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Negotiating religious change and conflict: Female religious communities in early modern Ireland, c.1530–c.1641

  • Bronagh A. McShane (a1)

This article explores how communities of female religious within the English sphere of influence in Ireland negotiated their survival, firstly in the aftermath of the Henrician dissolution campaigns of the late 1530s and 1540s and thereafter down to the early 1640s. It begins by examining the strategies devised by women religious in order to circumvent the state’s proscription of vocational living in the aftermath of the Henrician suppression campaigns. These ranged from clandestine continuation of conventual life to the maintenance of informal religious vows within domestic settings. It then moves on to consider the modes of migration and destinations of Irish women who, from the late sixteenth century onwards, travelled to the Continent in pursuit of religious vocations, an experience they shared with their English counterparts. Finally, it considers how the return to Ireland from Europe of Irish Poor Clare nuns in 1629 signalled the revival of monastic life for women religious on the island. The article traces the importance of familial and clerical patronage networks to the ongoing survival of Irish female religious communities and highlights their role in sustaining Catholic devotional practices, which were to prove vital to the success of the Counter-Reformation mission in seventeenth-century Ireland.

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The author wishes to thank Professor Marian Lyons (Maynooth University), Professor Colm Lennon (Maynooth University) and Dr Emilie K.M. Murphy (University of York) for reading drafts of this article and providing helpful comments and feedback. Thanks are also due to Professor Marie-Louise Coolahan (National University of Ireland, Galway) and Dr Caroline Bowden (Queen Mary University of London) for their advice and encouragement. The author gratefully acknowledges the financial assistance received for this research from the John and Pat Hume Scholarship (Maynooth University), the Irish Research Council Postgraduate Scholarship and the Royal Irish Academy (Charlemont Travel Award).

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1 James Morris, ed. Calendar of the Patent and Close Rolls of Chancery in Ireland in the Reigns of Henry VIII, Edward VI, Mary and Elizabeth, 3 vols (Dublin: Alex, Thom & Sons, 1861), 1:55.

2 For a comprehensive account of the dissolution campaigns in Ireland see Brendan Bradshaw, Dissolution of the Religious Orders in Ireland under Henry VIII (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1974); Lyons, Mary Ann, Church and Society in County Kildare, c.1480–1547 (Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2000).

3 Bradshaw, Dissolution of Religious Orders, 66–98.

4 Bradshaw, Dissolution of Religious Orders; Lyons, Church & Society; Scott, Brendan, Religion and Reformation in the Tudor Diocese of Meath (Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2006); idem, ‘The Dissolution of the Religious Houses in the Tudor Diocese of Meath’, Archivium Hibernicum (hereafter Arch. Hib.) 59 (2005): 260–76.

5 Wiesner-Hanks, Merry E., Convents Confront the Reformation: Catholic and Protestant Nuns in Germany (Milwaukee: Marquette University Press, 1996), 1112 .

