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Anglo-Saxon Women Before the Law: A Student Edition of Five Old English Lawsuits

Andrew Rabin, Department of English, University of Louisville

(via Old English Newsletters)

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[Online Note: The text presented here is by no means an “online edition,” but rather a transcript of the work published in OEN. Apart from a few simplifications in the format, no special accommodations have been made for reading the text online. Readers should consult the accompanying .pdf file for a more user-friendly version.]


The status of women under Old English law is among the most contested topics in Anglo-Saxon studies. Some have argued that the years before the Norman Conquest were “a surprisingly bright period” during which women owned land, exerted significant political influence, and exercised many of the same rights as men. [1] Others have said that during this period women were viewed as little more than men’s property, subject to the same second-class treatment they received in other early medieval cultures. [2] The five charters edited here record lawsuits in which the principal litigants are women of different backgrounds. These documents raise many questions-legal, social, and rhetorical-and illustrate the difficulties involved in addressing this issue. At the same time, they provide vivid depictions of the ways law was practiced, politicized, and (perhaps most importantly) narrated during this period. The way a dispute was recorded influenced not only the future adjudication of similar cases but also the manner in which the law was understood by subsequent judges, lawmakers, and litigants. Records like these can give us deeper understanding of the interactions between competing notions of gender, textuality, and legal authority in Anglo-Saxon England.

Old English Lawsuits and Lawsuit Records

To understand how pre-Conquest lawsuits were resolved requires knowledge of the surviving case records, yet the source material for this sort of study presents a number of difficulties. Unlike modern law, which has official procedures governing how trials and other disputes are documented, Anglo-Saxon England lacked any formal system for recording what transpired in court. Our knowledge of early legal disputes instead derives from the accounts-often ambiguous, incomplete, or partisan-preserved in other sorts of texts, including saints’ lives, chronicles, Domesday Book, and charters. The result is that far fewer lawsuits survive from Anglo-Saxon England than from elsewhere in Europe; the historian Patrick Wormald identified 178 Anglo-Saxon lawsuits suits recorded over approximately 330 years (ca. 740-1066), compared to more than 600 Frankish cases surviving from the same period. [3] These records were frequently sponsored by the victorious litigants, who presumably made little effort towards objectivity, and thus the events they recount must always be viewed with a certain suspicion. Their reasons for recording them are indicated by the sorts of cases preserved: most involve disputes over land ownership rather than crimes such as murder, assault, or other forms of personal injury. This focus on property suggests that the primary function of such legal records was to provide litigants with clear proof of ownership and protection against future claims. Since literacy and manuscript production lay largely in the provenance of the Church, it is not surprising that the majority of extant case records concern religious institutions and that the lawsuits preserved are mostly those that the Church won.

The legal world depicted in the records that do survive is one in which the settlement of disputes was influenced more by local practice and regional politics than by the dictates of centralized royal or judicial authority. Although many extant law-codes-most notably II Edmund, III Edgar, and IV Edgar-contain statutes governing dispute settlement, surprisingly, no surviving charter mentions the royal laws being used to settle a dispute. Indeed, the settlement procedures and criminal penalties depicted in the lawsuit records often differ markedly from those prescribed in royal legislation. As one historian writes, “apart from formal claims and denials, procedure and argument displayed considerable informality and flexibility. Personality and power, honour and shame came into play explicitly or implicitly. Argument did not focus on legal rules; indeed the legal was not clearly distinguished, if distinguished at all, from the social or the religious.” [4] The procedures used in settling a lawsuit differed depending on the region, the status of the litigants, the issues involved, and the local traditions of those trying the case. Even with all these variables, however, pre-Conquest lawsuits do display some common features. In particular, surviving case records indicate that lawsuits were brought before the court by individuals proceeding on their own or on behalf of their families rather than by agents of the state; disputes were generally adjudicated by panels rather than individual judges (except in cases where the king himself sat as the judge); evidence was presented in the form of witness testimony sponsored by the disputants; and though “oath-helping” (having a witness attest to the credibility of another witness) was common, it was neither as widespread nor as influential as is frequently portrayed. Even these practices were not universal, however, and variation seems to have been the norm. As Wormald has famously observed, “’typical’ Anglo-Saxon dispute settlement (if there ever was such a thing) remains elusive.” [5]

One result of this flexible approach to legal procedure is that many surviving lawsuits record a preference for compromise over strict adjudication, an emphasis reflected in the frequent opening sentence, Her cyð on ðysum gewrite hu [N] 7 [X] wurðon gesybsumode ‘here is made known in this document how [N] and [X] were reconciled.’ [6] In Text 3 below, the king orders the judicial panel to settle the dispute swa rihtlice geseman swa him æfre rihtlicost þuhte ‘as justly as seemed most right to them’, and the panel eventually concludes that wæron þæt betere wære þæt man þene aþ aweg lete þonne hine man sealde forþan þær syþþan nan freondscype nære ‘it would be better to set aside the oath rather than give it, because thereafter there would be no friendship’. Similarly, Text 4 depicts Queen Ælfthryth intervening with Bishop Æthelwold to work out a compromise that would prevent the litigants from losing their property. Of course, the availability and efficacy of such compromises depended on the influence of the litigants or their protectors, and those without powerful patrons could just as easily find themselves in the position of the unnamed widow of Text 2-having been evicted from her lands, she is accused of witchcraft and drowned while her son is exiled as an outlaw. The same political networking and procedural flexibility that made possible creative resolutions to knotty legal problems also fostered an environment in which the powerful could easily prey on those without influential patrons or friends.

Perhaps the most important stage of dispute resolution took place after case itself had been settled: the production of the lawsuit record, often in the form of a charter. These texts provided necessary documentation of the settlement, but they also served an important ideological function. The opportunity to enshrine a narrative in an official or semi-official venue, whether a Gospel book, a church library, or some sort of government archive, offered litigants the chance to communicate their own perspectives on the nature of law and legal authority. The responsibility for producing such a document generally fell to the victor, and it would have been very much in his or her interest to do so. As Paul Hyams points out, recording lawsuits in charters functioned as “preventive law … [that is,] the all important effort to arrange matters in advance in order, above all, to avoid future dispute.” [7] The importance of the case narrative is testified to by the emphasis placed upon it in the charters edited here. Text 5, for instance, ends by relating how the victorious litigant’s advocate hurriedly rad ða to sancte Æþelberhtes mynstre be ealles þæs folces leafe 7 gewitnesse 7 let settan on ane Cristes boc ‘rode then to Saint Æthelberht’s Church and, with the permission and consent of all that folk, arranged for [the case] to be set down in a gospel book’. Likewise, in Text 4, Queen Ælfthryth, as proof that an earlier case had been resolved, cites the fact that the litigant had received ane niwe boc ‘a new charter’ recording the terms of the settlement. The ideological purposes of such texts emerge in a variety of ways both obvious and subtle. One charter, for example, observes that the Church lost its claim to some disputed properties only after the claimants appealed to ðane ealdorman Eadwine 7 þæt folc ðe wæs Godes anspreca ‘the ealdorman Edwin and those folk that were the enemy of God’, [8] while another charter in Latin attributes a forfeiture of Church lands by Cenwulf, not to the king’s power or prerogative, but to royal “enmity, violence, and avarice” (per inimicitiam et violentiam avaritiamque). [9] In their potential to shade the narrative of the case, such documents functioned as propaganda in the Church’s continuing struggle for power with the Crown. In other cases the record of a lawsuit offered women a way of emphasizing their legal rights or political influence. In the charters edited here, it is significant that, although documents of this sort typically omit the names of female participants, the texts either written by or associated with Queen Ælfthryth (Texts 3 and 4) explicitly identify all the women associated with each dispute. Text 3 not only names the primary female litigant, but also incorporates a lengthy list of female witnesses testifying on her behalf. In Text 4, Ælfthryth names the women with whom she collaborated in settling the dispute yet leaves anonymous the male claimants accusing her of wrongdoing-a reversal of the standard practice. These case records provide Ælfthryth and the women of her circle with a way of controlling their characterization in the legal archive. More generally, as these records illustrate, controlling the production of a legal narrative enables litigants to influence both the future disposition of their property and the future understanding of the individuals and issues involved in the case.

Charters provide some of our clearest depictions of the lived experience of the law in Anglo-Saxon England, yet they leave many questions unanswered. What was the relationship between the law set down in royal legislation and the law practiced daily throughout the realm? How accurately do these documents report the cases they claim to record? Are these cases “typical” of Anglo-Saxon dispute settlement? Did charters and legal records function, not just as case reports, but as means of communicating different concepts or competing ideologies of law, jurisdiction, and royal authority? And what can these documents tell us about the status of women in early English law?

Women and the Law

The challenges that arise in trying to understand female agency and identity under Anglo-Saxon law resemble those confronting the student of Old English dispute settlement generally. Once again we are faced with a complex, often contradictory, body of sources in which the treatment of gender varies widely depending on the type of document, the region concerned, and the social class of those involved. The depiction of a female aristocrat in an eighth-century Northumbrian saint’s life might bear few, if any, similarities to that of an female servant in an eleventh-century West Saxon charter. Likewise, the statutes concerning women in royal legislation often yield a picture of gender in Old English law which differs significantly from what is presented in charters and other case records. If, as Anne Klinck has said, “the laws indicate that women’s basic rights increased during the Anglo-Saxon period and remained rather similar during the next 150 years,” surviving case records suggest that such “basic rights” were recognized only inconsistently, and that women could rarely rely on the protection of juridical authority or even on the support of their own relatives. [10] Instead, these charters depict women developing a variety of strategies, both legal and extra-legal, to achieve some sort of limited agency under the law. Yet as Janet Nelson reminds us, the many social and legal obstacles standing in their way suggests that “female agency” during this period should be understood less as a gauge of a woman’s “empowerment” or “autonomy” than as a measure of her “room for manoeuvre in shaping the future for herself, her property and other persons in her social network.” [11] As such, using these documents to reconstruct the place of women in the Anglo-Saxon courtroom requires us to be sensitive to the ways that these texts communicate competing notions of class, gender, and authority. We must pay attention to the various strategies-legal, political, and rhetorical-used by these women to achieve “room for manoeuvre.” What causes some strategies to succeed, and what happens when such strategies fail?

In large part, the depiction of women in surviving Anglo-Saxon legal texts is shaped by the type of document and the purpose for which it was written. Royal laws, for example, afford women certain legal protections, yet these protections often comprise part of a larger agenda to centralize legal authority and homogenize it across different regions. In the tract Wifmannes Beweddung, a short collection of statutes regulating marriage practices, the opening clause concedes that a potential groom must be “agreeable” (gelige) to the bride (Wif 1); however, protecting a bride’s right of consent here serves as the first step towards asserting legal jurisdiction over her movements, her behavior, and the rights of her family. Subsequent clauses regulate the manner in which the groom and the bride’s family may divide their property, the sorts of oaths that may be exchanged between the two parties, the type of cleric that may preside at the wedding ceremony, and what happens if the bride should fall under the jurisdiction of another lord. Implicitly, regulating bridal consent allows the legal powers behind Wifmannes Beweddung to extend public jurisdiction into a private sphere hitherto controlled by families and kingroups. By usurping the family’s traditional role as guardian of its unmarried women, the law affirms its authority over individual practice and local tradition. Legislating the terms under which families may marry off their eligible female relations provides an opening for lawmakers to legislate other aspects of family behavior. Statutes concerning women are put to similar use elsewhere in the surviving legal corpus as well. For instance, V Æthelred explicitly subjects all widows to the king’s guardianship, while VI Æthelred categorizes rape as a crime against the state and rules that compensation must be paid to Church and king rather than to the woman herself. [12] In each case, the special legal protection afforded to women serves as a means of extending royal authority. These statutes suggest that even though Old English legislation provided women with certain rights rarely found elsewhere in Europe during this period, this legislation may well have been motivated by an agenda for enlarging royal jurisdiction rather than by a desire to confer on women a status equal to men.

