Lady Sybil’s hand

at home in the hills

I was walking through Crickhowell recently and paused to look at a tourist information board, not expecting to see anything I didn’t already know. Then I read the following:

Lady Sybil Pauncefote cut off her hand and sent it as ransom payment for her husband’s release during the crusades. Find her effigy in St Edmund’s Church.’

Now as statements on information boards go, that’s a corker – it certainly made me read it twice. And it also made me extremely frustrated. They can’t write a statement like that and then just leave it! There are so many questions, aren’t there? For instance:

Why did she cut off her hand to pay a ransom? Was that something that people did then? And was it possible to pay ransom for a person held in the Crusades? Where was he being held? By whom? Whose idea was this ransom – the…

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