Thank you to author and Tudor Society member Adrienne Dillard for stopping her today on the final day of her virtual book tour for Cor Rotto: A Novel of Catherine Carey. Adrienne has kindly written a wonderful article on what life was like for those who were forced to go into exile on the Continent during the reign of Mary I. Catherine Carey and her husband Francis Knollys were two of those Marian exiles.
On July 6, 1553 the beloved son of Bluff King Hal, Edward VI, took his last ragged breath from his bedchamber at Greenwich Palace. Thirteen days later, his “Device for the Succession” having failed, the young prince bent on church reform was replaced by his conservative, traditional Catholic sister. The Protestants, eager supporters of the new Church of England, were thrown into a panic. Though Mary Tudor initially promised not to force her subjects back into Catholicism, it was only a short matter of time before the leading reformists, such as Thomas Cranmer, John Rogers, and Hugh Latimer, were imprisoned for heresy.
Desperate times called for desperate measures. Fearing the worst, the reformers set about planning their escape. Exile seemed a logical choice. The mainland continent was far more welcoming to those that who found themselves resistant to the Pope’s authority. The works of John Calvin, Martin Luther and Huldrych Zwingli had made their way through the Low Countries of Germany, Switzerland and Denmark and the resistance to the Catholic establishment had gained a strong foothold. Flight to their protection seemed like a much more attractive option than staying in England to face possible persecution. However, what may have seemed to be an excellent solution at the outset, turned out to have further complications than the English had anticipated.
The issues I describe below are not meant to be an all-encompassing list of the troubles faced by the Marian Exiles, for that I refer you to the wonderful work by Christina Hallowell Garrett, Marian Exiles a Study in the Origins of Elizabethan Puritanism, however they do give a brief insight to the obstacles the exiles faced in their determination to preserve their Protestant faith.
The initial step of the journey was an enormous undertaking itself, particularly for the landed gentry and nobility. For those who planned to sneak out, it didn’t make a whole lot of sense to travel openly across the country with an army of carts full of personal belongings. Of course, the Dowager Duchess of Suffolk did just that, dragging along with her a major-domo, her gentlewoman, six servants, a Greek rider of horses, brewer, kitchen maid, laundress, and a fool; but that was certainly an exception and not the rule. Once what little that could be taken was packed, plans needed to be put in place for the running of the estate during the owner’s absence. After the journey had begun, at least six weeks or more were spent on the road. There were no ideal travel times either; the summer sun would make it stiflingly hot, the spring rains would have created a muddy mire and the snows of winter would have made travel even more long and difficult. If it was a fair autumn, the going might have been a little easier, but more people would be on the move making the exodus hard for the government to ignore. Getting across the English Channel posed its own difficulties. The sea crossing was not always easy and it was reported later to a Mantuan ambassador that at least 60 exiles had been “lost to Neptune” on the return trip home.
As the gentry and nobles soon found out, having money did not guarantee you comfortable lodgings. Accommodations were tight in an already highly populated area. England’s elite were forced to take up residence anywhere that could and would accept them and their household. Very often this included living in tight quarters with their servants and other members of the “lower” classes. It is reported that John Kelke’s home in Frankfurt played host to five families, encompassing 22 people under the same roof. Thomas Sandes’ home was even more crowded with the 28 people who comprised three families. One can only imagine the close, crowded environment with its heavily taxed sewer system.
Life in exile was a study in the breakdown of societal class structure. In addition to the physical proximity the average merchant shared with the members of the upper classes, they enjoyed an enhanced value they never could have cultivated back home. An estimated 800 exiles made their way to mainland Europe, but they were spread out over eight different colonies. With such a small number of people represented in these new establishments, everyone had a vote. There were no shortages of disagreements and often times a resolution came down to one vote. For all intents and purposes, everyone was equal. The highly cultivated class structures that had formed over time were almost completely overturned.
