Rosamund DeChavland

Rosamund was born into a merchant’s family and displayed a flair for art at an early age. At 18 she was married to Reginald De Chavland, some 20 years her senior. He was a Master of the Artists Guild and a renowned Illuminator living and working in Norwich, the second city of England. He was a kind and considerate husband and they and their 3 surviving children had a comfortable life. Rosamund worked alongside her husband and became an accomplished illuminator and painter in her own right; however being a woman, although a Guild member she could never hold ‘Master’ status. When Reginald died much of his financial interests passed to his sons but he left Rosamund the Stationers business in his will, although she still had to get permission from the authorities to keep it. As a widow she had the most freedom a medieval woman could hope for and her social standing increased, as widows who did not remarry were viewed by the Church as choosing to return to a life of chastity.

The widow did not lack for work or social life. The prosperous business enabled her to employ two apprentices, allowing her time to go on several pilgrimages to pray for her husband’s soul, some as far away as Santiago de Compostella. These opportunities also appealed to her inquisitive spirit and enabled her to visit old friends, keeping trading links open. The production of manuscripts had changed dramatically since the early middle ages when the majority were produced by monks and nuns copying mainly ecclesiastical works, bestiaries and herbals; although some classical treatise were also copied these were only accessible by special request. With the increase in secular patronage in the thirteenth century, romances and historical works became illustrated and vernacular translations of classical literature, law books, scientific and philosophical works became popular. The 'great pestilence' of the mid 14th century hastened social change and the rise of secular workshops where the work of the calligraphers, illuminators and book binders had differentiated into separate disciplines. Rosamund was a specialist illuminator and panel painter.