Shengyen Lu

Women in court - the legal status and property rights of heiresses and widows in thirteenth-century England


The thesis is focused on women in court, namely heiresses and widows in thirteenth-century England. The main concern is how the legal status and property rights of heiresses and widows developed from the twelfth to the thirteenth century; in other words, how did the law relating to women’s property develop in England? Common law, known as case law, is based on precedents and has no certain form. Any case may become precedent and legally binding for the following similar cases. However, what happened in court was far more complex than following precedents. A case might have been affected by a newly made statute, legal practitioners’ claims or the change of customs. Therefore, this research will emphasize women’s inheritance and property, including maritagium, hereditas, and dos. How were these cases presented by practitioners and how did this affect the development of women’s property?

Women’s property is one of the key dynamics of any society, as their rights affected the development of the custom of marriage and inheritance. Since most scholars have looked at medieval women from the perspective of sociology, I will examine medieval women’s legal status and legal rights from a different angle. Although this research cannot cover all medieval women, by investigating heiresses and widows, I hope to provide a clear picture of the changes of women’s rights of property in thirteenth-century England. 


2014 -         University of London, School of Advanced Study, The Institute of Historical Research.

2012 - 2013 University of Edinburgh, Scotland. Master of Science Medieval History             

2008 – 2012 National Cheng Chi University, Taipei, Taiwan

Bachelor of Arts in History

Bachelor of Arts in Law