Introduction: Biographical Context
Only one book-length study of Anne Hyde has ever been written. J.R. Henslowe’s Anne Hyde, Duchess of York, written in 1915, serves as Anne’s only dedicated biography. Henslowe gathers what he can of Anne’s own writing, but he primarily consults letters and memoirs of those who have some tangential relationship to Anne. When recounting Anne’s death, Henslowe acknowledges the small impact Anne has on the historical record: “Here, then, we look on at the removal of a figure, concrete enough in her own time and to her own contemporaries, but to us curiously elusive, even visionary. It is strange because for one occupying the position she did for ten years of English history, Anne, Duchess of York, had left personally a very slight impression on that position. The place that knew her was so soon content to know her no more, the gap she left was so quickly filled” (276-7). However, Henslowe isn’t satisfied with letting these shortcomings stand. He inserts his own conjectures and characterizations of Anne in order to provide dimension to her biography. Anne is “too strong willed and resolute,” (247), “outspoken and downright” (273) to let others influence her decision-making, which allows Henslowe to draw to conclusions as to her emotional state through her conversion and death. These characterizations border on fiction.
Perhaps most alarming is Henslow’s depiction of Anne’s deathbed where all of the strings of her biography are gathered into a neat knot. The Queen arrives to mourn her. James comes to her bedside in a feeble attempt to rekindle a lost relationship. Priests of both faiths mill about to ready the way for her soul. All of these historical figures probably did visit Anne on her deathbed, but the leaps Henslowe makes to dramatize these encounters seem dubious. Anne finally cries out her last words: “‘Duke, Duke, death is terrible--death is very terrible’” (298)! A rather dramatic outcry that Henslowe feels no need to interrogate the historical veracity of. The text barely assesses any of its sources. Henslowe can’t be totally blamed for this--as he says the historical evidence of Anne is small--but in a biography so enamoured with the controversy surrounding Anne’s rise to prominence, it is perplexing that he never takes into account the political or religious sentiments behind many of the memoirs from which draws. Henslowe’s final chapter acts like the conclusion to a novel rather than a historical study.
The offenses here are not only in the cognitive leaps required to portray historic events in such an intimate and speculative way, but also in the conclusive sweep the scene gives to Anne’s legacy. Despite these leaps of historic dramatization, Henslowe can only conclude that “It is not to her but to her children that we must look for any consideration of her life as important” (277). Henslowe arrives at this conclusion because his biography ends with Anne’s death and does not acknowledge her literary legacy. It is at this moment that this project is located. Consider the work done here an extension of Henslowe’s book--another chapter addended to the end that discusses Anne’s legacy beyond the lives of her children. Where Henslowe’s biography has to intuit an emotional register, the works mentioned below are invested in responding to Anne’s religious life. The moment of interest in Anne’s biography is her conversion, specifically the paper she writes explaining the reasoning and circumstances of such an important personal and political choice.
The Milton House Archive
This project primarily draws from the Milton House Archives, a collection of papers held at Georgetown University’s Lauinger Library in the Booth Center for Special Collections. Georgetown’s holdings from the Milton House Archives were purchased by the university in 1985. Southeby’s auctioned the contents of the archives for Mrs. Margaret Mary Mockler, manager of the Milton House estate at the time (Helminski 5). Upon arrival at Georgetown, librarian James C. T. Helminski produced a register that details the contents of the collection, as well as an index of names to help locate specific individuals mentioned within the documents. According to other university exhibition catalogs, Helminski served as a rare books and manuscripts librarian and prepared exhibitions for the Science Library. Helminski’s index, while extensive, is incomplete, mostly because some of the documents within the collection have not been fully examined, or the handwriting is illegible (46). This project’s examination of three documents from the collection serves as an expansion on Helminski’s observations.
