Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Evangelical Ladies of the Sixteenth Century

Via Once I Was a Clever Boy comes this analysis of a group of Evangelical noblewomen in sixteenth century England, including Queen Catherine Parr (portrait on the right), the Grey family: mother Frances and daughters Jane, Catherine, and Mary, Anne the Duchess of Somerset (wife of Edward VI's first Protector), and Anne the Countess of Sussex, implicated in the heresy of Anne Askew toward the end of Henry VIII's reign.

To quote:

One other thing, apart from good birth and controversial religious opinions, which links them as a group is that most of them managed, despite their noble, or at least good, birth to contact marriages with second or subsequent husbands well below their own station. This, which was so often a worry for families with daughters of marriageable age, was something they discarded. Not for them the traditional life of the pious widow or vowess. Some of the marriages seem surprising given the background of the ladies and their husbands, who were not in a position to aid their wives as Lord Stanley had been able to support Lady Margaret Beaufort.

Katherine Parr's fourth marriage as Queen Dowager to Lord Seymour raised eyebrows, and, although not without parallel (Adeliza of Louvain and Katherine of Valois come to mind), appears hasty and unusual. In the case of the Grey sisters their position as heirs or potential heirs made their marriages ones of immediate concern to the monarch at the time.

Determination to achieve what they wanted, be it in religious, political or personal terms seems to be the distinguishing mark of these women. the cost might be high, indeed fatal on occasion, but they were not to be deterred.

Mr. Whitehead recommends Leanda de Lisle's book on the Grey sisters which I have highlighted before.

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