Whatever motivations influenced the framers of Anglo-Saxon legislation, the royal laws nonetheless do afford women limited protection against men with designs on their persons or property. The extent to which such protections were observed in practice, however, is subject to some debate: surviving charters and case records indicate that women’s rights in an Anglo-Saxon court were far more tenuous than the laws would seem to suggest. A woman of sufficient social standing might own land and pursue litigation, but her ability to do so depended upon the status and consent of her male relations. Extant legislation as well as other types of legal documents indicate that widows may have had more flexibility in matters of land ownership than other women, yet even their rights were strictly limited. Few women held anything more than a lifetime interest in their property and, as Julia Crick has observed, “wealth and social position by no means guaranteed a woman’s freedom to bequeath.” [13] These limitations emerge most acutely in the documents relating to legal disputes. Case records rarely note down the names of female litigants-referring to them instead as the daughter, wife, mother, or widow of their closest male relative-and women seldom seem to have spoken in court or addressed a judicial panel on their own behalf. In Text 5, for example, not only is the Herefordshire widow whose lands are at the center of the dispute left nameless, but she is absent while the allocation of her property is decided. Instead, as was common practice, her interests were represented by a male advocate, often called a forespeca. [14] In this case the widow’s advocate, Thurkil the White, appears to represent her interests honestly (doing so is to his own benefit, since he will be the ultimate recipient of her property), but other charters record advocates who abused their positions. One document describes how Brihtric, kinsman and guardian of an unnamed widow whose lands were under dispute, “coerced” (genedde) his kinswoman into violating an agreement with the Church concerning ownership of her property. [15] Women’s rights in disputes, these examples suggest, largely depended on the good offices of their male relations or protectors.

One possible exception to this practice may be found in the career of Queen Ælfthryth, who features prominently in Texts 3 and 4 below. The third wife of King Edgar “the Peaceable,” Ælfthryth is the only woman known to have been referred to as a forespeca. [16] We have evidence of her participation in seven lawsuits, as well as her intervention as an advocate in three further land transactions. [17] Texts 3 and 4 provide the most detailed records of Ælfthryth’s activities as an advocate. In Text 3, she appears at the head of a contingent of witnesses testifying on behalf of the primary litigant, Wynflæd, a noblewoman known to be part of Ælfthryth’s inner circle. Text 4, the only surviving document in Ælfthryth’s own voice, describes her advocacy on behalf of some tenants of the archbishopric of Winchester and defends her against accusations of wrongdoing that grew out of the case. Her involvement in these cases exemplifies the sorts of interventions she engaged in elsewhere-in all but one of the seven disputes in which she is known to have participated, Ælfthryth not only acts primarily on behalf of female litigants, but the surviving record explicitly highlights gender as the principal reason behind her intervention. [18] She enters the case described in Text 4 only after a petition by the principal litigant’s wife and sister; [19] Text 3 twice mentions Ælfthryth’s status as þæs cyninges modor ‘the king’s mother’ and emphasizes that the support marshalled by Ælfthryth was made up largely of other prominent women. If male protection could be ambivalent at best, Ælfthryth appears to have been perceived not merely as a potentially sympathetic patron but as an authority specially qualified to represent female concerns to male authority. Furthermore, just as petitions for Ælfthryth’s aid seem to have been guided primarily by gender, so the Queen’s legal strategies also reflect concerns regarding female agency and identity. In particular, limitations on women’s participation in arguments in court compel Ælfthryth to develop alternate means of representing her principals, most frequently by acting as an ex parte negotiator seeking to resolve her principal’s dispute outside of court. Each of the suits with which Ælfthryth was affiliated-including those edited here-ends, not with a final judgment, but with a negotiated settlement. And even though they took place outside of the courtroom, Ælfthryth’s actions were perceived not as extra-legal circumventions of traditional adjudication but rather as alternate means of achieving justice. Her negotiated settlements are as much acts of law as formal judgment, a fact the judicial panel in Text 3 recognizes when it recommends compromise over formal oath-taking. These negotiated settlements may indicate the limitations of women’s legal rights-Ælfthryth never does succeed in preserving a woman’s land-rights beyond her own lifetime-but her interventions as an advocate reveals one way in which women could wield agency in pre-Conquest law.

Ælfthryth was unique, however; other women lacked both the independence she could exercise as queen and the protection her royal status offered her. The posthumous notoriety she acquired for her role in the assasination of her step-son, King Edward “the Martyr,” meant that her example was not followed by her royal successors. Nonetheless, her experience highlights the sorts of questions we should ask concerning the documents edited here: what strategies did women use to achieve even limited agency in an Anglo-Saxon court? What types of women could exercise some independence under Anglo-Saxon law? How did they acquire such independence, and what sorts of responses or anxieties did this independence provoke? How did gender and social status intersect in the settlement of Old English lawsuits? And how do these documents function, not simply as reflections of what was thought to be “normal” behavior, but as ways of communicating particular ideologies about gender, social status, and legal practice?

The Texts

Each text has been re-edited from manuscript. Because these charters reflect different regional scribal practices, they contain numerous minor variations in spelling and language which I have not tried to regularize. Accent marks have been omitted, and punctuation and capitalization have been altered to reflect modern grammatical conventions. I have retained the Tironian et (7) when used as an abbreviation for and. Following standard practice, Old English wynn (ƿ) has been transcribed as w, but the characters thorn (þ) and eth (ð) have been retained. Abbreviations have been expanded and italicized. In the few instances where emendations have been thought necessary, they are enclosed in brackets. Each charter is listed according to its Sawyer number (S) and to the number(s) assigned on Wormald’s “Handlist” (W).

Text 1: Queen Eadgifu

S 1211 (W 32, 33, 34, 35)

Source: British Library, Stowe Charter 28 (mid-tenth century, Christ Church, Canterbury)

This charter, which survives as a single sheet currently in the British Library, records the circumstances under which Eadgifu, third wife of King Edward the Elder, came to donate a series of estates at Cooling to Christ Church, Canterbury in the year 960. Eadgifu had inherited the property from her father upon his death in battle in 902, but Goda, a local landholder, claimed the estates as payment for what he claimed was an outstanding debt of her father’s. The dispute stretched through the reign of Edward into that of Æthelstan, at whose order the dispute was settled in Eadgifu’s favor. Following his death, Eadgifu suffered a series of political setbacks which Goda’s sons exploited to seize the estates. Finally, in 959, the newly-crowned King Edgar intervened on his grandmother’s behalf to grant her the estates, which she then donated to Christ Church. The extended duration of the dispute-more than half a century, spanning three generations-is not uncommon in lawsuits of this period. More importantly, the extent to which the ups and downs of the dispute correspond to changes in Eadgifu’s status (the loss of her father in 902, her marriage to Edward in 919, her widowhood in 924, her dispossession under King Edwy between 955 and 959, and restoration under Edgar in 959) reflect how reliant even a noblewoman, queen, and queen-mother was on the generosity of her male relatives. Despite her high status, Eadgifu’s successes in the dispute depended as much upon the influence and good offices of her protectors as they did upon her own efforts and political influence. Likewise, as the charter records, when she suffered reversals, Goda and his family were quick to capitalize upon her misfortune.

+ Eadgifu cyþ þam arcebiscope 7 Cristes cyrcean hyrede hu hire land com æt Culingon. Þæt is þæt hire læfde hire fæder land 7 boc, swa he mid rihte beget, 7 him his yldran læfdon. Hit gelamp þæt hire fæder aborgude XXX punda æt Godan 7 betæhte him þæt land þæs feos to anwedde, 7 he hit hæfde VII winter. Þa gelamp emb þa tid þæt man beonn eall Cantware to wigge to Holme, þa nolde Sigelm hire fæder to wigge faron mid nanes mannes scette unagifnum, 7 agef þa Godan XXX punda 7 becwæþ Eadgife his dehter land 7 boc sealde.

Þa he on wigge afeallen wæs, þa ætsoc Goda þæs feos ægiftes 7 þæs landes wyrnde oð þæs on syxtan geare. Þa spræc hit fæstlice Byrhsige Dyrincg swa lange oð þa witan þe þa wæron gerehton Eadgife þæt heo sceolde hire fæder hand geclænsian be swa myclan feo. 7 heo þæs aþ lædde on ealre þeode gewitnesse to Æglesforda, 7 þær geclænsude hire fæder þæs ægiftes be XXX punda aþe. Þa gyt heo ne moste landes brucan ær hire frynd fundon æt Eadwearde cyncge þæt he him þæt land forbead swa he æniges brucan wolde. 7 he hit swa alet.

Þa gelamp on fyrste þæt se cynincg Godan oncuþe swa swyþe swa him man ætrehte bec 7 land ealle þa þe he ahte. 7 se cynincg hine þa 7 ealle his are mid bocum 7 landum forgeaf Eadgife to ateonne swa swa heo wolde. Þa cwæð heo þæt heo ne dorste for Gode him swa leanian swa he hire to geearnud hæfde, 7 agef him ealle his land buton twam sulungum æt Osterlande; 7 nolde þa bec agifan ær heo wyste hu getriwlice he hi æt landum healdan wolde.

Þa gewat Eadweard cyncg 7 fencg Æþelstan to rice. Þa Godan sæl þuhte, þa gesohte he þone kynincg Æþelstan 7 bæd þæt he him geþingude wiþ Eadgife his boca edgift; 7 se cyncg þa swa dyde. 7 heo him ealle agef buton Osterlandes bec. 7 he þa boc unnendre handa hire to let 7 þara oþerra mid eaðmettum geþancude. 7 ufenan þæt twelfa sum hire aþ sealde for geborenne 7 ungeborenne þæt þis æfre gesett spæc wære. 7 þis wæs gedon on Æþelstanes kynincges gewitnesse 7 his wytena æt Hamme wiþ Læwe. 7 Eadgifu hæfde land mid bocum þara twegea cyninga dagas hire suna.

Þa Eadred geendude 7 man Eadgife berypte ælcere are, þa namon Godan twegen suna, Leofstan 7 Leofric, on Eadgife þas twa forespecenen land æt Culingon 7 æt Osterlande. 7 sædon þam cilde Eadwige þe þa gecoren wæs þæt hy rihtur hiora wæren þonne hire. Þæt þa swa wæs oþ Eadgar astiþude. 7 he 7 his wytan gerehton þæt hy manfull reaflac gedon hæfden. 7 hi hire hire are gerehton 7 agefon. Þa nam Eadgifu, be þæs cynincges leafe 7 gewitnesse 7 ealra his bisceopa, þa bec 7 land betæhte in to Cristes cyrcean mid hire agenum handum upon þone altare lede þan hyrede on ecnesse to are 7 hire sawle to reste. 7 cwæþ þæt Crist sylf mid eallum heofonlicum mægne þane awyrgde on ecnesse þe þas gife æfre awende oþþe gewanude. Þus com þeos ar in to Cristes cyrcean hyrede.


1 Eadgifu (d. 968) was the third wife of Edward the Elder. Her children included Kings Edmund and Eadred, and her grandchildren included Kings Edwy and Edgar. Married to Edward in 919, she was widowed five years later. Although she is not known to have remarried, Eadgifu would remain among the most prominent women in the kingdom for the remainder of her life. During the reign of her grandson Edwy, political turmoil caused her to lose much of her land and power (an event referred to in this document), but she regained much of what she had lost at Edgar’s accession. Her career, and especially her long widowhood, would provide a model for subsequent royal women attempting to consolidate their position at the Anglo-Saxon court, most notably Queen Ælfthryth, who features prominently in Texts 3 and 4 below.

