Image and reality : the lives of aristocratic women in early Tudor England
The thesis examines both the image and the reality of upper class English women's lives in the period c. 1520 - c. 1560. The image is investigated through a study of the 'conduct books' and some other books written or published in English in that period, with a special emphasis on The Instruction of a Christian Woman by Juan Luis Vives. This material upholds the conventional patriarchal image which required woman to be chaste, submissive and home-based. A further aspect of the image of women is considered by a study of the law relating to women, based on The Lawes Resolution of Women's Rights by 'T E', and on relevant statutes. Much of the law relates to women and their rights regarding property The second part of the thesis examines the reality of women's lives. This is done firstly through a small selection of litigation involving women in the Courts of Star Chamber, Chancery and Requests under Edward VI. Here again the main emphasis is on property The major part of the study of 'reality' consists of case studies of the lives of five aristocratic women (two are gentlewomen rather than noblewomen). These are Honor Lady Lisle, Mary Countess of Northumberland (wife of the sixth Earl), Jane Lady Rochford, Susan Clarencius (chief lady in waiting to Mary Tudor) and Sabine Johnson (wife of a prosperous merchant) Both the law cases and the biographies show that women did not always follow the prescriptive literature, and were often assertive especially when dealing with their property rights However it becomes clear from the case studies and examples that the extent to which women followed the prescriptions varied with individual personalities and also with individual circumstances.