When the collection arrived from Milton House, the contents were divided by subject matter into five general groupings. Helminski preserved these groupings, but reordered the documents within each group into chronological order. The subject groupings themselves were created when the documents were in the possession of the Milton House. This means there is no information on how or where the documents were stored before the different contents of the collection were brought together at Milton House. It is not clear if the documents were ever held in the same location before arriving at Milton House. However, Helminski’s register notes that “The documents are said to have been at the Douai college in France until the French Revolution, when they were taken to England (though this sequence of events was not verified in researching this collection register)” (2). Considering the subject matter of the collection—Catholic recusant writing—Douai is not an improbable source of the collection.
The collection itself focuses on Catholic Recusants in the 17th and 18th centuries. The three documents examined by this project reside in box three, which focuses on Roman Catholics in England and abroad through 1760. Again, this grouping suggests that the documents could have been produced, or at least held in Douai before arriving at Milton House. The nature of many of the documents suggests an active manuscript culture, even in the age of print. If Douai is the source of these documents, the Catholic enclave certainly has a need for handwritten copies of works printed in England.
It is worth noting that other documents in the Milton House archive specifically reference Douai college. While this does not confirm the provenance of the folders examined in this project, it does strengthen the case that they may have been produced at the college. The following documents reference Douai:
- Box 1, Folder 20, 6 Sept 1608, subject: “Disputes at Douai”
- Box 1, Folder 32, 2 May 1609, subject: “Sending of an agent to Douai”
- Box 1, Folder 43, 19 Sept 1609, subject: “Quarrels at Douai”
- Box 1, Folder 45, 31 Oct 1609, subject: “Relations among Jesuits, state of Douai College”
- Box 1, Folder 50, 18 June 1610, subject: “English Roman Catholic Church, Jesuit agents, Douai College”
- Box 3, Folder 3, 7 Aug 1607, subject: “Copy of a letter Augustine, Prior of English Benedictine monks at Douai, to Nicholas Fitzherbert on the institution of Bishops in England.” (Latin)
The English College at Douai was founded by Cardinal William Allen in 1568, during the reign of Queen Elizabeth, a time when Catholics were not welcome in England. The University itself was founded in 1559 when Pope Paul IV issued a Papal Bull “authorizing its establishment the avowed object being the preservation of the purity of the Catholic Faith from the errors of the Reformation” (Ward). Since Douai was already a bastion of Catholic thinking in the midst of the Reformation, the university was a natural fit as a seminary for Cardinal Allen to train English clergy. Efforts to sustain a population of English Catholic clergymen were in Bishop Allen’s anticipation of “the re-establishment of Catholicism, which Allen was always confident could not be far distant” (Ward). The location of the college was also advantageous: close to Calais and the English Channel, missionaries had easy access to England. More than 300 priests were sent by the college to England on missions, resulting in one hundred and sixty martyrdoms (Ward).
Besides Allen’s missionary policy, the college is also famous for the 1609 Douai-Reims Bible, the first English translation of the Bible authorized by the Pope. Political disruptions, particularly the French Revolution, interrupted the continued operation of the college. The college’s allowance of gold Cardinal Allen was able to secure from Rome ceased during the Revolution. Between this financial hardship and England’s eventual declaration of war against France, many students and staff fled the college for England (Ward). If the rumored origins of the documents mentioned in the register are to be believed, the evacuation of the college potentially explains how documents from the college could reach England.
As a center of English Catholic thinking, it is no surprise that Douai is named as a possible origin for this collection of documents. While Helminski rightly points out the dubiousness of the Milton House-Douai connection, the history of Milton House Manor does strengthens the case for such a relationship. A Dr. Richard Barrett served as Cardinal Allen’s successor, becoming President of the college. According to the history of Milton Manor House, a Bryant Barrett purchased Milton House from its original owners. Barrett had “connections to the exiled Stuarts too. (By tradition, he lent them money-never yet repaid!)” (Mockler-Barrett). This portion of the Milton Manor House’s history, written by Anthony Mockler-Barrett, seems anecdotal at best, but a possible relationship between Dr. Barrett and Bryant Barrett could reinforce the theory that the documents originate in Douai.
