THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO THE LADIES:
EVANGELICAL ADVANCEMENT IN THE TUDOR GYNAECEUM
The English Reformation has been told and re-told in many different ways and through very different angles and yet scholars have not said their last word about the process. It was undoubtedly a complex and arduous one, which carried on for centuries after the events that ignited it in the mid-1520’s had taken place. Colossal, almost Herculean, figures helped create, develop or structure the Reformation and have thus been remembered in scholar works and popular imagery as the architects of the process. Of these, only two women – Queen Elizabeth and her mother, the ill-fated Anne Boleyn – have been considered among the group seriously, with only scattered references to other women of high birth or status who may have helped in the shaping of the English Reformation. Queen Katherine Parr has also deserved a place in the group recently, but her contribution has been mainly considered in the light of the factional struggle at Court during Henry VIII’s last years. There is a notable scarcity of studies on the other women involved with the notable exception of Anne Askew, although in her case it was her figure as a Protestant martyr, rather than as a promoter and gospeller of the new religion – of course, all three aspects of her life being intertwined – that has dragged most of the attention. Another well-known Protestant, whose religious views have been studied, is Lady Jane Grey, whose early and tragic death also invite to a biased and highly romantic reading of her life and religious accomplishments.
The rest of the main roles have been distributed among male participants. The Tudor Court nurtured a group of noblewomen ready to espouse and support the new ideas in religious matters. The change had come thanks to the new trends in Humanism, which had included women in the educational system of families of high birth. Men like Juan Luis Vives and Sir Thomas More believed that women should be educated not only in wifely duties, such as music, needlework and household management, but also in other, more useful, subjects, such as languages, history, and religion. More’s daughters would be famous for their education, and two of them, Margaret Roper, a linguist and translator of Erasmus; and Margaret Clement, his adopted daughter, an algebraist; would outstand in their own times. Changes in the way people were educating their daughters could also be seen in higher circles. Margaret of Angouleme, sister to the King of France, would write works of prose, poetry, and piety, being one of her most famous compositions the Miroir de l’âme pécheresse (Alençon, 1531), in which she calls out for God in the very humanist terms of father-brother-lover with an outpouring of self-accusation and self-abasement. She was an advocate for Reform within the Church of Rome, but she never abjured the Catholic faith. Another example of feminine piety and learning who was an example – paradoxically enough – for the next generation of evangelical ladies was Katherine of Aragon, who had been called ‘a miracle of female learning’ by Erasmus. She was also an expert in Latin, had a fair grasp of Greek, and was well-versed in civil and canon law, hiring the services of the humanist Vives, who dedicated his De Institutione Christianae Feminae to her in 1523, as a Latin tutor to Princess Mary. These are just some of the examples followed by the group of evangelical ladies that emerged after the 1520’s and 1530’s. But how did this group emerge? Where these women genuinely interested in religion or where their leanings towards and defence of Protestantism prompted by political and personal motivations? Did they constitute a compact and coherent group at all? How did they evolve throughout these troubled times? How, in short, did these women contribute to the advancement of the evangelical ideas during and beyond the Reformation? The intent of this essay is to answer as comprehensively as possible to all of these questions.
As well-known a historical figure as Anne Boleyn may be, her life is still surrounded by mystery. It is difficult to ascertain her real character and religious beliefs, although the amount of documents and historiography relating to her can give quite an approximate approach. Albeit useful, we should trust neither contemporary evidence produced by her detractors, such as ambassador Chapuys’s spiteful correspondence, nor the hagiographic accounts of later Protestant propaganda, such as John Foxe’s Book of Martyrs. As in everything, the truth must lie somewhere in the middle.
The common tendency in modern historiography is to portray Anne as a convinced reformer, and a radical one, for that matter; who patronised fellow evangelicals and who not only promoted but also detected and shaped the king’s right to the headship of the Church. As G.W. Bernard has pointed out, however, this version comes mainly from the writings produced by two men during the reign of Elizabeth. These men were John Foxe, with his Book of Martyrs or Actes and Monuments of these Latter and Perillous Days, Touching Matters of the Church; and William Latymer, dean of Peterborough, who had been one of Anne’s chaplains.
