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Murder of a Wet Nurse 1300

Volume XLI of Bedfordshire Historical Records Society series is a series of translations by R.F.Hunnisett of medieval coroner's rolls for the county, entry 255 reads: “At twilight on 4 Sept 1300 Nicholas le Swon of Bedford came to his house there, when his wife Isabel was a Robert Asplon’s house giving milk to Robert’s son, and asked his daughter where her mother was. She said: at Robert Asplon’s house; whereupon he immediately went after her because she stayed there too much. As he left his house he met his wife and told her to come home to sleep, saying that he wanted to go to his bed. While Isabel was making his bed, Nicholas drew his sword and struck her in the back so that she imemdiately died. He immediately fled. His chattels were 3 bushels of corn worth 15d., 2 bushels of oats worth 4d., 8lbs of wool worth 2s., wood worth 4d., 2 pigs worth3d. and a chest worth 4d. for which Bedford will answer. His daughter Joan was the first finder, raised the hue and was attached by William Cope and William Whyteman. The neighbours wereattached: John le Fruttere by John the Cook and William Funt; Robert Asplon by Thomas Asplon and Robert Berard; William Tydens by Roger le Tannour and Ralph Daubour; Robert of Leicester by Robert le Swon and Thomas le Hore. [At the eyre it was ordered that Nicholas be exacted and outlawed; his chattels worth 5s. 7d. were forfeited on account of his flight. The first finder and neighbours had died]”.

Nicholas’ wife was presumably a wet nurse to Robert Asplon’s child. In a society where both women and babies often died in childbirth or shortly after it such arrangements were probably not uncommon. Isabel had probably not long before lost a baby and Robert’s wife had probably died leaving him with an infant. The line about the first finder and neighbours all having died seems to be formulaic and not to be taken as the literal truth.