6 Evangelisti, Silvia, Nuns: A History of Convent Life, 1450–1700 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007); eadem, ‘Wives, Widows and Brides of Christ: Marriage and the Convent in the Historiography of Early Modern Italy’, The Historical Journal (hereafter HJ) 43, no. 1 (Mar. 2000): 233–47; Mary Laven, Virgins of Venice: Broken Vows and Cloistered Lives in the Renaissance Convent (London: Penguin, 2003); Elizabeth A. Lehfeldt, Religious Women in Golden Age Spain: The Permeable Cloister (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2005); Barbara Diefendorf, From Penitence to Charity: Pious Women and the Catholic Reformation in Paris (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2004); Susan E. Dinan, Women and Poor Relief in Seventeenth-Century France: The Early History of the Daughters of Charity (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2006); Hillman, Jennifer, Female Piety and the Catholic Reformation in France (London: Pickering & Chatto, 2014); Elizabeth Rapley, A Social History of the Cloister: Daily Life in the Teaching Monasteries of the Old Regime (Montréal: McGill Queen’s University Press, 2001); eadem, The Dévotes: Women and the Church in Seventeenth-Century France (Montréal: McGill Queen’s University Press, 1993); Wiesner-Hanks, Convents Confront the Reformation; Woodford, Charlotte, Nuns as Historians in Early Modern Germany (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002); Simone Laqua-O’Donnell, Women and the Counter-Reformation in Early Modern Münster (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014); Leonard, Amy E., Nails in the Wall: Catholic Nuns in Reformation Germany (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2005); eadem, ‘Female Religious Orders’, in Ro Po-chia Hsia, ed. A Companion to the Reformation World (Oxford: Blackwell, 2004), 237–54; Claire Walker, Gender and Politics in Early Modern Europe: English Convents in France and the Low Countries (Basingstoke and New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2003); Caroline Bowden and James E. Kelly, eds. English Convents in Exile, 1600–1800: Communities, Culture and Identity (Farnham: Ashgate, 2013); Bowden, Caroline, ‘The English Convents in Exile and Questions of National Identity, c.1600–1688’ in David Worthington, ed. British and Irish Emigrants and Exiles in Europe (Boston: Brill, 2010), 297341 ; eadem, ‘Building Libraries in Exile: The English Convents and their Book Collections in the Seventeenth Century’, British Catholic History (hereafter BCH) 32, 3 (May 2015): 343–82; Nicky Hallett, The Senses in Religious Communities, 1600–1800: Early Modern ‘Convents of Pleasure’ (Farnham: Ashgate, 2013).

7 Indeed one recent edited volume overlooks the Irish context entirely: Cordula Van Wyhe, ed. Female Monasticism in Early Modern Europe (London: Routledge, 2008).

8 Coolahan, Marie-Louise, Women, Writing and Language in Early Modern Ireland (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010), especially chp. one; eadem, ‘Archipelagic Identities in Europe: Irish Nuns in English Convents’, in Bowden and Kelly, eds. The English Convents in Exile, 211–28; Bernadette Cunningham, ‘The Poor Clare Order in Ireland’, in Edel Bhreathnach, Joseph Mac Mahon OFM and John McCafferty, eds. The Irish Franciscans, 1534–1990 (Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2009), 159–74; eadem, “Bethlehem’: The Dillons and The Poor Clare Convent at Ballinacliffey, County Westmeath’, Áitreabh: Group for the Study of Irish Historic Settlement Newsletter (hereafter Áitreabh) 17 (2012–13): 5–9; eadem, ‘Nuns and their Networks in Early Modern Galway’, in Salvador Ryan and Clodagh Tait, eds. Religion and Politics in Urban Ireland, c.1500–c.1750: Essays in Honour of Colm Lennon (Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2016), 156–72; Andrea Knox, ‘The Convent as Cultural Conduit: Irish Matronage in Early Modern Spain’, Quidditas: The Journal of the Rocky Mountain Medieval and Renaissance Association 30 (2009): 128–40; eadem, ‘Nuns on the Periphery?: Irish Dominican Nuns and Assimilation in Lisbon’, in Flocel Sabate i Curull and Luis Adno da Fonseca, eds. Catalonia and Portugal: The Iberian Peninsula from the Periphery (Berlin: Peter Lang, 2015), 311–26 ; eadem, ‘Her Book-Lined Cell: Irish Nuns and the Development of Texts, Translation and Literacy in Late Medieval Spain’, in Virginia Blanton, Veronica O’Mara and Patricia Stoop, eds. Nuns’ Literacies in Medieval Europe: The Kansas City Dialogue (Belgium: Brepols, 2015), 67–86.

