Devoted Daughters of the Church: Elizabeth Burnet and Mary Astell

  • Melinda S. Zook
Part of the Early Modern History: Society and Culture book series


Mary II had attracted many admirers. Her gentle ways and cheerful demeanor; her extraordinary generosity; her devotion to her faith and moderation towards nonconforming Protestants; and her ardent belief in her husband and the Protestant Cause certainly recommended her to those of like-minded sensibility. Among her biggest fans was the Bishop of Salisbury, Gilbert Burnet, who was utterly heartbroken by her sudden death. Years later, in 1700, he married a woman whose values were remarkably similar to his own and whose virtues resembled those of the Queen. Yet Burnet’s third wife, Elizabeth (formerly, Berkeley) Burnet (1661–1709) was hardly a tabula rasa on which the bishop might inscribe his convictions. Gilbert was Elizabeth’s second husband. She had been a widow for seven years and was already something of a known entity among the political and cultural elite of London. Prior to the Revolution, she had met Gilbert Burnet, along with other English and Scottish refugees, in the United Provinces. She was acquainted with the Prince and Princess of Orange whose invasion of England she warmly supported. On her return to England after the Revolution, she became a frequent guest at the palace of Edward Stillingfleet, Bishop of Worcester, a place where she was renowned for her piety and charity. She was also friendly with Stillingfleet’s philosophical combatant, John Locke; and by 1701, she was an intimate of Sarah Churchill, later Duchess of Marlborough, with whom she shared a zeal for the success of the Whig agenda in Parliament.


Religious Pluralism Christian Religion Early Eighteenth Century United Province Political Writing 
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    Astell’s first political tract, Moderation Truly Stated, was mistaken for the work of Charles Leslie. In the addendum to A Fair Way, Astell wrote that her tract was “Not writ by Mr. L-y or any other furious Jacobite.”Google Scholar
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© Melinda S. Zook 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Melinda S. Zook
    • 1
  1. 1.Purdue UniversityUSA

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