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Mrs Helena Aylward: A British Catholic mother, spouse and businesswoman in the Commercial Age (1705–1714)

  • Giada Pizzoni (a1)
Abstract

Mrs Helena Aylward, as a Catholic merchant and investor, enriches the literature on both female Catholicism and on the Atlantic-Mediterranean trade. Recent historiography has stressed the importance of women in business, but Catholic women have been overlooked in the mercantile world and in the British fiscal-military economy. I contend that female Catholics were accustomed to their husband’s dealings, and after bereavement, took financial responsibility for the family’s business. Helena was proactive and did not limit herself to the exchanges already established by her husband. She moved independently and diversified her trade with financial investments. Mrs Aylward’s involvement in business challenges the prevailing image of Catholic women as wives, patrons or nuns. She suggests a new economic role for British female Catholics: entrepreneurs that succeeded in a Protestant and patriarchal maritime world. 1

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1

The Aylward Papers (1672–1717) (hereafter AY) are held at Arundel Castle Archives, and reproduced by kind permission of His Grace the Duke of Norfolk.

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References
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2 AY 128, Personal Correspondence, Letters from Helena Aylward to various relatives on the death of her husband, June and August 1705.

3 Tolles, Frederick B., Meeting House and Counting House, The Quaker Merchants of Colonial Philadelphia, 1682–1763 (New York: Norton & Co., 1963).

4 Pizzoni, Giada, ‘British Catholics’ Commercial Strategies in Times of International Warfare, 1688–1714’, The Seventeenth Century Journal, 1, 32 (2017): 81102 .

5 Norman, Edward, Roman Catholicism in England, from the Elizabethan Settlement to the Second Vatican Council (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1985), 3356 : These new laws revised the old Acts. They stressed the prohibition for Catholics of purchasing and inheriting land. They banned Catholic involvement in politics and the opportunity of holding public offices. Catholic families faced hostile prejudice; nevertheless, they were still prominent and actively involved in society. The Catholic landed nobility declined. However, this trend was part of the change in act within the British society as a whole.

6 Tolles, Meeting House.

7 Westminster Diocesan Archive (hereafter WDA), A 41–57, Report about English Catholics. Only one report of the English Catholic Mission declared how Catholics could not invest into the government companies. However, this document was certainly biased and not entirely reliable, because it was written by a Catholic bishop for the Roman Holy See.

8 Walsh, Patrick, The South Sea Bubble and Ireland, Money, Banking and Investment, 1690–1721 (Woodbridge: Boydell Press, 2014), 27: Only in the 1780s, the Catholic Church would introduce new legislation on finance.

9 Richard, Grassby, Kinship and Capitalism, Marriage, Family and Business in the English-Speaking World, 1580–1740, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001), 117150 .

10 AY 20, Business Correspondence, f. 34.

11 AY 128, Personal Correspondence.

12 Mendelson, Sara and Crawford, Patricia, Women in Early Modern England, 1550–1720, (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1998), 174183 ; Todd, Barbara J., The Remarrying Widow: A Stereotype Reconsidered , in Mary Prior, ed. Women in English Society 1500–1800 (London and New York: Routledge, 1985), 5485 ; Boulton, Jeremy, ‘London Widowhood Revisited: The Decline of Female Remarriage in the Seventeenth and Early Eighteenth Century’, Continuity and Change, 5, 3 (1990): 323355 : When there were employment opportunities, women choose not to remarry and London’s economy offered women the possibility to supporting themselves. Employment opportunities offered an alternative to remarriage.

13 Marie B. Rowlands, ‘Recusant Women 1560–1640’ in Women in English Society 1500–1800, 175.

14 Haggerty, Sheryllynne, The British-Atlantic Trading Community, 1760–1810, Men, Women, and the Distribution of Goods (Leiden: Boydell Press, 2006), 79 , 222; Sharpe, Pamela, ‘Gender in the Economy: Female Merchants and Family Businesses in the British Isles, 1600–1850,’ Social History/Histoire Sociale 34 (2001): 291 ; Froide, Amy, ‘The Religious Lives of Singlewomen in the Anglo-Atlantic World: Quaker Missionaries, Protestant Nuns, and Covert Catholics’, in Kostroun and Vollendorf, eds. Women, Religion and the Atlantic World (1600–1800), (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2009), 6078 .

