Cover image for Medieval gentlewoman : life in a gentry household in the later Middle Ages
Medieval gentlewoman : life in a gentry household in the later Middle Ages
Swabey, Ffiona.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Routledge, 1999.
Physical Description:
xi, 210 pages, 8 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations (some color), maps ; 26 cm
General Note:
Includes bibliographical references (p. [197]-206) and index.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
DA247.D42 S93 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



This richly detailed account provides an important addition to current work on women in late medieval England, taking as its starting point the household diary of Alice de Bryene, a Suffolk noblewoman of the late 14th and early 15th century. Like Christine de Pizan, de Bryene enjoyed greater status and influence as a widow and owner of several large estates than most married women of her time, allowing her a remarkable degree of social and financial independence. Moving outward from de Bryene's own life, this illuminating work provides a vivid picture of the medieval household , examining marriage, education, patronage, and the private and public roles of the medieval woman of privilege.

Author Notes

Ffiona Swabey is a former teacher, freelance writer, reviewer and broadcaster. She took her first degree in Modern History and Political Science at Trinity College, Dublin, followed twenty-five years later by an MA in Women's History at Royal Holloway, University of London. She has recently completed her training as a psychoanalyst at the C.G. Jung Institute in Zurich. She lives in London.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

Swabey, an independent scholar, has written an imaginative, concise, and interesting appraisal of late medieval aristocratic widowhood as viewed through the career of Alice de Bryene, a dowager and heiress whose life spanned the volatile period between the end of Edward III's reign and the beginning of the reign of Henry VI. Designed with the general reader in mind, this work is also appropriate for a more scholarly audience because of the meticulous documentary research that shines through the text (although its occasional archness might annoy more studious readers). Swabey uses de Bryene's experiences at various life stages as a model for late medieval widowhood. De Bryene is a good model: not too exalted and not too lowly, she can in many ways bridge the gap between the elite nobility and the lower aristocracy and gentry. This work compares favorably with recent books, among them Wife and Widow in Medieval England, ed. by Sue S. Walker (CH, Oct'94); Jennifer C. Ward's English Noblewomen in the Later Middle Ages (1992); and C.M. Woolgar's The Great Household in Late Medieval England (CH, Dec'99). A must acquisition for general and undergraduate libraries. All levels. L. E. Mitchell; Alfred University

Table of Contents

List of Plates and Illustrationsp. viii
Picture Creditsp. x
Acknowledgementsp. xii
Notes and Abbreviationsp. xiii
Introductionp. 1
1 The Medieval Householdp. 9
2 Marriage and the Familyp. 30
3 Estate Managementp. 52
4 The Gentle Lifestylep. 75
5 Men at the Tablep. 97
6 Women at the Tablep. 115
7 The Wider Worldp. 132
8 Considerations for the Afterlifep. 149
Epiloguep. 168
Appendix 1p. 170
Appendix 2p. 173
Notesp. 181
Bibliographyp. 197
Indexp. 207