9 Thomas O’Connor, ‘Irish Franciscan Networks at Home and Abroad, 1607–1640’ in Worthington, ed. British & Irish Emigrants, 279–96; Thomas O’Connor and Mary Ann Lyons, eds. Irish Migrants in Europe after Kinsale, 1602–1820 (Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2003); idem, eds. Irish Communities in Early Modern Europe (Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2006); idem, eds. Strangers to Citizens: The Irish in Europe, 1600–1800 (Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2008); idem, eds. The Ulster Earls and Baroque Europe: Refashioning Irish Identities, 1600–1800 (Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2009).

10 As Brendan Bradshaw has highlighted, numerous visitation records for English monasteries from 1534–36 survive and can form the basis of assessments of the state of English monasticism immediately preceding suppression. In Ireland, because no visitations could take place due to the Kildare rebellion (1534–37) ‘no body of evidence comparable to that available for English monasteries’ exists: see Bradshaw, Dissolution of Religious Orders, 17.

11 Hall, Dianne, Women and the Church in Medieval Ireland, c.1140–1540 (Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2003); see also eadem, ‘The Nuns of the Medieval Convent of Lismullin, County Meath, and their Connections’, Ríocht na Midhe (hereafter Rí. na Midhe) 10 (1999): 58–70 and eadem, ‘Towards a Prosopography of Nuns in Medieval Ireland’, Arch. Hib. 53 (1999): 3–15.

12 Murray, James, Enforcing the English Reformation in Ireland: Clerical Resistance and Political Conflict in the Diocese of Dublin, 1534–1590 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009), 67 .

13 Charles MacNeill, ‘Accounts of Sums Realised by Sales of Chattels of some Suppressed Irish Monasteries’, Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland (hereafter R.S.A.I Jn.) sixth series, 12, no. 1 (June 1922): 17; Patrick F. Moran, History of the Catholic Archbishops of Dublin since the Reformation (Dublin and London: James Duffy, 1864), 18.

14 Murray, Enforcing the English Reformation, 67.

15 NewportB.White, ed. Extents of Irish Monastic Possessions, 1540–1541, from Manuscripts in the Public Record Office, London (Dublin: The Stationery Office, 1943), 73, 261.

16 Lyons, Church & Society, 112–20.

17 The church of St Mary Grace Dieu was described as the parish church ‘from time immemorial’. The monastery church of Odder was also the parochial church while the chapel of the nunnery of Lismullen performed the function of parish church: see White, ed. Extents of Irish Monastic Possessions, 73, 261.

18 However, as Hall’s study demonstrates, women’s patronage does not appear to have particularly favoured female institutions over men’s: see Hall, Women & the Church, 42.

19 Herbert D. Gallwey, ‘The Cusack Family of Counties Meath and Dublin’, The Irish Genealogist (hereafter Ir. Geneal.) 5 (1979): 673–84.

20 For a full discussion of Elicia Butler see Hall, Women & the Church, 191–200. See also John Mulholland, ed. ‘The Trial of Alice Butler, Abbess of Kilculliheen’, Old Waterford Society: Decies (hereafter Decies) 25 (Jan. 1984): 45–6.

21 Barnwell, Stephen B., ‘Plunkett of Loughcrew’, Ir. Geneal. 5, no. 4 (Nov. 1977): 422427 .

22 Nicholas Mothing was buried in St Canice’s Cathedral: see Hall, Women & the Church, 197.

23 Based on the table compiled by Dianne Hall in Women & the Church, 207–10.

24 In Gaelic Ireland (south-west Munster, Connacht and Ulster) the majority of houses were suppressed by the mid-1540s, although reflecting the absence of effective crown jurisdiction in this region, three convents (two in Connacht and one in Ulster) were not formally dissolved until the 1560s, while two others (both in Connacht) remained standing as late as the 1590s: see Hall, Women & the Church, 207–10.

25 In England where marriage was legal for women religious after 1549, only 19 per cent of former nuns in the city of Lincoln married: see Patricia Crawford, Women and Religion in England, 1500–1720 (London and New York: Routledge, 1993), 30.

