A gentlewoman and a homicide

This is a rare example of a woman seeking sanctuary for homicide: in September 1480 Robert Beawmont, “litteratus” of Almondbury, Yorkshire, and Elizabeth Beawmont, gentlewoman of Hedon, Yorkshire, sought asylum at Beverley. The two Beawmonts confessed the killing of Thomas Aldirlay of Almondbury, eleven months before.

Elizabeth Beawmont is one of only seven women I’ve found between 1400 and 1550 who sought sanctuary for homicide. Why so few? Murder was definitely gendered masculine – but the extreme rarity is hard to explain (though here I take a stab).


Other Unanswered Questions in the Beawmont case [UQ]:

UQ1: The two Beawmonts had the same name, but lived in different places, so they were not married (married couples, at least officially, had to cohabit – which may seem odd but it was one of the essences of marriage in late medieval England). So perhaps they were mother and son? Siblings?

UQ2: Elizabeth was a “gentilwoman”–so maybe related to the viscounts Beaumont? Or was she more obscure?

UQ3: Robert is termed “litteratus” as his status. This is a vague status designation for circa 1480; perhaps he was a relatively young man potentially headed for priesthood but not there yet?

UQ4: And of course what led these two to kill Thomas Aldirlay? … I haven’t been able to dig up any backstory on that, so let your imagination run wild.

SDSB, 162. Top image Pieter Bruegel source

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