Desperate Housewives?

Following a closer look at the illegitimate Cantilupes and their father Walter, we should take a look at the ladies. This early on it’s a bit tricky, since we don’t know the name of Walter’s wife or the identity of his illegitimate sons’ mother/s. We don’t even know the name of one of Walter’s daughters. This is largely due to the source material – if these women were not holding lands and so called upon to answer for them or appearing in court cases, they are unlikely to show up in these types of records – moreover, there are far less of these records c.1200 than there are later in the period when bureaucracy really takes off.


Additionally, the women in the Cantilupe family only appear as wives, daughters, mothers, widows – noted down in relation to their male kin. While things in practice were more fluid and complex for women in terms of economic and social activities, the government and legal sources do not reveal too much about their personal lives. It is, however, still possible to find some fragments of potential interest.


Even the cadet lines succeeded in making good marriages; in the mid-twelfth century, the wonderfully named Euphemia de Cantilupe married Aubrey de Vere, earl of Oxford, a kinship tie of which the thirteenth century Essex-based cadet line took frequent advantage.1


We will just look at two women this time, Emma de Cantilupe (maiden name unknown) and Mazilia de Cantilupe, née de Bracy.


c.1180-1205: EMMA


Moving across to Suffolk, we find Emma, c.1186. Emma, the wife of another William Cantilupe, possibly Walter’s brother, appears in Suffolk in a case against Adam Cokerell. This is apparently over land in Bukeshall, and was a long-running case, lasting several years. The second time, it’s a plea of grand assize (below).

Emma Cp

Rotuli Curiae Regis: Rolls and Records of the Court held before the King’s Justiciars or Justices, volume 1 (1194 – 1199), p. 241

This court case goes on into volume 2 (1199-1200), in fact. She appears again in another against her sister Margery regarding lands their father had left them in Suffolk and Essex, in the Hilary Term of 1200.

Emma Cp3

Curia Regis Rolls, vol. 1, p. 157


Relations between the two sisters were evidently sour at one point, since Margery had taken Emma to court, but there is very little apart from this to learn regarding their personal lives. In this case, Emma’s chirograph and charter of King Henry II helped to solve the dispute, so it would appear that her widowed sister was unsuccessful in this claim. Emma seemed to know her way around a court case – she is one of the most litigious of the Cantilupe women, appearing on her own and not in conjunction with a male kinsman.


Emma seems to have held lands in her own right, and although it’s not clear when William died. She appears in the 1199 Pipe Roll, holding lands in the “Honor of Bolon'”, Essex. She then appears in the 1202 Pipe Roll, answering for 3 knight’s fees in Essex, being quit of the king’s writ in Norfolk and Suffolk, and then continued to appear in the Pipe Rolls for knights’ fees in Essex until 1205. After 1205, she disappears from the records and a male family member begins to answer for these lands instead, so it’s likely that she died in this year.


We find an Emma Cantilupe, widow of Henry de ‘Muntfort’ or Montfort, in the Memoranda Roll for Michaelmas 1199 [p. 13] – was this the same Emma, widowed twice, or her daughter, perhaps? One of her male kin is acting as her steward in this instance – a Robert de Cantelo [Cantilupe].


Emma and Margery Cantilupe, co-heiresses in Suffolk, were not the only Cantilupe women to feature in the sources. We do have the name of one of Walter’s daughters, Matilda, who married Henry Longchamp. Unfortunately, that’s about it, but bringing the Longchamp family into the Cantilupe kinship orbit and vice versa was a move to increase the influence and status of both families.

1200-1220: MAZILIA


William I married Mazilia de Bracy, also variously known as Mascillia or Mazra. Mazilia appears with William I in several court cases from 1201-1220, usually in Somerset.


In 1201, Mazilia appears as a defendant in a plea of land against Stephen de Welton and his son. She attorned her husband William I and Robert Cantilupe, presumably her brother-in-law [Robert Barat or another, legitimate Robert?] , and William de Hardreshull and Godfrey de Roinges – the latter two being kinsmen of hers, or vassals, or close family friends. Mazilia brought lands in Kent to the Cantilupes, but also strengthened their connections to the Welsh border: the de Bracys made good use of their new son-in-law in the courts.


In the Shropshire pleas, William de Cantilupe was appointed as attorney for Audulf de Bracy in de Bracy’s case against Roger Mortimer in a plea of land in 1208. The de Bracys evidently had interests in both the Welsh border lands and the West Country, so even though Mazilia’s dowry were lands in Kent, the Cantilupe position was bolstered in the west through her continued presence there – and by her and her family’s use of William I in their legal disputes.


Mazilia continued to appear with her husband until his death in 1239, maintaining the family connections between her family, the de Bracys, and her various sons and daughters-in-law once her children had been married off.


Her daughter-in-law Maud, when widowed herself, went to Scotland with King Henry III’s daughter, wife of King Alexander of Scotland, taking a de Bracy with her for protection. We will get to Maud a bit later on…


Next time: Murder In The First‘ – we look at the Essex branch a little more closely, and Hugh de Cantilupe, hanged for the murder of John de Goldingham in 1225…


1. G. E. Cokayne, Complete Peerage of England, Scotland, Ireland, Great Britain and the United Kingdom, V. Gibbs and H. A. Doubleday (eds.) (rev. ed., 12 vols, London, 1910–59), vol. 10, p. 205 fn. d. ; Simon de Canteloup witnesses charters of the earls of Oxford between 1150 and 1180, and Robert, probably his son, between 1180 and c. 1214 (Cartularium Prioratus de Colne, pp. 18–56 passim; TNA: DL 36/2/249; British Library Additional Charters 28354) ; cited in Tony Moore, ‘A Medieval Murder Mystery, or the Crime of the Canteloups’, Henry III Fine Rolls Project, Fine of the Month (April, 2006), online resource,, accessed 25.11.13.