Philobiblon: Keeping up with the 15th century

Friday, December 03, 2004

Keeping up with the 15th century

Proving there is nothing new about keeping up with the Joneses ...

A letter from Margaret Walkerne to her stepfather, Robert Armburgh, c. 1430:

My dear and well beloved father, I commend me to you, doing you to wit that I have but a little while to go and am like within a short time with the grace of God to be delivered of child.

And for as much as ladies and gentlewomen and other friends of my mother's and mine are like to visit me while I lie in child bed and I am not purveyed of honest bedding without the which my husband's honest [honour?] and mine may not be saved, and also my friends have been put to so grievous costs and importable changes through entangling of their adversaries, and my husband is new come into his lands and is but bare and as yet hath little profit taken thereof and hath laid great cost on his husbandry that they may not acquit your good fatherhood that you would vouchsafe in saving of mine husband's worship and mine to lend me two marks [13s 4d] or twenty shillings unto the next term [rent[ day that my husband's farm comes in, and then with the grace of God you shall be well and truly paid again. I can no more at this time.

(You can take a breath now - they weren't big on full stops then.)

From Letters of Medieval Women, A. Crawford (ed) Sutton, 2002, Thrupp, p. 39-40.

The commentary says it is not known if her stepfather was able to oblige, since "he and her mother were in serious financial difficulties over a legal case and the expense of Margaret's wedding, so she may have had to put a brave face on it and receive her visitors with what she had".

For those not up on these times it is worth noting that clothing (and bedding) then was very expensive, particularly the fine stuff Margaret obviously wants.

Much more could probably be found in The Armburgh Papers: The Brokholes Inheritance in Warwickshire, Hertfordshire and Essex, c.1417-c.1453, Woodbridge, 1998.


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