Foxe tells us of Anne’s involvement in the nurturing of Protestant ideas in Henry VIII’s mind. His example dates back as early as 1528, when she supposedly read Simon Fish’s Supplication for the Beggars, which he had written while in exile in Antwerp for his religious beliefs. The pamphlet was the product of that ‘great stir [that] followed in the hearts of many’ after the ignition of the Reformation in continental Europe from 1517 onwards. Foxe further states that Fish, inspired by reading the gospels, ‘espied more and more’ on the ‘coloured hypocrisy, false doctrine, and painted holiness’ of the Catholic Church.
So, according to Foxe, this was the kind of literature that Anne read, which she would in turn show to Henry, who was an accomplished theologian himself –and was intensely proud of the fact, too – for him to get a new perspective. Bernard states, however, that Foxe’s chronology of the event is awkward. He also criticises the story transmitted by John Louth, archdeacon of Nottingham, in 1579, in which Anne would have convinced Henry to read William Tyndale’s The obedience of a Christian man, which had prompted the king’s remark that ‘thy booke ys for me and all kynges to reade’, because it supposedly opened his eyes about the pope’s unlawful position as universal Head of the Church. However, Bernard argues, this story, if not apocryphal, would only really prove that Henry was convinced by the tract’s anticlericalism and attacks on Rome as an interfering foreign power, not as a Lutheran manifesto.
Foxe also tells us that she was ‘a comforter and aider of all the professors of Christ’s gospel’, as well as a pious and generous queen who gave weekly alms and maintained many learned men in Cambridge and a decorous and virtuous household at Court. Her father, Thomas Boleyn, Earl of Wiltshire, and her brother George, Lord Rochford, did the same according to Foxe and among these protected men were doctors Nicolas Heath and Thomas Thirlby, and Lord William Paget, the two former known to be conservatives and, the latter, a religious turncoat.
Latymer’s view of Anne as a pious and virtuous patroness of the new religion is very similar to that of Foxe’s. He describes her as showing ‘constant affection towards the poore gospellars’ and being a staunch supporter of the break with Rome, as she regarded the pope an unlawful Head of the Church. Yet, as Bernard argues, it can easily be forgotten that both Foxe and Latymer were writing propaganda during Elizabeth’s reign, when her mother’s figure, although the Queen never pronounced herself one way or the other, was in need of rehabilitation, as she was still, legally, a convicted adulteress, traitor, and incestuous witch. And so she would remain.
Besides this, it is difficult to imagine any other position different to rejection of Rome and the Pope on Anne’s part. On these precise points depended her hopes – and Henry’s – of ever becoming queen. So, it was hardly surprising that Anne, the woman for whom Henry had entered a titanic struggle against the papacy and the Emperor, should take a stand as an enemy of the Pope and the Church of Rome; which became, in contrast, symbols of Katherine of Aragon’s cause. However, as fierce as her rejection of Rome might have been – and it certainly was – we see no trace in Anne Boleyn’s personal religion of the anticlericalism so cherished by Lutherans. The only clergymen she could not stand were Clement VII, Cardinal Wolsey and Bishop Fisher, with all of whom she held a grudge over political and personal matters, rather than religious. Regardless of her role as a patroness of evangelical bishops and scholars, such as Thomas Cranmer and John Aylmer, which Bernard tends to diminish but I believe must have been significant, there is no evidence proving that she felt a general contempt towards the clergy, which was a common trait in early and later evangelicals.
Much to the contrary, she seems to have enjoyed their company, particularly that of Cranmer, and to have been grateful for their help in her promotion as Queen. During her final stay in the Tower of London, she would refer to them as ‘my bishops’, being confident that they would support her case. They did not. Cranmer did timidly regret that she had been charged with treason and expressed his astonishment at her conviction. Nonetheless, he declared that he was convinced of Henry’s rightness in accusing, convicting and executing her; whatever his real views on the affair might have been. No one moved a finger for Anne Boleyn when she fell, not even the bishops of which she was so fond of; it would have been too dangerous.
But this should not mislead us. That she was not an anticlerical does not mean that she was not an evangelical. Indeed, Chapuys saw Anne and her family as instrumental in the rescuing of ‘heretics’ from prison and he considered her ‘the principal cause of the spread of Lutheranism in this country’. Denny makes a strong point of this despite the obvious bias of Chapuys’s dispatches. She also draws our attention to the fact that Anne owned books that were considered heretical or, at least, suspicious, such as the Epistle and Gospel for the Fifty-Two Sundays in the Year and Le pasteur evangélique. Anne had regular supplies of reformist books sent to her from abroad – mainly from Antwerp – and she was recorded by Latymer to have supported a Mrs Marye, a French woman exiled in England ‘for religion’. She was also a sponsor of the forbidden New Testament translated into English by Tyndale, which had been smuggled into England from Antwerp around March 1526.
