Conclusion Stuart Women and Political Culture
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Let us consider the following event. Sometime in 1694, Archbishop Tillotson presented Bridget Bendish to Queen Mary II. Bendish was granted a pension, presumably for circulating pro-Williamite propaganda prior to the Prince’s invasion in 1688, thereby supporting the Revolution.1 Bendish seems to have had contacts in the Netherlands among the large Whig and Dissenting refugee communities there. Perhaps she was another “nursing mother.” But Bendish was also special for another reason; one that might have prevented her meeting with the Stuart queen, but did not. Bridget Bendish was the granddaughter of Oliver Cromwell and from all accounts, his spitting image. Still further, her father was Henry Ireton, Cromwell’s close associate as well as a leading parliamentary officer and regicide. Her exchange of pleasantries with the Queen, whose grandfather, Charles I, Bendish’s father and grandfather had brought to the scaffold, provides us with an intriguing, even poignant, image. It certainly has much to say about Mary II, much that John Tillotson already knew. First, that the presence of this living image of Cromwell, she whose ancestors were rebels and regicides, would not unsettle the Queen; and secondly, that the presence of this Dissenting woman, who worshipped with Independents and practiced the kind of enthusiastic religiosity that moderates like Mary and Tillotson found troubling, would not faze her.
KeywordsPolitical Culture Nursing Mother Traditional Male Separate Sphere Political Theology
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- 1.BL, Add. 19,118, ff. 60–2; Mark Noble, Memoirs of the Protectoral House of Cromwell, 2 vols. (London, 1784), 2: 335–7. The pension, however, was never paid due to both Tillotson’s and the Queen’s death shortly after this interview.Google Scholar
- 2.BL, Add 61,458, f. 30v.Google Scholar
- 3.“On a Conventicle” in Behn, Works, 1: 355–6.Google Scholar
- 4.This point is also made by Hannah Barker and Elaine Chalus in the Introduction to Gender in Eighteenth-Century England: Roles, Representations and Responsibilities, eds. Hannah Baker and Elaine Chalus (New York: Palgrave, 1997), p. 2; Anne Hughes also discusses the problematic nature of prescriptive writings in Gender and the English Revolution (New York: Routledge, 2012), pp. 10–17.Google Scholar
- 5.Delarivier Manley, The Adventures of Rivella, ed. Katherine Zelinsky (Peterborough, ON: Broadview, 1999), p. 112.Google Scholar
- 6.In British historiography, the “separate spheres” paradigm was first applied to the socio-economic situation of elite Victorian women, but its use has seeped down into the earlier eras and lower social classes. See Amanda Vickery, “Golden Age to Separate Sphere? A Review of the Categories and Chronology of England Women’s History,” HJ 36/2 (1993): 383–414.Google Scholar
- 7.Sarah Heller Mendelson, The Mental World of Stuart Women: Three Studies (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1987), p. 189.Google Scholar
- 8.This problem has also been pointed out by Susan Wiseman who, writing about the case of Elizabeth Poole and the Levellers in the 1640s, observes that by “isolating women from the men around them” scholars have perpetually underestimated their political impact. Conspiracy and Virtue: Women, Writing, and Politics in Seventeenth-Century England (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006), p. 168.Google Scholar
- 9.This event is discussed in my article, “The Shocking Death of Mary II: Political and Gender Crisis in Late Stuart England,” The British Scholar 1/1 (September 2008), p. 29.Google Scholar
- 10.Hughes is thinking more about gender identity whereas this study is more concerned with confessional identity, but the point here is similar insofar as it concerns “personal and affective” choices. Gender and the English Revolution, p. 149.Google Scholar
- 11.Writes John Pocock, “The great discovery which we constantly make and remake as historians is that English political debate is recurrently subordinate to English political theology; and few of us know one-tenth of the theology available to competently trained divines and laymen among our predecessors.” And I will add that this is equally true of many women. Quoted in “A Discourse on Sovereignty: Observations on the Work in Progress,” in Political Discourse in Early Modern Britain, eds. Nicholas Phillipson and Quentin Skinner (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993), p. 381.Google Scholar