The addressees of the document are the archbishop and foundation of Christ Church, Canterbury. Assuming that the text of the document roughly corresponds with the date of the donation (ca. 960), then the archbishop mentioned here would be Dunstan (909-988), a leading figure of the Benedictine Reform. First monk and then abbot of Glastonbury, he served as an advisor to Kings Edmund, Eadred, Edgar, and Edward. In 959, he was elevated to archbishop of Canterbury, from which position he attempted to spread the reforms he had instituted at Glastonbury throughout the kingdom. Cooling, the property at issue in the dispute, lies in Kent.

6 Eadgifu’s father was Sigehelm, ealdorman of Kent, who was killed at the battle of Holm against the vikings in 902. Goda (fl. 897-909) was a prominent Kentish landowner.

7 That is, Sigehelm.

9 “that she should exonerate her father by [an oath] equal to the sum [he owed].” Nothing else is known of Byrhsige Dyrincg other than what is written here. He appears to be acting as an advocate or protector on behalf of Eadgifu, who likely remains underage at this point. The witan here requires her to make an oath equivalent in value to the amount borrowed from Goda, that is, thirty pounds. To do so, she must produce oath-helpers to testify to the veracity of her claim whose combined wergild was equal to thirty pounds. The oath-swearing ceremony takes place at Aylesford in Kent.

12 The Edward refered to here is King Edward the Elder (870-924), son of Alfred the Great and Eadgifu’s husband.

20 Athelstan (895-939) came to the throne in 924 and ruled until 939. He was the son of Edward by his wife, Ecgwinn.

22 Osterland has not been identified.

29 That is, “chosen king”

33 The reasons behind Eadgifu’s ultimate donation of the estates to Christ Church remain unclear: was it simply an attempt to get rid of some troublesome property, perhaps in exchange for an unspecified favor or benefit-not an uncommon strategy among Anglo-Saxon litigants? was it her own free will, or in response to royal pressure, perhaps as a condition of Edgar’s intervention on her behalf? or was the donation an attempt to circumvent royal confiscation of disputed property?

Text 2: The “Peterborough Witch”

S 1377 (S 43)

Source: London, Society of Antiquaries, MS. 60, fols. 54v-55r (mid-twelfth century, Peterborough Cathedral)

This charter describes how one Wulfstan Uccea came into the possession of the property at Ailsworth which he is now granting to Bishop Æthelwold. Wulfstan inherited the property from his father Ælfsige, who received it from King Eadred in 948 following the dispossession of the unnamed widow who was its previous owner, her execution for witchcraft, and the exile of her son. Nothing whatsoever is known about the widow or her son other than what is recorded here; it is unclear whether she received a trial for her offense-although it seems unlikely-and the penalty assessed is unusually severe. Indeed, one cannot help but wonder whether the widow’s guilt, or at least her punishment, resulted more from Ælfsige’s desire for her property than from her alleged dabbling in the dark arts.

Her sutelað on þyssum gewrite þet Aþelwold bisceop 7 Wulstan uccea hwyrfdon landa on Eadgares cyninges 7 on his witena gewytnesse. Se bisceop sealde Wulstane þet land æt Hwessingatune 7 Wulstan sealde him þet land æt Jaceslea 7 æt Ægeleswurðe. Þa sealde se bisceop þet land æt Jaceslea into Þornige 7 þet æt Ægeleswyrðe into Buruh. 7 þæt land æt Ægeleswyrðe headde an wyduwe 7 hire sune ær forwyrt forþanþe hi drifon [i]serne stacan on Ælsie, Wulfstanes feder, 7 þæt werð æreafe, 7 man teh þæt morð forð of hire inclifan. Þa nam man þæt wif 7 adrencte hi æt Lundene brigce, 7 hire sune ætberst 7 werð utlah. 7 þæt land eode þam kynge to handa 7 se kyng hit forgeaf þa Ælfsige 7 Wulstan Uccea, his sunu, hit sealde eft Adeluuolde bisceope swa swa hit her bufan sægð.


1 Bishop Æthelwold of Winchester (d. 984) was a prominent figure in the tenth century Benedictine Reform. An ally of Bishop Oswald of Worcester and Archbishop Dunstan of Canterbury, he aggressively pursued a policy of consolidating church lands, enforcing theological orthodoxy, and sponsoring ecclesiastical scholarship and manuscript production. He was a close associate of both King Edgar and his wife, Ælfthryth (see Text 4 below). About Wulfstan Ucca less is known. His only other appearance in a surviving document occurs in the will of Brihtric and Ælfswith (possibly his cousins), in which he is bequeathed some lands in Surrey and a short sword.

3-4 Washington lies in Sussex, Yaxley in Huntingdonshire, and Ailsworth in Northamptonshire. Þornige is Thorney Abbey in Cambridgeshire. Buruh refers to Peterborough Cathedral.

6 The widow’s morð provides the only example of someone practicing invultuacio, inflicting harm through the use of an effigy, surving from Anglo-Saxon England. The word inclifan (nom. incleofa) is also that used to describe a lion’s den.

7 The widow’s punishment here does not conform with the penalties found in either Old English legal or penitential texts. In neither tradition is the sticking of pins into an effigy considered sufficient justification for capital punishment. According to II Æthelstan 6, a witch can be put to death only if someone dies as a result of his or her actions. Likewise, the Old English Penitential decrees, “If anyone drives pins into another person, let him fast for three years: one year on bread and water, and then for two years let him fast three days a week on bread and water. And if the person dies on account of the pin sticking, the let him fast for seven years (three years on bread and water, then four years for three days a week on bread and water).” [Quoted in Anthony Davies, “Witches in Anglo-Saxon England: Five Case Histories,” Superstition and Popular Medicine in Anglo-Saxon England, ed. Donald Scragg (Manchester: Manchester Centre for Anglo-Saxon Studies, 1989), 50]. A second problem is the statement that the widow was drowned æt Lundene brigce ’at London Bridge’. Ailsworth is roughly 80 miles from London, and it seems unlikely that the widow was taken so far for an execution. It is more probably, as Anthony Davies speculates, that she was drowned at the bridge over the River Nene on the road to London. See Davies, “Witches in Anglo-Saxon England,” 51.

Text 3: Wynflæd

S 1454 (W 49)

Source: BL, Cotton Augustus II.xv (late-tenth or early-eleventh century, Christ Church, Canterbury)

This case, taking place sometime between 990 and 992, illustrates the complex and delicate negotiations which the settlement of Anglo-Saxon lawsuits often required. Over the course of the dispute, the two litigants, the noblewoman Wynflæd and the landowner Leofwine, disagree over the venue for adjudication, the integrity of each others’ oaths, and the nature of the settlement. The result is a record in which the precise details are often confusing yet, as Wormald writes, the “loss of legal precision” is compensated for “by the ventilation of some of the emotional heat” generated by the lawsuit (Patrick Wormald, “Giving God and King Their Due: Conflict and Its Regulation in the Early English State,” Legal Culture in the Early Medieval West, 343). The dispute is precipitated by Leofwine’s seizure of lands at Hagbourne and Bradfield in Berkshire that his father, Ælfric, had given to Wynflæd in exchange for property at Datchet. The account opens with Wynflæd appealing to King Æthelred to ratify her ownership of the property. She marshals a number of powerful supporters, most notably the king’s mother Ælfthryth, yet Leofwine successfully argues that jurisdiction over the case more properly belongs to the shire court. Wynflæd subsequently appears before the scirgemot, accompanied by Ælfthryth at the head of an impressive contingent of male and female witnesses. Faced with this evidence of Wynflæd’s powerful political influence, the judicial panel negotiates a settlement whereby Leofwine would not be subjected to an oathtaking ceremony as long as he hands the land and compensation equal to his wergild over to the presiding bishop. For her part, Wynflæd must produce the gold and silver she had received from Leofwine’s father as part of the original land deal. The charter further notes, however, that Wynflæd repaid only as much of the gold as was necessary to secure the deal. When Leofwine then demands that she swear that all his father’s money was present, she refuses, presumably believing that she should no more be required to swear an oath than he had been.

+ Her cyþ on þysum gewrite hu Wynflæd gelædde hyre gewitnesse æt Wulfamere beforan Æþelrede cyninge: þæt wæs þonne Sigeric arcebiscop 7 Ordbyrht biscop 7 Ælfric ealderman 7 Ælfþryþ þæs cyninges modor, þæt hi wæron ealle to gewitnesse þæt Ælfric sealde Wynflæde þæt land æt Hacceburnan 7 æt Bradanfelda ongean þæt land æt Deccet. Þa sende se cyning þærrihte be þam arcebiscope 7 be þam þe þær mid him to gewitnesse wæron to Leofwine, 7 cyþdon him þis, þa nolde he butan hit man sceote to scirgemote. Þa dyde man swa.

Þa sende se cyning be Æluere abbude his insegel to þam gemote æt Cwicelmeshlæwe 7 grette ealle þa witan þe þær gesomnode wæron, þæt wæs Æþelsige biscop 7 Æscwig biscop 7 Ælfric abbud 7 eal sio scir, 7 bæd 7 het þæt hi scioldon Wynflæde 7 Leofwine swa rihtlice geseman swa him æfre rihtlicost þuhte. 7 Sigeric arcebiscop sende his swutelunga þærto, 7 Ordbyrht biscop his. Þa getæhte man Wynflæde þæt hio moste hit hyre geahnian.Þa gelædde hio þa ahnunga mid Ælfþryþe fultume, þæs cyninges modor, þæt is þonne ærest Wulfgar abbud, 7 Wulfstan priost, 7 Æfic þara æþelinga discsten, 7 Eadwine, 7 Eadelm, 7 Ælfelm, 7 Ælfwine, 7 Ælfweard, 7 Eadwold, 7 Eadric, 7 Ælfgar, 7 Eadgyfu abbudisse, 7 Liofrun abbudisse, 7 Æþelhild, 7 Eadgyfu æt Leofecanoran, 7 hyre swustor, 7 hyre dohtor, 7 Ælfgy[fu 7 hyr]e dohtor, 7 Wulfwyn, 7 Æþelgyfu, 7 Ælfwaru, 7 Ælfgyfu, 7 Æþelflæd, 7 menig god þegen 7 god wif þe we ealle atellan ne magon þæt [þær] forþcom eal se fulla ge on werum ge on wifum. Þa cwædon þa witan þe þær wæron þæt betere wære þæt man þene aþ aweg lete þonne hine man sealde forþan þær syþþan nan freondscype nære. 7 man wolde biddan þæs reaflaces þæt he hit sciolde agyfan 7 forgyldan 7 þam cyninge his wer.Þa let he þone aþ aweg 7 sealde Æþelsige biscope unbesacen land on hand, þæt he þanon forð syþþan þæron ne spræce. Þa tæhte man hyre þæt hio sciolde bringan his fæder gold 7 siolfor eal þæt hio hæfde. Þa dyde hio swa hio dorste hyre aþe gebiorgan. Þa næs he þa gyt on þam gehealden butan hio sceolde swerian þæt his æhta þær ealle wæron. Þa cwæþ hio þæt hio ne mihte hyre dæles ne he his. 7 þyses wæs Ælfgar þæs cyninges gerefa to gewitnesse 7 Byrhtric 7 Leofric æt Hwitecyrcan 7 menig god man toeacan him.CPILREOTGVRMAEFSVTM


2 Little is known about the primary litigants in this dispute other than what is written here. However, Patrick Wormald has pointed out that a number of Wynflæd’s backers, as well as Wynflæd herself, may be linked to Ælfthryth via bequests in wills, property exchanges, and the queen-mother’s role as overseer of the court’s children during the reign of Æthelred. In this charter, he suggests, we may be “glimpsing the outlines of a circle around Ælfthryth, of which Wynflæd was herself a member.” (Wormald, “God and King,” 345). The Wulfamere where Wynflæd brought her witnesses may be related to the modern Woolmer Forest in Hampshire.

