chapter  10
18 Pages

The Myriad Roles of Women in Will-Making and Testamentary Litigation in Late Seventeenth-Century


The foregoing chapters have been replete with narratives of seventeenth-century lives related through probate litigation in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury. The stories recounted about the lives and deaths of will-makers were frequently told by women. This abundance of women appearing in an early modern English court is unusual. Indeed, the court appearance of married women is particularly remarkable because, through the doctrine of coverture, a wife’s legal personality was supposed to be merged into that of her husband.1 As a result, a husband rather than his wife usually appeared as the party to a legal transaction or dispute.