Although the reasons and events surrounding Anne Boleyn’s sudden and hasty fall are still obscure, we can draw some conclusions on her religious beliefs from her behaviour during her last days as Queen and, then, as a convicted traitor. Her almoner John Skip’s preaching in the Royal Chapel at Greenwich on Passion Sunday 1536 was a surprising display of criticism towards the religious policies of the moment. Bernard interprets the sermon as proof of Anne’s religious conservatism, whereas Starkey uses it as evidence of Cromwell and Anne’s falling out on matters of religious policy. Anne would be using Skip as an instrument, stating that Cromwell was using Reform as an excuse for expropriation while she, Anne, was really committed to it. At the same time, she very conveniently disassociated herself from the minister. This may be true, and Starkey gives further evidence of it by stating that Anne intended to use dissolved monasteries as Bible-based educational houses such as that ran by her chaplain, Matthew Parker, in Stoke-by-Clare, Suffolk. But we should not dismiss Bernard’s statement either. That Anne Boleyn’s almoner was permitted to deliver such a conservative sermon speaks volumes of her views on religion.
Soon thereafter, however, she was a prisoner in the Tower and in this, more desperate, situation, her behaviour also hints to an inclination towards religious conservatism. She was very keen on receiving the sacrament while imprisoned and she expressed the hope that she ‘shall be in heaven for I have done mony gud dedys in my days’. This would be the epitome of a faith strongly based on ‘Catholicism without the Pope’, even if it was pointing in an evangelical direction.
The shifts in religious and civil policies since the King’s Great Matter brought a great deal of confusion to the English population. This confusion was no less perceived at Court, where most of its inhabitants were able to read and many of them were interested in doing so. Of the latter, we must bear in mind that retirement, natural death or execution were replacing the old generation of courtiers for a new one. And new generations with their natural youthful curiosity, are always prone, then as now, to accept and support new ideas. It was to this generation that Henry VIII’s sixth wife, Katherine Parr, belonged to.
The new Queen, who was probably named after Henry’s first wife, had received a proper education befitting a member of the nobility in her mother’s respected household, where other young children of noble families were also educated. She certainly had good Latin skills and she could understand some Greek. With the former, and once Queen, she sought guidance from her stepdaughter, Princess Mary, but this is proof that, at thirty, she already knew the language and felt confident enough to undertake a translation.
Katherine’s circle was composed of women of high standing. First and foremost among the group was Katherine Brandon, Duchess of Suffolk. Born in 1519, she was half-Spanish and had been chief-mourner at Katherine of Aragon’s funeral. Married at fourteen to the King’s favourite, at some time in her late teens she moved from her conventional piety to a more radical evangelical stand. Although she had once entertained good relations with Bishop Gardiner, she would later remark, when he waved at her from the Tower, that ‘it was merry with the lambs, now that the wolf was shut up’. The preservation of most of Hugh Latimer’s sermons is due to her commission of their printing.
Other prominent women in the group were Jane Dudley, Lady Lisle, and Anne Seymour, Countess of Hertford. The former had been a member of Anne Boleyn’s privy chamber and had contacts with evangelicals outside the Court like Anne Askew, whom she visited during her imprisonment. Lady Hertford, the mercurial wife of Edward Seymour, also came from the benches of Anne Boleyn’s household and she would become a notorious literary and political patroness of fellow evangelicals such as John Olde, Sir John Cheke, or William Samuel, who dedicated his Abridgement of God’s Statutes to her in 1551. Of her, MacCulloch has stated that, although ‘widely regarded as the cause of the duke’s [her husband] downfall through her aggressive personal style’, she was a ‘formidable enthusiast for full-blooded Edwardian evangelicalism. Other evangelical women of the circle were Frances Grey, Marchioness of Dorset; Mary Fitzroy, Duchess of Richmond; and Katherine Knollys, although their contribution to the advancement of evangelicalism is difficult to establish.
It has become fashionable to describe the Parr-Suffolk circle as a group of Protestant, well-educated women who gathered regularly to study the Bible and further the New Religion. Although there is some truth to this depiction, we must not forget that this was no godly group of enthusiastic Puritans, but a courtly circle of humanist women in which not only religious readings and learning were offered, but also other, very worldly, preoccupations, such as dancing, a love for clothes, card playing and gambling.