15 On recent literature on women and religion see: Lay, Jenna, ‘An English Nun’s Authority: Early Modern Spiritual Controversy and the Manuscripts of Barbara Constable’, in Gender, Catholicism and Spirituality, Women and the Roman Catholic Church in Britain and Europe, 1200–1900, ed by Lux-Sterritt, Laurence and Mangion, Carmen (Palgrave: New York, 2011), 99114 ; Walker, Claire, ‘When God Shall Restore them to their Kingdoms’ Nuns, Exiled Stuarts and English Catholic Identity, 1688–1745’, in S. Apetri and H. Smith, eds. Religion and Women in Britain, c. 1660–1760 (Ashgate: Burlington, 2014), 7998 ; Bowden, Caroline, ‘The English Convents in Exile and Questions of National Identity, 1600–1688’ in David Worthington, ed, British and Irish Emigrants and Exiles in Europe 1603–1688 (Brill: Leiden, 2010) 297314 ; Jaime Goodrich, ‘Ensigne-Bearers of St Claire: Elizabeth Evelinge’s Early Translations and the Restoration of English Franciscanism’, 83–101 and Susanna Brietz Monta, ‘Anne Dacre Howard, Countess of Arundel and Catholic Patronage’, 59–82 in M. White, ed. English Women Religion and Textual Production 1500–1625 (Ashgate: Burlington, 2011). On Lady Mary Herbert see: Murphy, Antoin E., Richard Cantillon: Entrepreneur and Economist. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1986).

16 Pamela Sharpe, “Gender in the Economy”: 283–306; Amussen, Susan A. and Poska, Allyson M., ‘Shifting the Frame: Trans-imperial Approaches to Gender in the Atlantic World’, Early Modern Women, An Interdisciplinary Journal 9 (2014): 324 ; Brunelle, Gayle, ‘The Price of Assimilation: Spanish and Portuguese Women in French Cities, 1500–1650,’ in Douglass Catterall et al., eds.Women in Port, Gendering Communities, Economies, and Social Networks in Atlantic Port Cities, 1500–1850 (Leiden: Brill, 2012), 155182 ; Froide, Amy, “The Religious Lives of Single Women in the Anglo-Atlantic World: Quaker Missionaries, Protestant Nuns, and Covert Catholics,” in Women, Religion and the Atlantic World (1600–1800), ed. Daniella Kostroetal et al., 6078 ; Barker, Hannah, The Business of Women, Female Enterprise and Urban Development in Northern England 1760–1830 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006), 105133 ; Sheryllynne Haggerty, The British-Atlantic Trading Community,1760–1810.

17 Haggerty, The British-Atlantic Trading Community, 79, 222. Women were part of commerce as shopkeepers, wholesalers or employees in any of the many businesses of the port cities.

18 Hunt, Margaret R., ‘Women and the Fiscal- Imperial State in Late Seventeenth and Early Eighteenth Centuries’ in Kathleen Wilson, ed. A New Imperial History, Culture, Identity, and Modernity in Britain and the Empire, 1660–1840 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004), 2947 ; Sharpe, ‘Gender in the Economy’, 301.

19 Mendelson and Crawford, Women in Early Modern England, 336.

20 Dickson, P. G. M., The Financial Revolution in England, A Study in the Development of Public Credit, 1688–1756 (London: MacMillian, 1967), 298 . There is often mention of a trustee when benefactors were women.

