Of ministers and mistresses: Henry Bradshaw's abbesses and the hagiography of the household

Christina Marie Carlson, Fordham University


As suggested by a session at the 2002 MLA convention entitled, “Borders: Writing in English, 1450–1525,” the period between the advent of printing and the Reformation is receiving increased scholarly attention. My dissertation participates in this current trend, using the concept of household as a lens through which to examine the various cultural threads which come together in the anonymous late medieval life of St. Radegund. For example, Radegund's transformation from a martyr by ascesis into the mistress of first a royal and then a monastic household reflects developments in late medieval hagiography and devotional literature aimed at lay audiences interested in the “mixed life.” The text's focus on good governance suggests the influence of early Tudor ideals, locating it culturally alongside works such as Thomas More's Utopia as well as other examples of secular and religious instruction. As a printed text, the life of Radegund raises questions about demand for such material and patterns of patronage among aristocratic and gentry readers, lay and religious. Finally, a reconsideration of the available historical evidence and utilization of new technologies not only establishes Henry Bradshaw, Benedictine monk of Chester and author of the contemporary life of St. Werburge, as the Radegund author but also affords an opportunity to explore the ways in which monastic authors were involved in these emerging literary trends.

Subject Area

Literature|Middle Ages|British and Irish literature

Recommended Citation

Carlson, Christina Marie, "Of ministers and mistresses: Henry Bradshaw's abbesses and the hagiography of the household" (2005). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3169378.