This paper examines the 1405 pardon granted to a young married woman named Laurence who confessed to having had sex with another married woman in northern France. The pardon is unique in many respects. Most pardons are for men, and especially men who commit violent acts. This pardon defies all norms: it was granted to a woman, it seems to have been a pardon for consensual sex, and, finally, the sex was with another women. Given the focus of the narrative requesting royal grace, we have taken the position that this was likely a pardon for this sex, as a form of “sodomy,” an umbrella term for sex “against nature”, that is, non-reproductive, non-marital sex, though the pardon does not use the term (or any like it). Our inquiry, therefore, raises a number of critical questions. Most importantly is: why was there investigation, prosecution, and pardon? We seek to problematize every aspect of this problematically exceptional pardon. In so doing, we contribute to current scholarship in the field of queer medieval studies that calls for medievalists to shed their heteronormative lens when approaching complicated source documents that offer a window to us on medieval practices of and attitudes towards extra-marital sex.
Hutchison, Emily J. and McDougall, Sara
"Pardonable Sodomy: Uncovering Laurence’s Sin and Recovering the Range of the Possible,"
Medieval People: Vol. 37:
1, Article 7.
Available at: https://scholarworks.wmich.edu/medpros/vol37/iss1/7