Sir Geoffrey Peel never expected to inherit the Peel title; after completing a degree in law at Oxford, he worked for many years as steward to Lord Matthew Montague and married his daughter Joan. But his older brother Henry died several years ago, and his second brother Humphrey declined the inheritance to pursue his career in the Church. Sir Geoffrey has suddenly been plunged into a new way of life, running his own manors and taking the lead of a military company. He has opted to return to the family’s holding at Dunbury in Hampshire, on the River Test north of Southampton.
Lady Joan Peel was born to a cadet branch of the numerous and influential
Montague family. As a girl she was in service to the dowager Countess of Pembroke, where she learned to read and write and keep financial records, to enjoy romances and aristocratic life, to support the Church, to administer basic medical care, and to manage a household. Her marriage to Geoffrey Peel was arranged between the families, but over time has achieved a degree of mutual affection, and has produced four living children. She spends her time in religious devotions, overseeing the household officers and her women, tending the medical needs of the household and tenants, and raising her orphaned granddaughter Eleanor.
Elinor Peel is the daughter of Sir Geoffrey’s late daughter Blanche. When her father remarried, she came to live with her maternal grandparents. She is an observant child and likes to slip away from the gentry women to play, but the time is coming for her to learn the skills and responsibilities of her station.
Squire William Cressy is a typical landed squire, the eldest son and heir of the late William de Cressy, an old comrade-in-arms of Sir Geoffrey’s father. He holds lands near Dunbury and is a frequent visitor to Sir Geoffrey’s household. Before inheriting, he served the Peels as chamberlain, and his wife is a former damosel to Sir Geoffrey’s late mother. His retainership agreement with Sir Geoffrey provides that when Sir Geoffrey calls upon him to serve in arms, he attends for an agreed salary with an archer (who serves as his yeoman); he also brings a groom. He loves well to hear and tell of deeds of arms and of chivalry.
Master Edward (Ned) Walderne is the youngest son of Sir Robert de Walderne. Sir Robert was friend and comrade to the elder Sir Geoffrey Peel, Sir Geoffrey’s father. Edward was educated at Oxford and the Inns of London to gain the language, reading, and legal skills required to manage a nobleman’s estate. Edward was Sir Henry’s steward and oversaw his estates at Dunbury and Andover. When the younger Sir Geoffrey inherited his brother Henry’s estates, he retained Edward as his steward. Edward is also an accomplished huntsman and often organizes and conducts hunts to entertain Sir Geoffrey and his guests. He doesn’t talk about Lollardy.
Mistress Katharine deVenish is the youngest child and only surviving daughter of the Peel family. She is married to Nicholas deVenish, a well-to-do wool merchant of Southampton, but she and her young daughter, Eva, are currently residing with her brother while her husband travels to the Low Countries for trade.
Eva deVenish: Eva is the daughter, and at present the only surviving child, of Katherine and Nicholas DeVenish.
Andrew Breton: Andrew is the son of Lady Joan’s cousin Mary, and has been fostered to the Peels. He is learning the skills appropriate to a man of gentry rank, but his future plans are nebulous. His interests tend toward the martial: he enjoys training with Master Robert, and does like passing time with the archers.
Master Robert Mareschall is of common origin and a veteran of many campaigns; he has traveled widely, studying arms with masters and knights in many lands. To honor the memory of his friend Sir Henry, he has agreed to help Sir Geoffrey polish up the martial skills which he neglected during his time as a steward, and serves as his armsmaster.
John Wheeler is a free tenant on Sir Geoffrey’s Dunbury estate. Since the death of his wife, he has become increasingly fond of drink and his financial status has declined accordingly. To make a little money, he has signed on with Sir Geoffrey’s military company. “He’s not really dumb, he’s just lazy.”
Robert Cook apprenticed as a cook in Southampton and worked as a journeyman in Flanders through the good offices of Gerrit le Fleming, a merchant acquaintance of the Peels. On the death of the Peels’ former cook, Master Philip le Fleming recommended Robert to Sir Henry, and he has been at Dunbury since. He is married to Isobel; their son is Alan.
Isobel Cook is a brewster in Dunbury village, and met Robert on a business basis when he arrived at the manor. They married relatively late in life and have one son, Alan.
Alan Cook is the son of Robert and Isobel Cook.
Stephen Wallis is chamberlain to Sir Geoffrey, responsible for ensuring correct performance of all personal services required; this includes acting as master of the hall, directing the other servants in setting tables and serving meals to the gentry. The second son of a Southampton waite, Stephen received some musical training, and occasionally performs for Sir Geoffrey and Lady Joan. When his brother, Nicholas, died, Stephen asked the Peel household to find a position for Nicholas’s widow, Julian.
Julian Wallis is the widow of Stephen’s brother, Nicholas, a waite (municipal musician) of the town of Southampton. After his death, his brother Stephen arranged for Julian to become a minstrel (literally “minor servant”) at the Dunbury estate. She serves as Lady Joan’s attendant between stints as a singer, juggler, waferer, dog-handler, and worker at whatever odd jobs Lady Joan sends her way. She still practices her instruments with an eye on gaining entry into a minstrels’ guild or band of town waites.
Marjorie Atte Well is the daughter of a master embroiderer in Southampton, and joined the Dunbury household as a girl, in service to Lady Joan. She met and married Hob Atte Well, a tenant on the estate, and now lives with him and their son, Robin, and two daughters (Mary and Amy) in his croft. Marjorie continues to serve as Lady Joan’s chambermaid and attendant, while Hob and Robin tend their acres, and Hob’s widowed mother lives with them and cares for Amy.
Mary Atte Well is the older daughter of Marjorie and John Atte Well. Marjorie is teaching her what is needful to enter service, and brings her to the manor every day to make herself useful and to catch the eye of Lady Joan.
John Arundel is a free tenant of Sir Geoffrey’s Dunbury estate, but still carries some servile obligations by descent from his mother. He is married to Avis, who is also from the estate, and they have two children. To get some relief from his wife (and his leman), he has signed on with Sir Geoffrey’s military company.
James Barker is a free tenant on Sir Geoffrey’s Dunbury estate. He is unmarried, so in search of adventure and some extra money, he has signed on with Sir Geoffrey’s military company. Gambling is his vice of choice.
Thomas of Stockbridge is the second son of a prosperous tenant farmer. After fleeing Stockbridge under suspicious circumstances, he traveled to Southampton to try his hand — and fail — as an upholder (a trader in used clothes). He is now attempting to better his lot in life by working for Sir Geoffrey as a laborer and, when pressed into service, in battle as an archer. He is a better laborer than archer.
Avis Arundel is the wife of John and the mother of his surviving daughter Alice.
Alice Arundel is the daughter of John and Avis. Although she is still young, she serves in the household as a nursemaid.
Elizabeth Baxter was born and grew up in Dunbury village, and has rarely been beyond its bounds. She is married to one of Sir Geoffrey’s free tenants, who operates the village oven and pays its fees to the lord. When demand at the manor is high, she hires out as day labor in the pantry to assist with baking both the fine white bread for the gentry and the maslin bread for the rest of the household; but at home she bakes the coarse bread of the villagers. She minds the house and yard, including a small kitchen garden and a few hens, while her husband sees to their strips of land and performs his duties in the village and on the manor.
Father Peter is an Augustinian priest attached to the Peel household. He acts as confessor to the family and instructor to the children. Father Peter also drafts letters, contracts and other legal papers Sir Geoffry requires.
Brother Peter is a Franciscan friar who lives a mendicant life and is prone to excoriating sinners when he comes upon the them. Those who listen to his pious sermons prefer to do so from upwind.
More to come