Alas, locating a genealogy of Dr. Barrett is difficult, especially considering his status as a Catholic Priest, which would preclude him from marrying or producing legitimate children. Dr. Barrett’s reputation as President revolves around his role as a disciplinarian (Williams). He dies at Douai on May 30, 1599, predating the composition of the documents examined in this paper and well before 1764 purchase of Milton House by Bryant Barrett. The disparity in dates does not do much to support a connection between Dr. Barrett and Milton House, but the Manor history’s reference to Stuart debts shows that even chronologically distant relations are not to be disregarded.
Milton House itself is located in Berkshire, England. The Manor was built in 1696. The Church of St. Blaise, also on the grounds, was built in the 14th century and expanded in the 18th century. The house itself was probably built by Inigo Jones. When the Barrett’s came into possession of the house, a chapel was added “by John Briant Barrett, a devout Roman Catholic,” a detail that aids in strengthening Milton House’s connection with the Catholic documents (“Parishes: Milton”). If John Briant Barrett was passionate enough about his faith to add a chapel to his home, perhaps he was also interested in preserving the history of Catholic recusants.
One of the documents examined in this essay (Folder 12) bears the stamp of the Berkshire Record Office, indicating the document was deposited there at some time. There is no indication if the contents of Folders 13 and 14 were also deposited with the Records Office or what kind of archival storage was available at the Manor House before the sale of the documents.
Folders 12 and 13
These first two documents are addressed together because they appear to share a common source: the printed copy of a paper written by Anne Hyde, Duchess of York, explaining her conversion to Roman Catholicism. The printed edition was published after Anne’s death. The Folger Shakespeare Library estimates their edition of the paper was published in 1686; however, as will be examined later, Charles II publishes an answer to Anne’s letter. Because Charles II dies in 1685, the Folger copy must have been printed before his death, or printed in several editions.
The copies of Anne’s letter in the Milton House Archive are transcribed in secretary and. Both copies have distinct handwriting styles that indicate different transcribers for each copy. Folder 12 is written in a neat hand while Folder 13’s hand is more cramped with several corrections made throughout the document. Both Folders 12 and 13 are written on half sheets that have been folded along the chainlines to produce small booklets. Folder 13’s copy has been folded and creased several times, indicating it may have been mailed or filed, while Folder 12 has only been folded to produce the broadsheet arrangement. The hole in Folder 13 may indicate a previously attached wax seal.
The paper used in Folder 13 can be dated through its watermark with the help of the Gravell Watermark Archive. The watermark shows a crown atop a shield with a post horn. Below the crown and shield arrange are the initials “HG”. The Folger Shakespeare Library holds a document using the same watermark dated 1670, the same year that Anne composed her paper. In its closing, Folder 12 clearly declares itself as a “Copy of [the] Duchesses,” while Folder 13 only provides the date of the composition of the original letter. “Copy” is also how the printed edition of the paper describes itself. Folder 13, however, does not claim to be a copy. This widens the possibility of the document’s origin: it could potentially be a private replication of Anne’s original holograph, or it could be Anne Hyde’s original draft of the letter. It would explain some of the irregularities in spelling and punctuation between Folder 13 and Folder 12 and the printed edition.
Samples of Anne’s hand acquired from the Morgan Library in New York City demonstrate that Folder 13 is most likely not written by Anne. The Morgan’s collection includes verified correspondence between Anne and her father, the Earl of Clarendon, as well as her sister, Henrietta. Anne’s hand is neat, with tall looping letters, and expertly punctuated sentences. The copies from the Milton Archive are written in much smaller hand with shorter letters. Anne’s correspondence features fully spelt words such as “the” and “that,” which in the Milton House documents are contracted as “ye” and “yt”. Capital letters such as “B” are written in very different styles across all three documents. What all of this suggests is that both documents from the Milton House Archive are written by different authors, and neither Folder 12 nor 13 are a product of Anne herself.
While it can be argued that Anne’s handwriting may have changed since the composition of the letters held at the Morgan, her reputation as a skilled hand and her admitted purpose behind writing about her conversion suggest otherwise. Historians have noted that Anne had particularly clear handwriting. In fact, she assisted James II in transcribing his autobiography, “for she wr[ote] very correctly” (Callow 3). Anne’s motivation for writing the paper indicates that she would have followed the same care in composing it as she did transcribing James’ memoirs and corresponding with her family. In the opening of her letter, she writes, “[…] I rather choose to satisfie my Friends by reading this Paper, than to have the trouble to answer all Questions that may daily be ask’d me” (York EEBO 1). Anne’s intention for the original composition of the paper is its distribute amongst her court circle in order to explain the rationale behind her conversion. This indicates an active manuscript community in the age of print. Anne expected her letter to be circulated and read by “Friends.” She would have taken care to make sure her reasonings were legible and clear, especially since the subject matter was sure to attract controversy. Such a decision as conversion to Roman Catholicism was not something to be taken lightly and Anne, already a reviled character in James’s Court, understood that the dissemination of such information required serious attention to form.
Anne’s paper is a carefully composed justification of her conversion. Only in one portion of the letter does Anne take on the tone of an Enthusiast; the remainder of the letter reads as a procedural explanation of her decision, including literary sources and interviews with prominent clergy. Anne is careful not to implicate any of the clergy of the Church of England or the Roman Catholic Church with inspiring her conversion. However, as will be seen in later commentaries on Anne’s letter, the clergymen she does meet with are criticized for not applying enough effort to keep Anne within the Church of England. Anne reassures her audience “that no Person, Man, or Woman, directly, nor indirectly, ever said any thing to me since I came into England, or us'd the least endeavour to make me change my Religion” (York, EEBO 1). Anne identifies the origins of her conversion from the time she spent on the continent, particularly her time among Catholics in France and Flanders. She then describes her encounter with Peter Heylin’s History of the Reformation and her discovery of “the horridest Sacriledges in the World; and could find no reason why we left the Church, but for three the most abominable ones, that were ever heard of among Christians” (1). She names three grievances with the Church of England that cause her particular offense:
First, Henry VIII. renounces the Popes Authority, because he would not give him leave to part with his Wife, and marry another in her life-time. Secondly, Edward VI. was a Child, and govern'd by his Uncle, who made his Estate out of Church-Lands. And then Queen E. who being no Lawful Heiress to the Crown, could have no way to keep it, but by renouncing a Church that could never suffer so unlawful a thing to be done by one of her Children. (York, EEBO 1)
She clearly takes issue with actions of the British monarchy that serve their personal interests in the guise of religious reform.
Next, Anne turns to the Bible to compare Protestants to Catholics. She freely admits that “I do not pretend to be able to understand” the Scriptures, but “there are some things I found so easy, that I cannot but wonder, I had been so long without finding them out” (York, EEBO 1). Anne is referencing the Catholic beliefs in transubstantiation, confession, prayers for the dead, and the infallibility of the Pope. She particularly supports confession, “which was, no doubt, commanded by God,” as well as prayers for the dead, “one of Antient things in Christianity” (2). Anne is swayed by the Bible’s authority as a text and its prescription of religious tradition.
Anne then explains possibly the most controversial portion of her conversion narrative: her interviews with two Bishops of the Church of England. In the copies of the letter from the Milton House Archive, these two men are not identified; however, the printed edition of the paper reveals their identities in a marginal note: Archbishop Sheldon of Canterbury and Bishop Blanford of Worcester (York, EEBO 2). Archbishop Sheldon is a curious character who illustrates the complexity of religious identity at this time. When studying to be a Doctor of Divinity, he successfully defended the ability “to oblige Roman Catholics in England to swear allegiance” to England (Spurr). However, his career as a clergyman is characterized by his defense of the Church of the England. Archbishop Sheldon was a close confidante of Anne’s father, Edward Hyde, so he would be a natural candidate for Anne’s questions. Perhaps she sensed that behind Sheldon’s public persona lay a latent Catholicism. The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography states, “In his will Sheldon described himself as ‘holding fast the true orthodox profession of the catholique faith of Christ … being a true member of His catholique church within the communion of a living part thereof, the present church of England’. An awareness of the catholicity of the church was an important aspect of Sheldon's outlook” (Spurr). This may explain Sheldon’s inability (or reluctance) to pressure Anne to stay within the Church of England. His self-identification with Catholicism could surely fuel any apathy on his part when confronted with a woman already convinced of her need to convert. Anne’s version of her interview with Sheldon states: “That if he had been bred a Catholick, he would not change his Religion; But that being of another Church, (wherein, he was sure, were all things necessary to Salvation,) he thought it very ill, to give that scandal, as to leave that Church wherein he receiv'd his Baptism” (York, EEBO 2). While this does not necessarily endorse Anne’s conversion, it still gives credence to the beliefs of Catholicism in way that does not object to Anne’s new-found appreciation for Catholic tradition. It seems here that Archbishop Sheldon is more concerned for Anne’s reputation than her faith. He wants her to avoid “scandal” that would already contribute to her negative reputation.
Finally, Anne enters into the most dramatic portion of her narrative. She explains how on Christmas Day, she was so overcome by her crisis of faith that “I was more troubled than ever, and could never be at quiet, till I had told my design to a Catholick, who brought a Priest to me, and that was the first I ever did converse with, upon my word” (York EEBO 2). This final episode confirms her convictions and Anne converts to Catholicism. She writes, “I am not able, or, if I were, would enter into Disputes with any Body; I only in short, say this for the changing of my Religion, which I take God to witness I would never have done, if I had thought it possible to save my Soul otherwise” (2). She ends the paper by asking God to protect all Catholics in England from persecution.
This takes us to the lady in question: who was Anne Hyde? Biographical information about her most relegated to the opening chapters of James II’s biographies. Biographers tend to cast Anne as a controversial character, prized for her fertility. She and James produced eight children, two of whom became future Queens. While some of the criticism of Anne is deserved, a closer examination of her conversion does much to portray her in a more complex light.
Anne was the daughter of Edward Hyde, the Earl of Clarendon, making the disparity in rank between herself and James already controversial. She met James on the continent when her family fled to the Netherlands after Charles I’s execution. Princess Mary of Orange made Anne a maid of honor during her time on the continent. Princess Mary’s mother’s low opinion of Edward Hyde makes this decision controversial. James meets Anne when she travels with Mary to Paris in 1656 (Miller). When Charles II returns to England and takes the throne, James also returns along with Anne. He proposes to an already pregnant Anne, but soon changes his mind (Callow 91). By all accounts, James was a philanderer with many mistresses. When Charles II hears of James’ plan to call off the marriage, he orders his younger brother to marry anyway. In 1660, the couple are secretly married, but it is not until 1661, when Anne gives birth to their first child, that the marriage is publicly recognized (Miller).
Anne, married to husband who does not necessarily care for her, resides at St. James’s Palace. Here, she gains a reputation for extravagance. Biographers suggest this is an attempt to cement her status as an elite—displays of wealth as proof of her royal status (Callow 122). Anne manages the expenses of James’s household, an embarrassment to her husband. Furthermore, Anne’s spending accrued substantial debt, enough for Charles to formally intervene with the management of James’ finances (Callow 122). Anne did not necessarily understand her own spending habits. She was mystified by the loss of money and suspected her servants of theft, so much so that she had all of the furniture in the palace monogramed with her and James’s initials (Callow 120).
Anne’s relatively low birth, pregnancy before marriage, and mishandling of expenses all contribute to her poor reputation amongst the court. However, James’ treatment of her, especially his attempts to escape marriage, do give her some motivation to spend in such a way that could ruin James. While it is a stretch to say that Anne’s expenditures are excusable, they are certainly explainable in the face of a life married to man with a reputation for promiscuity and with the sole expectation of producing future heirs to the crown. Biographers, looking to explain James’s financial issues without implicating the future King find an easy scapegoat in Anne.
While controversy over marriage and money may turn the pages of James’ biographies, the issue of conversion addressed by the documents in the Milton House Archives has repercussions that extend beyond Anne’s lifetime and immediate court circle. Anne converts to Catholicism in 1670, writes her letter on August 20th of that year, and dies of breast cancer less than a year later on March 31st, 1671 (Miller). The chronological proximity of conversion to death allows for Anne’s religious life to be an almost immediate subject of posthumous examination, diverting attention from any subjects of court gossip that would damage her reputation in the time immediately following her death. As already noted, the printed edition of Anne’s letter follows her death. Here we have a transition from a contained manuscript exchange between Anne’s friends to a printed document of wide distribution. Someone had a stake in publishing Anne’s conversion narrative. Both Charles and James would have interest in the paper. Charles, as will be seen, composes an Answer to Anne’s letter that opposes the conversion. On the other hand James, like his wife, converts to Catholicism, so publicly reinforcing his own conversion with his wife’s eloquent reasoning would be advantageous. The true motivation for publishing Anne’s letter is unknown; however, the publication of such a document greatly inspires others to respond.
Folder 14 and the Answers to Anne
The third document, found in Folder 14, in this examination is a curious artifact of even more mysterious origin than the two copies of Anne’s letter. The topic of the document, which begins mid-sentence, is a summary and commentary on an Answer written on the print edition of Anne’s paper. Answers themselves are commentaries or responses to a published work. Sometimes Answers are polemical, publicly challenging the work they criticize. Other times Answers rush to the defense of the publication in question. Anne’s letter prompts Answers of both temperaments, including Answers to Answers. In short, Anne’s conversion narrative spawns a public debate focused around the legitimacy and reasoning of her conversion.
Charles II’s Answer is the best entrance to this debate as it seems his Answer instigated the body of responses that surround Anne’s letter. He takes the event of the print publication of the letter as an opportunity for response. He writes, “If she had written nothing concerning it, none could have been a competent Judge of those Reasons or Motives she had for it, but her self: but since she was pleased to write this Paper to satisfy her Friends; and it is thought fit to be publ[i]shed for general Satisfaction, all Readers have a right to judge of the strength of them” (Charles II 18). Essentially, Charles claims that Anne could have escaped all criticism had her reasons for converting been kept private, but now the publication of the letter deserves public attention and Charles is ready to give the royal interpretation of events. While Charles seems eager to comment on the paper, he is careful to frame his Answer respectfully. He claims “I am sensible how nice and t[e]nder a thing it is, to meddle in a Matter wherein the Memory of so Great a Lady is so nearly concern'd; and wherein such Circumstances are mentioned, which cannot fully be cleared, the Parties themselves having been many Years dead” (18). Both Anne’s status as a woman and her relatively recent death give Charles pause, at least in his Answer’s introduction. However, he proceeds to dissect Anne’s paper, calling into question the reasoning behind her conversion, as well as the reputation of Archbishop Sheldon and Bishop Blanford, the two clergymen Anne interviewed in the process of her conversion.
Charles’s chief criticism seems to be the hypocritical nature of a Catholic Church that accepts new members for reasons of personal realization, but does not allow its own members to leave the church in such a manner. He writes,
We had thought the pretence to a private Spirit had not been at this time allowed in the Church of Rome. But I observe, that many things are allowed to bring Persons to the Church of Rome, which they will not permit in those who go from it. As the use of Reason in the Choice of a Church; the Judgment of Sense; and here, that which they would severely condemn in others as a Private Spirit, or Enthusiasm· will pass well enough if it doth but lead one to their Communion. Any Motive or Method is good enough which tends to that end; and none can be sufficient against it. (Charles II 21)
Here Charles characterizes the Catholic Church as fickle and valueless, eager to recruit members for whatever reason, all while preventing those who wish to leave the Church from doing so for the same reasons. In this way, Charles nullifies any of Anne’s reasons—all of them, no matter their basis, would be accepted by the Catholic Church as long as she showed enough ‘enthusiasm’ in her faith. Whether rhetorically and theologically sound or not, the rest of Anne’s letter, at least in Charles’ eye, is rendered irrelevant by this contradiction.