26 In Germany in the 1520s Sophia Buchner, a former nun from Eisleben, near Leipzig, was reported to be a living a celibate life in Leipzig with her elderly mother and a female servant: see Marjorie Elizabeth Plummer, From Priest’s Whore to Pastor’s Wife: Clerical Marriage and the Process of Reform in the Early German Reformation (Farnham: Ashgate, 2012), 142: see also Leonard, Nails in the Wall, 4–5.

27 Bradshaw, Brendan, ‘George Browne, First Reformation Archbishop of Dublin, 1536–54’ in Journal of Ecclesiastical History (hereafter JEH) 21 (1970): 301326 .

28 Aubrey Gwynn and R. N. Hadcock (eds), Medieval Religious Houses: Ireland. With an Appendix to Early Sites (Harlow: Longmans, 1970), 317.

29 As well as obtaining the properties of Grace Dieu, Barnewall also received the Carmelite house at Knocktopher in County Kilkenny (1542), and some of the possessions of St Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin (1547): see C.J. Woods, ‘Barnewall, Sir Patrick’, in Dictionary of Irish Biography (hereafter DIB) (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009), online, (accessed 7 Feb. 2015).

30 Mervyn Archdall, Monasticon Hibernicum, or, A History of the Abbies Priories and other Religious Houses in Ireland, 2 vols (Dublin: W.B. Kelly, 1873–6), 2: 85–6.

31 The surveys were taken by a royal commission appointed by the Irish lord deputy Sir Anthony St. Leger (1496?–1559). For a discussion, see White, ed. Extents of Irish Monastic Possessions, iii. For quote, see ibid, 73.

32 Archdall, Monasticon Hibernicum, 2: 86.

33 Lennon, Colm, Richard Stanihurst: the Dubliner, 1547–1618 (Dublin: Irish Academic Press, 1981), 32 .

34 John Kingston, ‘Catholic Families of the Pale’, Reportorium Novum (hereafter Rep. Novum) 1 (1956): 336–41.

35 ‘Barnaby Rich’s ‘Remembrances of the State of Ireland, 1612’: With Notices of other Manuscript Reports by the Same Writer on Ireland under James the First’, ed. C. Litton Falkiner in Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy (hereafter R.I.A. Proc.) 26, section c (1906): 140–1.

36 Gwynn & Hadcock, eds. Medieval Religious Houses: Ireland, 317.

37 As James Murray has discussed, whereas during the early years of Elizabeth’s reign ‘... the queen and her councillors were quick to encourage the formulation of practical reformist policy ... they were also extremely tentative about supporting its implementation in Ireland, particularly if it threatened to alienate sections of the loyal community or to disrupt the government of the realm, as in the secular sphere, the imposition of the cess had so recently done in the Pale’: see Murray, Enforcing the English Reformation, 263. On the periodisation of enforcing religious coercion in Ireland during the late sixteenth century, see ibid, 1–19.

38 Maginn, Christopher, ‘The Baltinglass Rebellion, 1580: English Dissent or a Gaelic Uprising?’, HJ 47, no. 2 (2004): 205232 ; Ciarán Brady, ‘Faction and the Origins of the Desmond Rebellion of 1579’, Irish Historical Studies (hereafter IHS) 22, no. 88 (1980): 289–312; Helen Coburn-Walshe, ‘The Rebellion of William Nugent, 1581’, in R.V. Comerford, Mary Cullen, Jacqueline Hill and Colm Lennon, eds. Religion, Conflict and Coexistence: Essays presented to Monsignor Patrick Corish (Dublin: Four Courts Press, 1990), 26–52; Murray, Enforcing the English Reformation, 310–17.

39 Lennon, Colm, ‘Recusancy and Counter-Reformation’, in John R. Bartlett and Stuart D. Kinsella, eds. Two Thousand Years of Christianity in Ireland: Lectures delivered in Christ Church Cathedral Dublin, 2001–2002 (Dublin: Columba, 2006), 119132 .

