Wednesday 30 November, 12.00 – 13.30 pm
GR03, Faculty of English, University of Cambridge
‘‘For the hazards of War are equall’: The Narratives of Royalist Widows in Print, Petitions and at Law during the Civil Wars’
The infamous 1649 publication, Eikon Basilike, professed to be authored by Charles I, asked ‘what Widdowes or Orphans tears can witnesse against me, the just cry of which must now be avenged with My own bloud? For the hazards of War are equall, nor doth the Cannon know any respect of Persons’. The Civil Wars of 1642-1649 were brutal, and there had been a clamour to avenge the blood of the fallen with the execution of the King who was deemed by many to be responsible. Depictions of widows became part of the political discourse surrounding the wars: the desolate and suffering widows who epitomised the losses of England as well as the deviant widows who stepped beyond customary boundaries during those turbulent times.
During the Civil Wars and Interregnum Parliament seized the lands of Royalists in order to fund their war effort. Consequently, many widows who had been deemed to be ‘delinquent’ turned to petitions and the legal process in order to protect their family’s landed interests. These women had lost husbands and sons to the war but were not viewed as blameless victims by the Parliamentarian authorities. This paper will examine the petitions and legal challenges submitted by these Royalist widows and look to the ways in which they described their suffering and, therefore, drew upon wider narratives of the losses of widows during this period.
The discussion will examine the intersection between legal texts, petitions and print discourse in order to analyse the experience of Royalist widows who sought to defend their lands. By drawing upon narratives of loss, poverty and the universal suffering of war time, many of these widows were able to successfully navigate political and legal processes and regain the property and status that the wars had cost them.
Organised jointly with the Early Modern Interdisciplinary Seminar.
Hannah Worthen is a final-year PhD student researching at The University of Leicester in collaboration with The National Archives.