Charles’s conclusion condemns Anne’s decision, calling into question her statement that nothing besides conversion could save her soul:
“But, from all these things laid together, I can see no imaginable Reason of any force to conclude, that she could not think it possible to save her Soul otherwise, than by embracing the Communion of the Church of Rome. And the Publick will receive this Advantage by these Papers, that there by it appears, how very little is to be said by Persons of the greatest Capacity. as well as Place, either against the church of England, or for the Church of Rome.” (Charles II 24)
Perhaps here Charles is making up for the perceived errors of Sheldon and Blanford. Someone must defend the Church of England, and if the Archbishop of Canterbury isn’t capable of mounting such a defense, then surely England’s King is.
We know from Early English Books Online that Charles had some interest in Anne’s conversion narrative. The EEBO scan of Anne’s printed paper bears an inscription on the last page that reads “King Charles his Strong Box” (2). The image cuts off several words that begin the inscription, but the indication that the document was found in Charles’s possession, in a special storage receptacle, illustrates that Charles ascribed some importance to the document. Additionally, his answer to the letter is proof of his investment in the discourse surrounding the conversion.
The document in Folder 14 provides a summary of an Answer to Anne’s letter. Although the document does not identify who the Answerer is, judging the by the content and organization of the document’s synopsis, it is most likely addressing Charles II’s Answer. The summary begins by acknowledging the Answerer’s doubts of divine influence that inspired Anne to convert. “For till then the Answerer acknowlesdges shee was in [the] right way. But when shee comes once to declare, that shee wholy ows the blessing of her change to Almighty God, and […] hope hee heard her prayers, Shee must needs think her self converted by immediate diving illumination as many endeavorus of her own as shee knew had mediated” (“Folder 14” 1). The writer then articulates the missteps the two Bishops took in handling Anne’s inquiries: “[T]hey endeavoured to keep her from changing: but what they said […] to keep her, drove her away; […] their hands carried her half seas over, and put her into [the] hands of [the] Priest, who carryed her the other half” (1). The nautical metaphor is slightly humorous and certainly exposes the incompetence of the Bishops in retaining royalty within the Church of England—a mistake that Charles is most reticent about in his Answer. The writer shares Charles’s belief that Anne is an “Enthusiast.” The contemporary religious definitions of the word according to the Oxford English Dictionary is: “One who is (really or seemingly) possessed by a god; one who is under the influence of prophetic frenzy;” and “One who erroneously believes himself to be the recipient of special divine communications; in wider sense, one who holds extravagant and visionary religious opinions, or is characterized by ill-regulated fervour of religious emotion” (“enthusiasm, n.”). So Anne is regarded as prophetic, almost to a hysterical degree.
The commentary questions the Answerer’s ability to accurately assume what is passing through Anne’s mind: “Shee said not if shee could, but if shee had thought it possible; And if it bee most certain that this is not true, it is most certain hee knows her thoughts better than shee did her self: Unles shee made a Confident of him, and told him, whatever shee said to her friends, the truth was” (“Folder 14” 2). The commenter even suspects Charles of wanting to damage Anne’s character: “Hee had it seems a design to add want of Logic to [the] rest of her faults; and so took care betimes to turn a [...] bare narrative into Reasons, w[hich] hee might turn into Premises in due season” (3). The commenter then questions Charles’s understanding of Heylin’s History that Anne consults in the process of her conversion:
But there are two distinct parts in the History of our Reformation, the Ecclesiasticall & [the] Politicall: and it is strange a person of so great understanding should not distinguish those two. I know not whether hee mean that great understanding for a Compliment, or an Irony; but bare eys, withouth understanding would have found that distinction. For it is in the History. (“Folder 14” 3)
The commenter recognizes the complex relationship between politics and theology in Heylin’s history, and suggests that Anne also recognizes the division in the text. However, in the commenter’s opinion, Charles’ Answer does not effectively assess Anne’s argument using both perspectives of Heylin’s text.
