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Rose of Burford (fl. 15th c.)

Rose of Burford (fl. 15th c.)

Wool merchant of England. Flourished in the late 15th century.

Rose of Burford, an English wool merchant whose early life is obscure, was probably born into a merchant or gentry family. She was well educated—not in the classical fields of literature, music, and Latin, but the areas in which a merchant needed expertise, for example, trading law, mathematics, banking, and export law. Rose became a wholesaler, exporting raw English wool to Calais and selling it to textile manufacturers there. By running her own business, she qualified as a femme sole ("woman alone"); in medieval times, this phrase signified a woman who could conduct transactions independently and in her own name, making her an equal with male merchants. Rose retained this status even when she married another wool merchant, for she kept her business separate.

Her husband was extremely wealthy and worked directly for the king, Edward II, to whom he loaned a large amount of money for England's war against Scotland. Rose, too, appears in royal documents as a merchant to the crown, and also when she requested repayment of her husband's loan after his death. This request began a rather long legal procedure for the widow, who was forced to appear at the royal court five more times to demand the money, which was not forthcoming due to the administration's tight financial situation. Finally, Rose offered the officers of the crown a compromise: that instead of receiving a lump sum equivalent to the loan amount plus interest, she would accept having the loan paid off through reductions of the business taxes she was assessed, to which the royal court agreed. Rose remains a figure in documents of the royal treasury for some years after this settlement.

sources:

Uitz, Erika. The Legend of Good Women: The Liberation of Women in Medieval Cities. Wakefield, RI: Moyer Bell, 1988.

Laura York , Riverside, California

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