Despite this, they all had evangelical contacts outside the Court, and many of them were friends to Anne Askew, who would be imprisoned for preaching things like: ‘it was great idolatry to beleue more in them [private masses], than in the deathe wyche Christe dyed for us’. The brutal ‘examinacion’ and torture that she was exposed to in the Tower was part of a plot by which Wriothesley and Gardiner were hoping to attain the downfall of the Queen, the Duchess of Suffolk and their evangelical circle. Their attempt to bring charges upon the Queen and her fellow evangelicals proved unsuccessful through Anne Askew. But if Askew’s religious beliefs were similar to those of the Queen’s, they were not the same at all. Katherine Parr was not a radical, and in her religious works we can perceive the same gentleness of character that she has been claimed to have had. Her approach to religion was very much a humanist one, and her piety resembled much more that of Katherine of Aragon or, even more, that of Margaret of Angouleme, than that of Anne Askew, as surprising as it may seem. In her Prayers or meditacions, first published in 1545, Katherine asks to God that ‘thy will be my will, and my will be to follow away thy will’.This remark is very much in the line of feminine piety of Katherine’s generation, brought up under the influence of Humanism and Erasmus. When she had accepted Henry’s marriage proposal, she had accepted it, she would later claim, through divine intervention. It was God’s will that she should become Queen of England and so it had to be. In the same line, her stepdaughter Mary Tudor would claim a similar intervention when she decided to marry Philip of Spain in 1553. In her Prayers, Katherine expresses the humility that all mortal souls must bear towards God: ‘If thou bouchesafe to comfort mee, be thou highlie blessed if thou wilt I live in trouble, be thou likewise euer blessed’. She also shows the humility that a woman must bear God, which is the same that she must bear her husband, although him only after God: ‘And though some have mo giftes then other, yet they all proceede from thee, [and] without thee the least can not be had’. She probably saw Henry in the same terms.
Her other pious work, The Lamentacion of a synner, published in November 1547 for the first time, is a work of regeneration; of soul regeneration. Firstly, that of her own soul and then, she hopes, those of her readers. William Cecil describes The Lamentacion, in the preface he wrote for the first edition as ‘a wonderful mistery of the mercy of god, a heuenly practise of regeneracion, a spirituall Enchauntment of the grace of god.’
Katherine displays a female inferiority while, at the same time, she is content to edify all Christians
even with the example of mine owne shame, forced and constrayned with my harte and words, to co[n]fess, and declare to the worlde, howe ingrate, negligent, unkynde, and stubberne, I have bene to god my Creatour: and howe beneficiall, mercyfull, and gentill, he hath ben alwayes to me his creature, beyng suche a miserable, wretched sinner.
This might have been the tone of many books of piety of the time, but it is doubly important because it is proof of the Queen’s personal religion and a window from which to look upon the general traits of the religion of the women that populated the Court of Henry VIII in these years of turmoil. Katherine is manifesting the ultimate expression of humility expected from a woman, which is towards God, whom she can only get to know through the scriptures. We have to bear in mind that, around this period, the conservative plot aiming at the disposal of the evangelical Queen had just failed. She had humbled herself before Henry as an ignorant woman who needed guidance and who was very sorry that her lack of knowledge had been mistaken for arrogance. In this case, she was not only showing her shrewdness, but also her deep knowledge of Henry’s character. She revered her husband, not only as such, but also as her natural lord and God’s representative on Earth. Even if her instincts of survival played an important role in the taking of that humble position, in this crisis she was revealing something more about her character: she really believed in what she was saying. What we know of her treatment of Henry and of their relationship as a couple clearly shows that she was following the path of humility that she set forward in her writings. This was much in the line of Katherine of Aragon’s behaviour but with a key difference: if Henry told Katherine Parr that she was wrong, then she must be.
Apart from this ‘God/King’ compound, there are many other aspects of Katherine’s evangelicalism in The Lamentacion: an absolute rejection of the Pope and a belief in salvation through the Gospels. She does not deny the mystery of transubstantiation so central – and so dangerous - to religious debates, but her position towards it is, at best, ambiguous, criticising the Catholic practice of confession. Katherine tells us that, before her conversion:
I, like unto an euyll, wicked, disobedient childe, have gyven my wil, power, and sences, to the contrary: making almost of every earthly [and] carnall thing, a god. Furthermore the bloud of Christe was not reputed by me sufficient for to wash me fro[m] the fylth of my sinnes: neyther suche wayes as he hath appoynted by his word. But I sought for such rifraf as the bisshoppe of Rome hath planted in his tyranny and kingdom, trusting with greate confidence by the vertue [and] holynes of the[m], to receyve full remission of my sinnes.
