Alice Perrers, 1338-1400: Whatever Alice Wants, Alice Gets.

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

Sir John Hawkwood, ca 1320-1396: Inglese Italianato, Diavolo Incarnato*

A significant difficulty in raising armies or any other kind of trouble is figuring out what to do with the soldiers once the fighting stops.

At the end of the Hundred Years’ War in 1360 (more a breather than an end, but close enough for our purposes), the number of idle infantrymen and cavalry hanging around France was great enough to be a serious concern for both sides.  The soldiers had been on campaign for years having a grand old time and didn’t want to go home, not after they had seen Paree so to speak.   England didn’t want them, France certainly didn’t want them.  Best thing for the reconciled monarchs now was to direct these troublesome fellows elsewhere.  South, first, where they worried the pope who was  then in Avignon.  He suggested that they might find useful occupation in Italy.

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