21 Sharpe, ‘Gender in the Economy,’ 294–65, 301.

22 Barker, The Business of Women, 105–133.

23 Froide, Amy, ‘Learning to Invest: Women’s Education in Arithmetic and Accounting in Early Modern England’, Early Modern Women: An Interdisciplinary Journal, Volume 10, 1, (2015): 326 .

24 Sharpe, ‘Gender in the Economy’.

25 Cogan, Susan, ‘Reputation, Credit and Patronage: Throckmorton Men and Women, c. 1560.1620,’ in Peter Marshall et al., eds. Catholic Gentry in English Society, The Throckmortons of Coughton from Reformation to Emancipation (Burlington: Ashgate, 2009), 76 .

26 Sharpe, ‘Gender in the Economy’, 291.

27 Ibid., 288.

28 Brunelle, ‘The Price of Assimilation’: In this work there is a substantial difference between Spanish and Portuguese women. Spanish women were more dynamic and assimilated easily within the French society. Whereas, the Portuguese women, perhaps due to their Jewish heritage, never severed the ties with their home country. They relied on other Portuguese for business. They married among themselves, and they did not invest in French property or finance.

29 Jenna Lay, ‘An English Nun’s Authority’; Claire Walker, ‘When God Shall Restore them to their Kingdoms’ Nuns, Exiled Stuarts and English Catholic Identity, 1688–1745’; Caroline Bowden, ‘The English Convents in Exile and Questions of National Identity, 1600–1688’; Jaime Goodrich, ‘Ensigne-Bearers of St Claire: Elizabeth Evelinge’s Early Translations and the Restoration of English Franciscanism’ and Susanna Brietz Monta, ‘Anne Dacre Howard, Countess of Arundel and Catholic Patronage’.

30 Bossy, John, The English Catholic Community, 1570–1850 (London: Darton, Longman and Todd, 1975), 150168 , 229–249; Froide, ‘The Religious Lives of Singlewomen in the Anglo-Atlantic World’. Bossy argues that Catholic women were influential in domestic religious decisions, in a sort of matriarchal household, where men had a minor role. In the historiography, the only instance of Catholic enterprise seems to be the founding of religious schools, covert nunneries, in which young single women could be boarded and educated. Yet again, women’s role was to serve their communities and to offer a place of worship in their non-enclosed cloisters. Rowlands in ‘Recusant Women’ argues that Catholic women literally ensured the survival of Catholicism by offering spiritual and financial support to their local communities. They nurtured the faith in sustaining the parishes, hosting services in their private chapels and sheltering priests. Meanwhile, they patronised charities and employed the villagers in their households. WDA, B 1536 Challoner’s Ledger (Bishop Richard Challoner, Vicar Apostolic of the Catholic Mission, 1758–1781) In their wills, Catholic women often dictated specific clauses, such as where and to whom to distribute the money. They donated money to the local priests or the parish and they always specified where and to whom funds would be allocated. The money left had various destinations, ranging from priests’ salaries, poor relief, spiritual retreats for new missionaries, to housekeeping expenses, breakfasts, or boxes of candles. The sums left for the communities were significant, from the £500 from Mrs Brent, to the £4,000 left by Lady Howard. Catholic women cared for their communities as well as for their families. Their charity ensured the survival of anyone with no means of bettering their lives. Indeed, there are various funds for long-term projects, such as funding female schools, nunneries, and hospices for the sick; as well as money for scholarships or prison fees.

31 Marshall, Peter et al. eds. Catholic Gentry in English Society, The Throckmortons of Coughton from Reformation to Emancipation (Burlington: Ashgate, 2009). Catholic women faced additional difficulties in fulfilling their public duties as patrons, as their faith was prosecuted. Moreover, among aristocratic families, female patronage was fundamental in establishing and maintaining connections within their class. Indeed, British Catholics’ social inclusion was also ensured by the ability of these women to maintain familial and communal ties. In sharing certain habits of sociability, Catholics strengthened their role within the aristocracy. In the study, there is a clear focus on Catholic integration and the similarities within defined social groups. The Throckmorton women engaged in what was appropriate for their status. Their interests and social relations were transversal and overcame religious differences. Good behaviour was fundamental for the financial stability of the household and for maintaining a good name and solid relations within the social class.

