English Majors will recognize the illustration as Chaucer’s Wife of Bath as created by the Ellesmere manuscript of the Canterbury Tales. It’s the closest we’re going to get to Alice Perrers who was, some think, the template for the cheery chatty wife.
Scholars have their reasons, and I’m not about to weigh in on the question of attribution, but Alice had a decidedly more adventurous life than Ms of Bath could ever dream of.
A mistress of the king and one of the most vilified women in England, she came from obscurity to end on the top of the fourteenth century heap and despite the best efforts of some of the best minds in the country, managed to keep her head and a good part of her irregularly gotten fortune. Continue reading