4 Sigeric succeeded Dunstan as Archbishop of Canterbury from 990-994, Ordbyrht was Bishop of Selsey, and the ealdorman Ælfric (not to be confused with the Ælfric mentioned in the following line as a party to the dispute) was ealdorman of Hampshire. Ælfthryth, mother to King Æthelred, was the most powerful woman at court and a frequent participant in legal disputes. For more on Ælfthryth, see Text 4 below. The properties in question are Hagbourne and Bradfield in Berkshire and Datchet in Buckinghamshire.

6 “would not [consent to a judgment].” Nothing else is known of Leofwine other than what is recorded in this charter. Leofwine’s appeal here, that the king should not decide the dispute until it had been tried by the local shire-court, is in keeping with Old English law. See II Cnut 17-19.2 and III Edgar 2.5-5.2. (Wormald discusses this point in “God and King,” 346-7).

11 The site of the shire meeting is unidentified, but it might be Cuckhamsley Barrow or Scutchamfly Knob, both in Berkshire. Æluere abbude may be Abbot Ælfhere, possibly of Bath, whose career spanned the late tenth century. The other members of the shire council are Bishop Æthelsige of Sherbourne (fl. 978-990 × 992), Bishop Æscwig of Dorchester-on-Thames (fl. 975 × 979-1002), and Abbot Ælfric of Ramsey, later Archbishop of Canterbury (fl. 990 × 993-1005). Ælfric is also one of the addressees of Text 4.

12 It may be significant that Ealdorman Ælfric does not send his statement to the shire council.

13-19 Not all of those supporting Wynflæd’s case can be positively identified, but those that can include Abbot Wulfgar of Abingdon (fl. 989 × 990-1016); Æfic the discðegn (lit. ‘thegn of the table’, later ‘seneschal’), possibly the same person as the Æfic killed by Ealdorman Leofsige in 1002; Abbess Eadgifu of Winchester; and Abbess Leofrun of Reading.

20 That is, Leofwine.

23 It is unclear why Æthelsige should receive the estates here. Robertson suggests that either Wynflæd had previously deeded the property to him or that he received it in his capacity as president of the shire court. However, the fact that no further evidence connects the estates with Æthelsige’s establishment at Sherbourne raises a third possibility: that Æthelsige here receives the estates only as an intermediary on Wynflæd’s behalf. Robertson, Anglo-Saxon Charters 381-2.

24 Why Wynflæd should have gold and silver from Leofwine’s father is never made clear. As Robertson notes, “apparently there was something to be said on Leofwine’s side as well as on Wynflæd’s.” Robertson, Anglo-Saxon Charters 382.

24 “then she produced [just as little] as she dared to protect her oath, and he was not yet satisfied.”

27 The Leofric of Whitechurch listed here as a witness may be the same person as the Leofric listed in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle as being killed in battle by Vikings in 1001.

28 Only the top halves of these letters survive. As a means of ensuring the authenticity of legal documents, scribes often wrote two copies of a charter on a single piece of vellum. Between the texts, the scribe would write the word CIROGRAPH, and the vellum would then be cut down the middle. If questions arose regarding the authenticity of either text, the parties could then bring the two halves of the vellum together—if the cirograph matched, the document was authentic. Here, in order to make the would-be forger’s task even more difficult, the scribe has written CIROGRAPHUM PLETUM EST (“The cirograph is complete”), but the phrase can be decoded only if one reads every other letter.

Text 4: Queen Ælfthryth

S 1242 (W 66, 67)

Source: BL, Additional 15350, fols. 26rv (twelfth century, originally Old Minster, Winchester)

A rare example of a text attributed solely to an Anglo-Saxon queen, this writ, composed sometime between 999 and 1001, stands out as the only extant document in Ælfthryth’s own voice. Although it survives in a twelfth-century copy, scholars agree on the authenticity of the text itself. Recording her participation in a land dispute approximately twenty-five years earlier, the writ offers Ælfthryth’s response to accusations that she had behaved improperly in her representation. The known facts of the dispute are these: sometime between 965 and 975, the bishopric of Winchester petitioned King Edgar to return a collection of estates at Taunton that the king had previously absorbed into his own property. Although Taunton had been associated with royal consorts since the reign of Edward the Elder, [20] Ælfthryth nonetheless intervened on Winchester’s behalf at the request of Bishop Æthelwold, long her political ally. [21] Edgar granted the request and, as a result, royal tenants on the estates were required either to renegotiate their lease with Winchester or relinquish their property. [22] One tenant, Leofric, refused to submit to these terms, and so found himself in a dispute with Bishop Æthelwold. Leofric’s wife, Wulfgyth, a relation of Ælfthryth’s, appealed to the queen to intervene with the bishop on her husband’s behalf. Ælfthryth did so, and Æthelwold granted Leofric a lifetime tenancy on the estate, which would then revert to Winchester at his death. Years later, accusations were brought against Ælfthryth and Æthelwold, probably by Leofric’s heirs, that together they employed undue force to compel him to settle the dispute and yield his land against his will. Nothing more is known of the case; however, the absence of further documentation or record of punishment suggests that the queen either was cleared of any wrongdoing or that her death in 1001 put an end to the suit.

ALFÐRYÐ gret Ælfric arcebiscop 7 Eþelwerd ealdarman eadmodlice. 7 ic cyðe inc ðet ic eom to gewitnysse þæt Dunstan arcebiscop getehte Aþelwolde biscope TANTUN eal swa his bec specon. 7 Eadgar cyning hit agef ða, 7 bead ælcon his þegna þe enig land on þan lande hafde, þæt hi hit ofeodon be þes biscopes gemedon oððe hit agefum. 7 se cyning cwæð þa þet he nahte nan land ut to syllanne, þa he ne dorste fram Godes ege him sylf ðet heafod habban 7 ma gerad þa Risctun to þes biscopes handa. 7 Wulfgyþ rad þa to me to Cumbe 7 gesohte me.

7 ic ða, for þan þe heo me gesib was, 7 Ælfswyð, for þan þe he hyre broþor was, abedon æt AÐELWOLD biscope þæt hi moston brucan þes landes hyra deg, 7 efter hyra dege eode þet lond into Tantune mid mete 7 mid mannum, eal swa hit stode. 7 wit hyt swiðe uneaðe to þan brocton.Nu cydde man me þæt AÐELWOLD bisceop 7 ic sceoldon ofneadian þa boc æt Leofrice. Nu ne eom ic nanre neade gecnewe þe libbe, þe ma þe he wolde þeah he lyfode. Ac Leofric hafde ane niwe boc; þa agef he þa, þa cydde he mid þan þet he nolde nan fals þer on don. Þa cydde AÐELWOLD bisceop him þæt hine ne mihte nan his EFTERGENGA bereafian. Het þa gewritan twa gewritu, oðer him sulf hefde, oþer he Leofrice sealde.


1 Ælfthryth (d. 999 × 1001) was the third wife of King Edgar “the Peaceable.” Possibly the first queen to have a formal coronation, Ælfthryth was an active proponent of the Benedictine Reform, which she used to expand her influence and formalize her place at court. Following Edgar’s death in 975, she attempted to have her son, Æthelred, named his successor. However, a rival court faction led by Archbishop Dunstan supported Edward, Edgar’s son by a previous wife, and Ælfthryth was compelled to submit. In 978, Edward was murdered (thus earning his posthumous sobriquet, “the Martyr”) while visiting Ælfthryth at Corfe Castle. While the precise nature of Ælfthryth’s involvement in the assassination plot remains unclear, it seems unlikely that such an act could have been carried out without at least her tacit consent. Æthelred succeeded Edgar on the throne, and Ælfthryth remained the dominant female presence at court for the rest of her life. Although condemned after her death as the prototypical “wicked stepmother,” during her lifetime Ælfthryth seems to have attracted a large number of followers and supporters, most notably Bishop Æthelwold of Winchester. She also seems to have made a practice of intervening in legal disputes, especially on behalf of female petitioners, as she does here.

Archbishop Ælfric (d. 1005), originally of Abingdon, was raised to the archbishopric of Canterbury in 995 (this allows us to date the writ to sometime between 995 and Ælfthryth’s death four to six years later) following the death of his predecessor, Sigeric the Serious. Ealdorman Æthelweard (fl. ca. 979-999) was a prominent West Saxon nobleman. His name appears on the witness lists of numerous charters surviving from the reign of King Æthelred.3 For information on Dunstan, see the notes to Text 1 above. His presence in this document is significant: despite their shared commitment to reform and loyalty to King Edgar, he was a lifelong political rival of Queen Ælfthryth. He regarded her as an immoral influence on the king and court and vigorously opposed the accession of her son Æthelred. Upon Edward’s assassination and Æthelred’s elevation to the throne, he stepped down as archbishop of Canterbury—possibly because of pressure exerted by the queen and her faction—and spent his last ten years in retirement.

Taunton, the property at issue in the dispute, lies in Somerset and had been associated with the see at Winchester at least since the reign of Æthelwulf, father to King Alfred. In describing the initial transfer of the estates, Ælfthryth revises the legal record by significantly downplaying her role in the exchange. Her statement that she was merely a witness to the original transaction and that Dunstan played the operative role in assigning the estates to Winchester reverses the roles each is depicted as playing in the record of the exchange preserved in an earlier charter. S 806 records that Ælfthryth actively petitioned on Winchester’s behalf (and received 50 mancuses for her efforts) while Dunstan, in contrast, appears in that document only as a witness.6 to handa geridan ‘to place into [someone’s] power or possession.’ Ruishton, a village a bit more than two miles from Taunton, had been included in previous transfers as part of the larger estate.

8 he: Leofric, a tenant on the Taunton property and main petitioner in the dispute.

9 hi: That is, Wulfgyth and Leofric.

12 Ælfthryth does not name her accusers, but given the nature of the charges, it seems likely that they are Leofric’s heirs.

13 Both Æthelwold and Leofric have died in the interim, and Ælfthryth does not specify which of them the “he” refers to here. The syntax of this sentence recalls that of a legal oath, such as those found in the Old English formularies Swerian and His becwæð.

Text 5: A Herefordshire Widow

S 1462 (W 80)

Source: Hereford Cathedral, Dean and Chapter, MS. P.I.2, fols. 134rv (eleventh century)

The final document concerns a land dispute between one Edwin and his mother during the reign of Cnut (1016–1035). Preserved in the Hereford Gospels, the text provides a detailed account of how a scirgemot might respond when confronted with a legal dispute. In particular, the actions of Thurkil the White on behalf of Edwin’s mother illustrate how women’s legal interests may have been represented to the court through the intercession of advocates or protectors. The charter records that Edwin appeared before the shire council to challenge his mother’s ownership of estates at Wellington and Cradsley in Herefordshire. Although Thurkil professes to be able to speak on the widow’s behalf before the court, his unfamiliarity with the her legal affairs leads the council to send three representatives to consult the widow in person. Summoning Leofflæd, Thurkil’s wife and her kinswoman, the widow formally grants her all of her possessions upon her death. The three representatives subsequently return to the council and testify to the widow’s wishes, which Thurkil then asks the council to ratify. They do so, and charter concludes with an account of Thurkil riding to the cathedral in order to record the event in a gospel book.

Much is omitted from this account, including the widow’s name, the reasons behind the son’s claim, and the justification for the council’s final decision. Indeed, in recording the circumstances of the dispute, Thurkil’s goal seems to have been to secure his own family’s rights to the property by leaving out any aspect of the lawsuit that might call those rights into question. However, this narrative does provide one of the clearest surviving accounts of how women might be represented in a court of law. Several features of Thurkil’s advocacy should be noted. First, he serves simultaneously as the widow’s advocate and as a sitting member of the judicial panel. This was not uncommon, and there is no evidence that this sort of dual role was seen as inappropriate; rather, it appears to have been expected that a forespeca would participate in the panel’s deliberations. Second, despite his role as the widow’s advocate, Thurkil claims to be unfamiliar with her legal affairs. Although he may be telling the truth, it is worth noting that these sorts of claims are also found relatively frequently in the legal record, especially in those cases where alleged wrongdoing might result in the confiscation of property from the criminal as well as those advocating on his behalf [cf. Andrew Rabin, “Old English Forespeca and the Role of the Advocate in Anglo-Saxon Law,” Mediaeval Studies 69 [2007]: 244-6]. While it seems unlikely that the widow is guilty of some sort of unrecorded felonious act, under the proper circumstances, her son’s attempt to seize his mother’s land might well provide an acquisitive royal with just the excuse necessary for confiscation. Finally, although the widow remains absent from court and must rely on Thurkil to represent her interests, it is not Thurkil but his wife who she summons and to whom she wills her property. Even as the widow requires male advocacy in order to have a voice in court, she nonetheless relies on female community and kinship ties to protect her rights and make her interests known.

