Rape in Medieval England: A Legal History, 1272-1307 Open Access

Brown, Stephanie (2009)

Permanent URL: https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/1544bp37v?locale=en
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Abstract


Abstract
Rape in Medieval England: A Legal History, 1272-1307
By Stephanie Brown
This thesis explores the legal history of rape prosecutions in thirteenth and fourteenth
century England. Section I explicates the apparent paradox between chapter 34 of the
Statute of Westminster II's classification of rape as the most serious type of crime known
to English law and the numerous difficulties that women faced when prosecuting men for
rape under its stipulations. Section II shows that Edward was partially responsible for
chapter 34 of Westminster II's failure to facilitate royal court prosecutions because
Edward never intended to protect his female citizens through rape legislation. Thus,
royal judges were able to disregard Edward's rape laws and acquit rapists with impunity.
Section III establishes that Edward was also partially responsible for Westminster II's
inability to prevent local court jurors from ignoring the stipulations of chapter 34 because
Edward did not enact safeguards to thwart jurors' attempts to discriminate against rape
victims. Section IV demonstrates that because of misogynistic cultural influences,
thirteenth and fourteenth century local court jurors discriminated against rape victims.
Section V explains how male jurors assembled procedural barriers such as virginity tests
and rigorous pre-trial processes as a way of deterring rape victims from appealing the
men who raped them and destroying the cases of women who tried to prosecute men for
rape. Hence, local court jurors were also responsible for the difficulties that women
faced when attempting to prosecute men for rape. Section VI shows that male jurors
deterred women from appealing men of rape and dismissed rape cases by citing
plaintiffs' occupations or reputations to convict plaintiffs of false appeal. Finally, this
thesis concludes that jurors' treatment of female plaintiffs provides a lens through which
the position of women in medieval English society can be understood. Moreover, this
thesis argues that men discriminated against rape victims because many men were
resistant to the anomalous idea that women could prosecute men for rape. Thus, when
Edward I granted women the right to do so, men systematically eliminated women's
abilities to appeal men of rape by actively subjugating women in rape prosecutions.

Table of Contents

CONTENTS

INTRODUCTION…………………… ………………...…………………………….1

I…………………………………………………………………………………...………..8

II……………………………………………………………………………………..…...20

III…………………………………………………………………………………………..36

IV…………………………………………………………………………………..……..42

V…………………………………………………………………………………………...54

VI………………………………………………………………………………………....60

CONCLUSION……………………………………………………………………..….71

APPENDIX………………………………………………………………………………74

BIBLIOGRAPHY……………………………………………………...76

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