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Women, Reform and Community in Early Modern England

Women, Reform and Community in Early Modern England: Katherine Willoughby, duchess of Suffolk, and Lincolnshire's Godly Aristocracy, 1519-1580

Copyright Date: 2008
Edition: NED - New edition
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 188
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  • Book Info
    Women, Reform and Community in Early Modern England
    Book Description:

    Katherine Willoughby, duchess of Suffolk, was one of the highest-ranking noblewomen in sixteenth-century England. She wielded considerable political power in her local community and at court, and her social status and her commitment to religious reform placed her at the centre of the political and religious developments that shaped the English Reformation. By focusing on her kinship and patronage network, this book offers an examination of the development of Protestantism in the governing classes during the period. It begins by looking at the process through which Willoughby and her associates embraced reform, arguing that the spread of Protestantism among the political elite was an intermittent and complex process shaped in part by myriad kinship and patronage relationships: Willoughby and her godly associates played a crucial role in encouraging religious change in Lincolnshire through their patronage of reformers and their support of a variety of domestic, educational, and religious institutions. It also demonstrates the importance of gender in the process of spiritual transformation, and shows how the changing religious climate provided new opportunities for women to exert greater influence in their society. MELISSA FRANKLIN HARKRIDER is Assistant Professor of History, Wheaton College.

    eISBN: 978-1-84615-681-6
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-vii)
    (pp. viii-x)
    (pp. xi-xii)
    Melissa Franklin Harkrider
    (pp. 1-22)

    In 1552, Katherine Willoughby, duchess of Suffolk, her family, servants, and neighbors gathered at Grimsthorpe Castle in Lincolnshire to hear Hugh Latimer preach on the ‘right understanding and meaning’ of the Lord’s Prayer. Full of enthusiasm, he delivered six more lectures on the topic to his Grimsthorpe audience.

    He called the prayer ‘a most perfect schoolmaster’ that taught men and women the lessons necessary for their spiritual welfare.¹ His sermons described how it supported reform doctrines on sin and salvation and refuted traditional worship practices like the cult of saints and the observance of mass.² To keep his audience’s interest...

  7. CHAPTER 1 ‘As Earnest as Any’: Catholicism and Reform among the Willoughby Family and its Affinity in Henrician England
    (pp. 23-45)

    In hisActs and Monuments, John Foxe celebrated the faith of individuals like Katherine Willoughby, who adopted evangelicalism in the 1540s and persevered in her beliefs despite religious persecution under Mary I.¹ Yet, his account of the duchess’s experiences also includes a surprising exchange between Stephen Gardiner, the Catholic bishop of Winchester, and Richard Bertie, Willoughby’s second husband, after the restoration of Catholicism in 1554. Their heated confrontation shows the strength of Willoughby’s early Catholicism and reveals how improbable her conversion appeared to Gardiner and her contemporaries.

    In Foxe’s account, Gardiner charged Willoughby, a well-known evangelical, with rejecting transubstantiation and...

  8. CHAPTER 2 ‘Tasting the Word of God’: Evangelicalism and the Religious Development of Katherine Willoughby, Duchess of Suffolk
    (pp. 46-58)

    After Hugh Latimer’s death, his colleague Augustine Bernher edited a collection of the bishop’s sermons which he dedicated to Katherine Willoughby, duchess of Suffolk. In his dedication, Bernher compared faith to a feast. Men and women found a table set before them with the ‘sweet delicates’ of idolatry as well as the ‘bitter morsels’ of godliness. Bernher praised those individuals like Willoughby, who tasted the wholesome morsels ‘which the Lord … prepared for his chosen children and especial friends’ rather than consumed the unwholesome dainties that could not provide spiritual nourishment.¹ Willoughby extended the analogy when she described her desire...

  9. CHAPTER 3 Living Stones and Faithful Masons: Women and the Evangelical Church during the Early English Reformation
    (pp. 59-74)

    On August 8, 1554, reformer John Bradford wrote Joyce Hales from prison to thank her for her letters and for the ‘tokens’ she had sent him. After his arrest in 1553, she and other women made him gifts of money, shirts, and handkerchiefs. Bradford described Hales as one of the ‘lively stones’ who formed the foundation of Christ’s church.¹ Katherine Willoughby adopted the analogy when she spoke of a reformer’s duty to build the church securely upon the ‘sure cornerstone’ of Christ.² Together, their metaphors suggest women’s understanding of themselves as both the building blocks and the builders of the...

  10. CHAPTER 4 ‘Helping Forwardness’: Katherine Willoughby, Duchess of Suffolk, and Reform during the Reign of Edward VI
    (pp. 75-94)

    Like many reformers, John Olde recognized that members of the ruling class made a significant contribution to the process of religious change in their local communities. Olde credited the advancement of evangelicalism in Lincolnshire in 1547 to the ‘helping forwardness of that devout woman of God, the Duchess of Suffolk’.¹ Recent scholarship on the English Reformation suggests the value of understanding local responses to reform, yet this work often neglects the aristocracy’s role in facilitating the spread of reform within their native counties. Local studies also frequently privilege men’s activities and overlook women’s initiatives.²

    This chapter focuses on the religious...

  11. CHAPTER 5 Exiles for Christ: Continuity and Community among the Marian Exiles
    (pp. 95-111)

    According to John Foxe, Katherine Willoughby fled her London home for the continent on New Year’s Day 1555 to escape religious persecution. She and a loyal group of servants braved hostile informants, endured lost luggage, and survived shipwreck before they arrived safely in the Netherlands. Her decision to forsake her ‘possessions, lands, and goods, your worldly friends and native country’ to become ‘an exile for Christ’ won the praise and admiration of the godly community.¹ Yet, Foxe’s account of Willoughby’s escape and historians’ retelling of it often distort the circumstances of her flight and exile. The duchess and her husband...

  12. CHAPTER 6 ‘Hot Zeal’ and ‘Godly Charity’: Katherine Willoughby, Reform, and Community in Elizabethan Lincolnshire
    (pp. 112-135)

    Katherine Willoughby, like many exiles, rejoiced to hear of the succession of Elizabeth I in 1558. In January 1559, she wrote to offer her congratulations to the queen and express her fervent prayer that she would ‘do the will of Him that hath raised you up [in] spite of His and your enemies’.¹ Two months later, she conveyed her bitter disappointment in the slow pace of reform and the queen’s indifference to the importance of preaching and her tolerance of rituals and vestments associated with Catholicism. She lamented that ‘men have so long worn the Gospel slope wise that they...

    (pp. 136-140)

    In 1569, John Pretie wrote Katherine Willoughby, duchess of Suffolk, to offer her encouragement after a series of personal and political setbacks. He and his wife Alice prayed daily that God would direct the ‘course of [her] … pilgrimage’ so that she might ‘set out God’s glory’ and edify his ‘church of poor faithful Christians’.¹ Like other godly men and women, John and Alice Pretie understood faith as a journey taken with other Christians. Although they praised Willoughby’s personal piety, they also reminded her of her responsibility to support the spread of the Gospel. Her material and political resources provided...

    (pp. 141-166)
  15. Index
    (pp. 167-174)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 175-177)