Sir Bennet finds himself in a bit of a quandary. His elder brother, Aldric, the Baron of Windsor, has made a mess of the family finances and it’s up to Sir Bennet to make things right. An arranged marriage with wealthy Lady Sabine might just solve the problem. Not knowing that she is on her way to meet her potential husband, Lady Sabine believes the reason for the trip to Maidstone Castle is to view the renowned relic collection housed there with the hopes of acquiring a few of the ancient pieces. Little does she realize that the birthmark she hides beneath her glove will be proof enough to be labeled a witch, endangering her own life and the lives of all who surround her unless she is able to prove her innocence.
This novel is written with teens and young adults in mind. The story is light and romantic. Lady Sabine are Sir Bennet are likable characters and their interactions during their courtship are entertaining. The discussion questions that follow the story are designed to help teen girls reflect on their own lives. This book would make a great addition to units on life in the 1300s, superstitions in medieval Europe and the belief systems of the time.
Although there is no Maidstone Castle in Hampton, where this story takes place, there is a castle near Maidstone which dates to the medieval ages. The setting adds to the romantic nature of the story.
Set in the middle ages, the accusation of being a witch was a serious matter. A person could be accused of witchcraft for a number of reasons but one of the most common was having a witch’s mark in the form of moles, scars, or birthmarks. Once accused, innocence could be proven through certain physical trials.
Three trials are mentioned in the story, although there were many more. Trial by ordeal, where an accused witch was subjected to some sort of physical punishment. Rapid healing of the wounds inflicted during the ordeal meant the accused was innocent. However, if the wound became infected, he or she was guilty. Trial by dunking was another common test. The accused would be thrown into a body of water from a boat. If the accused sank, innocence was the verdict and he or she would be pulled up into the boat. If the accused floated, it meant he or she had renounced baptism by entering the Devil’s service. The idea of water being so pure an element that it rejects the guilty originates with Pliney the Elder in his Naturalis Historia, BK VII (AD 70) which states that witches will never drown.
The third trial mentioned in the book was The Lord’s Prayer Test. The accused is asked to recite the Lord’s Prayer. If he or she is able to recite the prayer without misspeaking, then the accused would be declared innocent since it was thought that the Devil would not allow one of his servants to do so.
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