Grants of wardship, by the time of the Tudor period in England, had evolved into an institution divorced from its feudal foundation but committed to maintaining a goal of economic profit. Mixed with a pronounced responsibility of the monarch to care for the unprotected children of deceased feudatories, this goal compromised the practice of wardship grants and created a bureaucracy whose sole policy was patronage. After the death of a man who held land as a tenant in chief, his heir was taken as a ward of the monarch, to be placed in the guardianship of anyone the monarch saw fit. With the rise of the Court of Wards, which assumed the management of wardship cases from the monarch, the question of guardianship for the heir was often answered by the largest purse or the most powerful connections among men of authority. Women who sought the custody of their children were forced to take their place in line among others seeking the wealth that an heir might bring. While women tended to take a dramatically different approach to gaining grants of wardship, the results of their searches were often futile because of the institution with which they were working. This thesis investigated the patterns of female involvement in the wardship process and examined their implications.
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