32 WDA, B 1536 Challoner’s Ledger, The fund left by Mrs Eliot was meant to help Mrs Margaret Morris, born Dec. 1753. £10 per annum till she attained to the age of fifteen and then £20 to put her out of business.

33 Ibid. women were involved in various economic activities, among many bookselling; On the topic see Laura Cruz and Joel Mokyr, eds. The Birth of Modern Europe, Culture and Economy, 1400–1800, Essays in Honour of Jan de Vries (Leiden: Brill, 2010).

34 Barker, The Business of Women; Murphy, Richard Cantillon, 210.

35 Froide, ‘Learning to Invest’, 11.

36 Monod, Paul, ‘Dangerous Merchandise: Smuggling, Jacobitism, and Commercial Culture in Southeast England, 1690–1760,’ The Journal of British Studies 30 (1991): 150182 .

37 Barker, Hannah and Chalus, Elaine, Gender in Eighteenth-Century England, Roles, Representations and Responsibilities (New York: Routledge, 2014), 98 .

38 MS, Lett. C. 192 Bodleian Library. Letter 93 form Daniel Arthur to Helena Aylward in London, the 3rd of August 1710. Haggerty, The British-Atlantic Trading Community, 79.

39 AY 125, Business Correspondence.

40 Barker, The Business of Women, 111.

41 AY 126, Business Correspondence, Letters addressed to her after her husband’s death. Includes a few accounts and receipts (some for household expenses) May 1705–June 1711.

42 AY 131, Executors Accounts, Receipts and acquittances made out to the executors of John and Helena Aylward for debts owed by them at their deaths, May 1710–Mar 1717.

43 Haggerty, The British-Atlantic Trading Community, 1760–1810, 41. Haggerty in her work argues how religion and family were still used to provide networks, however like Hancock she agrees that the choice of a partner was based on trading and personal skills, or only the ability to get along with someone. Therefore, relying only on religious and family contacts would have not be successful, in particular in the wider Atlantic world.

44 Hancock, David, Citizens of the World, London Merchants and the Integration of the British Atlantic Community, 1735–1785, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995), 271272 .

45 Hoppit, J., ‘The Myths of the South Sea Bubble’, Transactions of the RHS 12 (2002): 141165 .

46 Dickson, The Financial Revolution in England, 65–71; Ibid., 47: The wars proved extremely expensive and the situation at first was misjudged. There was no acknowledgment that the Nine Years War or the War of the Spanish Succession would have been that long and expensive. The political situation was unstable because of the new role of the Parliament and because it was believed King William III had his interests mainly outside England. The land taxes were too high and landowning was becoming less attractive. Moreover, taxation was not covering the debts, and the government was insisting on short term loans. At times of warfare, money had to be found quickly, and the creation of the stock market answered this need and in particular the duty of paying it back. With the companies, the debts were paid in stock and the capital was provided by the possibility of selling the shares. The Asiento was assigned for thirty years, but 10% of the profits had to be pay to the King of Spain. Whereas 28% was the duty on all trade to South America.

47 Murphy, Richard Cantillon, 26–27. Cantillon was a French speculator of Irish origin close to the circle of the finance minister John Law. Together they conceived and created the company in Louisiana where Cantillon amassed an impressive fortune. After the financial crash of 1720 he was involved in various litigations, such as the one with Lady Mary Herbert. Nevertheless, he was a precious contact for the Aylwards. He was family of the Arthurs, who were prominent bankers in Paris. They were renowned money lenders and at time of war they lent money to various governments, the British as well. They were established in the business world, counting on vast economic networks. Moreover, thanks to their Catholicism they were able to dispose of funds within France and Spain. This ability of channeling money through hostile countries gave them an advantage over their Protestant colleagues. Therefore, the newly-born British government disregarded their religious affiliation.

