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SaxBasilisk

Crime and Punishment - A Knight's Wife

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A knight secretly kills a rich traveler, taking the traveler's money for his own. His wife takes the money and spends it on behalf of her husband.

Several years pass. The husband dies, and afterward the crime is discovered. The wife makes it clear she knew about where the money came from.

Any ideas on how I might handle this situation (both historical and dramatic)? Would the woman be prosecuted? I believe later eras allowed the husband's influence over the wife to be a successful defense of a charge. Otherwise, I'm thinking she might need to bring in people to swear oaths on her behalf, or undergo an ordeal.

What do you think?

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I think she is in the clear legally. She didn't steal it her husband did, and she was legally bound to obey him. Even in the modern world the case against her would be shaky. They would have to prove that she knew about the murder, and there used to be laws prohibiting a wife from testifying against her husband, and a social acceptance of her not outing his crimes. 

Now there might be some social fallout for that, but I think the most likely consequence would be the rich traveler's family taking her to court to get their money back.

 

 

Edited by Atgxtg

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Agreed. The wife would be in the clear as for the murder. Even if she knew about it, it would be difficult to claim she is responsible for her husband's crime.

Reclaiming the stolen money + bloodprice of sorts from the knight's heirs if the traveller was high status enough. If the traveller's family is not influential enough (and presumably not local) then they might have an uphill battle at the courts. How do we know how much money was robbed and it was years ago... A lot depends on the judge too. Just is not very high during Uther Period and a lot of bad stuff happens during Anarchy.

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I'm not particularly well versed in this but my take -- law, faith, and justice are all subjective in pre-positivism arthurian society.

If the merchant is a commoner of a distant land, nothing will be done. They'd presume the merchant probably did something wrong and had it coming, shrug, and move on with their lives. If this case somehow gets the ear of someone highborn or religiously connected then things change. It's anyones game at that point as it could be demanding repayment, it could be demanding death ("she corrupted the knight and spent the money!") and entirely subjective to whims of the nobles or religiously powerful. 

Her name and familys rep will be dragged through the mud but again-- most would presume the merchant was in the wrong then presume the knight was bad without any further thought.

Edited by ericvulgaris

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Plus, what could she really do even is she wanted to? If a wife reported her husband for murder and theft and cost him to loose honor she would be in an even worse spot than the situation above.

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Everyone,

Thanks for your responses so far!

At this point, the person's son is a rich Roman merchant or knight (haven't decided which) based out of London.

One of the reasons I'm keen on finding out answers is because the primary PK in the situation has a Just of 16.

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5 minutes ago, SaxBasilisk said:

One of the reasons I'm keen on finding out answers is because the primary PK in the situation has a Just of 16.

Well, as many a judge has noted: Justice and the Law are not the same thing.

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How is it even up to the PK? He is very unlikely to be a party to this case, after all. In any case, you can't try the wife for the crime of the husband.

If this is Uther Period, a mere merchant's son would be unlikely to get any sympathy. A knight would be on a firmer footing, claiming revenge for his father if nothing else and escalating to a family feud unless compensation is paid.

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2 hours ago, Morien said:

How is it even up to the PK? He is very unlikely to be a party to this case, after all. In any case, you can't try the wife for the crime of the husband.

A knight doesn't have to be a party to an injustice to act upon it. The stories are full of well intentioned knights riding into a bad situation and "righting wrongs" in some fashion. A PK who finds out about this and takes it upon himself fix things isn't out of place. It probably makes more sense during the Romance and Tournament Periods, but it's not impossible at other times.

2 hours ago, Morien said:

If this is Uther Period, a mere merchant's son would be unlikely to get any sympathy. A knight would be on a firmer footing, claiming revenge for his father if nothing else and escalating to a family feud unless compensation is paid.

In the Uther period a mere merchants son with a bag of gold might not get any sympathy but he might get results. Uther's court is pretty corruptible. If someone is out for revenge he could probably buy it.

