Search over 450 titles and 1.2 million pages
acted as godfather to her child (cuius zobolem de sacra fonte levavit).141 True, instances such as these form only a tiny proportion of the church's corrective litigation. But it cannot be plausibly argued that their comparative rarity in the records reflects a general respect for the church's injunctions. On the contrary, the evidence of the Welsh parishes of the diocese of Hereford reveals the manifold and fundamental problems encountered by the ecclesiastical authorities in imposing the church's marital discipline and its norms of proper sexual behaviour on the laity, and there is no reason at all to believe that its directives, where they concerned the spiritual relationship, were held in high regard.142 Indeed, even those who succumbed to a measure of correction showed a high incidence of recidivism. Llello ap Thomas, whose sexual delicts are noted above, cited before the consistory court of Clun deanery in 1487 for incest with his spiritual kinswoman, was found, three years later, still living with the same woman in breach of the injunctions made against him on the earlier occasion.143 Likewise, Nicholas Corbet of Worthyn was accused in 1499 of incest with Matilda ferch Ieuan, who was godmother to his child; he was sentenced to the customary punishment of public whipping and ordered to abstain from intercourse with Matilda and to avoid consort with her. Yet subsequent entries reveal how he was still living with Matilda and, indeed, some eight years later a child was conceived of the liaison.144 What the evidence strongly suggests is that, by the close of the middle ages, god-parenthood was coming to be whatever individuals chose to make of it and was already beginning to assume the indeterminate form characteristic of the relationship in our own day. As for the incidence and prevalence of fosterage, these matters too are not easy to quantify, for the child-rearing practices of medieval Welsh society cannot be uncovered completely from the evidence that survives. One source of information, albeit one which may only be used with circumspection, is the coroner's inquest, where the victim of sudden or accidental death was a child.145 The coroner would record the age of the child, the circumstances 141 Ibid., 0/17, p. 89 (1487-88); pp.277, 294 (1488-89); 0/21, p. 152 (1499-1500); 0/22, p. 127 (1501-2); 0/23, pp. 109, 111. The major references only have been noted. 2 I hope to be able to deal at greater length with this topic on another occasion and with a fuller documentation. 143 H.R.O., 0/18, pp. 82 (1489-90), 287 (1490-91). The major references are H.R.O., 0/21, pp. 151, 164 (1499-1500); 0/22, pp. 123, 134 (1501-2); 0/23, pp. 101, 105, 109 (1506-7). 145 For an attempt to determine the child-rearing practices of the peasantry from such evidence, see B. Hanawalt, 'Childrearing Among the Lower Classes of Late Medieval England', Journal of Inter- disciplinary History, VIII (1977), 1-22; idem, Ties That Bound, pp. 175-79. My own conclusions are tentative, based on cumulative impressions gained from a reading of the court rolls of the lordship of Dyffryn Clwyd and those of the sessions of the county of Flint.