Understanding Medieval Documents: Part II
A commentary on the following charter:
- Carta Lucie de Brintona de tota terra quam Godwinus filius Leurich
Carta Hugonis de Gurnay et Mileseint sponse sue de tota tenura
Dominis suis omnibus Hugonis de Gurnay et amicis et hominibus francis et anglis salutem. Sciatis quod ego et Mileseint sponsa mea et Hugo filius meus concedimus canonicis de Messend’ et carta nostra confirmauimus et garantizamus totam tenuram suam de Browton’ quam de Roberto Mansello tenebant cum omnibus appendiciis suis in bosco et plano et cunctis aliis rebus ad feudum illud pertinentibus ad tenendum de nobis et heredibus nostris et nominatim de uxore mea Mileseint cui in dote uillam illam dedimus ad tenendum insuper libere et quiete et hereditarie in perpetuam elemosinam per idem seruicium quod inde Roberto Mansel faciebant. Scilicet reddendo annuatim pro omnibus seruiciis vi marcas ad Pascha quas canonici vi marcas solebant reddere Roberto ad duos terminos scilicet Pasche Sancti Michaelis sed amodo reddentur simul ad Pascha et statuent unum canonicorum in ecclesia sua omnibus diebus pro salute nostra et antecessorum et successorum nostrorum. Et si ad eos de aliquo grauidi negotio nostro breue nostrum miserimus abbas aut aliquis de canonicis ibit pro nobis ad regem sine ad episcopum infra Angliam quin etiam ut omnis calumnia et querele heredum predicti Roberti tollantur. Sciant omnes amici nostri presentes et futuri nos pari assensu et concessione dedisse Stephano heredi predicti Roberti escambias in socha de Cheneborlay nominatim in Carlinton’ iiii marcatas terre illo in manu mea supradictam Brottone liberam dimittente et de escambiis mihi et Hugonis filio meo hominem suum faciente. Vt autem de hiis qui in presenti carta continentur nulla sit in posteris dubietas sigillum meum et sigillum sponse mee Milesent hic apponuntur. Testibus Nicholas Estoteuilla, Iohanne de Hosdeng, Willelmo de Sancto Luciano, Willelmo de Bossoncort, Hugone Heusart, Willelmo de Marteneio, Garnero Hosdent, Hugone de Braimoster, Reynardo de Mereuill, Radulfo de Ogia, Galtero thesaurio de Auesnes, Rogero capellano qui hanc cartam scripsit. Hec facta sunt apud Gornaium anno dominice incarnacionis MC sexagesimo vii pridie Nonarum Aprilis.
[Missenden Cartulary, no. 556; some spellings amended]
The charter presents a grant to the Abbey by Hugh de Gurney, his wife, and his son Hugh of their entire landholding and land in Broughton related to their wedding. The land was held by Robert Mansel. For the grant, the Abbey was required to pay 6 marks annually, at Easter. In exchange for the transfer of Broughton, the Gurney family provided Robert Mansel with 4 marks’ worth of land in the soke of Cheneborlay  in Carlton. Following the Norman conquest, the document is from the twelfth century, whereby the interactions between the French and English can be seen to remain strong.
The people in the deed are Hugh de Gurney, his wife Milicent, and his son (also Hugh). The counterparties are Robert Mansel and Stephen, Robert’s heir. The documents are also binding on the heirs of the various parties.
The document has many witnesses, including the following people: Nicolas Estoteuilla, John of Hosdeng, William de Luciano, William Bossoncort, Hugh Heusart, William Marteneio, Garner Hosdent, Hugh Braimoster, Reynard of Mereuill, Ralph Og, Galtero (the treasurer of Auesnes), and Roger Chaplain, who wrote the charter. The notification concerns all present and friends. The grantee is noted as Stephen, Robert’s heir. The grant presents a form of tenure in English law where the church holds lands given to them and their successors forever on the condition of praying for the donor’s soul and his heirs.
The document was created, since the year of the incarnation of the Lord (Anno Domini), in 1167, in the month of April. The day is unclear, but it is referred to as a ring (the particular date is listed as “Gornaium”). The particular payment clause of the grant places it on the day of Saint Michael at Easter .
