Husband Castrates Wife's Lover, Then Sues (Medieval Style!)

Sounds like a daily tabloid headline, right? Its actually a court case dating back to May 22, 1307 in Youghal, Cork.  I stumbled upon this entry years ago when doing research for my thesis but didn't have a place for it.

What happens is this - John Don (Dunne) of Youghal, Cork, discovers his wife, Basilia, is seeing her lover (Stephen le Clerk) when he's away on business.  Full of rage and wanting to trap the adulterous pair he enlists his friends' help and pretends to go away on a business trip.  The lovers fall for it and endeavor to spend the night together.  His friend, John Caane the taverner, tips him off that Stephen is with his wife for the night and John (the husband) along with some mates storm the house where they waylay Stephen attempting to escape, tie him down and castrate him. Stephen duly brings a court case against John Don et alia (bodily trespass) which is heard by jury.  On May 22, 1307, the jurors bring a verdict of compensation for Stephen against John Don and accomplices who are sentenced to be imprisoned.  One week later, on May 29, 1307 another entry records that John Don has sued Stephen le Clerk for destroying and taking away, "wines, linen, vessels and other goods to the value of 100L and did him other injuries." Although Stephen denies these claims a jury finds against him and awards John to recover 40s and for Stephen to go to gaol for trespass.

I have not yet been able to determine if both men did in fact bare out their sentences in gaol at the same time.

The entire entry as found in the Calendar of Justiciary Rolls is below.  Please note I have kept the  spellings as they would have existed in the original document.  Don is (probably) Dunne, Caane is Cane and Yoghel is Youghal.  The sheer detail in this entry is fantastic.  testiculos suos abciderunt = cut off his testicles.  Trial by country = trial by jury. Enjoy!

Calendar of Justiciary Rolls Ireland, James Mills ed. (His Majesty's Stationery Office, Dublin 1914), pps 376-377

Membrane 39


May 22     Yet of Pleas and Plaints at Cork, Before John Wogan Justiciar on Monday the Morrow of Holy Trinity


     John Don, Robert Mey, Ric. Fox, Stephen le Jeofne, Elena Ryng, John Caane taverner, and Adam Don were attached to answer Stephen Oregan clerk, of a plea that they with Roger Porpeys, Ric. Carweynt, John Tyrel, Nich. Chamberleyn, Gilbert le Uard, and Robert Herbert, on Monday before the Feast of S Thomas the Apostle in this year at the Yoghel, assaulted Stephen, bound him hand and foot et testiculos suos abciderunt and kept him in prison for a night and more, to the damage of 1,000L and against the peace.

     John and the others come and defend and say that they made no assault or trespass.  Issue joined.  Therefore, let the truth be enquired by country.

     The Jurors say that after John Don married Basilia his wife, he soon after went to parts beyond sea, to exercise his merchandise.  After his leaving, Stephen le Clerk came to John's house asking Basilia that he might be her friend.  She lightly consenting, they lay together at their will for the whole time that John was in the parts beyond sea.  Afterwards, John Don returning home, it was related to him by his neighbours and friends how Stephen le Clerk and Basilia lay together.  And John, moved with anger, forbade Stephen anymore to come to his house at the Yoghel.  Afterwards, went to the parts of Cork, on his business and Stephen, not withstanding the warning, in John's absence lay with Basilia.  And John learning this spoke with John Caane, John Don's taverner that as soon as he could perceive that Stephen and Basilia were lying together, he should let John know and the taverner promised this.  Afterwards, John Don feigned that he was one day going to Cork, and he went to the house of Master Adam de Hamdone, and not to Cork.  And the same day Stephen and Basilia supped with Stephen le Joefne and after supper Stephen le Clerk came before the door of the tavern of John Don, in which said John [Caane] was taverner, and asked the taverner if he could give him any wine, and the taverner [said] that he would give him one pottle of wine, and Stephen then entered and drank with the taverner.  And they so drinking, Basilia soon after came and entered her chamber.  And Stephen and the taverner went to Basilia's chamber.  And they being there, and a maid of Basilia's, Stephen and Basilia urged that John the taverner and the maid should give assurance that they might be trusted to conceal their counsel.  And Basilia gave her maid a cow, and Stephen gave the taverner 5s. And afterwards Stephen put off his shoes (sotulares) intending to stay the whole night.  And the taverner perceiving this, secretly went to the house of Stephen le Jeofne and found there John Done, who had returned by night to the house of Adam Hamdone, and was hidden in said house, with an armed force, and he told him all said things.  And John Don joining with him Stephen le Jeofne, John Cane the taverner, Adam Don, and others, came to the house of John Don, thinking to find Stephen lying with Basilia.  And Stephen le Clerk and Basilia, hearing the noise of armed men coming to them, were afraid, and extinguished the candles.  And Stephen le Clerk, flying from the chamber, came through the midst of the hall, and met John Don and the others; who took him and wounded him and gave him three wounds on the head.  And they threw him to the ground, and having bound his hands and feet abciderunt ejus testiculos.  And immediately hue and cry being raised, Robert Mey, Ric. Fox and Elena Ryng, knowing nothing of these things, which were done, came there without doing any trespass.
     Judgement that Stephen le Clerk recover against John Don, Stephen le Jeofne, John Cane taverner, and Adam Done, his damages taxed by the court at 20L.  And let them be committed to gaol.  And Stephen le Clerk in mercy for false claim against Robert Mey, Ric. Fox and Elena.