48 AY 126, Business Correspondence, Letters addressed to her after her husband’s death. Includes a few accounts and receipts (some for household expenses) May 1705–June 1711.

49 AY 30, Business Correspondence, Letters from Paul Den one from Cadiz and one from St Malo.

50 AY 30, Business Correspondence, Letters to John Aylward from Paul Den.

51 Dickson, The Financial Revolution in England, 298; Haggerty, Sheryllynne, ‘Merely for Money’? Business Culture in the British Atlantic, 1750–1815 (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2012), 3465 .

52 Haggerty, The British-Atlantic Trading Community, 71–74. Barker and Chalus, Gender in Eighteenth-Century England, 98.

53 Richard, Grassby, Kinship and Capitalism, Marriage, Family and Business in the English-Speaking World, 1580–1740 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001), 117150 . Grassby argues how women usually outlived their husbands. They were named as executrix, although towards the end of the seventeenth century joint appointments became more frequent. (Not because they were not trusted but because being an executrix could be a risky task). As executrix they had to liquidate stock, collect debts, pay all the fees, charges and file accounts. They could become matriarchs with dependents or remarry, but at risk of losing their independence again.

54 AY 16, f. 6 Business Correspondence Letters to John Aylward from Benjamin Bake, one also from Thomas Hill at Exeter, Aug. 1688–Aug. 1689.

55 Haggerty, The British-Atlantic Trading Community, 16, 71–74, 164–167; Grassby, Kinship and Capitalism, 117–150.

56 Haggerty, The British-Atlantic Trading Community: Haggerty argues how men and women were involved in the distribution of goods in the port cities. Although usually, only the male elite is considered as merchants, this is not entirely correct. A trader was not only a merchant but could also be a factor, a broker, a shopkeeper, a grocers. Therefore, this definition widens the discussion on women. For instance, in a port city, men needed to be fed or entertained and involvement of women in the mercantile community was consistent and fundamental.

57 Barker, The Business of Women, 105–133.

58 AY 120, Personal Correspondence, Personal letters to John Aylward from Joseph Comerford and Nicholas Porter. 2 about the breaking of Porter’s daughter’s engagement to Walsh, July–Oct. 1696. Middle-class families still saw marriage as the best deal to close and the only opportunity for social advancement and even for the Aylward women marriage was still the main purpose. Indeed, in the family papers there are instances of women being considered as assets to exchange in the marital market. For instance, in 1699, Helena’s brother, Nicholas, complained about his daughter who refused to marry ‘a good deserving honest man’ chosen by him. The young girl showed great aversion towards the union, and the family blamed her young age and how ‘Happiness was preferred to her future richness’. Usually, she was such an obedient daughter and Nicholas was utterly surprised by her behaviour. The marital deal was not completed and the young girl concluded her life in a convent. AY 54, f. 1, Business Correspondence, Letters to John Aylward from Nicholas Kehoe at Puerto de Santa Maria, Mar. 1701–Mar. 1702. 1 bundle. Some personal matters included, mainly relating to Kehoe’s niece, Mary Bray. Mary was advised by Aylward to stay in a convent in Cadiz for two years. She was frequently visited by the partners Woulfe and Trublet. She had been forced into a nunnery because a marriage could be uncertain for her, ‘if not well’ and she probably was not the most good-looking daughter chosen for it. However, after few months she left the convent, but she was unwell because she could not adapt to the Spanish lifestyle, being Irish.

59 T 30 Helena last Will and Testament 1713–1714; Julian Walton, The Irish Genealogist 5 (1974). Helena’s only son Michael Trublet died unmarried in 1755 in Paris.

60 Langford, Paul, A Polite and Commercial People: England 1727–1783 (Oxford: Clarendon Press), 61121 .

1 The Aylward Papers (1672–1717) (hereafter AY) are held at Arundel Castle Archives, and reproduced by kind permission of His Grace the Duke of Norfolk.

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British Catholic History
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