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Murder During the Hundred Years' War (Hardback)

The Curious Case of Sir William Cantilupe

British History Medieval History True Crime P&S History Social History 14th Century

By Dr Melissa Julian-Jones
Imprint: Pen & Sword History
Pages: 232
Illustrations: 8 page black and white plate section
ISBN: 9781526750792
Published: 26th October 2020

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In 1375, Sir William Cantilupe was found murdered in a field outside of a village in Lincolnshire. As the case progressed, fifteen members of his household were indicted for murder, and his armour-bearer and butler were convicted. Through the lens of this murder and its context, this book will explore violence, social norms and deviance, and crime and punishment 'at home' during the Hundred Years' War.

The case of William Cantilupe has been of interest to historians for many years, ever since Rosamund Sillem brought it to light in her work on the Lincolnshire Peace Rolls in the 1930s, but this is the first time it has received a book-length treatment, taking relationships between the lords and their servants into account. The verdict – guilty of petty treason – makes this one of the first cases where such a verdict was given, and this reveals the deep insecurities of England at this time, where the violent rebellion of servants against their masters (and wives against their husbands) was a serious concern, enough to warrant death by hanging (for men) and death by burning (for women). The reader is invited to consider the historical interpretations of the evidence, as the motives for the murder were never recorded. The relationships between Sir William and his householders, and indeed with his own wife and, and whether the jury were right to convict him and his alleged accomplice in the first place.

This book was fascinating and I’ve learnt quite a bit from it. I have quite a local interest in this as I live in the midlands so a lot of the towns mentioned are very familiar to me. I was previously unaware that there had been a title of Lord of Ilkeston- Ilkeston is one of the neighbouring towns to where I live, so the events in this book are all very close to home for me.
Pen & Sword pick some really interesting and unusual topics for their books, I always know I’m going to read something a little bit different when I pick up one of their books. And an investigation of a Middle Ages murder cold case certainly fits that description. Finding evidence from this time is no easy task, but I felt this book was well researched and presented in an interesting and engaging manner. I feel the author did a thorough job of analysing the likely suspects and suggesting motives and opportunities. We will never know for sure the answer to ‘who done it?’, but that doesn’t take anything away from this absolutely fascinating read. Highly recommend.

NetGalley, Amanda Lavelle

This book is an interesting look at many facets of Medieval life, all through the lens of one man's murder and the intrigue, theories, and people surrounding it. Expect glimpses into household life, the plight of an abused or unhappy wife, divorce norms (or lack thereof), legal systems, the consequences of infertility, and (of course) a number of murders and their context.

As a history buff who is not a historian, I enjoyed this read, but would encourage anyone who plans to read this book to get some additional context on the Hundred Years War first. I've been researching the period for a couple years and that additional context enriched the read for me when key figures or dates came up in passing.

NetGalley, Gigi Griffis

This book will expand your knowledge about the medieval nobility, their households, and the criminal justice system of their time. This was truly a fascinating study into a centuries old cold case mystery. If you want a good study into a medieval mystery,you should definitely check out, “Murder During the Hundred Year War: The Curious Case of Sir William Cantilupe” by Melissa Julian-Jones.

NetGalley, Heidi Malagisi

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

For the me this is one of the best books from the Pen and Sword publishing house.

It is centred on the murder in the 1370s of William de Cantilupe whose body was found decomposed in a ditch, with evidence pointing to his wife and household being at the least complicit in a premeditated killing. As the book acknowledges early on, we will never know who was responsible, though several possibilities are discussed.

The fascination of the book lies largely in its well-researched portrayal of the background. Besides information about members of the families involved (and there is much here for the genealogist), the reader is given insights into marriage law and customs, social mobility, patterns of influence in local affairs, career paths for various ranks of society, attitudes to those who were intersex, other medieval and renaissance murder cases, and the vagaries of the judicial system. Further in the background are the more familiar broader historical events of the time - the black death, the fighting in France during the first decades of the Hundred Years' War, and the politics of the reign of Richard II.

Appendices give further background and include transcripts of original documents.

The considerable research is presented in a very readable way.

This book is not just for aficionados of true life historical murders: it has a great deal to offer for anyone interested in medieval history.

NetGalley, Michael Cayley

I enjoyed that this was a sort of true crime book and a historical one. The author had written this well and well researched.

NetGalley, Kay McLeer

A fascinating look at a controversial murder that took place in the period known as The Hundred Years War.

Sir William de Cantelupe, a nobleman with a lineage dating back to the Conquest, was murdered, his body left in a ditch. His entire household, including his wife, was suspect; however, both at the time and today, there are difficulties in piecing together events and provide a suitable outcome.

Using contemporary documents and accounts, Melissa Julian-Jones presents the reader with various hypotheses, whilst examining in detail both the members of the household (including the wife) and the extended family connections "... to consider likely scenarios ..". As such, it is necessary to gather as much background information as possible to contextualise possible narratives. In this day and age, family and familial connections were very important and it is necessary to delve into the background of all associated with this case in order to eliminate possible suspects and motives.

