Feminae: Medieval Women and Gender Index


  • Record Number: 7153
  • Author(s)/Creator(s): Kelly , Henry Ansgar.
  • Contributor(s):
  • Title: Statutes of Rapes and Alleged Ravishers of Wives: A Context for the Charges Against Thomas Malory, Knight
  • Source: Viator 28, ( 1997): Pages 361 - 419. Later published in Inquisitions and Other Trial Procedures in the Medieval West. Ashgate Variorum, 2001
  • Description:
  • Article Type: Journal Article
  • Subject (See Also): Crime and Criminals Kidnapping Law Malory, Sir Thomas, Author Rape Wives
  • Geographic Area: British Isles
  • Century: 13- 14- 15
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  • Abstract: Rape (Latin "raptus") in the Middle Ages signified not only the sexual violation of women but also abduction, chiefly the abduction of wards, male as well as female, and the abduction of married women. The latter kind of abduction has been little studied, but it provides a key to the meaning of many of the statutes dealing with rape, notably those of Westminster I (1275), Westminster II (1285), and 6 Richard II (1382): they were not intended to modify the criminal prosecution of sexual rape but were rather aimed at charges of kidnapping, especially of wives. In actual cases, the abduction charge, with or without allegations of sexual violation, often turns out to be a fiction used by an ex-husband to gain compensation for losing his wife through annulment of the marriage or her voluntary departure. The defendant is sometimes the current husband of the woman, as in the case of Ralph Percy (Henry Hotspur's brother) in 1384 and the case investigated by Geoffrey Chaucer in 1387. When Thomas Malory was accused of felonious rape in 1451, the statutory language used by the alleged husband amounted to an admission that his wife had consented to the abduction. [Reproduced by permission of Brepols Publishers.]
  • Author's Affiliation: University of California, Los Angeles
  • Conference Info: - , -
  • Year of Publication: 1997.
  • Language: English
  • ISSN/ISBN: 00835897
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