Medieval Widowhood and Textual Guidance: The Corpus Revisions of Ancrene Wisse and the de Braose Anchoresses

Catherine Innes-Parker


The Corpus revision of Ancrene Wisse addresses a wider audience than the original, as the number of anchoresses in the English West Midlands grew. The revisions suggest that this broader audience included women who entered the anchorhold as widows. Loretta, countess of Leicester, and Annora de Braose de Mortimer, sisters who had been raised in the Welsh Marches, exemplify the kind of woman who may have formed this audience: wealthy and influential women who became anchoresses upon being widowed. While neither woman can be linked to the Corpus revision, their lives provide a window into the background of widowed anchoresses and the variety of reasons why they might have preferred the anchoritic life to remarriage or to the communal life of the convent.

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