The daughter of Robert and Alice Penifader, and the protagonist of
the story. Cecilia was a peasant, and her actions were exceptionally well
documented in the courts of Brigstock. She amassed a substantial amount of
wealth and land. Unmarried and childless, she lived as a
in Brigstock and remained close to her brothers and
sisters throughout her life.
in-depth analysis of Cecilia Penifader.
The father of Cecilia and husband of Alice. Robert was a prosperous
landholder who served as a Brigstock court officer in several capacities. His
wealth and celebrity in Brigstock made him an important man among peasants. He
died in 1318 from a sickness caused by malnutrition during the Great
The wife of Robert and mother of Cecilia. Alice bore eight children,
six of whom lived to adulthood. She seems to have been a dedicated mother, given
her high success rate of healthy children. After Robert died in 1318, Alice
provided for her youngest daughter, Agnes, by marrying her off to Henry
Robert Penifader II
Cecilia’s oldest brother and a wealthy landholder. Robert never
married, but he did father an illegitimate daughter, Alice III. In 1336, he
combined resources and households with Cecilia. Prior to his death in 1340, he
bequeathed his lands to Alice III.
Cecilia’s older brother and a wealthy and important landholder. Like
Cecilia, William never married, though he did father an illegitimate son to whom
he willed his lands upon his death. As an adult, William lived next door to
Cecilia, sharing a wall of his house with her. Also, he was unique among
peasants insofar as he was educated and served officially as a cleric in
King Edward I
Ruler of England from 1272 to 1307. An unusually strong monarch,
Edward I ruled during a crucial epoch in the development of English law,
witnessing the institution of parliamentary custom, common law, and codified
property laws. In his last thirteen years, however, the state of England
worsened as Edward I harshly taxed and drafted his subjects for his campaigns
against the French and his attempted subjugation of Scotland, whose resistance
was led by William Wallace.
King Edward II
The son of Edward I and ruler of England from 1307 to 1327.
Historians generally agree that Edward II was an eccentric and perhaps the most
inept king ever to sit on the throne. He was temporarily the owner of Brigstock
King Edward III
The son of Edward II and ruler of England from 1327 to 1377. An able
king, Edward III began a series of campaigns against the French, which later
became known as the Hundred Years’ War. In order to finance this war, Edward III
heavily taxed the country. For a time, he was the owner of Brigstock
Christina (Penifader) Power
One of Cecilia’s older sisters. After receiving several pieces of
land from her father, Christina married Richard Power in 1317.
Richard Power of Cranford
A well-to-do peasant and the husband of Cecilia’s sister
Agnes (Penifader) Kroyl
Cecilia’s younger sister. After Robert died, Agnes’s mother, Alice,
dedicated herself to providing for Agnes by marrying her off to Henry
A well-to-do peasant and the husband of Cecilia’s sister Agnes. Henry
married Agnes during the Great Famine just after Agnes’s father, Robert,
The brother of Cecilia. Henry was not as economically successful as
his brothers, William and Robert II, and his sister, Cecilia.
The sister of Cecilia who died in early childhood.
Alice Penifader II
The sister of Cecilia who died in early childhood.
The wife of Henry Penifader and mother of Martin, Thomas, and John
Alice Penifader III
The illegitimate daughter of Cecilia’s brother, Robert II, and Joan
de Lowyk. Alice inherited Robert II’s land after he died in
The illegitimate son of Cecilia’s brother William. John inherited a
twenty-four–year lease on some of Cecilia’s lands, only to see a jury deem his
A peasant of Brigstock. Though his relationship to Cecilia is
unknown, Robert inherited a twenty-four–year lease on some of Cecilia’s lands. A
jury promptly deemed his inheritance invalid.
Cecilia’s niece and the daughter of Agnes Penifader. Matilda
inherited a twenty-four–year lease on some of Cecilia’s lands, only to see a
jury deem her inheritance invalid.
Cecilia’s nephew and the son of Henry Penifader. After Cecilia’s
death, Martin claimed inheritance for Cecilia’s lands but was denied in favor of
Cecilia’s sister Christina. Promptly following this decision, Martin received
half of the lands in dispute from Christina, which suggested that he and
Christina reached an informal agreement.
Margaret of France
The wife of Edward I and owner of the manor of Brigstock for a period
Isabella of France
The wife of Edward II and owner of the manor of Brigstock for a
period of time.
Archbishop of Canterbury
The highest-ranking church official in England. During the Great
Famine of 1315–1322, the Archbishop organized special masses and processions and
encouraged people to fast, pray, and give alms.
William de Clive
The vicar (a priest who stands in for a rector and takes care of the
everyday religious needs of the community) of Brigstock from
Roger de Corndale
The vicar of Brigstock from 1325–1340.
John de Seymour
The vicar of Brigstock from 1340–1344.
Peasants who were not free to move from place to place. Serfs were
attached to the land in which they were born and were expected to work for their
manor. Serfdom was determined by birth.
Peasants who were free of the restrictions and liabilities
of serfs. Free peasants could emigrate, work, marry without asking
for the manorial lord’s permission, and take grievances to the king’s
The chief administrative officer of a manor. Usually a minor member
of the English gentry or a prosperous peasant, the bailiff was a literate man
who represented the manor to the peasants, kept track of payments coming into
the manor, and supervised the other officials of the manorial
A manorial officer. The reeve managed the day-to-day business of the
manor, usually on a part-time basis.
A manorial officer. Hayward kept track of what happened in the
manor’s fields and flocks, and often reported infractions of the
A manorial officer who determined the amount of money to be paid for
each reported action or offense. Afeerors generally would make the penalty in
accordance with the person’s means.
A constantly changing assortment of peasants who were in charge of
reporting wrongdoing and judging cases that were brought to court. Unlike modern
jurors, medieval jurors were expected to be informed, knowledgeable, and
Manorial officers who regulated the selling and tasting of ale and
Females who were responsible for brewing ale. Brewing was an
exclusively female activity.
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