This article investigates the unusual confession in the fourteenth-century Middle English The Erle of Tolous, in which an earl disguises himself as a monk to question the sexual purity of the Empress Beulybon. The permeable relationship between public and private space in domestic life as well as in confession facilitates both the false accusation of adultery that she faces and her vindication from it. The intersection of secular and ecclesiastical justice leads to a situation in which the process of confession is subordinated to the process of trial by battle. Beulybon must depend upon men to investigate her behavior and make her innocence known. A penitent requires a confessor, but an accused empress requires more: a champion whose might affirms her right. Nonetheless, Beulybon's vulnerability is emblematic of the vulnerability of all women, including those who find themselves in less extraordinary circumstances.

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