Jennifer Ward
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Throughout the Middle Ages the men and women of the nobility and gentry occupied a position at the top of the social hierarchy. To understand the position of noble and gentry women, it is essential to see them in the context of their families and of the law of the land. Changes in feudal lordship, and, more particularly, the growing authority of the Crown certainly had an effect on their lives. Many of the records of noble families comprised legal agreements and business documents. They include marriage settlements and an increasing number of estate and household records which throw light on management methods and changing methods of organisation. Such records sometimes enable an assessment to be made of the lady's wealth, and they give information on her lifestyle and standard of living.

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