Building an identity : two noblewomen in England 1566-1666
Building an identity is a broad based study of the monuments which two female patrons built from 1566 to 1666. It probes the impulse to commemorate, considers why memorials took the form that they did, and takes account of the social conventions which provided a framework for the behaviour of these patrons. Their reasons for commemoration provided a key to the comprehension of funeral monuments, whose forms and epitaphs went beyond remembering the worthy dead with a memorial, to a quite specific view of the deceased, which served these patrons' purposes of promoting their own identities in eternal stone in the public spaces of churches. The patronage of several monuments by Elizabeth Cooke, annotated with copious epitaphs, offered a repeated opportunity to observe the thinking behind her commemoration of members of her family. Visual evidence was greatly extended by substantial documentation of her career. Repeated expenditure on monuments by this woman called for an external perspective on her behaviour by investigation of the purposes of another patron. This was provided by Anne Clifford, who set up an even longer series of monuments, extending her commemoration from family to lower ranking people who were significant in sustaining her perception of her own identity. Because both patrons of multiple monuments were women, and so far as it is now possible to establish, these were the only female patrons of long series of memorials in England at this period, the study investigated gender status to find out how their patronage fell within accepted female practice and how they extended the domestic roles assigned to high ranking Englishwomen. This study of their lives and commissions showed these women to be assuming head of family functions, through which they claimed high rank for themselves, which was only marginally affected by their consciousness of inferior female gender.