This case has a dramatic allegation. It starts with an ordinary path to marriage: Ann Munden made a contract of marriage with Thomas Lak in early January 1482 and then banns were read in church on three successive Sundays prior to the planned solemnization of the marriage. But then a man named Richard Bulle came to Munden’s house with some other men and violently abducted her and forced her to marry him secretly before a friar in Hertford. For some reason Munden lived with Bulle as his wife for two years – but then another two years down the road she and Lak decided to try to take up where they had left off with this suit to have their original marriage recognized. Munden is technically the defendant here, but she was not contesting the suit.
This case refers to an obscure monastic order, the Trinitarian order of friars or more formally the Order of the Holy Trinity and the Redemption of Captives, and their habit was white. Little is known of the state of the Trinitarian chapel in Hertford at this time, but this indicates that there was at least one friar there. See VCH Hertfordshire, 4:452-53, at British History Online; Knowles and Hadcock, Medieval Religious Houses, England and Wales, 205-6.
LMA, MS DL/C/A/001/MS09065, fols 15r, 17rv
Testimony of Ann Munden, Defendant, 1486-11-28
Responses personally made by Ann Munden, 28 November
Ann Munden, sworn etc. concerning the positions, etc. To the first and second positions, she admits them and that their contents are true. And she says that on the vigil of Epiphany [5 Jan.] four years ago, she and Lak contracted marriage in the home of William Byrd of Ware, around three and four o’clock in the afternoon, in the presence of William Byrd, Sir John Braghing, and Richard Smyth, Lak saying, “I Thomas take thee Annie to my wife,” and this witness saying, “I take thee to my husband.” And marriage banns were issued three times between them in the church of Ware, in the presence of Richard Bulle. To the third position, she admits that its contents are true. To the fourth position, she says that on Wednesday before the feast of the Purification of the blessed Mary [2 Feb.] four years ago, this deponent was compelled to be married to Richard Bulle in the chapel of the Holy Trinity near Hertford. And she says that about thirteen days before this day, the aforesaid Richard Bulle and Carl Newell violently apprehended her and kept her in their custody against her will in Carl’s house and elsewhere up to the day of the aforesaid solemnization. And afterwards they lived together as man and wife in this witness’s house in the parish of Ware for two years or thereabouts, as she says.
Testimony of William Byrd, Witness for the plaintiff, 1487-05-04, MS DL/C/A/001/MS09065, fol. 17rv
4 May in the house of the Lord Official, by him, in my, Spencer’s, presence, in the afternoon
On behalf of Thomas Lak c. Ann Munden
William Byrd of Ware, in the diocese of London, where he has lived for thirty years, illiterate, of free condition, fifty-six years old, as he says. Inducted as a witness etc., he says he has known Thomas Lak for sixteen years and Ann Munden for forty years and more. To the first and second articles, he says that on the eve of the feast of the Epiphany of the Lord [5 Jan.] five years ago, this witness was present in his own dwelling-house in the aforesaid Ware, that is in a certain lower parlor of that house, together with Thomas Lak, Ann Munden, Richard Smyth, and M[aster?] Brawghing, whose forename he does not know, and none others. Then and there, after discussion between them about contracting marriage, Thomas took Ann by the right hand and said to her thus, “Ann, if ye be as clear a woman as I am a man, I take you to my wife, and thereto I plight you my troth.” Ann responded to him immediately, “If ye be as clear a man as I am a woman, I take you to my husband and thereto I plight you my troth.” They unclasped their hands and kissed each other. Afterwards, marriage banns between them were issued three times in the church of Ware. On the third reading, a certain Richard Bulle cried out against the issue of such banns. This witness deposes these things from his own sight and hearing, as he says. To the third article, he says that it contains in it the truth from his own knowledge. To the fourth article, he says that after the contract, that is on a certain day four or five days before the feast of the Purification of the blessed Virgin Mary [2 Feb.] five years ago, the witness was present in the chapel of the Holy Trinity near the village of Hertford, where and when a White Friar of the order of the Redemption of Captives solemnized matrimony between Richard Bulle and Ann, no banns being read between them beforehand in their parish church as far as this witness knew or heard. There were present there together with the witness William Brond, the contracting couple, Thomas Fox, a certain man named Spinke, and another named Turtyll, together with others. The witness was present there at the solemnization of marriage out of fear of Richard Bulle’s master, who was at that time bailiff of Ware. And he says that after the aforesaid solemnization, Richard and Ann cohabited in the parish of Ware as man and wife for two years or thereabouts, as he says. To the fifth article, he says that the things he said above are true, and public voice and fame circulated and circulate concerning them in the town of Ware and other neighbouring places.
Testimony of Richard Smyth, Witness for the Plaintiff, 1487-05-04, MS DL/C/A/001/MS09065, fol. 17v
Richard Smyth of the parish of Ware, where he has lived for fifteen years or thereabouts, illiterate, of free condition, forty-six years old or thereabouts as he says. Inducted as a witness etc., he says that he has known Lak for fifteen years, and Ann Munden for the same time. To the first, second, and third articles of the libel, he agrees with William Byrd examined above. To the fourth article, he says that on a certain day after the contract, the aforesaid Ann, in the dwelling-house of this witness, told this witness that a certain Richard Bulle, whom she said she had never seen before, wanted to marry her against her will by force and fear, and that, because of fear of death, she did not dare resist him. He says that afterwards Richard, with his accomplices, abducted her from the town of Ware and had marriage solemnized between him and Ann in a certain chapel of the Holy Trinity near Hertford, as this witness had heard said, banns not having been issued between them. And moreover he says that after this solemnization, Richard and Ann cohabited in the parish as man and wife for two years or thereabouts, as he [says]. To the fifth article, he says that the things said by him above are true, and public voice and fame circulated and circulate concerning them in the parish and in other neighbouring places, as he says.
Testimony of William Brond, Witness for the Plaintiff, 1487-05-12, MS DL/C/A/001/MS09065, fol. 17v
12 May before Master Myllet, commissary, in his home.
William Brond of Ware, where he has lived since his birth, illiterate, of free condition, almost sixty years old, as he says. Inducted as a witness etc., he says that he has known Ann Munden and Lake and Bulle for six or seven years. Questioned further, he says that on a certain day in winter three or four years ago, he was present in the chapel of the Holy Trinity near Hertford, where and when a certain friar John [of the order] of the Redemption of Captives  solemnized marriage between Richard Bulle and Ann Munden, and afterwards they lived together as man and wife in the parish of Ware for two years or thereabouts. Present there were Thomas Fox, Thomas Mersch, John Hasteler, John Spinke. And he heard that Richard Lak had previously contracted marriage with Ann and that banns had been issued between them, and concerning the foregoing public voice and fame circulated.
Testimony of Thomas Fox, Witness for the Plaintiff, 1487-05-12, MS DL/C/A/001/MS09065, fol. 17v
Thomas Fox of Ware, where he has lived for sixty years and where he was born, seventy-two years old, illiterate, of free condition. He says he has known Ann Munden for twenty years, and Bulle for six or seven years, and Lak for twelve years. Questioned further, he agrees with the other, although he is uncertain that he heard banns issued between Lak and Ann, although he believes they were, and that the marriage was solemnized about four years ago.
How to cite this page (Chicago/Turabian): “Thomas Lak c. Ann Munden,” ed. and trans. Shannon McSheffrey, Consistory: Testimony in a Late Medieval Church Court, 2022 <https://consistory.org/2022/03/04/lak-c-munden/>.