Medieval Murder ~ Motive: Affairs of the Heart

Pen & Sword Books 2020

Chapter 5

CW: discussion of domestic violence and sexual assault

This chapter explores the motives of love/lust/jealousy, not only from the perspective of Lady Maud as the wife with one or more other lovers involved in the conspiracy to murder her husband, but from the perspective of the other figures in the drama.

It looks at theories of medieval marriage, monogamy and the practice of non-monogamy and extra-marital relationships, the attitudes and norms in practice of people in this period, and takes a few different ideas into consideration, including the ‘traditional’ theory of the scheming, adulterous wife posited by Sillem in the 1930s.

The traditional approach involves a love triangle between Lady Maud, the sheriff Sir Thomas Kydale, and her husband Sir William. Other scholars have assumed the armour-bearer Richard Gyse was also the young lover of Lady Maud, and that this was his motive for slaying his lord. This is predicated on several baseless assumptions: firstly, that of attraction – we have to presuppose that both Richard and Sir Thomas were attracted to Lady Maud and in love with her – but also that both of them were heterosexual to begin with.

Supposing that this was the case, note that when Lady Maud fled to Sir Ralph’s manor after the murder, she took both Richard and her maid Agatha with her. Agatha was the only other woman in the household, and it might be that Richard was not interested in Lady Maud but in Agatha. If Agatha had also come to the notice of Sir William, she had very little agency to resist his advances. That would be an equally plausible reason for her to hand over the key to the bedchamber and for the householders to stab him multiple times. Agatha had worked with six of the household servants before, all of whom were heavily implicated as a core group of conspirators in the indictments.

We will never know! But taking into account the historical context, the dynamics of a household and all possible permutations of those dynamics, what are your theories so far?

Buy the book to get a clearer picture of the situation and form your own ideas!

Buy the book: direct from the publisher in hardback or eBook format, or from Amazon [UK / US, etc] AppleKobo and other eBook retailers.

I have to recommend this book. It is an interesting, thorough exploration of a crime that should appeal to true crime buffs, those who enjoy a good medieval mystery and those who want to understand more about medieval life, especially the more grisly elements.

NetGalley Review

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