into her chests and took away her money and broke her head, and that at length they agreed together that William would have all her goods with the intention that he would bury her honestly in the church of the friars minor [4], and that this witness would give four nobles [5] to him to help with this which were then in the hands of a certain Peperam, a butcher, which this witness did. To the ninth article, he says that in the estimation of this witness, the said gown was worth thirty shillings. To the tenth article, he says that its contents are true. To the eleventh and twelfth articles, he says that Alice prosecuted the said William in the Consistory of London for that gown and this witness as his proctor and at his command defended him, and concerning any requisition or refusal he knows nothing. To the thirteenth article, he says that the things he deposed above are true, and that public voice and fame circulated and circulate concerning them in the city of London and at Knightsbridge, as he says.

[1] There had been some previous testimony in this case, as Chaunt’s testimony indicates, probably in the (now lost) previous volume of depositions.

[2] Unclear who Eleanor is; possibly Eleanor is a scribal error for Maude.

[3] MS: Bosshis; perhaps boss, an embossed design on the gown? (OED, s.v. boss, n.1).

[4] The Franciscans or Greyfriars.

[5] Noble: A coin (originally gold) valued at 6s. 8d (half a mark) (OED, s.v. noble B.2.a). This was presumably a debt that Peperam owed to Maude which Chaunt would collect in the settling of her estate.

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