The Lamentacion also gives us some insight as to what were Katherine’s views on aspects so important to the new Church of England such as clergy, preaching and the Pope. She states that, although the example of being good is required of all Christians, it is especially required ‘in the ecclesiastical pastoures, and shepeherdes’, for they are ‘workemen with god, disbursers of goddess secretes, the lighte of the worlde, the salte of the earthe’.
Katherine also highlights the importance of preaching and spreading the Gospels when she writes:
They have or should have, the holy spirite habundauntlie to pronounce, and set furth, the worde of God, in veritie and truth: yf ygnoraunce and blyndnes reygne among us, they should with the truthe of goddess worde, instructe, and set us in the truth, and directe us in the way of the Lord.
That is, preachers have to lead their flocks to the light offered by the Church of England, and not into the falsehood of the Church of Rome. And she goes on to say that ‘this Moyses, King Henry the eight, my most so[ve]raigne favourable Lord [and] husba[n]d’ ended the long ‘captivitie and bondage of Pharao’ –the Pope – to which they had been subject.
These are, in short, some of the views expressed by Katherine Parr in her Lamentacion, and they are consistent with a sincere and pious evangelical faith still conservative enough not to trigger Henry’s anger.
In the meantime, the Parr-Suffolk circle was increasingly moving towards an evangelicalism with a more continental cut, becoming strongly influenced by Calvin or Zwingli and not so much anymore by Erasmus, although their religious views were not yet as radical as Anne Askew’s. This shift affected most of all to Katherine, Duchess of Suffolk, but also to the Duchess of Somerset and to the Countess of Warwick. It is significant and enlightening of the tight bonding in this group, that the publishing of the Lamentacion was carried out ‘at the instaunt desire of the righte gracious ladie Caterin duchesse of Suffolke [and] the earnest requeste of the right honourable Lord, William Parre, Marquesse of North Hampton’, the Queen’s brother, who was also an open evangelical.
When Katherine Parr died in September 1548, the circle did not die with her. The leading role was in the hands of the Duchess of Somerset, formerly Lady Herbert, although this did not come without a clash over precedence with Katherine Parr. All the women mentioned elsewhere in this article were still attending Court regularly, some even having been promoted by Lord Protector Somerset through their husbands. Jane Dudley, Lady Lisle, was now Countess of Warwick and would later be Duchess of Northumberland. Katherine Suffolk was still a very powerful and immensely wealthy landowner in charge of her two minor sons from her marriage to the Duke of Suffolk. After their deaths in 1551, their half-sister Frances, Marchioness of Dorset, was promoted to the Dukedom through her husband. Katherine Knollys was regularly at Court or waiting on Princess Elizabeth, with whom she was on very good terms. It must have been at this moment when she tasted the Protestant ambience that she would enjoy so much and that would subsequently lead to her exile during Mary’s reign.
But, in the meantime, and while their husbands and male friends and relatives were creating the first fully Protestant English Church, these women were contributing in a different way to the furtherance of evangelicalism. They were educating their children. The Dudleys and the Seymours were the most prolific, with thirteen and ten children respectively, whom they raised as evangelicals. The attachment of the Dudley brothers to Protestantism – although there was a short return to Catholicism after most of them were pardoned by Mary Tudor for the Grey fiasco – speaks volumes of the achievement of their mother, who had a strong relationship with all of her children. The Duke and Duchess of Suffolk educated their daughters in the new faith although, and despite Leanda de Lisle’s efforts to rehabilitate their figures, there is little evidence to support other than their ambition and ruthlessness. However, when they sent their eldest, Lady Jane Grey, to Katherine Parr’s household, there was no love lost, as both the girl and the Queen were delighted at the idea. Also in the household was Princess Elizabeth who, as Jane, had also been born and raised in the new religion.