40 John Howlin, ‘Perbreve compendium, in quo continentur nonnullorum nomina, qui in Hybernia regnante impia Elizabetha, vincula, martirium et exilium perpessi sunt’ (hereafter ‘Perbreve compendium’): the manuscript was preserved in the Irish college at Salamanca until the 1950s when it was taken to St Patrick’s College, Maynooth where it is now classified as Maynooth, Salamanca MSS, SP/11/6/1, legajo xi, no. 4. It is printed in Patrick F. Moran, ed. Spicilegium Ossoriense: Being a Collection of Original Letters and Papers Illustrative of the History of the Irish Church from the Reformation to 1800, 4 vols (Dublin: W.B. Kelly, 1874), 1:82–109.

41 For an account of the martyr Margaret Ball née Bermingham see Bronagh Ann McShane, ‘The Roles and Representations of Women in Religious Change and Conflict in Leinster and South-East Munster, c.1560–c.1641’ (PhD Thesis, Maynooth University, 2015), chp. one.

42 Lennon, Colm, ‘Taking Sides: The Emergence of Irish Catholic Ideology’, in Vincent P. Carey and Ute Lotz-Heumann, eds. Taking Sides?: Colonial and Confessional Mentalités in Early Modern Ireland (Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2003), 79 .

43 Regarded as the definitive study of the Irish martyrs in the early modern period, Rothe’s De Processu Martyriali (Cologne, 1619) would propel the account of the Elizabethan Irish martyrs, including Margery Barnewall and Margaret Ball, to a much larger Continental European audience. For an account of the early modern Irish martyrological tradition see Alan Ford, ‘Martyrdom, History and Memory in Early Modern Ireland’, in Ian McBride, ed. History and Memory in Modern Ireland (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001), 43–66 and Lennon, ‘Taking Sides’, 78–93.

44 Howlin,‘Perbreve compendium’.

45 Following the onset of the Protestant Reformation from 1524, convents in the German city of Strasbourg survived and persisted in Catholic religious practices throughout the sixteenth century, despite the city council ruling for their closure: see Leonard, Nails in the Wall, 5–10.

46 Erler, Mary C., Reading and Writing during the Dissolution: Monks, Friars and Nuns (Cambridge: Cambridge: University Press, 2013), 8 .

47 Dinan, Women & Poor Relief, 31.

48 Evangelisti, Nuns: A History of Convent Life, 201.

49 Reaching Ireland from the Continent, the movement first gained momentum in Gaelic territories during the mid-fifteenth century, winning the support of an increasing number of existing religious communities and leading to a proliferation in new foundations. As the century progressed, the reform began to infiltrate the colonial area where it continued to make substantial gains until thwarted by the dissolution campaigns of the 1530s and 1540s: see Bradshaw, Dissolution of Religious Orders, 8–16.

50 Lennon, Colm, The Urban Patriciates of Early Modern Ireland: A Case Study of Limerick, (NUI O’Donnell Lecture, Dublin: National University of Ireland, 1999), 16 .

51 Dinan, Women & Poor Relief, 31.

52 Lux-Sterrit, Laurence, ‘Mary Ward’s English Institute: The Apostolate as Self-Affirmation’, Recusant History (hereafter Rec. Hist.) 28, no. 2 (2006): 192208 ; eadem, ‘An Analysis of the Controversy Caused by Mary Ward’s Institute in the 1620s’, Rec. Hist. 25, no. 4 (2001): 636–47.

53 Walsh, Reginald, ed. ‘Persecution of Catholics in Drogheda, in 1606, 1607 and 1611. From a Contemporary Manuscript Preserved in the Irish College Salamanca, Carton 40’, Arch. Hib. 6 (1917): 6768 ; Brendan Jennings, ed. Wadding papers, 1614–38 (Dublin: The Stationery Office, 1953), 35.