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10 hours ago, Atgxtg said:

Uther's court is pretty corruptible. If someone is out for revenge he could probably buy it.

There is that, but this would be unlikely to involve the PK, unless... (more about this below)

10 hours ago, Atgxtg said:

A PK who finds out about this and takes it upon himself fix things isn't out of place.

Sure, but if this is a court case, he is unlikely to sit in judgement. He would be unlikely to champion the merchant's son (if that is even allowed). I could see him defending the widow, though.

So this is to say that I can see two options here, legal and extralegal.

1) Legal: The merchant's son buys some justice by having someone reasonably well connected (one of Uther's bruisers?) to act as the front man. They are attempting to try the widow as an accessory to the murder, claiming that she was a party to planning the ambush and encouraging her husband to do it. Of course they have very little in the way of proof, but with one of Uther's favorites making the charge, no one is that eager to defend her (in particular if she lacks a liege of her own other than the King who is not interested, perhaps already distracted by Ygraine or sick in 494). Time for her to find a champion to defend her good name in a trial by combat, i.e. enter the PK. This is pretty high stakes, though, since if the PK loses, they probably both get executed, and if he wins, he has made a powerful 'friend' at court.

2) Extralegal: The merchant's son hires some mercs and sets out to take revenge & compensation. The PKs show up, possibly prior to the mercs & their employer, and the sudden increase in garrison's combat power leads to negotiations. In this case, I could every well see the PKs acting as judge & jury. Naturally, in this case the widow would need to be living at the holding still, rather than be at the liege's court, but that is possible, especially if she is an older lady.

One of my favorite things to do is to really highlight Uther's neglect of his royal duties from 491 onwards, especially after his duel with Argan & his sickness. Basically, with Uther either besotted with Ygraine or sick in bed, the court favorites have pretty much free reign for graft and other corruption. Even up to kidnapping heiresses from their fathers and trying to forcibly marry them, which makes for an excellent encounter for the PKs to get involved in. Uther's Thug Trio are my suspects of choice for this, but other Thugs or even court officers would work, too. This also gets some use out of all those NPCs, and might get the PKs involved with the Court or worried whether they dare to interfere, given the trouble they might get into => roleplay and choices and consequences!

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this is how I would handle it:

First of all I would split the crimes. You have a killing a traveler and the robbery of the traveler. Second I would split up the legal consequences and the social consequences.

1) Killing the traveler. 

Legal: This all depends on the justification of the knight. since you did not describe how or why the knight killed the traveler I am not sure how this would be percieved. Since the knight is dead it is all irrelevant now. The wife is in the clear. She did not kill the traveler, neither could she be prosecuted for failing to report the crime. 

Social: This has not much effect. Again the justification is important, but during the Uther or Anarchy phase it does not matter much. It is just a commoner after all. During Arthurs period this may be frowned upon if the justification is deemed unjust. 

2) Robbing the traveler

Legal: This is seen as unknightly behavior just to rob a person. The knight in question would get punished for that. Of course the wife will not as she is legally bound to obey her husband. Of course there is a difference if the person attacked you. It also depends who is the one you robbed. If the one you took from is a raider or bandit there is no problem.  Also raids are different and not seen as robbery.

Social: I would rule that robbing is not accepted, especially during Arthur's reign. There are of course a lot of loopholes here as well. Taking loot from vanguished foes is not a problem and not seen as robbery, but attacking people solely to get money is seen as robbery. Raids are acceptable as well, although during Arthur they are frowned upon. For the wife here is probably the biggest fall out. Since she knew about the robbery she and the family will suffer socially. But it is interesting what she does to atone for her crimes. This may mitigate some of the blame.

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15 minutes ago, Cornelius said:

But it is interesting what she does to atone for her crimes.

What was her crime? She was still obeying her husband.

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2 hours ago, Morien said:

There is that, but this would be unlikely to involve the PK, unless... (more about this below)

Sure, but if this is a court case, he is unlikely to sit in judgement. He would be unlikely to champion the merchant's son (if that is even allowed). I could see him defending the widow, though.