Lady Jane Grey was indeed a ‘miracle of learning’, a book devourer and a precocious and assertive young woman who was fully committed to the evangelical faith and uninterested in her parents’ worldly pleasures. This is the traditional picture of her and it is most certainly very near to the truth, but her short life, so tragically ended at sixteen by the axe in 1554 and the later propaganda portraying her as a Protestant martyr may have clouded our interpretations of her life and character. Her words and actions signal her to have been as intolerant as both Edward and Mary on religious matters, but we will never know what the outcome might have been. She had no time to prove how efficient she would have been in the forwarding of the evangelical faith, although the potential was most certainly there. What we do know is that, once it became clear that she would be executed, her chosen faith was put to the test and she passed it with distinction and, I would add, a great deal of elegance. When Queen Mary sent her chaplain, Feckenham, to convert Jane to Catholicism so that she could save her soul, the sixteen-year-old kindly, but firmly, rejected the suggestion that the soul could be saved by deeds, insisting on the Protestant belief of salvation by faith. After long hours of debate, they agreed to disagree, after which Jane told him she prayed God ‘in the bowels of his mercy, to send you his Holy Spirit; for he hath given you his great gift of utterance, if it pleased him also to open the eyes of your heart’. They remained, however, on good terms, and it was Feckenham who accompanied a dignified but frightened Jane to the scaffold in a cold winter morning of February 1554.
Katherine Parr was very influential in the life and psyche of the future Queen Elizabeth. As a New Year’s gift for her stepmother in 1545, the Princess composed a translation of Margaret of Navarre’s Miroir, a work that was very much in the line of the evangelical piety displayed by Queen Katherine. It had also been appreciated by Anne Boleyn, who had admired Margaret, having met her personally during her years in France. Susan Doran concludes, with MacCulloch, that Katherine’s faith helped shape that of Elizabeth, making the latter an ‘old sort of Protestant’.
After the defeat of the ‘Northumberland Revolution’ in July 1553, the future did not look safe for Protestantism in England. Mary Tudor’s well-known Catholic and Spanish sympathies were inauspicious, and many did not believe her intention ‘not to compel or constrain other men’s consciences’ and let them discover the true religion by themselves. She would not keep her word, moreover after the rebellious uprisings during the winter of 1554. But even if she had, her Protestant subjects were unwilling to return to papal supremacy or the Catholic ways.
Proof of this are not only the 284 people burnt at the stake during the religious persecution of 1555-1558, but also the more than 800 that went abroad after Mary’s accession. Most of these exiles were, as exiles had been in past ages, noblemen and their followers who fled upon the victory of one or another feudal faction. To them, the Marian regime turned a blind eye, assuming – probably quite rightly – that they would be less troublesome abroad.
One of the first to flee – if it can be called a flight – was Katherine, Duchess of Suffolk, now the wife of Richard Bertie, her gentleman usher and a well-known evangelical himself. That it was no flight in the conventional sense of the term is proven by the large retinue and luggage she took with her in January 1555, making it more a migration than a flight. Foxe would later include Richard Bertie’s account of the troubles the couple experienced during their stays in Wesel, Strasbourg, and Frankfurt, in his Book of Martyrs.
Anne, Duchess of Somerset, remained on good terms with Queen Mary and conformed to Catholicism, while Jane Dudley, who also conformed after most of her children were spared the axe, died in January 1555, more or less at the same time as Katherine Bertie was ‘migrating’. Frances, Duchess of Suffolk, would also return to the Church of Rome after having been pardoned by the Queen, whom she would outlive, dying a suspicious relative of Queen Elizabeth in 1559. Apparently, Katherine Knollys and her family only fled to the continent in the spring of 1556, possibly as a result of the discovery of the Dudley conspiracy. She would also die early, in 1569, deserving a regal burial in Westminster Abbey at the expense of Queen Elizabeth.
It would seem as though the Parr-Suffolk circle was dying out. And it was, but, at the same time, it was being replaced by young and enthusiastic Protestant women. A breath of fresh air, we would say. First and foremost, there was Princess Elizabeth, ‘miraculously preserved’ – in John Foxe’s words – during her sister’s reign, albeit surrounded by danger and conspiracy. She conformed to Catholicism after a sojourn in the Tower for her implication in the Wyatt rebellion, but she was, in her coreligionists’ eyes, the Protestant symbol and hope that remained in England.
Secondly, many young noblewomen were developing a Protestant culture of their own during these years of exile, when they made contact with the latest versions of Protestantism that had evolved from Lutheranism, Calvinism, Zwinglianism, and others. Some women of this brand new Tudor Gynaeceum were Anne Vaughan Locke, who followed Knox to Geneva in 1557 and translated the works of Calvin; Dorothy Stafford, a niece of Cardinal Pole who was married to Mary Boleyn’s widower, the Calvinist Sir William Stafford; or the Cooke sisters, daughters of the educator and humanist Sir Anthony Cooke and of his wife, the evangelical Anne Fitzwilliam. The eldest of the two, Lady Anne Bacon, who was to become the mother of Francis Bacon, translated John Jewel’s An Apology of the Church of England from Latin in 1564 ‘without reproach’, according to Matthew Parker, Archbishop of Canterbury. Her younger sister, Elizabeth Hoby, would translate in 1605 the French Protestant treatise A way of reconciliation touching the true nature and substance of the body and blood of Christ in the sacrament. Dorothy Stafford would be a staunch supporter and patroness of Calvin until they fell out over the custody of one of her sons.