Boredom and Restlessness
I think it would be safe to say that most of the bickering that took place in the exile colonies was due to the fact that they had nothing better to do. The jobs that merchants and artisans traditionally filled back in England were full on mainland Europe. In addition, the guilds already established in places like Frankfurt and Strasbourg were hostile to the newcomers who had no interest in learning the language or customs of their new country. With few social outlets and no employment opportunities, tensions were high and it was inevitable that heated debates had the potential for serious fallout.
In addition to the harsh living conditions, lack of social barriers and rampant boredom that dogged the exiles, many other issues served to make life difficult for those who had fled the new reign. Not everyone in their number was trustworthy; several people were overcome with guilt and sued the queen for forgiveness and license to return home. It was granted on rare occasion but always with the stipulation that they turn spy on those who shared their exile. Freedom to worship as they pleased did not include freedom to “trash talk” their ruling monarch. The governments of the host countries still had to deal with Mary and would stomach no treason against her. Swift action would be taken; an entire colony at Wesel was banished for suspected sedition against the queen. Though the exiles that had fled England could agree that they were not Catholic, there was little else they could come to a consensus on. Disagreements broke out over which prayer book to use, what language the service should be in, and how the raising of the Host should be treated. The varying levels of commitment to the new ways of the Protestant church served to undermine the cohesiveness of the colonies.
As I stated earlier, this is in no way a comprehensive account of the experience of the Marian Exiles. Many social, economic, and political complications served to make the choice to flee religious persecution a difficult undertaking. However, it serves as a superficial look at the obstacles that they faced and can give deeper insight to the changes they brought home with them upon their return in the reign of Mary’s successor, Queen Elizabeth.
- Garrett, Christina Hallowell (1938/1966/2011) The Marian Exiles: A Study in the Origins of Elizabethan Puritanism
For your chance to win a copy of Adrienne's book Cor Rotto: A Novel of Catherine Carey, simply leave a comment below saying why you'd like to read it. Leave your comment before midnight on Sunday 1st February. I will email the winner shortly after.
Here's the schedule for Adrienne's book tour, in case you've missed any of the stops:
- 20 January – QueenAnneBoleyn.com - Guest article on The Knollys Children
- 21 January – The Creation of Anne Boleyn www.thecreationofanneboleyn.com/ - Guest article on The Sanctity of Character
- 22 January – Nerdalicious nerdalicious.com.au/ - Q&A session with Adrienne
- 23 January – The Anne Boleyn Files - Q&A session with Adrienne
- 24 January – History Refreshed by Susan Higginbotham www.susanhigginbotham.com/blog/ - Guest article on the Cor Rotto letter
- 25 January – The Tudor Society www.tudorsociety.com/ - Guest article on Life in Exile
Cor Rotto: A Novel of Catherine Carey
The dream was always the same... the scaffold before me. I stared on in horror as the sword sliced my aunt's head from her swan-like neck. The executioner raised her severed head into the air by its long chestnut locks. The last thing I remembered before my world turned black was my own scream.
Fifteen year-old Catherine Carey has been dreaming the same dream for three years, since the bloody execution of her aunt Queen Anne Boleyn. Her only comfort is that she and her family are safe in Calais, away from the intrigues of Henry VIII's court. But now Catherine has been chosen to serve Henry VIII's new wife, Queen Anne of Cleves.
Just before she sets off for England, she learns the family secret: the true identity of her father, a man she considers to be a monster and a man she will shortly meet.
Adrienne Dillard, author of Cor Rotto: A Novel of Catherine Carey, is a graduate with a Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Studies with emphasis in History from Montana State University-Northern.
Adrienne has been an eager student of history for most of her life and has completed in-depth research on the American Revolutionary War time period in American History and the history and sinking of the Titanic. Her senior university capstone paper was on the discrepancies in passenger lists on the ill-fated liner and Adrienne was able to work with Philip Hind of Encyclopedia Titanica for much of her research on that subject.
Cor Rotto: A Novel of Catherine Carey is her first published novel.