54 During his tenure as lord deputy, Chichester attempted to ‘ascertain the limits to which he could push his authority’. The most significant measure he enforced was the ‘mandates policy on which he embarked in 1605–6. Under this prerogative procedure, a series of ‘mandates’ or instructions were issued requiring sixteen prominent Dublin Catholics to attend worship in the Established Church. The mandates were disregarded and fines and periods of imprisonment imposed on the recusants. The Pale gentry petitioned Chichester, who imprisoned several instigators of the petition. Further mandates were issued and duly ignored before the London administration intervened in late January 1606’: see Raymond Gillespie, ‘Chichester, Arthur’ in DIB, online, (accessed 19 Jan. 2015).

55 Walsh, ed. ‘Persecution of Catholics in Drogheda’, 67–8.

56 ‘Answers of the Franciscans at Drogheda to Charges of the Vicar-General (1623)’ in Jennings, ed. Wadding Papers, 34–5.

57 Chronicle of Mother Mary Bonaventure Browne, MS, Galway Monastery of the Poor Clares, fol. 4v (hereafter ‘Galway chronicle’). For a modern edition see Celsus O’Brien OFM ed. Recollections of an Irish Poor Clare in the Seventeenth Century (Galway: The Connacht Tribune, 1993). The surviving manuscript, whose watermark dates from the late seventeenth century, is a contemporary translation into English; the original perished during the Williamite wars in 1691: for an extended discussion see Coolahan, Women, Writing & Language, 78–101.

58 Kingston, ‘Catholic Families of the Pale’, Rep. Novum, 2, part 2 (1960): 236–43.

59 Printed in John Brady, ‘Keeping the Faith at Gormanstown,1569–1629’ in Franciscan Fathers, Dún Mhuire eds. Father Luke Wadding: Commemorative Volume (Dublin: Clonmore and Reynolds, 1957), 407.

60 ‘Barnaby Rich’s ‘Remembrances of the State of Ireland’, 140–1.

61 Brady, ‘Keeping the Faith at Gormanstown’, 408.

62 The visitation report cited that, ‘Wm Verdon, priest, [is] kept by the Viscount Gormanstown whose sister is a professed nun and the two lodge together’. The visitation included the dioceses of Meath and Ardagh: see Kingston, ‘Catholic Families of the Pale’, 2, part 2, 239.

63 Hunter, Robert J., ed. ‘Catholicism in Meath c.1622’, Collectanea Hibernica (hereafter Collect. Hib.) 14 (1971): 712 .

64 Cuarta, Brian Mac, Catholic Revival in the North of Ireland, 1603–1641 (Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2007), 168 .

65 Bom Sucesso Archive, Lisbon, BS 01/2, Part 3: ‘Permission granted by the Provincial of the Portuguese Dominicans, Frei João de Vasconcellos for the foundation of an Irish Dominican convent in Lisbon. Madrid, 15 June 1639’.

66 Myles V. Ronan, ed. ‘Archbishop Bulkeley’s Visitation of Dublin, 1630’, Arch. Hib. 8 (1941): 82.

67 For an extended discussion, see Walker, Gender & Politics, 43–54. See also Hsia, R. Po-chia, The World of Catholic Renewal, 1540–1770 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press: 1998), chp. nine; Wiesner-Hanks, Merry E., Christianity and Sexuality in the Early Modern World: Regulating Desire, Reforming Practice (London and New York: Routledge, 2010), 150 ; Susan E. Dinan, ‘Compliance and Defiance: The Daughters of Charity and the Council of Trent’, in Christopher Bellitto and Louis Hamilton, eds. Reforming the Church before Modernity (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2005), 199–217; Francesca Medioli, ‘An Unequal Law: The Enforcement of clausura before and after the Council of Trent’ in Christine Meek, ed. Women in Renaissance and Early Modern Europe (Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2000), 136–47; Craig Harline, ‘Actives and Contemplatives: Female Religious of the Low Countries before and after Trent’, The Catholic Historical Review (hereafter CHR) 81, no. 4 (1995): 541–67.