The transfer includes the wood and fields and all parts of the land, including a town. The payment of six marks is made at every Passover festival. There is a mutual exchange occurring, where land is being bought and sold and exchanged. The wife of Hugh de Gurney is, through the document, bound by the actions of the husband. Where the individuals have complaints, it is agreed that they can go to the King of England without writing to the Bishop.
The feudal obligation contained within the document binds the family in duty . The object of conveyance is particularised as an exchange of land . The clausulae  of the deed incorporates a complaint to a court where the Bishop and King of England are listed. Generally, it presents not an appeal but causes of first instance.
The grant is provided in the form of a deed. The habendum notes that a facieban is in place, relating to what Stenton defines as a form of manorial structure and feudal holding, a northern Dane law that was continued into Norman England . The habendum clause deals with the property rights and interests and aspects of ownership given to the parties to a deal.
In the charter, a pro salute, et statuent unum canonicum in ecclesia sua omnibus diebus pro salute nostra et antecessorum et successorum nostrorum, acts as a form of warranty. It is a charter of lay origin for the exchange of valuable property. The charter was completed and written by Roger Chaplain . Missenden Abbey is in Great Missenden, Buckinghamshire. England is 45 miles from Carlton, Bedford.
The witness list for the testing clause of the charter is a resource that allows the historian to understand both the household and the location of the witnesses at the time . It is also a means of analysing social and political networks associated with the individuals. It has many individuals present, and as far as Anglo-Norman charters are concerned, it may be assumed that the individuals were physically together at the time of signing . Using such information allows us to cross-reference other information concerning the individuals participating in the deed and exchange . With such information and family records, it becomes possible to match the names, such as Melisende de Gournay, who was the daughter of Thomas de Marle, Seigneur de Coucy, and Mélisende de Corbeil, born in 1126, and Hugh de Gournay, IV Baron de Gournay. Both families were from Normandy France, bringing reference to the charter referring to both the English and the French.
1. Chamberlain—it is likely in the jurisdiction of Chamberlain, being that the so-called franchise and right to receive fees from the location matches more with the modern English name of the location.
2. Dutton, M. (2016). A Companion to Aelred of Rievaulx (1110–1167). Brill.
3. “in manu mea supradictam Brottone liberam dimittente et de escambiis mihi et Hugonis filio meo hominem suum faciente”
4. “escambias in socha de Cheneborlay nominatim in Carlinton iij marcatas terre illo”
5. “Et si ad eos de aliquo grauidi negotio nostro breue nostrum miserimus abbas aut aliquis de canonicis ibit pro nobis ad regem sine ad episcopum infra Angliam quin etiam ut omnis calumpnia et quercle heredum predicti Roberti tollantur.”
6. Stenton, F. M. (1910). Types of Manorial Structure in the Northern Danelaw. Clarendon Press.; see also, Cheyney, E. P. (1911). Types of Manorial Structure in the Northern Danelaw. Customary Rents, 802–803.
7. Rogero capellano; I am uncertain whether this individual was a chaplain or had the name referencing such.
8. Bates, D. (1997). The Prosopographical Study of Anglo-Norman Royal Charters: Some Problems and Perspectives. In Family Trees and the Roots of Politics: The Prosopography of Britain and France from the Tenth to the Twelfth Century, K. S. B. Keats-Rohan (ed.). Woodbridge.
9. Note that the document is not subscribed with Signa.
10. Gurney, D. (1848). The record of the house of Gournay, vol. 2.
Bates, D. (1997). The Prosopographical Study of Anglo-Norman Royal Charters: Some Problems and Perspectives. In Family Trees and the Roots of Politics: The Prosopography of Britain and France from the Tenth to the Twelfth Century, K. S. B. Keats-Rohan (ed.). Woodbridge.
Dutton, M. (2016). A Companion to Aelred of Rievaulx (1110–1167). Brill.
Gurney, D. (1848). The record of the house of Gournay, vol. 2.
Stenton, F. M. (1910). Types of Manorial Structure in the Northern Danelaw. Clarendon Press.
[Image source: http://www.bl.uk/manuscripts/Viewer.aspx?ref=add_ch_19790_f001r]