The story of William of Cloudesly is found in a 16th century ballad, Adam Bell, Clym of the Cloughe and Wyllyam of Cloudeslee, but may be older. It was included in the influential 19th century collection, The English and Scottish Popular Ballads, as ballad 116, by Francis James Child. Although it is a male dominated, rip-roaring, all action story, three women play a significant part, emerging at points to influence events. Presented here is a short retelling followed by a brief discussion on the influence of the three females on the story.
Wife selling is often claimed to be an ancient practice, carried out by brutish men to free themselves of unwanted wives, but the truth is far more varied and fascinating.
In Arthurian legend and romance, Queen Guinevere was famous as the wife of King Arthur and the lover of her husband’s best knight, Sir Lancelot du Lac.
In the great wealth of witch-related lore, the image of the persecuted local midwife is one of the most enduringly popular.
The idea that the womb wandered about the female body was prevalent in antiquity, even after it was disproven by some ancient physicians.