68 ‘Statuimus ut de caetero non habeant sacerdotes in suis domibus, aut mensis, ullas mulieres (etiam virginitatis aut castitatis voto adstrictas) aut ullas alias, de quibus suspicio esse posset: Nec hujusmodi foeminarum curam quamvis spiritualem suscipiant absque ulterior facultate’: ‘De votis mulierum’ [On the vows of women], Dublin synod 1614. Text printed in Moran, History of the Catholic Archbishops, 455. For a discussion on Catholic synods in Ireland during the seventeenth century see Alison Forrestal, The Catholic Synods in Ireland, 1600–1690 (Dublin: Four Courts Press, 1999).

69 ‘Who Were the Nuns? A Prosopographical Study of the English Convents in Exile, 1600–1800’, online, (accessed 1 February 2015). Led by Dr Caroline Bowden (QMUL), this AHRC-funded project took place between 2008 and 2013. The project recovered a wealth of information about the nature of English female contemplative life in exile and has in turn led to a proliferation in scholarship on early modern English convents abroad, expanding considerably our knowledge of post-Reformation English Catholicism.

70 Hogan, Edmund, Distinguished Irishmen of the Sixteenth Century (New York and London: Burns & Oates, 1894), 209 , 273; Howlin, ‘Perbreve compendium’.

71 Hogan, Distinguished Irishmen, 209.

72 Ibid.

73 Ibid, 273.

74 Thomas M. McCoog, ‘Gerard, John (1564–1637)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (hereafter ODNB) (Oxford University Press, May 2014) online, (accessed 19 Jan. 2015).

75 Mac Cuarta, Catholic Revival, 164.

76 On Stanihurst see Lennon, Richard Stanihurst.

77 White, ed. Extents of Irish Monastic Possessions, 262.

78 Moran, History of the Catholic Archbishops, 397.

79 The Capuchins were a reformed branch of the Franciscans which emerged in the early sixteenth century: see Martin, F.X., Friar Nugent: A Study of Francis Lavalin Nugent (1569–1635), Agent of the Counter-Reformation (London: Methuen, 1962), 265 .

80 Ibid.

81 Ibid.

82 Hartry, Malachy, Triumphalia Monasterii Sanctae Crucis, ed. & trans. Denis Murphy (Dublin, 1891), 283285 .

83 ‘Who Were the Nuns?’, online, (accessed 1 February 2015).

84 Her father was a relative of Edward Cheevers of Macetown County Meath, created Viscount Mount-Leinster by King James II in 1689: see W.M. Hunnybun, ed. ‘Registers of the English Poor Clares at Gravelines, including those who founded Filiations at Aire, Dunkirk and Rouen, 1608–1837’ in Catholic Record Society, Miscellanea ix, 14 (London: Catholic Record Society, 1914): 34–5.

85 Hunnybun, ed. ‘Registers of the English Poor Clares’, 34–5. Their father, Theobald Dillon (d. 1624), originally from the barony of Kilkenny West, in Westmeath, enjoyed considerable prosperity as a political magnate and land holder in late sixteenth-century Connacht and by the early seventeenth century owned vast tracts of land in Roscommon and Mayo, in the west of Ireland. In 1622 Theobald purchased the title Viscount Dillon of Costello Gallen, an acquisition which consolidated his enhanced social status within Connacht society and among the wider Anglo-Irish élite: see John Lodge, The Peerage of Ireland: Or, a Genealogical History of the present Nobility of that Kingdom. Rev., Enlarged, and Continued to the present time by Mervyn Archdall, 7 vols (Dublin: James Moore, 1789), 4: 182.