So this is to say that I can see two options here, legal and extralegal.

Just wanted to say we are in agreement here.

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2 hours ago, Morien said:

What was her crime? She was still obeying her husband.

Her crime being the wife of a robber. She is not seen as a separate entity from her husband. So she could (and in the view of others probably should) atone for her husbands crimes.

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2 hours ago, Cornelius said:

But it is interesting what she does to atone for her crimes. 

As Morien pointed out, basesd on the story so far, she didn't commit a crime and was bound by her duty as a wife not to rat out her husband. Accessory after the fact, and tuning in your immiedate famly to the law weren't really things back then.

 

Now if she had a hand in the killer (say she poisoned the traveler, fatality or otherwise to aid her husband) or has been having sport by taunting the traveler's wife that she couldn't keep a husband all these years, well then things would be different, but as it stands now, she is "just a woman" whose husband did a bad thing. For the most part she would have been worse off turning him in. Now it is murder, and that is about the point where turning him is is almost acceptable, but the victim was a commoner. So she is in the clear, legally, unless the agreeived family has deep enough pockets to buy a little revenge medieval justice. More likely they would just try to get the moneny back though the court, and possibly  with a libra ot too extrea tacked on as a blood price. I suppose if they had really good connections and the knights'wife didn't, they could convince someone to degrade the husband and have his manor escheat back to the liege lord (assuming that he had an heir so it hand't already done so). Maybe, maybe, maybe if they had the connections and the money and the widow had little family to support her, they could get her stripped of the widows portion, but that is highly unlikley and pretty much means that "the fix was in".

Now socially, morally things would be very different. Just how much so depends on how she had acted about it, especially with her confessor, if she were a Christian. 

 

Edited by Atgxtg

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3 minutes ago, Cornelius said:

Her crime being the wife of a robber. She is not seen as a separate entity from her husband. So she could (and in the view of others probably should) atone for her husbands crimes.

That isn't a crime. It might get her ostracized socially, but it isn't a crime. 

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14 minutes ago, Atgxtg said:

That isn't a crime. It might get her ostracized socially, but it isn't a crime. 

There are several examples of wives and sisters etc of robber knights in Arthurian romance, and they never suffer for the male members of their family's actions in a physical, immediate way, though sometimes they lose their lands or the goods that were stolen. There is a motif found repeatedly of them betraying their cruel family member but it's not expected of them.

 

Edit: this is related to a folktale motif called the "Giant's Daughter" I believe, where the hero kills the evil man and marries their daughter, widow or sister (as in Culhwch). For some time folklorists thought it strange and unlikely but in my experience cruel and evil men are often also cruel and evil to their female relations, not simply to outsiders.

Edited by jeffjerwin

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Just now, jeffjerwin said:

There are several examples of wives and sisters etc of robber knights in Arthurian romance, and they never suffer for the male members of their family's actions in a physical, immediate way, though sometimes they lose their lands or the goods that were stolen. There is a motif found repeatedly of them betraying their cruel family member but it's not expected of them.

Yes, exactly. And they lose their lands because it belonged to the aforementioned robber, who essentially had it take from him posthumously, for dishonorable deeds, and then there is no land left for the female relatives. I suspect the latter is reserved more for extreme cases, where the offender had many enemies and few friends to support him in court, or someone else with influence wanted the land, and pushed to have that happen.

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8 minutes ago, jeffjerwin said:

the goods that were stolen

If it were right after the fact and like the traveller's horse that is identifiable by its markings or a wagon of wool that he bought just in the nearby market town, etc, sure, that is pretty easy to prove and recover. However, in this case, it was money, several years ago, already spent on other things (whether consumables or something else). That is when it gets very dicey. How can you prove that the victim had X libra in his pocket when he was killed?

Granted, the widow in question might be making a full confession here, since she is already admitting to knowing that the money in question was stolen, so maybe they are able to nail that down. In which case, paying at least that as compensation from whatever inheritance the robber knight left behind + some as blood price would be just.