Her swutelað on ðissum gewrite þæt an scirgemot sæt æt Ægelnoðesstane be Cnutes dæge cinges. Ðær sæton Æðelstan biscop, 7 Ranig ealdorman, 7 Edwine þæs ealdormannes [sunu], 7 Leofwine Wulsiges sunu, 7 Þurcil Hwita, 7 Tofig Pruda com þær on þæs Cinges ærende, 7 þær wæs Bryning scirgerefa, 7 Ægelgeard æt Frome, 7 Leofwine æt Frome, 7 Godric æt Stoce, 7 ealle þa þegnas on Herefordscire.

Þa com þær farende to þam gemote Edwine, Enneawnes sunu, 7 spæc þær on his agene modor æfter sumon dæle landes, þæt wæs Weolintun 7 Cyrdesleah. Þa acsode se bisceop hwa sceolde andswerian for his moder. Þa andsweorode Þurcil Hwita 7 sæde þæt he sceolde gif he ða talu cuðe. Þa he ða talu na ne cuðe, ða sceawode man þreo þegnas of þam gemote [ridan] þær ðær heo wæs—7 þæt wæs æt Fæliglæ—þæt wæs Leofwine æt Frome 7 Ægelsig þe Reada 7 Wynsig Scægðman. 7 þa ða heo to hire comon þa acsodon heo hwylce talu heo hæfde ymbe þa land þe hire sunu æfter spæc. Ða sæde heo þæt heo nan land [h]æfde þe him aht to gebyrede, 7 gebealh heo swiðe eorlice wið hire sunu.7 gecleopode ða Leofflæde hire magan to hire Þurcilles wif, 7 beforan heom to hire þus cwæð: “her sit Leoffled min mage þe ic geann ægðer ge mines landes ge mines goldes ge rægles ge reafes ge ealles þær þe ic ah æfter minon dæge.” 7 heo syððan to þam þegnon cwæþ: “doð þegnlice 7 wel abeodað mine ærende to ðam gemote beforan eallon þam godan mannum, 7 cyðaþ heom hwæm ic mines landes geunnen hæbbe 7 ealre minre æhte, 7 minon agenan suna næfre nan þingc, 7 biddað heom eallum beon þisses to gewitnesse.” 7 heo ða swæ dydon: ridon to þam gemote 7 cyddon eallon þam godan mannum hwæt heo on heom geled hæfde.Ða astod Þurcyll hwita up on þam gemote 7 bæd ealle þa þegnas syllan his wife þa land clæne þe hire mage hire geuðe. 7 heo swa dydon. 7 Þurcyll rad ða to sancte Æþelberhtes mynstre be ealles þæs folces leafe 7 gewitnesse 7 let settan on ane Cristes boc.


1 Ægelnoðesstan is probably Aylton in Herefordshire.

5 The identifiable members of the shire council include Æthelstan, bishop of Hereford (fl. 1012-1033 × 1056); Ealdorman Ranig (fl. 918-1041, although the length of time represented by these dates makes it likely that the lives of two individuals of the same name have been conflated), who may have taken part in Hardacnut’s harrying of Worcester; Edwin, probably Ranig’s son, although Robertson speculates that he may have been the son of Earl Leofric of Mercia and thus served as his representative at the shire meeting (Robertson, Anglo-Saxon Charters 400); Thurkil the White, one of the wealthiest landowners in Herefordshire; and Tofi the Proud, who sponsored the first church in Waltham, although the “king’s errand” that brought him to Herefordshire remains unspecified.

6-7 Nothing else is known of Edwin other than what his recorded here. The name of his parent, Enneawn, has caused some disagreement: early editors of this charter read this name as a corrupted version of the female “Eanwen.” More recently, however, readers have pointed to the masculine genitive “-es” ending to suggest that the name is the masculine “Enniaun,” although this name is otherwise unattested during the Anglo-Saxon period. The lands in dispute are Wellington and Cradley, Herefordshire.

10-11 Fæliglæ refers to Fawley, nine miles southwest of Aylton. Nothing is known of the three representatives of the court, however Wynsig’s cognomen Scægðman indicates that he may once have been a crewmember on an English longboat (scægð).

23 To own property “cleanly” referred to the possession of land free from any entailment or outstanding dispute. Thurkil here asks the council to deny in perpetuity the validity of Edwin’s claim so that his wife (and he) might possess them without the threat of further litigation.

24 sancte Æþelberhtes mynstre: Hereford Cathedral, and the Cristes boc presumably is the manuscript of the Gospels in the margins of which the narrative of this case is preserved.


[1] Christine G. Clark, “Women’s Rights in Early England,” Brigham Young University Law Review (1995): 207. Similar assertions may be found as early as 1876 in Henry Cabot Lodge’s essay on “The Anglo-Saxon Land-Law”: “In all the law to be drawn from the books, women appear as in every respect equal to men.” Henry Cabot Lodge, “The Anglo-Saxon Land Law,” Essays in Anglo-Saxon Law, ed. Henry Adams (Boston: Little Brown and Company, 1876), 113. More recently, analogous views may be found in Sheila G. Dietrich, “An Introduction to Women in Anglo-Saxon Society,” The Women of England: From Anglo-Saxon Times to the Present, ed. Barbara Kanner (Hamdon, CT: Archon Books, 1979), 43, F. M. Stenton, “The Historical Bearing of Place-Name Studies: The Place of Women in Anglo-Saxon Society,” Preparatory to Anglo-Saxon England: Being the Collected Papers of Frank Merry Stenton, ed. Doris Stenton (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1970), 314.

[2] See, for instance, Anne L. Klinck, “Anglo-Saxon Women and the Law,” Journal of Medieval History 8 (1982): 108, Clare Lees and Gillian R. Overing, Double Agents: Women and Clerical Culture in Anglo-Saxon England (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2001), 78, Julie Coleman, “Rape in Anglo-Saxon England,” Violence and Society in the Early Medieval West, ed. Guy Halsall (Woodbridge: Boydell Press, 1998), 193-204, Shari Horner, The Discourse of Enclosure (New York: State University of New York Press, 2001), Shari Horner, “The Language of Rape in Old English Literature and Law: Views from the Anglo-Saxon(ist)s,” Sex and Sexuality in Anglo-Saxon England: Essays in Memory of Daniel Gillmore Calder, ed. Carol Braun Pasternack and Lisa M.C. Weston (Tempe, AZ: ACMRS, 2004), 149-83, Carole A. Hough, “The Early Kentish ’Divorce Laws’: A Reconsideration of Aethelberht, Chs. 79 and 80,” Anglo-Saxon England 23 (1994): 19-34, Carole A. Hough, “Two Kentish Laws Concerning Women: A New Reading of Æthelberht 73 and 74,” Anglia 119 (2001): 554-78, Janet Nelson, “The Wary Widow,” Property and Power in the Early Middle Ages, ed. Wendy Davies and Paul Fouracre (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995), 82-113, Mary P. Richards and B. Jane Stanfield, “Concepts of Anglo-Saxon Women in the Laws,” New Readings on Women in Old English Literature, ed. Helen Damico and Alexandra Hennessey Olsen (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1990), 89-99, Victoria Thompson, “Women, Power, and Protection in Tenth- and Eleventh-Century England,” Medieval Women and the Law, ed. Noël James Menuge (Woodbridge: Boydell Press, 2000), 1-17.

[3] Patrick Wormald catalogued all surviving Anglo-Saxon legal disputes in “A Handlist of Anglo-Saxon Lawsuits,” Legal Culture in the Early Medieval West: Law as Text, Image, and Experience (London: Hambledon Press, 1999); the citation here is from p. 283.

[4] John Hudson, “Court Cases and Legal Arguments in England, c. 1066-1166,” Transactions of the Royal Historical Society 6th series, v. 10 (2000): 92.

[5] Patrick Wormald, “Charters, Law, and the Settlement of Disputes in Anglo-Saxon England,” Legal Culture in the Early Medieval West, 292, 94.

[6] S 1456, ed. A. J. Robertson, Anglo-Saxon Charters, Cambridge Studies in English Legal History (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1939), no. 69. pp. 140-3. Charters are generally referred to by their “Sawyer number” (abbreviated S) taken from P.H. Sawyer, Anglo-Saxon Charters: An Annotated List and Bibliography (London: Royal Historical Society, 1968) and recently superceded by The Electronic Sawyer, http://www.trin.cam.ac.uk/chartwww/eSawyer.99/eSawyer2.html. For ease of reference, I have cited disputes by the Sawyer number (S) of the charters in which they are recorded and the Wormald number (W) that corresponds to their place in Wormald’s “Handlist.” For other examples of charters emphasizing compromise over adjudication, see S 1454 (W 49) and S 1460 (W 77), which states that hit betere wære þæt heora seht togæ[ddre wur]de þonne hy ænige [sa]ce hym betweonan heoldan ‘better it were that they were reconciled together than that they had any suit between them’. Ed. Robertson, Anglo-Saxon Charters, no. 83, pp. 162-4. Paul Hyams has argued that reconciliation is the paramount function of a charter: “I would suggest that we understand each charter as recording the reconciliation of many forces into a convencio, a private agreement between more or less willing partners.” Paul R. Hyams, “The Charter as a Source for the Early Common Law,” The Journal of Legal History 12.3 (1991): 174.

[7] Hyams, “The Charter as a Source for the Early Common Law,” 173.

[8] S 1457 (W 46). Text taken from Robertson, Anglo-Saxon Charters, no. 59, p. 122.

[9] S 1436 (W14). Text taken from Walter de Gray Birch, Cartularium Saxonicum: A Collection of Charters Relating to Anglo-Saxon History (London, 1885), v. 1, no. 384, pp. 528-31.

[10] Klinck, “Anglo-Saxon Women and the Law,” 115. The full extent of the disjunction between legislation and practice has been the subject of some scholarly debate. For a different perspective, see Richards and Stanfield, “Concepts of Anglo-Saxon Women in the Laws,” 90.

[11] Nelson, “The Wary Widow,” 82-3.

[12] V Æthelred 21, VI Æthelred 39.

[13Julia] Crick, “Women, Posthumous Benefaction, and Family Strategy in Pre-Conquest England,” The Journal of British Studies 38.4 (1999): 417.

[14] On the use of advocacy in pre-Conquest dispute resolution, see Andrew Rabin, “Old English forespeca and the Role of the Advocate in Anglo-Saxon Law,” Mediaeval Studies 69 (2007): 223-54.

[15] S 1457 (W 46). Text taken from Robertson, Anglo-Saxon Charters, no. 59, p. 122.

[16] S 1511.

