Florence Chichele Darell

Missal, for Sarum Use.
England, ca. 1418. (Prothro B-212)

The original owners of this magnificent illuminated Missal were Florence Chichele (ca. 1400–1465) and her husband John Darell (d. 1438) of Calehill, a parliamentarian and sheriff of Kent, England. They are the earliest identifiable owners of any book now in Bridwell Library. Florence Chichele was the niece of Henry Chichele (1362–1443), Archbishop of Canterbury and founder of All Souls College, Oxford. She evidently was a young widow when she married John Darell circa 1418, and the couple had one child, Thomas Darell, who was mentioned in his grandfather William Chichele’s will of 1426. She had three grandchildren, Henry, Agnes, and Florence. Widowed again in 1438, she died on December 8, 1465.

According to information provided by Florence Chichele’s descendants, inscribed in the Missal in 1863, her uncle the Archbishop presented this Missal as her wedding gift when she married John Darell and provided Scotney Castle in Kent as her dowry. Archival documents also record that in 1419 the couple received a papal privilege to use a Missal on a portable altar (“altaris mobilis”) that was not a permanent fixture of a dedicated church. The liturgical program and rich decoration of Bridwell Library’s Missal locates the book in England during the first half of the fifteenth century, and there is good reason to believe that it was used in the chapel at Scotney Castle during Florence Chichele’s lifetime.

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Women of the Middle Ages
Florence Chichele Darell