In 14th Century London, Elizabeth Moring was a master embroiderer in Broad Street, she employed several women and girls as apprentices and often kept them on in her employment for a long time. Things were not quite as they seemed though, as very little embroidery went on. Elizabeth was a madam, and her ‘apprentices’ offered service to many man, including “friars and chaplins” either in their own homes, or in Elizabeth’s.
The end of Elizabeth’s time in London came as the result of Johanna and a certain chaplain. Johanna, one of Elizabeth’s “apprentices” was sent by Elizabeth on the evening of Thursday 4th May, 1385 to sleep with a chaplain. On her return the next day Elizabeth discovered that no payment had been given for the evening. To remedy this, Elizabeth forced Johanna to return to the chaplain for a second night, demand payment, and while there steal a valuable prayer book. Elizabeth then sold the prayer book on and kept the money for herself. It was alleged that this was a common practice, and Elizabeth always kept the money from the pawning of stolen items.
Elizabeth appeared before the mayor, aldermen and sheriff at the Guildhall Court on 25th July 1385 where she was accused of being a bawd, while awaiting a jury to be formed she was kept in prison. The jury subsequently found her guilty and sentenced her to spend one hour on the women’s pillory (thewe). After this she was exiled from London – told if she returned that she would face three years in prison and more time at the thewe.
Those found guilty of whoreing, as well as those who made use of the services, would generally have received punishment. The usual punishment for both men and women was having their head shaved and being put in a pillory. In the case of Elizabeth and the unnamed cleric, only Elizabeth received any punishment – the name of the cleric has not come to us through any records and he remained unpunished and unnamed.
London. The Wicked City: A Thousand Years of Prostitution and Vices By Fergus Linnane
Medieval Maidens: Young Women and Gender in England, C.1270-c.1540 by Kim M. Philips