[17] The lawsuits in which Ælfthryth intervened are W 45, 46, and 69 (recorded in S 1457 and 1511); 49 (in S 1454); 66 and 67 (both recorded in S 1242), and 150 (in the Ramsey Chronicon). The other examples of Ælfthryth’s actions as an advocate are recorded in S 806, 1449, and 1485. Additionally, Ælfthryth appears as a witness in a further thirty-five charters: S 671, 731, 739, 745, 746, 766, 767, 771, 779, 786, 788-9, 794-5, 800-1, 805, 807, 835, 837-8, 840-3, 845, 849, 855, 876-9, 888, 891, and 896. She is also the recipient of land grants or bequests in six charters: S 725, 742, 877, 1484, 1486, and 1503. It should be noted also that the number of lawsuits in which Ælfthryth intervened is somewhat tentative: there may be other instances of her advocacy that did not survive, and in at least one case, the allusion to her participation is so vague as to leave the exact nature of her intervention nearly undecipherable. For a more extensive discussion of Ælfthryth’s interventions as an advocate, see Andrew Rabin, “Female Advocacy and Royal Protection in Tenth-Century England: The Legal Career of Queen Ælfthryth,” forthcoming from Speculum.

[18] The one exception is W 150, in which she acts on behalf of the abbot and community of Ramsey Abbey. It is likely that she acted on behalf of male litigants more often than the surviving records indicate, yet it is striking that the vast majority of the surviving records-six out of seven-and all of those preserved in charters emphasize the gendered nature of her advocacy.

[19] W 66 (in S 1242).

[20] Marc A. Meyer, “The Queen’s ’Demesne’ in Later Anglo-Saxon England,” The Culture of Christendom: Essays in Medieval History in Commemoration of Denis L. T. Bethell, ed. Marc A. Meyer (London: Hambledon and London, 1993), 81-2.

[21] S 806. On the relationship between Æthelwold and Ælfthryth, see Barbara Yorke, “Æthelwold and the Politics of the Tenth Century,” Bishop Æthelwold: His Career and Influence, ed. Barbara Yorke (Woodbridge: Boydell, 1988), 81.

[22] On this point of law, see Pauline Stafford, Queen Emma and Queen Edith: Queenship and Women’s Power in Eleventh Century England (Oxford: Blackwell, 1997), 154 n. 302.


The glossary is intended to be complete, although not all occurrences of some common words are recorded. Proper names of persons and places have also been excluded. Weak verb classes are indicated by Arabic numerals, and strong verb classes by Roman numerals. Verbs are described by person, number, tense, and, where necessary, mood, e.g., ’3s pr. subj.’ Adjectives are identified by case and number, nouns by case, number, and gender, e.g., ns. = ’nominative singular,’ ’nsn.’ = ’nominative singular neuter.’ Entries are indexed by text and line number, so that ’4.32’ refers to a word found on the 32nd line of Text 4. The following common abbreviations are used:

a. accusative
adj. adjective
adv. adverb
art. article
comp. comparative
conj. conjunction
d. dative
def. definite
dem. demonstrative
f. feminine
g. genitive
i. instrumental
imp. imperative
ind. indicative
indef. indefinite
inf. infinitive
m. masculine
n. neuter or nominative
num. number
p ptc past participle
pr. present (tense)
prep. preposition
pron. pronoun
pt. preterite (past tense)
rel. relative
s. singular
subj. subjunctive
superl. superlative

7 ‘and’ (the ‘Tironian et’) 1.1, 1.2, et.

abbud m. ‘abbot’ ns. abbud 3.10, 3.14; ds. abbude 3.8

abbudisse f. ‘abbess’ ns. abbudisse 3.15, 3.16

abeodan II ‘to announce,’ ‘to deliver’ imp. abeodað 5.17

abiddan V ‘to get by asking,’ ‘to obtain’ 1p pt. abedon 4.8

aborgian II ‘to borrow’ 3s pt. aborgude 1.3

ac conj. ‘but’ 4.13

acsian 2 ‘to ask’ 1s pt. acsode 5.7; 3p pt. acsodon 5.11

adrencan 1 ‘to drown’ 3s pt. adrencte 2.7

æfre adv. ‘ever’ 1.24, 1.35, 3.11

æfter adv. ‘after,’ ‘next’ 4.9, 5.7, 5.12, 5.16

ægift m. ‘restitution,’ ‘repayment’ gs. ægiftes 1.7, 1.11

ægðer conj. ægðer ge … ge… ‘both … and …’ 5.15

æht f. ‘property,’ ‘possession’ np. æhta 3.25; gs. æhte 5.18

ælc adj. ‘each,’ ‘every’ asf. ælcere 1.27; dsm. ælcon 4.3

ænig adj. ‘any’ gsn. æniges 1.12

ær I. conj. ‘until’ 1.11, 1.18 II. adv. ‘earlier,’ ‘previously’ 2.5

æreafe p ptc? ‘detected’ hapax legomenon 2.6

ærende n. ‘errand,’ ‘message’ ds. ærende 5.4; as. ærende 5.17

ærest adv. ‘first’ 3.13

æt prep. ‘at,’ ‘from’ 1.1, 1.3, etc.

ætberstan III ‘to escape’ 3s pt. ætberst 2.7

ætreccan I ‘to declare forfeit’ 3s pt. ætrehte 1.14

ætsacan VI ‘to deny’ 3s pt. ætsoc 1.17

æþeling m. ‘prince,’ ‘man of noble or royal lineage’ gp. æþelinga 3.14

afeallan VII ‘to fall’ p ptc. afeallen 1.7

agan pret-pres. ‘to own,’ ‘to possess’ 1s pr. ah 5.16; 3s pt. ahte 1.15; p ptc. aht 5.13. With negative: 3s pt. nahte 4.5

agen adj. ‘own’ asf. agene 5.6; dsm. agenan 5.19; dpf. agenum 1.33

agiefan V ‘to give’ or ‘to give back’ inf. agyfan/agifan 1.18, 3.21; 3s pt. agef 1.6, 1.17, 1.22, 4.3, 4.14; 3p pt. agefon 1.31; 3p. pr. subj. agefum 4/4; p ptc., negative unagifnum ‘unrepaid’ 1.6

agifan alternate spelling of agiefan

agyfan alternate spelling of agiefan

geahnian 2 ‘to own’ inf. geahnian 3.12

ahnung f. ‘proof of ownership,’ ‘patent’ ap. ahnunga 3.13

alætan VII ‘to relinquish’ 3s pt. alet 1.13

altare m. ‘altar’ as. altare 1.33

an adj., indefinite article ‘one’ nsf. an 2.5; nsn. an 5.1; asf. ane 4.14, 5.24

andswerian 2 ‘to answer’ inf. andswerian 5.8; 3s pt. andsweorode 5.8

anwedd n. ‘pledge’ ds. anwedde 1.4

ar f. I. ‘property’ ns. ar 1.35, as. are 1.15, 1.27, 1.31 II. ‘honor’ ds. are 1.33

arcebiscop m. ‘archbishop’ ns. arcebiscop 3.2, 3.11, 4.2; as. arcebiscop 4.1; ds. arcebiscope 1.1, 3.5

astandan VI ‘to stand’ 3s pt. astod 5.22

astiþian 2 ‘to assume power’ 3s pt. astiþude 1.30

atellan 1 ‘to count,’ ‘to enumerate’ inf. atellan 3.18

ateon II ‘to dispose of,’ ‘to deal with’ gerund ateonne 1.16

m. ‘oath’ as. 1.10, 1.24, 3.20, 3.22; ds. aþe 1.11, 3.24

aweg adv. ‘away’ 3.20, 3.22

awendan 1 ‘to change’ 3s pr. subj. awende 1.35

awyrgan 1 ‘to damn’ 3s pr. subj. awyrgde 1.34

bannan VI ‘to summon’ 3p pt. beonn 1.4

be prep. w/d. ‘about,’ ‘concerning,’ ‘by’1.9, 1.11, etc.

bec see boc

becweðan V ‘to say’ 3s pt. becwæþ 1.6

beforan prep. ‘in the presence of’ 3.2, 5.14, 5.17

begietan V ‘to acquire,’ ‘to receive’ 3s pt. beget 1.2

gebelgan III ‘to grow angry’ 3s pt. gebealh 5.13

beodan II ‘to command’ 3s pt. bead 4.3

beon anomalous ‘to be’ inf. beon 5.19, 1s pr. eom 4.2, 4.13; 3s pr. is 1.2, 3.13; 3s pt. was/wæs 1.7, etc.; 3p pt.wæron 1.9, etc.; 3s pt. subj. wære 1.24, 3.19; 3p. pt. subj. wæren 1.29. With negative: 3s pt. næs 3.24; 3s pt. subj. nære 3.20

beonn see bannan

geberan IV ‘to bear,’ ‘to be born’ gerund geborenne ‘alive’ 1.24; negative: ungeborenne ‘unborn’ 1.24

bereafian 2 ‘to plunder’ inf. bereafian 4.15

berypan 1 ‘to plunder,’ ‘to rob’ 3s pt. berypte 1.27

betæcan 1 ‘to hand over,’ ‘to entrust,’ ‘to offer’ 3s pt. betæhte 1.3, 1.32

betera adj. ‘better’ nsn. betere 3.19

biddan V ‘to ask,’ ‘to request’ inf. biddan 3.21; 3s pt. bæd 1.21, 3.10, 5.22; 2p pr. imperative biddað 5.19

gebiorgan III ‘to protect’ inf. gebiorgan 3.24

bisceop m. ‘bishop’ ns. bisceop/biscop 2.1, 2.2, 2.4, 3.2, 3.9, 3.12, etc.; ds. bisceope/biscope 2.9, 3.22, 4.2, 4.9; gs. biscopes 4.4, 4.6; gp. bisceopa 1.32

biscop see bisceop

boc f. ‘deed,’ ‘charter,’ ‘document’ as. boc/bec 1.2, 1.6, 1.22, 4.12, 4.14, 5.24; np. bec 4.3; ap. bec 1.14, 1.18, 1.32; gp. boca 1.21; dp. bocum 1.15, 1.26

bricg f. ‘bridge’ ds. bricge 2.7

bringan I ‘to bring’ inf. bringan 3.23; 1p pt. brocton 4.11

broðor m. ‘brother’ as. broðor 4.8

brucan II ‘to enjoy,’ ‘to use’ inf. brucan 1.11, 1.12, 4.9

bufan adv. ‘above,’ ‘previously’ 2.9

butan prep. ‘outside,’ ‘except,’ ‘excluding’ 1.17, 1.22, 3.6, 3.25

buton see butan

gebyrian I ‘to belong to,’ ‘to befit,’ ‘to be proper to’ 3s pt. gebyrede 5.13

geceosan II ‘to choose’ p ptc. gecoren 1.29

cild n. ‘child,’ ‘child of noble or royal birth’ ds. cilde 1.29

cing see cyning

clæne adv. ‘cleanly,’ ‘utterly,’ ‘entirely’ 5.23

geclænsian 2 ‘to clean,’ ‘to purify,’ ‘to clear,’ ‘to exonerate’ inf. geclænsian 1.9; 3s pt. geclænsude 1.10

geclipian 2 ‘to call,’ ‘to summon,’ ‘to cry out’ 3s pt. gecleopode 5.14

gecnawan VII ‘to understand,’ ‘to know,’ ‘to be aware’ 1s pr. gecnewe 4.13

cuman IV ‘to come’ 3s pt. com 1.1, 1.35, 5.3, 5.6; 3p pt. comon 5.11

cunnan pt. pr. ‘to know’ 3s pt. cuðe 5.9

cweðan V ‘to say’ 3s pt. cwæð/cwæþ 1.16, 1.34, 3.25, 4.5, 5.15, 5.17; 3p pt. cwædon 3.19

cyning m. king ns. cyning/cyncg/cynincg/kyng 1.14, 1.15, 1.20, 1.22, 2.8, 3.5, 3.8, 4.3, 4.4; as. kynincg 1.21; gs. cinges/cyninges/cynincges/kynincges 1.25,1.31, 2.2, 3.3, 3.13, 3.26, 5.2, 5.3; ds. cyncge/cyninge/kynge 1.12, 2.8, 3.2, 3.21; gp. cyninga 1.26

cyrice f. ‘church’ gs. cyrcean 1.1, 1.35; ds. cyrcean 1.32

cyðan 1 ‘to reveal,’ ‘to make known,’ ‘to inform’ 1s pr. cyðe 4.1; 2p pr. imperative cyðaþ 5.18; 3s pr. cyþ 1.1, 3.1; 3s pt. cydde 4.12, 4.14, 4.15; 3p pt. cyddon/cyþdon 3.6, 5.20

dæg m. ‘day’ instrumental deg/dæge/dege 4.9, 5.1, 5.16; np. dagas 1.26

dæl m. ‘part,’ ‘portion’ gs. dæles 3.26; ds. dæle 5.7

dehter see dohtor

discten m. ‘dish-servant’ ns. discten 3.14

dohtor f. ‘daughter’ ns. dohtor 3.16, 3.17; ds. dehter 1.6

don anomalous ‘to do’ inf. don/gedon 1.24, 1.31, 4.14; 2p pr. imperative doð 5.17; 3s pt. dyde 1.22, 3.7, 3.24; 3p pt. dydon 5.20, 5.23

drifan I ‘to drive’ 3p pt. drifon 2.5

durran pt. pr. ‘to dare’ 3s pt. dorste 1.16, 3.24, 4.5

eadmodlice adv. ‘humbly’ 4.1

ealdorman m. ‘nobleman’ ns. ealderman/ealdorman 3.3, 5.2; as. ealdarman 4.1; gs. ealdormannes 5.2

eall I. adj. ‘all’ ns. eal/eall 3.10, etc; as. eal/eall 1.14; gs. ealles 5.16, 5.24; gp. ealra/ealre 1.32, 1.10, 1.32, 5.19; dp. eallon/eallum 1.34, 5.17, 5.19, 5.20 II. adv. ‘entirely,’ ‘fully’ 1.15, etc.

