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Margaret de Lacy and the Hospital of St John at Aconbury, Herefordshire

Nicholson, Helen Jane 1999. Margaret de Lacy and the Hospital of St John at Aconbury, Herefordshire. The Journal of Ecclesiastical History 50 (4) , pp. 629-651.

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In 1216 the powerful Marcher lord Margaret de Lacy obtained permission from King John to found a religious house at Aconbury, south of Hereford. She entrusted the nunnery that she founded to the Hospital of St John of Jerusalem. However, relations between Margaret and the Order of St John broke down so dramatically that in 1237, on her request, Pope Gregory IX commanded that the house be removed from the Hospital of St John and transferred to the Rule of St Augustine. This transfer from one Order to another came only after a long and bitter legal battle between Margaret and the Hospitallers. The case not only provides a rare opportunity to follow the formidable legal machinery of a military religious order in action, but also shows how papal intervention could be brought to bear by both laity and religious, and indicates that even the most privileged and powerful religious order could be defeated in the courts by a determined patron, when she had papal support. In addition, the case also provides valuable evidence for the active involvement of a married woman in legal proceedings. This article considers why Margaret gave her foundation to the Hospitallers, why dispute arose between the Order and its patron, and how Margaret succeeded in winning her case. It argues that she had to misrepresent the facts of the donation in order to win papal judgement in her favour; but this said, she would not have been successful had her case not fitted into a wider papal agenda to reform the organisation of women’s houses in general and in particular to reform the military orders and make them more effective in the defence of the Holy Land.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: History, Archaeology and Religion
Subjects: D History General and Old World > D History (General)
D History General and Old World > D History (General) > D111 Medieval History
D History General and Old World > DA Great Britain
Uncontrolled Keywords: Hospital of St John of Jerusalem, Knights Hospitaller, Hospitallers, Hospitaller women, Aconbury, Margaret de Lacy, Pope Gregory IX
Additional Information: Republished with revisions in (ed. Anthony Luttrell and Helen J. Nicholson), _Hospitaller Women in the Middle Ages_ (Aldershot, Hants. & Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2006; ISBN 0-7546-0646-5), pp. 153--177.
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
ISSN: 0022-0469
Last Modified: 04 Jun 2017 08:20

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