The trials of Alice Perrers

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Abstract

Alice Perrers is one of the best-known political figures in the history of later medieval England. Emerging from obscurity in the 1360s to become the mistress of King Edward III and mother to his illegitimate children, Alice used her position at court to develop a very significant portfolio of real estate across the English shires and facilitated the king's dealings with the group of influential London merchant capitalists who underwrote the English war effort in the 1370s. In 1376 Alice was openly criticized in the Good Parliament, and the ailing Edward was forced to banish her from his presence. She was soon back at the king's side, however, being pardoned in October 1376, and was much in evidence at court through Edward's last months. After the old king's death in June 1377, Alice was quickly identified as a political target and was put on trial in December at the first parliament of Richard II. Condemned, exiled from the realm, and declared forfeit of all her property, Alice faced a bleak future. But a year later, at the parliament of October 1378, Sir William Windsor, Edward III's former lieutenant of Ireland, declared that he and Alice had been married at the time of her trial in 1377 and that she ought not to have been put to judgment as an independent woman. Thus began a long process of rehabilitation that involved, in 1379, a pardon for her having failed to leave the kingdom and, in 1380, the restoration to her husband of most of the former Ferrers estates. After Windsor's death in 1384, Alice became locked in protracted and acrimonious litigation over the appropriation of some of her lands to a trust set up by William for his nephew, John. Alice spent most of the last part of her life on her remaining estates in the Home Counties and died in the winter of 1400–1401, being buried at Upminster in Middlesex.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)366-396
Number of pages31
JournalSpeculum
Volume83
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2008

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