As Ward notes, the more prominent records give accounts of women's roles primarily in terms of their relationships with men, and these relationships almost invariably portray women as characters stuck in traditional roles. The chronicles, for example, "give the impression that women's main importance was in connection with marriage, children and inheritance (5)." Even when these chronicles are considered in association with the royal and legal records,
the emphasis is still seen to rest on the family, but the importance of land and lordship is substantiated, and it is possible to obtain more information [from the combination of chronicles and legal and royal records] on the lower ranks of the nobility (5).
the return of those lands to Elizabeth.
As David Bates, the General Editor of the series of books of which Ward's is a part, writes, Ward had made a successful and significant "start . . . in portraying the lives of women . . . in the upper strata of lay society" (back cover) in the later Middle Ages. Her work is thoroughly documented, from public and private records, and is greatly relevant to any study of the period or of women's history. She is cautious in presenting her conclusions, avoiding claims which are unsubstantiated by the evidence, but never afraid to make suggestions drawn from that evidence, suggestions which can serve future researchers.
s the character of Elizabeth de Burgh, a wealthy noblewoman and widow in England in the fourteenth century, throughout the book as a "continuing case-study . . . to place the various 'life-roles' of her kind and class in a specific context" (back cover).
Despite the prevalence of arranged marriages, the sources reveal that some women were independent enough to make their own decision in this area:
In "The Widow and Her Lands," we read that Elizabeth de Burgh was a particularly willful woman who refused to buckle under the pressures of the patriarchal system. As the Calendar of Patent Rolls show