Sara Margaret Butler deposited ABORTION MEDIEVAL STYLE? ASSAULTS ON PREGNANT WOMEN IN LATER MEDIEVAL ENGLAND in the group Legal history on Humanities Commons 2 years, 8 months ago
In the year 1304, Matilda Bonamy of Guernsey, a young woman from one of the Anglo-Norman island’smost established and affluent families, found herself in a predicament familiar to many of today’s youth. A liaison with Jordan Clouet, also from a family of long provenance in Guernsey if not as comfortable, had left her pregnant. To Matilda the solution to the problem was obvious: marriage. An exchange of vows before the birth of the child would avoid any stigma or legal impediment of bastardy. Clouet, however, was not compliant with her wishes. He steadfastly refused to marry her. Faced with the shameful prospect of single parenthood to an illegitimate child, Bonamy turned to the church in an effort to find support for her cause. Jordan’s obstinacy prevented the court from hearing the suit; he ignored repeated summonses to appear before the bishop. Given the church’s promarital stance, Jordan probably supposed the best strategy was non-appearance, in the hopes that the court could not conduct a proper case in his absence (Donahue 205). What he did not count on was being excommunicated. To offer Jordan added incentive to respond to the citation, the court awarded Matilda letters informing Jordan of his excommunication. When she met with Jordan to consider the matter, he was fuming, suddenly finding himself backed into a corner. Excommunication was a serious disability in fourteenth-century society: once announced, no good Christian might converse with him without risking excommunication themselves.