Brief Glossary


Conversion of arable land to pasture in Tudor times at the expense of "commons", that is land that could be collectively used for cattel grazing, wood cutting, etc. In 1516 Sir Thomas More in his Utopia saw the enclosing of commons for sheep farming the cause of social disorder: "'The increase of pasture,' said I, 'by which your sheep, which are naturally mild, and easily kept in order, may be said now to devour men and unpeople, not only villages, but towns; for wherever it is found that the sheep of any soil yield a softer and richer wool than ordinary, there the nobility and gentry, and even those holy men, the abbots not contented with the old rents which their farms yielded, nor thinking it enough that they, living at their ease, do no good to the public, resolve to do it hurt instead of good. They stop the course of agriculture, destroying houses and towns, reserving only the churches, and enclose grounds that they may lodge their sheep in them. "

Give the lie

The rules of the duel might look incomprehensible to a modern mind. Say Lord A calls Lord B a scoundrel. As it is Lord B who has been offended, we would evidently expect that he challenges Lord A. However, it worked the other way round. If Lord B simply answers: "No, I am no scoundrel," the offended person is considered to be Lord A and it is Lord A who, to safeguard his honor, has to send a challenge to Lord B. Lord B, in turn, is entitled to choose the weapons of the duel. Lord B's denial, his "giving the lie", was esteemed an offense to the honor of Lord A.

Oxford had insulted Sidney by  calling him a puppy. In his Life of the Renowned Sir Philip Sidney Fulke Greville relates the event thus: "Sir Philip resolving in one answer to conclude both the attentive hearers and passionate actor, gave my lord a lie, impossible - as he averred - to be retorted; in respect all the world knows, puppies are gotten by dogs, and children by men." After the  code of honor of the duel it was up to Oxford to send Sidney a challenge.

What to make of all that? And though apparently madness, was there some method in it? There was, indeed, method in it.

First, the duel should not be confused with the judicial combat. A judicial combat is what takes place between Bolingbroke and Mowbray in act I, scene 2 of Shakespeare's Richard II. There we find the stage direction: "A charge sounded. King Richard throws his warder into the lists" and the combat is stayed. A warder is a staff or mace held by one presiding over a combat. And here lies the essential difference between the judicial combat and the duel as it emerged in Italy before the middle of the 16th century. A duel was generally fought in secret, without any control of the monarch. It was an institution by which the aristocracy created a domain of autonomy, independent of the king, to whom otherwise ever more powers devolved. Which also explains, at least in part, the odd rule of "giving the lie". Slander, libel, insult were offenses provided for by the law. And so the code of the duel removed the offense from the precinct of the law to the precinct of aristocratic honor. The law of honor was set apart from the general law to "autonomize" the aristocracy against the monarch.


The money given to the bride by her father.

Prior, Priory

A priory is an abbey, though generally considered of lower status than an abbey, correspondingly a prior is of lower rank than an abbot. However, this may not apply to the priory of Crato, now a small town in central east Portugal. In the 16th century the priory of Crato was the headquarters of the Knights Hospitaller in Portugal. The prior of Crato, in 1580 Dom Antonio, was the head of the order.


A tenth part. In the Middle Ages farmers had to offer a tenth of their harvest, craftsmen a tenth of their production in kind, later also in money, to religious institutions. With the dissolution of the monasteries in 1534 such rights passed over to the new lay proprietors. Tithe rights could be traded independently from the lands with which they were originaly connected.


A relict of feudalism. Under the feudal system a tenant who held land from his lord was bound to accomplish certain services for him, above all military service. If a tenant died before his heir had come of age, the heir could not perform this military service and the land returned to the lord till the heir had attained the age of majority. The lord became guardian to the child and had, in turn, to provide for the education of his ward. By the 16th century this system had almost gone out of use, but it was revived by Henry VIII, mainly for fiscal reasons. Rights of wardship could be sold and traded much like today securities. The child, whose father held land from the Crown and died before the child had reached the age of majority, became a royal ward. The sale of wardships was a source of incore of the Crown.