But these women, including Katherine Bertie, were drifting away from the Erasmian evangelicalism of the previous generation into a more radical form of the Protestant religion: Puritanism. Katherine Bertie, becoming more and more aggressive in her Puritan beliefs, would give Queen Elizabeth as many headaches as she had given Stephen Gardiner once. In fact, at the beginning of Elizabeth’s reign, it seemed that the only conservative evangelical, the only ‘old sort of Protestant’ around, was herself.
This does not diminish, however, the work achieved by this formidable group of women; much to the contrary. Sometimes in the spotlight, sometimes in the shadows, these women helped shape a new faith and a new way of thinking and are, thus, also to be held responsible for the increasingly mature and intertwined Protestant and national identities that emerged in the Elizabethan period.
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Martienssen, Anthony, Queen Katherine Parr, (London, 1973).
Prescott, H. F. M., Mary Tudor: The Spanish Tudor, (London, 2003).
Snyder, Susan, ‘Guilty Sisters: Marguerite de Navarre, Elizabeth of England, and the Miroir de l’âme Pécheresse’, Renaissance Quarterly, vol. 50, no. 2, (Summer, 1997).
Starkey, David, Elizabeth: Apprenticeship, (London, 2001).
Starkey, David, Six Wives: The Queens of Henry VIII, (London, 2004).
Varlow, Sally, ‘Knollys , Katherine, Lady Knollys (c.1523–1569)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/69747; 2006], accessed Jan 2011.
Wabuda, Susan, ‘Bertie , Katherine, duchess of Suffolk (1519–1580)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/2273; 2008], accessed Jan 2011.
Walzer, Michael, ‘Revolutionary Ideology: The Case of the Marian Exiles’, The American Political Science Review, vol. 57, no. 3 (1963).
Warnicke, Retha M., ‘Seymour, Anne, duchess of Somerset (c.1510–1587)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/68053; 2004], accessed Jan 2011.
Yves, E. W., Anne Boleyn, (Oxford, 1986).
 Peter Ackroyd, The Life of Thomas More, (New York, 1999), p.149.
 Susan Snyder, ‘Guilty Sisters: Marguerite de Navarre, Elizabeth of England, and the Miroir de l’âme Pécheresse’, Renaissance Quarterly, vol. 50, no. 2, (Summer, 1997), 444-453.
 Timothy G. Elston, ‘Catherine of Aragon’, in Diana Robin, Anne R. Larsen, and Carole Levin (eds.), Encyclopedia of Women in the Renaissance: Italy, France, and England, (Santa Barbara, California; 2007), p. 67.
 E. W. Yves, Anne Boleyn, (Oxford, 1986), p. 302-7, 311-12; Joanna Denny, Anne Boleyn: A new life of England’s tragic Queen, (Chatham, 2005), p. 126-30, 132, 326.
 G. W. Bernard, ‘Anne Boleyn’s Religion’, The Historical Journal, vol. 36, no. 1, (1993), 2.
 He would die in London in 1531 while awaiting a trail for heresy.
 John Foxe, G.A. Williamson (ed.), Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, (London, 1965), p. 87.
 Bernard, ‘Anne Boleyn’s Religion’, 5. For a very usable discussion on Tyndale’s works, see G. W. Bernard, The King’s Reformation: Henry VIII and the Remaking of the English Church, (London, 2007), pp. 278-280.
 Foxe, Book of Martyrs, p. 112.
 Bernard, ‘Anne Boleyn’s Religion’, 2.
 Bernard, ‘Anne Boleyn’s Religion’, 9-10.
 Bernard, ‘Anne Boleyn’s Religion’, 12.
 Denny, Anne Boleyn, p. 127.
 Denny, Anne Boleyn, p. 128.
 2 April.
 Bernard, ‘Anne Boleyn’s Religion’, p. 13-18.
 David Starkey, Six Wives: The Queens of Henry VIII, (London, 2004), p. 557.
