Sunday, September 9, 2012

A Dominican Prioress

From author Nancy Bilyeau:
At one time, like many others, I accepted a series of "truths" about life in the time of Henry VIII: people did not often live to old age; women were rarely educated outside of the royal family or high aristocracy; women outside of the court of the king, and the carnal grasp of the king, were not as interesting to our modern sensibilities; the monastic life was in decline, most likely corrupt, and deserved to be ended; and nuns were either forced to take vows or ended up in convents because they were not as "good" as the women who married--ie, they were rejects. 

My years of research revealed to me how wrong all of those stereotypes were.

The true story of one woman's life, Prioress Elizabeth Cressner, illuminates some of the complex truths.   A "good and virtuous woman," she was the leader of the priory in Dartford for 50 years; she died in December 1536 at somewhere between 75 and 80 years of age, just as Henry VIII was putting intense pressure on the monasteries to submit to his will.
Dartford Priory had been founded with great care by Edward III, although the idea of establishing a house for Dominican sisters is attributed to Edward II. Did he feel some obligation to carry out the wish of his deposed father? Impossible to know. Once the pope approved the founding of the order, four Dominican sisters were recruited from France, for whose expenses 20 pounds was paid from the Exchequer. (Read entire post.)

No comments: