Godly women from noble, gentry, mercantile, and clerical families were much commemorated at their deaths in funeral sermons. Apart from preaching on a suitable text, ministers commonly gave an account of the life of the deceased, describing, amongst other things, how she passed her time. Godly lives from sermons for men outlined the course of their careers, stressing their public activities, the manner in which they took religion out into the world and engaged with worldly matters; those for women followed a formula describing the deceased’s childhood, virtuous education, marriage, performance as wife, mother, mistress of servants, hospitality (especially if the woman was the wife of a minister), and charitable work, and enumerated her merits in these roles. Instead of recounting the events of their whole lives, ministers dwelt upon the women’s daily routine of pious practices, with variations for the Sabbath or days on which they took communion. The convention of de mortuis nil nisi bonum was strictly observed, but the edificatory nature of the life was also an important element in the telling of it. Sometimes sermon titles acknowledged this, otherwise they referred to the good death of the deceased or, if they were published to improve the career prospects of the preacher, they referred to the text upon which he had preached.
Women were praised for following Daniel’s practice, the practice for which he was thrown into the lions’ den. This was to kneel upon his knees, three times a day, and pray and give thanks before his God. In the early years of the seventeenth century, Mrs Mary Gunter, companion to Lettice, Countess of Leicester, ‘resolved upon Daniels Practice’. ‘Besides Family duties, which were performed twice every day, by the Chaplain …. And besides the private Prayers which she daily read in her Ladies Bed-Chamber, she was thrice on her Knees every day before God in secret.’ Lady Elizabeth Langham’s ‘constant retirements’ for her devotions in the 1660s ‘were answerable to Daniels thrice a day’.