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Property and Power: Legal Performance and Legitimacy in the Reign of Edward III

November 28 @ 3:30 pm - 5:00 pm

This is a headshot of a woman with glasses and blond hair standing at an overlook at the Castle of Sao Jorge with a view of Lisbon, Portugal.
Photograph courtesy of Charlotte Whatley

Charlotte Whatley

Biruté Ciplijauskaité Fellow (2022-2023)

Byron S. Tucci Professor of Spanish, World Languages, Literatures, and Cultures, Illinois Wesleyan University


Analyzing property litigation between the English monarchy and the Church in the fourteenth century, this dissertation examines how Edward III engaged in performative acts of legal process to replace unilateral prerogative action. In these performative acts of law, the king conspicuously submitted to established legal norms to bolster royal legitimacy and the authority of the courts. Despite the image of submission, evidence shows that the king used numerous legal tactics to ensure his success, revealing the courts to be tools of royal power rather than modes of constraint, and upending established understandings of the king’s role in the common law.


Charlotte Whatley is a doctoral candidate in the department of History at UW–Madison and is interested in the performative nature of the law and its relationship to the legality and legitimacy of royal authority. Her dissertation examines late medieval English property disputes pertaining to the right of advowson and, through analysis of the litigation strategies used in them, exposes the complex relationship between ritualized aspects of medieval English law and the legal authority of kings. Charlotte holds a B.A. with Honors in History and a B.A. in Classics from Randolph-Macon Woman’s College in Lynchburg, Virginia, and a M.A. in History from the University of Houston in Houston, TX. Prior to becoming an IRH fellow, her research has been supported by UW–Madison’s Institute for Regional and International Studies and the Medieval Academy of America.

*Events currently open only to 2022-23 fellows due to space concerns; please contact IRH at info@irh.wisc.edu to be added to a cancellation list for in-person events.*


November 28
3:30 pm - 5:00 pm
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University Club, Room 212
432 East Campus Mall
Madison, Wisconsin 53703 United States
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