geearnian 2 ‘to deserve’ p ptc geearnud 1.17

eaðmettu n. ‘humility’ dp. eaðmettum 1.23 (NB: eaðmettu declines in the plural, yet can and should be translated into ModE as a singular)

ecnes f. ‘eternity’ ds. ecnesse 1.33

edgift f. ‘restitution’ ds. edgift 1.21

eft adv. ‘again,’ ‘afterwards’ 2.9

efter see æfter

eftergenga m. ‘follower,’ ‘descendant’ gp. eftergenga 4.15

ege m. ‘fear,’ ‘awe’ ds. ege 4.5

emb prep. ‘about,’ ‘around’ 1.4

geendian 2 ‘to end,’ ‘to complete’ 3s pt. geendude 1.27

enig adj. ‘any’ ns. enig 4.3

eode see gan

eorlice adv. ‘angrily’ 5.13

fæder m. ‘father’ ns. fæder/feder 1.2, 1.3, 1.5, 2.6; gs. fæder 1.9, 3.23; as. fæder 1.10

fæstlice adv. ‘steadfastly,’ ‘firmly’ 1.8

fals n. ‘falsehood’ as. fals 4.14

faran VI ‘to go’ 3p pt. faron 1.5; p ptc. farende 5.6

feo n. ‘money,’ price,’ ‘fee’ gs. feos 1.3, 1.7; ds. feo 1.9

findan III ‘to find,’ ‘to obtain (from)’ ‘to induce’ 3p pt. fundon 1.11

folc n. ‘people,’ ‘community’ gs. folces 5.24

fon VII ‘to catch,’ ‘to seize,’ ‘to succeed (to the kingdom)’ 3s pt. fencg 1.20

for prep. ‘on account of,’ ‘because of’ 1.16, etc.; for ðan þe conj. ‘because’

forbeodan II ‘to forbid’ 3s pt. forbead 1.12

foresprecan adj. ‘aforesaid’ apn. forespecenen 1.28

forgiefan V ‘to give’ 3s pt. forgeaf 1.15, 2.8

forgyldan III ‘to requite’ inf. forgyldan 3.21

forð adv. ‘forth,’ ‘forward’ 2.6

forþan adv. ‘henceforth,’ ‘thereafter’ 3.20

forþanþe conj. ‘because’ 2.5

forþcuman IV ‘to come forth’ 3s pt. forþcom 3.18

forwyrcan 1 ‘to forfeit’ 3p pt. forwyrt 2.5

fram prep. ‘from’ 4.5

freond m. ‘friend’ np. frynd 1.11

freondscipe m. ‘friendship’ ns. freondscype 3.20

full adj. ‘full’ nsm. fulla 3.18

fultum m. ‘help,’ ‘support’ ds. fultume 3.13

fyrst m. ‘period of time’ ds. fyrste (on fyrste ‘in due time,’ ‘in the course of time’) 1.14

gan anomalous ‘to go’ 3s pt. eode 2.8, 4.9

ge conj. ‘and,’ ‘both…and’ 3.19, etc.

gear n. ‘year’ ds. geare 1.8

giefu f. ‘gift’ gs. gife 1.34

gif conj. ‘if’ 5.9

gife see giefu

god adj. ‘good’ nsm god 3.18, 3.27; nsn god 3.18; dpm godan 5.18, 5.20

gold n. ‘gold’ as. gold 3.23; gs. goldes 5.15

gretan 1 ‘to greet’ 3s pr. gret 4.1; 3s pt. grette 3.9

gyt adv. ‘yet’ 1.11, 3.25

habban 3 ‘to have,’ ‘to hold’ inf. habban 4.6; 1s pr. hæbbe 3s pt. hafde/hæfde/hefde/headde 1.4, 1.25, 2.5, 3.24, 4.4, etc.; 3p pt. subj. hæfden 1.31

hand f. ‘hand’ ns. hand , as. hand 1.9; ds. handa/hand 1.23, 2.8, 3.22, 4.6; dp. handum 1.33

hattan VII ‘to command’ 3s pt. het 3.10, 4.15

he, hio, hit pron. ‘he,’ ‘she,’ ‘it’ nsm. he 1.2, 1.4, etc.; asm. hine 1.15, etc.; gsm. his 1.2, etc.; dsm. him 1.2, etc.; nsn. hit/hyt 4.10, etc.; asn. hit 1.2, etc.; nsf. hio/heo 1.9, 3.12, etc.; gsf. hire/hyre 1.1, etc.; npm. hi/hy 1.18, etc.; gpm. hire/hiora/hyra 1.29, etc.; dpm. heom 5.14, etc.

heafod n. ‘head,’ ‘headship’ as. heafod 4.6

healdan VII ‘to hold,’ ‘to protect,’ ‘to preserve,’ ‘to satisfy’ inf. healdan 1.18; p ptc. gehealden 3.25

heo see he

heofonlic adj. ‘heavenly’ dpn. heofonlicum 1.34

her adv. ‘here’ 2.1, 2.9, 3.1, 5.1, 5.15

hit see he

hu adv. conj. ‘how’ 1.1, 1.18, 3.1

hwa, hwæt pron. ‘who,’ ‘what’ nsm. hwa 5.8; nsn. hwæt 5.20; dsf. hwæm 5.18

hwierfan I ‘to turn, ‘to change’ 3p pt. hwyrfdon 2.1

hwita adj. ‘white’ nsm. hwita 5.3, 5.8, 5.22

hwylce pron. adj. ‘which’ nsf. hwylce 5.11

hyred m. ‘community’ ds. hyrede 1.1, 1.33, 1.35

ic/wit/we pron. ‘I’ ns. ic 4.1, etc.; as. me 4.7; ds. me 4.6, 4.84.12; np. dual wit 4.10; np. we 3.18

in prep+to ‘into’ 1.32, 1.35

inc dual pron. ‘you’ apm. inc 4.1

incleofe f. ‘chamber,’ ‘closet’ ds. inclifan 2.6

insegel n. ‘seal’ as. insegel 3.8

into prep. ‘into’ 2.4, 4.10

isern adj. ‘iron’ asm. iserne 2.5

lædan 1 ‘to lead,’ ‘to bring’ 3s pt. gelædde, lædde 1.10, 3.1, 3.13

læfan 1 ‘to leave,’ ‘to bequeath’ 3s pt. læfde 1.2; 3p pt. læfdon 1.2

lætan VII ‘to let,’ ‘to allow,’ ‘to permit,’ ‘to leave undone,’ ‘to leave behind’ 3s pt. let 1.23, 3.22, 5.24; 3s pr. subj. lete 3.20

land n. ‘land’ ns. land 1.1, etc.; as. land/lond 1.2, etc.; gs. landes 1.7, 1.11, 4.9, 5.7, 5.15, 5.18; ds. lande 4.4; gp. landa 2.1; dp. landum 1.15, 1.18

lang adj. ‘long’ temporal clause swa lange 1.8

leaf f. ‘permission,’ ‘consent’ ds. leafe 1.32, 5.24

leanian 2 ‘repay,’ ‘reward’ inf. leanian 1.17

lecgan 1 ‘to lay,’ ‘to place’ 3s pt. lede 1.33; pt ptc. geled 5.21

libban 3 ‘to live’ 1s pr. libbe 4.13; 3s pt. subj. lyfode 4.13

gelimpan III ‘to befall’ 3s pt. gelamp 1.3, 1.4, 1.14

ma adj. ‘more’ 4.6, 4.13

mægen n. ‘army,’ ‘host’ dp. mægne 1.34

maga m. ‘kin,’ ‘relation,’ ‘family member’ ns. mage 5.15, 5.23; ds. magan 5.14

magan pret-pres. ‘to be able’ 1p pr. magon 3.18; 3s. pt. mihte 3.26, 4.15

man m. ‘man,’ ‘person’ ns. man 1.4, etc.; gs. mannes 1.5; dp. mannum 4.10, 5.18, 5.20

manfull adj. ‘wicked,’ ‘sinful’ asn. manfull 1.30

me see ic

gemede n. ‘consent,’ ‘wish’ dp. gemedon 4.4

menig adj. ‘many’ nsm. menig 3.18, 3.27

mete m. ‘produce’ ds. mete 4.10

mid prep. ‘with’ 1.2, etc.

min pron., adj. ‘mine’ nsm. min 5.15; asn. mine 5.17, gsn. mines 5.15, 5.18; dsm. minon 5.16, 5.19; dsf. minre 5.18

modor f. ‘mother’ ns. modor 3.3, 3.13 ds. modor, moder 5.7, 5.8

morð n. ‘crime,’ ‘sinful object’ as. morð 2.6

gemot n. ‘assembly,’ ‘meeting’ ds. gemote 3.8, 5.6, 5.9, 5.17, 5.20, 5.22

motan pret-pres. ‘to be allowed,’ ‘may’ 3s pt. moste 1.11, 3.12; 3p. pt. moston 4.9

mycel adj. ‘great,’ ‘much’ ds. myclan 1.9

mynster n. ‘church’ ds. mynstre 5.24

na adv. ‘no,’ ‘by no means,’ ‘never’ 5.9

næfre adv. ‘never’ 5.19

nære = ne wære see beon

næs = ne wæs see beon

nahte see agan

nan pron., adj. ‘none,’ ‘not any’ nsm. nan 3.20, etc.; asn. nan 4.5, etc.; gsm. nanes 1.5; gsf. nanre 4.13

ne I. conj. ‘neither … nor’ 3.26 II. adv. ‘not’ 1.11, etc.

nead f. ‘compulsion,’ ‘force’ gs. neade 4.13

niman IV ‘take,’ ‘seize’ 3s pt. nam 1.31, 2.7; 3p pt. namon 1.27

niwe adj. ‘new’ asf. niwe 4.14

nolde = ne wolde see willan

nu adv., conj. ‘now’ 4.12

of prep. ‘from,’ ‘of’ 2.6, 5.9

ofgan anom. ‘to hold’ 3p pr. subj. ofeodon 4.4

ofneadian 2 ‘to obtain by force,’ ‘to extort’ inf. ofneadian 4.12

on prep. ‘on,’ ‘onto,’ ‘in’ 1.7, etc.