 He would be appointed Archbishop of Canterbury by Elizabeth in 1559.
 Bernard, ‘Anne Boleyn’s Religion’, 19.
 Starkey, Six Wives, p. 693-7.
 Daughter of William, Lord Willoughby de Eresby, and doña María de Salinas, a Spanish lady-in-waiting and personal friend of Katherine of Aragon.
 Susan Wabuda, ‘Bertie , Katherine, duchess of Suffolk (1519–1580)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/2273, 2008], accessed Jan 2011.
 Retha M. Warnicke, ‘Seymour , Anne, duchess of Somerset (c.1510–1587)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/68053, 2004], accessed Jan 2011.
 Diarmaid MacCulloch, The Boy King: Edward VI and the Protestant Reformation, (Berkeley and Los Angeles, 2002), p. 204.
 Anne Askew, The first examinacio[n] of Anne Askewe latelye martired in Smythfelde, by the Romyshe popes upholders, wyth the elucydacyon of Iohan Bale, (London, 1547). Pages unnumbered.
 I am using a later version of circa 1550.
 Katherine Parr, Prayers or meditacions wherein the minde is stirred, paciently to sufre all afflictions here, to set at nought the vayne prosperitie of this worlde, and alway to longe for the euerlastynge felicitee: collected out of holy workes by the most vertuous and gracious princesse Katherine Queene of England, Fraunce, and Ireland., (London, ca. 1550). Pages unnumbered.
 Parr, Prayers or meditacions.
 Katherine Parr, The lamentacion of a synner, made by ye most vertuous Ladie, Quene Caterin, bewayling the ingourance of her blind life: set furth and put in print at the instaunt desire of the righte gracious ladie Caterin duchesse of Suffolke, [and] the earnest requeste of the right honourable Lord, William Parre, Marquesse of North Hampton, (London, 1547). Pages unnumbered.
 It has been dated as taking place in March 1546. See Starkey, Six Wives, p.763-4.
 She refers to the sacrifice of Jesus to save humanity, not to the sacrament of the Eucharist.
 Parr, The Lamentacion.
 The irony of that ‘or’ is noteworthy.
 A clear allusion to the Catholic Church.
 Parr, The Lamentacion.
 Parr, The Lamentacion.
 Anthony Martienssen, Queen Katherine Parr, (London, 1973), p. 231.
 Leanda de Lisle, The Sisters Who Would Be Queen: The Tragedy of Mary, Katherine & Lady Jane Grey, (London, 2008), p. 80.
 Sally Varlow, ‘Knollys , Katherine, Lady Knollys (c.1523–1569)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/69747, 2006], accessed Jan 2011.
 The term ‘protestant’ was not coined until the 1550’s.
 David Loades, ‘Jane Dudley, duchess of Northumberland (1508/9-1555)’, in ‘Dudley, John, duke of Northumberland (1504–1553)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/8156, 2004], accessed Jan 2011.
 For further, although unconvincing, information on Frances Brandon’s religiosity, see De Lisle, The Sisters, p. 17-19, 62.
 De Lisle, The Sisters, p. 147.
 David Starkey, Elizabeth: Apprenticeship, (London, 2001), pp. 47-9.
 Eric Yves, Anne Boleyn, pp. 40-3.
 Susan Doran, ‘Elizabeth I’s Religion: The Evidence of Her Letters’, Journal of Ecclesiastical History, vol. 51, no. 4, (2000), 720.
 H.F.M. Prescott, Mary Tudor: The Spanish Tudor, (London, 2003), p. 239-40.
 Not primarily based on Protestant ideology but rather on nationalist and anti-Spanish propaganda.
 Michael Walzer, ‘Revolutionary Ideology: The Case of the Marian Exiles’, The American Political Science Review, vol. 57, no. 3 (1963), 644.
 Christina Hallowell Garrett, The Marian Exiles: 1553-1559, (London, 1938), p. 11.
 Warnicke, ‘Seymour , Anne, duchess of Somerset’.
 Only the youngest son, Lord Guildford Dudley, the husband of Lady Jane Grey, was executed.
 Loades, ‘Jane Dudley, duchess of Northumberland’.
 Sally Varlow, ‘Katherine Knollys’.
 Foxe, Book of Martyrs, p. 429.
 And those of Jean Taffin in 1590.
 Thus making her a stepmother of Katherine Knollys.
 John Jewel, An Apology of the Church of England, (New York, 1963), p. 3.