Edited by Morien

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Thanks again, everyone!

I'm being cagey in case my players come across this thread... but the PK with Just 16 is the woman's son.

Even if the justice system exonerates his mother, I know the character and the player will have some difficult choices to make.

Edited by SaxBasilisk

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35 minutes ago, SaxBasilisk said:

Thanks again, everyone!

I'm being cagey in case my players come across this thread... but the PK with Just 16 is the woman's son.

Even if the justice system exonerates his mother, I know the character and the player will have some difficult choices to make.

Ah. that's a whole different kettle of fish. The PK might bear a grudge or even disown her.

On the other hand, he might consider what would have happened if she had reported her husband. He probably would have been tried, possibly convinced, and the family could have lost their lands and the PK wouldn't be a K. So maybe Mom did what she did to protect him? BTW, that is one of the reasons why family wasn't usually held accountable, and also why the tactic of sending sons to help either side in a civil war usually worked. Another was the old wedding vows, which were the same as swearing fealty and homage. Would you rat out your liege lord if he murdered someone? If your family suffered for it? Tough spot to be in.

Edited by Atgxtg

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43 minutes ago, SaxBasilisk said:

the PK with Just 16 is the woman's son.

And he is the son of the robber knight as well, which would make him the heir? Forget about the wife/widow/mother, it is the PK who is the heir and the beneficiary of the robbery, presumably. It is he who will deal with any blood feud that might result.

So is this already out in the open, in public? Or the Mom has just confessed to the son that oh, by the way, that charger you are riding came from your Dad's highway robbery proceedings? In the former, I would expect the PK to do his damnest to settle the thing, pay the money that was robbed + blood price, and try to get this thing to go away ASAP. If the latter, find out what happened to the man's family, and then try to make amends. Up to and including offering to take the merchant's son (if one of them is young enough) as a squire and train and equip him as a knight.

9 minutes ago, Atgxtg said:

The PK might bear a grudge or even disown her.

Why? Again, the woman did no crime here. Presumably the PK still has Love Family passion, and it would take hell of a lot to disown your own mother! Sure, if she were, let's just take an example at random, sleeping with the son of the man who killed your father and  whose house you have a vendetta against... (Although I would claim that particular event would be more of a fumble in Love Family...)

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1 hour ago, Morien said:

And he is the son of the robber knight as well, which would make him the heir? Forget about the wife/widow/mother, it is the PK who is the heir and the beneficiary of the robbery, presumably. It is he who will deal with any blood feud that might result.

Yup. He might not have been complicit in it, or even aware of it, but he benefited from it.

1 hour ago, Morien said:

Why? Again, the woman did no crime here. Presumably the PK still has Love Family passion, and it would take hell of a lot to disown your own mother! Sure, if she were, let's just take an example at random, sleeping with the son of the man who killed your father and  whose house you have a vendetta against... (Although I would claim that particular event would be more of a fumble in Love Family...)

She might not have committed a crime but she still was party to a bad thing, so she might have "done wrong". I could see the Knight being upset with his mother when he found out. Lots of people distance themselves from family members for things they didn't approve of that were not crimes. 

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13 hours ago, Morien said:

So is this already out in the open, in public? Or the Mom has just confessed to the son that oh, by the way, that charger you are riding came from your Dad's highway robbery proceedings? In the former, I would expect the PK to do his damnest to settle the thing, pay the money that was robbed + blood price, and try to get this thing to go away ASAP. If the latter, find out what happened to the man's family, and then try to make amends. Up to and including offering to take the merchant's son (if one of them is young enough) as a squire and train and equip him as a knight.

None of this has been revealed yet. It will be quite possible for the knight to miss the clues leading to it, or to find out and do nothing (unlikely), or to resolve it without revealing the crime.

I'd probably want to avoid a financial solution, as the PK is already under monetary duress. So the outcome is likely going to be a blood feud, or an arrangement such as the training of a squire.

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