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Anne Hyde by Sir Peter Lely, ca. 1665

Anne Hyde by Sir Peter Lely, ca. 1665

This Project explores the life of Anne Hyde, Duchess of York, through the network of texts generated in response to her conversion to Catholicism. The Project follows the lives of these texts to their present forms, revealing the extension of scribal and court networks in the structure of modern archives.

The project works through three phases:

  • A digital curation and cataloging of  primary texts written by Anne Hyde or by contemporaries responding to Anne's writing. Select texts are exhibited using Neatline.
  • A synthesis of those primary sources that extends Anne's biography beyond her death. Her writings and responses to her conversion are examined in the context of James II's ascension to the throne.
  • A reflection on digitized texts that includes an analysis of the network of the archives and libraries that currently hold the primary texts referenced by the project, as well as remarks on brining documents from the Milton House Archive into digital form for the very first time.

In Brief: Who is Anne Hyde?

Anne Hyde, Duchess of York, was born in 1637 and is primarily remembered as the first wife of King James II. Her father, Edward Hyde, 1st Earl of Clarendon, served as chancellor to King Charles II. Anne and James married in 1660, when Anne was already pregnant with their first child. Anne and James' marriage was fraught with controversy and most biographical accounts of Anne focus on the drama surrounding Anne's pregnancy, James' adulterous habits, and their combined inability to manage finances. Anne gave birth to two future queens: Mary II and Anne, Queen of Great Britain. In 1671 Anne died, but not before she was able to convert to Catholicism. Her declaration explaining her conversion spread from court circle to printed broadsheet and inspired written responses from several writers, including Charles II and John Dryden. This declaration of conversion is where this project takes root. Clearly, Anne is a more complex character worthy of biographical reconsideration if her own conversion narrative served as catalyst for such intense theological debate.