19 November 2003
VOW OF CHASTITY. Document signed with a mark by Elizabeth Galleworth, widow, in Latin on vellum, [England, mid-14th Century], approximately 45 x 215mm (some creasing and soiling to right margin).
'In the name of God Amen. I Elizabeth Galleworth widow vow perpetual chastity in the presence of your fatherliness Simon by the grace of God Archbishop of Canterbury and I promise to live and remain in perpetual chastity of man until the end of my life. And as a sign of these promises I make this subscribed mark with my own hand'.
It was possible for a medieval woman to make a vow of chastity after the death of her husband. The vow was usually taken before or during mass when the celebrant, in this case the Archbishop of Canterbury, gave the woman a mantle, veil and ring. Although the vowess, as she was then called, was obliged thenceforth to live in chastity she was not required to withdraw from the world and had the great advantage of being protected from pressure to remarry, maintaining her independence and property rights. Two of the Archbishops of Canterbury around the date indicated by the style of the script, were named Simon: Simon Islip (1349-1366) and Simon Langham (1366-1368).
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