86 Grannell, Fergal, The Franciscans in Athlone (Athlone: Franciscan Friary, 1978), 3637 .

87 Hunnybun, ed. ‘Registers of the English Poor Clares’, 35.

88 Hunnybun, ed. ‘Registers of the English Poor Clares’, 35.

89 Mac Cuarta, Catholic Revival, 239.

90 Concannon, Poor Clares in Ireland, 10. Fr Bonaventure Dillon was the son of Sir James Dillon and grandson of the first Viscount.

91 Historical Manuscripts Commission Report on Franciscan Manuscripts Preserved at the Convent, Merchants Quay, Dublin (Dublin: Printed for H.M. Stationary Office for J. Falconer, 1906), 14.

92 Alexander B. Grosart, ed. The Lismore Papers: Autobiographical Notes, Remembrances and Diaries of Sir Richard Boyle, 5 vols (Privately printed, 1886), 1st ser., 3:160.

93 Ibid.

94 According to O’Brien the convent was named Bethlehem after the fifteenth century convent of the same name founded at Ghent by Saint Colette in 1442: see Celsus O’Brien OFM, The Poor Clares Galway, 1642–1992 (Galway: Poor Clare Sisters, 1992), 11.

95 Cunningham, “Bethlehem’: The Dillons & The Poor Clare Convent’, 7.

96 Eleanor, Cecily, Anne and Bridget were daughters of Thomas Fitzgerald of Creevagh or Newcastle and his wife Elizabeth, third daughter of Theobald and Eleanor Dillon: see K.W. Nicholls, ‘The Descendants of Oliver Fitzgerald of Belagh’ in Ir. Geneal. 4, no. 1 (1968): 5.

97 Lodge, The Peerage of Ireland, 4: 292–6.

98 Clare Tuite later joined the English Poor Clares at Rouen where she arrived in May 1664. For an account of her activities on the Continent see Coolahan, ‘Archipelagic Identities in Europe’, 215.

99 Bronagh Ann McShane, ‘The Pre-Profession Examination Record of Sister Catherine Browne (in religion Sister Catherine of St Francis), Poor Clare Convent, Bethlehem, County Westmeath, 1632’, Arch. Hib. (forthcoming, 2017).

100 In 1632 Andrew Brown was appointed sheriff of Galway but refused to take his office: see Marie-Louise Coolahan, ‘Browne, Mary (d. in or before 1694)’, ODNB, online, (accessed 28 Jan. 2015).

101 Ibid.

102 ‘Galway chronicle’, fol. 3v.

103 Estimates suggest that around 300 members of religious orders (largely Dominicans, Franciscans and Jesuits) were active in Ireland by 1623. By 1641, that number had risen to about 1,600 friars (around 1,000 Franciscans and 400 Dominicans as well as other smaller orders such as the Capuchins): see Mac Cuarta, Catholic Revival, 128.

104 ‘Galway chronicle’, fol. 3r; John T. Gilbert ed., A Contemporary History of Affairs in Ireland, from 1641 to 1652, 3 vols (Dublin: Irish Archaeological and Celtic Society, 1879), 2:146–7.

105 The National Archives, Kew, S.P. 63/259/44.

106 Curtain, Margaret Mac, ‘Women, Education and Learning in Early Modern Ireland’, in eadem & O’Dowd, eds. Women in Early Modern Ireland (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1991), 169 .

* The author wishes to thank Professor Marian Lyons (Maynooth University), Professor Colm Lennon (Maynooth University) and Dr Emilie K.M. Murphy (University of York) for reading drafts of this article and providing helpful comments and feedback. Thanks are also due to Professor Marie-Louise Coolahan (National University of Ireland, Galway) and Dr Caroline Bowden (Queen Mary University of London) for their advice and encouragement. The author gratefully acknowledges the financial assistance received for this research from the John and Pat Hume Scholarship (Maynooth University), the Irish Research Council Postgraduate Scholarship and the Royal Irish Academy (Charlemont Travel Award).

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