oncunnan pret-pres. ‘to grow angry,’ ‘to blame,’ ‘to accuse’ 3s pt. oncuþe 1.14

ongean prep. ‘against,’ ‘toward’ 3.4

oð/oþ prep. ‘up to,’ ‘as far as,’ ‘until’ 1.7, 1.8, 1.30

oðer/oþer adj., pron. ‘other,’ ‘another’ gpf. oþerra 1.23; asf. oðer, oþer 4.16

oððe/oþþe conj. ‘or’ 1.35, 4.4

priost m. ‘priest’ ns. priost 3.14

pruda adj. ‘proud’ nsm. pruda 5.3

pund n. ‘pound’ gp. punda 1.3

rægl n. ‘clothing’ gs. rægles 5.16

read adj. ‘red’ nsm. reada 5.11

reaf n. ‘clothing,’ ‘rainment’ gs. reafes 5.16

reaflac n. ‘robbery,’ ‘crime’ as. reaflac 1.30; gs. reaflaces 3.21

gereccan 1 ‘to direct,’ ‘to order,’ ‘to give judgment,’ ‘to explain’ 3s pt. gerehton 1.9, 1.30, 1.31

gerefa m. ‘steward,’ ‘reeve, ‘sheriff’ ns. gerefa 3.26

rest f. ‘rest,’ ‘repose’ ds. reste 1.33

rice n. ‘kingdom’ ds. rice 1.20

ridan I ‘to ride,’ inf. ridan 5.10; 3s pt. rad 4.6, 5.23; 3p pt. ridon 5.20. Idiomatic: to handa geridan ‘to place into [someone’s] power or possession’ 3s pt. 4.6

riht n. ‘right,’ ‘justice’ ds. rihte 1.2

rihtlice adv. ‘rightly,’ ‘justly’ 3.10

rihtlicost adj. ‘most right,’ ‘most just’ 3.11

rihtur adj. ‘more just,’ ‘more right’ ns. rihtur 1.29

sæl m. ‘time,’ ‘occasion’ as. sæl 1.20

sanct m. ‘saint,’ ‘holy person’ gs. sancte 5.23

sawol f. ‘soul,’ ‘life’ gs. sawle 1.33

scægðman m. ‘shipman,’ ‘sailor’ ns. scægðman 5.11

sceawian 2 ‘to see,’ ‘to choose,’ ‘to select’ 3s pt. sceawode 5.9

sceatt m. ‘money’ ds. scette 1.5

sceotan II ‘to assign,’ ‘to allot’ 3s pr. subj. sceote 3.6

scir f. ‘shire,’ ‘district’ ns. scir 3.10

scirgemot n. ‘shire-meeting,’ ‘shire council’ ns. scirgemot 5.1; ds. scirgemote 3.6

scirgerefa m. ‘shire reeve’ ns. scirgerefa 5.4

sculan pret-pres. ‘must,’ ‘ought to’ 3s pt. sceolde/sciolde 1.9, 3.25, 3.21, 3.23, 5.8; 3p pt. sceoldon/scioldon 3.10, 4.12

se, þæt, seo dem. pron./def. art. nsm. se 1.14, etc. [for se, see also beon]; nsf. sio 3.10; nsn. þæt/ðæt/þet 1.3, etc.; asm. þane/þone/þonne/þene 1.34, etc.; asf. þa/ða 5.9, etc.; asn. þæt/ðæt/þet 1.3, etc.; gsm. þæs/ðæs/þas 1.10, etc.; gsn. þæs/ðæs/þas 1.28, etc.; dsm. þæm/ðæm/þam/ðam/þan 1.1, etc.; dsn. þæm/ðæm/þam/ðam 1.1, etc.; apm/f/n. þa/ða 3.9, etc.; gpm/f/n. þara/ðara 1.23, 1.26, 3.14; dpm/f/n. þæm/ðæm/þam/ðam 5.20, etc.

gesecan I ‘to seek,’ ‘to look for’ 3s pt. gesohte 1.20

secgan 3 ‘to say’ 3s pr. sægð 2.9; 3s pt. sæde 5.8, 5.12; 3p pt. sædon 1.29

sellan 1 ‘to give’ inf. syllan 5.22, 3s pt. sealde 1.6, 1.24, etc.; gerund syllanne 4.5

geseman 1 ‘to reconcile,’ ‘to settle’ inf. geseman 3.11

sendan 1 ‘to sendan’ 3s pt. sende 3.5, 3.8, 3.11

settan 1 ‘to set,’ ‘to put,’ ‘to set down’ inf. settan 5.24; p. ptc. gesett 1.24

gesibb adj. [as noun] ‘kin,’ ‘relation’ ns. gesib 4.8

siolfor n. ‘silver’ as. siolfor 3.24

sittan V ‘to sit’ 3s pr. sit 5.15; 3s pt. sæt 5.1; 3p pt. sæton 5.2

gesomnian 2 ‘to gather,’ ‘to assemble’ 3s pt. gesomnode 3.9

spæc f. ‘suit,’ ‘dispute’ ns. spaec 1.24

specan V ‘to say,’ ‘to sue’ 3s pr. subj. spræce 3.23; 3s pt. spæc/spræc 1.8, 5.6, 5.12; 3p pt. specon 4.3

staca m. ‘pin’ as. stacan 2.5

standan VI ‘to stand’ 3s pt. stode 4.10

sulf see sylf

sulung n. a Kentish property measurement corresponding to amount of land contained in a hide elsewhere. dp. sulungum 1.17

sum pron. ‘some’ nsm. sum 1.23; dsm. sumon 5.7

sunu m. ‘son’ ns. sunu/sune 2.5, 2.7, 2.8, 5.3, 5.6, 5.12; ds. suna/sunu 5.13, 5.19; np. suna 1.26; gp. suna 1.27

swa adv., conj. ‘thus,’ ‘like,’ ‘so,’ ‘just as’ 1.2, etc.

swæ see swa

sweotolian 2 ‘to reveal,’ ‘to expose’ 3s pr. sutelað/swutelað 2.1, 5.1

swerian 2 ‘to swear’ inf. swerian 3.25

swiðe/swyþe adv. ‘very,’ ‘exceedingly’ 1.14, 4.10, 5.13

swustor f. ‘sister’ ns. swustor 3.16

swutelung f. ‘sign,’ ‘seal’ as. swutelunga 3.11

sylf pron., adj. ‘self,’ ‘himself’ nsm. sylf/sulf 1.34, 4.5, 4.16

syllan see sellan

syððan/syþþan adv. ‘after,’ ‘afterwards,’ ‘later’ 3.20, 3.23, 5.16

syxta ‘sixth’ ds. syxtan 1.8

tæcan 1 ‘to instruct,’ ‘to direct,’ ‘to assign’ 3s pt. getæhte/tæhte/getehte 3.12, 3.23, 4.2

talu f. ‘case,’ ‘suit’ ns. talu 5.9, 5.11

teon II ‘to draw,’ ‘to drag,’ ‘to take’ 3s pt. teh 2.6

tid f. time ns. tid 1.4

to prep. ‘to,’ ‘as’ 1.4, etc.

toeacan prep., adv. ‘besides,’ ‘moreover,’ ‘also’ 3.27

getriwlice adv. ‘truly’ 1.18

twegen numeral ‘two’ nsm. twegen 1.27; asf twa 1.28, 4.16; gpm. twegea 1.26; dpm. twam 1.17

twelf num. ‘twelve,’ gp. twelfa 1.23

þa/ða adv. ‘then,’ ‘when’ 1.4, etc. [for pron. uses, see se]

þær/ðær adv., conj. ‘there,’ ‘where’ 1.10, etc.

þæron adv. ‘therein’ 3.23

þærto adv. ‘thereto’ 3.11

þæt/ðæt conj. ‘that, ‘so that’ 1.1, etc.

þagyt adv. ‘still,’ ‘yet’ 3.24

geþancian 2 ‘to thank’ 3s pt. geþancude 1.23

þanon adv. ‘thence,’ ‘therefrom’ 3.22

þe relative particle ‘which,’ ‘who,’ ‘that,’ ‘as’ 1.8, etc.

þeah adv. ‘though,’ ‘yet,’ ‘however’

þegen m. ‘nobleman,’ ‘thane’ ns. þegen, np. þegnas, ap. þegnas, gp. þegna, dp. þegnon

þegnlice adv. ‘loyally,’ ‘nobly’

þeod f. ‘people’ gs. þeode

þer adv., conj. ‘there’

þes/þeos/þis demonstrative pron. ‘this’ nsm. þes, nsf. þeos, nsn. þis 1.24, 3.6; asn. þis, gsm/n. þisses/þyses 3.26, 5.19; dsn. þysum/þyssum/þissum 2.1, 3.1, 5.1

þing n. ‘thing’ as. þingc 5.19

geþingian 2 ‘to pray,’ ‘to beg’ 3s pt. geþingude 1.21

þrie num. ‘three’ ap. þreo 5.9

þus adv. ‘thus,’ ‘in this way,’ ‘as follows’ 1.35, 5.14

þyncan I ‘to seem’ 3s pt. þuhte 1.20, 3.11

ufenan prep. ‘moreover’ 1.23

unagifnum see agiefan

unbesacen adj. ‘uncontested,’ ‘undisputed’ asn. unbesacen 3.22

uneaðe adv. ‘with difficulty’ 4.10

ungeborenne see geberan

geunnan pret-pres. ‘to grant,’ ‘to allow’ 1s pr. geann 5.15; 3s pr. geuðe 5.23; p ptc. geunnen 5.18. Idiomatic: unnendre handa ‘willingly,’ ‘voluntarily’ 1.22

unnendre see geunnan

up adv. ‘up’ 5.22

upon prep. ‘on,’ ‘upon’ 1.33

ut adv. ‘out’ 4.5

utlah adj. ‘outlawed’ asm. utlah 2.7

gewanian 2 ‘to curtail,’ ‘to diminish’ 3s pt. subj. gewanude 1.35

we see ic

wel adv. ‘well’ 5.17

weorðan II ‘to become’ 3s pt. werð 2.6, 2.7

wer m. I. ‘man’ dp. werum 3.19 II. ‘man-price,’ ‘wegeld’ as. wer 3.21

wif n. ‘woman’ ns. wif 3.18, 5.14; as. wif 2.7; ds wife 5.22; dp. wifum 3.19

wig n. ‘battle’ ds. wigge 1.5, 1.7

willan anom. ‘to wish,’ ‘to desire’ 3s pr. subj. wolde 4.13; 3s pt. wolde 1.12, 1.16, 1.19, 3.21, 4.13. With negative: 3s pt. nolde 1.5, 1.18, 3.6, 4.14

winter m. ‘winter’ dp. winter 1.4

wita m. ‘wise man,’ ‘counsellor,’pl. witan ‘the council’ np. witan/wytan 1.8, 1.30, 3.19; ap. witan 3.9; gp. witena/wytena 1.25, 2.2

witan pret-pres. ‘to know’ 3s pt. wyste 1.18

gewitan I ‘to die’ 3s pt. gewat 1.20

gewitnes f. ‘witness,’ ‘knowledge,’ ‘awareness,’ ‘approval’ ds. gewitnesse/gewitnysse/gewytnesse 1.10, 1.25, 1.32, 2.2, 3.3, 3.5, 3.27, 4.2, 5.19, 5.24; ap. gewitnesse 3.1

wið/wiþ prep. ‘against,’ ‘from,’ ‘with’ 1.21, 1.25, 5.13

gewrit n. ‘writing,’ ‘document’ ds. gewrite 2.1, 3.1, 5.1; ap. gewritu 4.16

gewritan I ‘to write’ inf. gewritan 4.16

wyduwe f. ‘widow’ ns. wyduwe 2.5

wyrnan 1 ‘to withhold’ 3s pt. wyrnde 1.7

yldran m. pl. ‘ancestors’ dp. yldran 1.2

ymbe prep. ‘about,’ ‘concerning’ 5.12