Finally, the commenter concedes that despite the rhetorical pitfalls of Charles’s Answer, his status as King is enough to “raise a mist, w[hich] shall hinder another form seeing, what he would, if hee were left to himself. And this all the fruit of his Disputing, and all the assistance for w[ch] hee was so earnest. Her R. Highness gave no opportunity to shew the great Art, w[ch] there is in y[e] world, of obscuring things, and there is his great quarrel to her; As the great honour hee has don the ch. of Engd is to make use of its name to spurn her” (4).
This “mist” that that the commenter perceives will also be addressed later in Dryden’s Answer. Clearly, the commenter does not have a high regard for Charles’ powers of reasoning and sees the Answer as an opportunity to confuse rather than explain, made all the more effective by the fact that Anne is deceased and unable to defend herself.
As the manuscript from the Milton House Archives shows, Charles is not without challengers, and perhaps his death in 1685 and James II’s ascension to the throne make room for responses to Charles’s Answer. The poet John Dryden, mounts a defense of Anne’s letter. Dryden suspects Charles answer is inspired by malice, perhaps fueled by the court gossip surrounding Anne. Where Charles employs rhetorical hand-waving to excuse his criticism of a woman, Dryden employs a chivalric voice, rushing to Anne’s defense: “And, why a Paper so innocent, left by so great a Lady as a Legacy to her Friends, should raise the Spleen of so great a Gyant to that degree as to tear it in pieces, and thus torn to disfigure it, and thus disfigured, to expose it, would have been a subject of great wonder, were it not obvious to suspect the unhappy Genius, that moved him” (Dryden 44). Dryden leverages his poetic skill to pen a monstrous characterization of Charles, who is portrayed as “Gyant” who ravages the dignity of Anne. Dryden comments on the polemic tone of Charles’ Answer work to discredit the very premise of an Answer by attacking the author instead of praising Anne. Dryden’s conclusion focuses on Anne’s personal spiritual motivations for conversion. He avoids portraying the conversion politically:
From this excellent Discourse of her Royal Highness, 'tis an invincible Truth, that all the force of Sense and Reason do center in this conclusion, that she did not think it possible to save her Soul, other wise than in the Roman Church; and by her Paper the world may see the pregnant Power of Truth, which forced those two great Lights of England's Church to a private concession of what in publick they were unwilling to own. (Dryden 55-56)
Here also Dryden addresses the two Bishops, explaining how their duties to the Church of England prevented them from publically defending Anne’s conversion. The phrase “pregnant Power of Truth,” assigns a feminine reasoning to the conversion. Anne, despite her reputation among the court, did produce a number of heirs for James, and in that sense she fulfilled her duties as James’ Queen. With this phrasing, Dryden creates a defense of Anne that would be impossible to penetrate without confronting a synergy of feminine power, the classical conceptualization of Truth, and personal spiritual belief.
Other Appearances of Anne’s Letter
Catholic apologists did not forget Anne’s paper once the dust had settled around Charles and Dryden’s Answers. The paper is reproduced in Catholic texts into the 19th century. Robert Manning’s 1716 work, The Shortest Way to End Disputes About Religion: In Two Parts, includes Anne’s letter along with an extensive commentary. The text would prove popular enough to produce several editions. Other apologists follow Manning’s lead; some even lift his commentary wholesale without attribution. For example, John Coppinger’s Catholic Doctrine and Catholic Principles Explained (1817), reproduces the letter and a portion of Manning’s commentary.
What this shows is that Anne’s religious legacy has outlasted any negative reputation she accrued in her lifetime. Defenders of the Catholic faith like Manning and Coppinger are not interested in Anne’s fiscal or marital troubles, instead enshrining her as a theological voice. The personal motivations for Anne’s conversion followed by her careful consultation of published works and interviews with established clergy create a joint narrative of personal enthusiasm and rhetorical reasoning that make her letter an effective example for any Catholic thinker wishing to model a defense their faith.