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A Medieval Life

Judith Bennett

Character List

Plot Overview

Analysis of Major Characters

Cecilia Penifader -  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 singlewoman in Brigstock and remained close to her brothers and sisters throughout her life.

Read an in-depth analysis of Cecilia Penifader.

Robert 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 Famine.
Alice Penifader -  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 Kroyl.
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.
William Penifader -  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 Brigstock.
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 manor.
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 manor.
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 Christina.
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 Kroyl.
Henry Kroyl -  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, died.
Henry Penifader -  The brother of Cecilia. Henry was not as economically successful as his brothers, William and Robert II, and his sister, Cecilia.
Emma Penifader -  The sister of Cecilia who died in early childhood.
Alice Penifader II -  The sister of Cecilia who died in early childhood.
Isabella Penifader -  The wife of Henry Penifader and mother of Martin, Thomas, and John II.
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 1340.
John Penifader -  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 inheritance invalid.
Robert Malin -  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.
Matilda Kroyl -  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.
Martin Penifader -  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 of time.
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 1275–1325.
Roger de Corndale -  The vicar of Brigstock from 1325–1340.
John de Seymour -  The vicar of Brigstock from 1340–1344.
Serfs (villeins) -  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.
Free peasants -  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 court.
Bailiff -  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 court.
Reeve -  A manorial officer. The reeve managed the day-to-day business of the manor, usually on a part-time basis.
Hayward -  A manorial officer. Hayward kept track of what happened in the manor’s fields and flocks, and often reported infractions of the law.
Afeeror -  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.
Jurors -  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 opinionated.
Aletasters -  Manorial officers who regulated the selling and tasting of ale and sometimes bread.
Brewsters -  Females who were responsible for brewing ale. Brewing was an exclusively female activity.

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