There were no surviving records of the trials of the various suspects as testimonies were not required to be kept. And it is here that Julian-Jones brings to light similar criminal cases to illustrate each point she raises.

Medieval justice and criminal investigations is nothing like what we are used to today - social connections, social and financial position, and a person or family's good name counted for much. But the question still remains - "cui bono" - who benefits? And that is possibly something that we will never really know for sure.

This is an excellent and well researched investigation of a cold case. Those with an interest in the medieval period and obscure criminal cases will enjoy this very much.

NetGalley, Melisende d'Outremer

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Packed with intrigue, secrecy, deception, betrayal and murder, this well-researched book examines the complex murder of Sir William Cantilupe in 1375 and the history and events of the time.

The book includes the potential suspects, socioeconomic conditions, corruption, marriage, occupations, father to son succession and relationships of above and below stairs stairs which are all relevant and provide context.

Sir William's body is discovered in a ditch in Lincolnshire in 1375. As the crime rate in medieval England is extremely high, it appears at first glance (to me) it's a typical violent medieval murder but it quickly becomes apparent it is not...far from it. The complexities are mind blowing! So many plausible possibilities. I can almost envision the hushed scuffling and whispering of the suspects in the manor.

The entire household of fifteen are indicted but 600+ years later we still do not know with certainly who committed the murder. Several possible motives are listed as are motives and opportunities. Convictions were based on Sir William's wife, Lady Maud's testimony alone. Was it just? Was it sufficient? Did the real murderer(s) go free?

The author closes with a discussion on the trial's outcomes and what happened to those involved, including an escape and no shows. The appendix is important to read.

Do refer to the Cantilupe genealogy in the front while reading. I found the Williams and Augustines difficult to keep straight at first.

History and true crime readers will find unsolved mystery fascinating. It is evidently the first book ever written in this depth on this specific crime. Talk about fascinating!

Upon the author's recommendation I have requested The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher from the library, a book about a shocking Victorian era murder.

NetGalley, Brenda Carleton

Throroughly researched case of a murder of a noble, William Cantilupe which took place in 1375. Dr Julian-Jones presents the background of the family history, not only of the murder itself, and sometimes I got confused with the names, the more that traditionally the names were repeated in the next generations.
It seems that after nearly seven hundred years the reconstruction of the murder, the trial and the fate of all main characters would be a mission impossible, however, Dr Julian-Jones draws on all surviving documents, and if there is none, she turns to the historic documents concerning the place of the nobility, the role of wives and their rights, interactions with the servans etc. These parts of the book were are as valuable to me as the case itself. Being interested in the Middle Ages, I found a lot of new information that will definitely enhance my understanding of the period.

NetGalley, Beata B. Reviewer

For me,this is a winner on several levels, I live in Lincolnshire and have always had an interest in the history of the county, particularly the medieval period.
Unusually Ms. Julian-Jones isn't playing the role of a modern day Sherlock Holmes, this isn't a miscarriage of justice story necessarily, it just there are other interpretations of the extant evidence than that evinced by most historians writing about the case.
What you get is an absorbing use of the murder of William Cantilupe to examine all sorts of dark crannies of medieval society from domestic violence and sexual assault of servants through to the treatment of intersex individuals in the late medieval period.

Excellent.

NetGalley, Tony Stacey

For the me this is one of the best books from the Pen and Sword publishing house.

It is centred on the murder in the 1370s of William de Cantilupe whose body was found decomposed in a ditch, with evidence pointing to his wife and household being at the least complicit in a premeditated killing. As the book acknowledges early on, we will never know who was responsible, though several possibilities are discussed.

The fascination of the book lies largely in its well-researched portrayal of the background. Besides information about members of the families involved (and there is much here for the genealogist), the reader is given insights into marriage law and customs, social mobility, patterns of influence in local affairs, career paths for various ranks of society, attitudes to those who were intersex, other medieval and renaissance murder cases, and the vagaries of the judicial system. Further in the background are the more familiar broader historical events of the time - the black death, the fighting in France during the first decades of the Hundred Years' War, and the politics of the reign of Richard II.

Appendices give further background and include transcripts of original documents.

The considerable research is presented in a very readable way.

This book is not just for aficionados of true life historical murders: it has a great deal to offer for anyone interested in medieval history.

Michael Cayley

About Dr Melissa Julian-Jones

Dr Melissa Julian-Jones teaches history at Cardiff University Centre for Continuing & Professional Education and was the Network Facilitator for the International Research Network, Voices of Law: Language, Text and Practice, 2016-2018. She is the co-founder and co-organiser of the biennial Power of the Bishop in the Middle Ages conference, and the co-editor of its volumes.

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