Wednesday, June 3, 2015

There has been a severe browbeating going on - about a child burned on Guernsey

About Catholicism. In England.

To some of English descent, it is as if Mary Tudor was the epitomé of what a Catholic monarch would eventually look like.

Never mind that James VII and II preferred exile to using the arms of Louis XIV to reconquer his lands. Never mind that far from burning anyone on any stake, he lived a very modest life of penance in exile.

I thought Foxe had added an unnecessary flourish to his catalogue of martyrs in England by stating a woman was burnt for heresy, while pregnant, her belly burst open, the child was first rescued and then thrown back.

No, the reason it could happen was that the woman had not specified she was pregnant. Thus she was probably not at all yet round bellied. Thus, the foetus which was thrown into the fire was probably unsightly and inviable and the bailiff of Guernsey had an emotional overreaction, thinking such a horrid sight must be a monster, not suspecting he had looked like that himself a few months before birth.

In cases where a woman to be burnt was known to be pregnant, burning had to be postponed till after she had given birth - so as to ensure saving the child, for baptism. Often enough, this would of course also involve the conversion of the mother. Knowingly tying to a stake someone who was pregnant was not done across the Catholic world.

Supposing that it was done knowingly under Mary Tudor, then? Well, if so, her reign was not a very typical Catholic reign, that is all.

But even so, and even centuries after burning of heretics ceased as no longer a possible means of saving a Catholic doctrine across population, English school children, presumably, are still taught that Catholicism is like Mary Tudor (and not like the 50 - 100 other Catholic princes at the time, and not like Mary Queen of Scots, and not like the Catholic Monarchs of the Middle Ages, but JUST like Mary Tudor) and that Mary Tudor is resumed in the one case of a pregnant woman burnt at a stake and her child thrown back into the fire, which happened on Guernsey, where the bailiff was pretty much doing his own thing, within larger orders : it is being taught as if his personal act was a faithful reflection of Mary Tudor's Catholic Faith.

And the irony is, the Catholics are the ones defending young life that age now, while nearly all non-Catholics in England are either saying "it's up to the mother to decide" or "it's murder, of course, but we can't impose our ways on a non-Christian society".

Hans Georg Lundahl
Nanterre UL
Sts Pergentine and Laurentine
of Arezzo, Child Martyrs

I have taken contact with an archivist of Guernsey. He wrote an article in which he concluded Perotine Massey either may have hidden or been "in denial" of her pregnancy. I quote one and a half paragraphs, with the footnotes*:

§ Although native to the island, Perotine was in several respects an outsider; a Protestant, living in an almost wholly Catholic community. Her marriage, the allegations made at the enqueste, and – eventually – the defences of those who condemned her, all confirm this. She was married to a Protestant foreigner, who was absent, and under threat of persecution himself. She lived with her widowed mother and elder sister, probably outside their native parish11, in a household that may have attracted suspicion, not only for its religious attitudes, but also as a family of women „living at their own hand‟.12 The possibility that the women did mock the beliefs of the Catholic generality, as alleged,13 and the outcome of the trial, imply a breakdown in neighbourhood relations. The court record initiating the enquiry also suggests this; the women are referred to as „the mother and the daughters of the Cauches‟.14 They are the Cauches already, something of a known quantity, objectified by use of the definite article, even before their neighbours reported on them.

§ In all the circumstances, we might venture to explain Perotine‟s experience in a manner that differs from the awkward surmises of Foxe and the Catholic apologists. Laura Miller describes how today potential mothers may cope with extreme conflicts or stress by a strategy of denial, whereby „threatening information is actively excluded from conscious awareness. The strategy is more likely to be used when the external situation cannot be altered or when the person perceives it cannot be altered‟. Social isolation, she concludes, is a feature common to nearly all occurrences of pervasive pregnancy denial. ... 15

11 The Cauches family was long established in the parish of St Martin. By a contract dated 23 October 1524, Pierres Cauches, Catherine‟s father, had conveyed a house and appurtenances in the Saints district of that parish to one Ostes Filleull. The latter and his wife, another Catherine, died without issue. The premises at that event, or perhaps earlier, had passed to Collas Maugeur and others. These transferred the property to a Collas Vaulcourt. On 16 May 1566, Guernsey‟s Royal Court ordered its delivery to Mathieu Cauches, son of Pierres. Mathieu Cauches was Catherine Cauches‟ brother. On 31 May 1568, Mathieu conveyed it to Vaulcourt. Hence this house at Saints, St Martin, may at one period have been Perotine‟s mother‟s family home. (Greffe: Jugements, i, p. 249; the conveyance of 1568 is to be located by J.H. Lenfestey (ed.), List of Records in the Greffe, Guernsey: volume 2 (List & Index Society Special Series 11, London, 1978), p. 68). The property‟s approximate site may still be established by reference to manorial records. The Massys appear to have been native to the parish of St Pierre du Bois: Lenfestey (ed.), List of Records in the Greffe, Guernsey: volume 2, pp. 30, 40, 118, 121, 122, 136.

12 Bernard Capp, When Gossips Meet: women, family and neighbourhood in Early Modern England (Oxford, 2003), pp. 36-42; Cf. Ogier, Reformation and Society in Guernsey, p. 13.

13 Hatfield House: Cecil Papers 207/12 (not paginated).

14 Greffe: Jugements, i, p. 357.

15 Laura J. Miller, „Denial of pregnancy‟, in M.G. Spinelli (ed.), Infanticide: psychosocial and legal perspectives on mothers who kill (Washington, D.C., and London, 2003), 81-104, pp. 87, 92-93, and cf. Naïma Grangaud, „Psychopathologie du déni de grossesse: revue de la littérature‟, Perspectives Psychiatriques, 41/3 (2002), 174-81. Miller‟s typology is lucid and helpful. It is not, however, unanticipated in its broad terms by other scholars, including historians; see, for example, the overview of K. Wrightson, „Infanticide in European History‟, Criminal Justice History, 3 (1982), 1-20, pp. 7-8, and R.W. Malcolmson, „Infanticide in the Eighteenth Century‟, in J.S. Cockburn (ed.), Crime in England 1550-1800 (London, 1977), 187-209, p. 192.

* For those desiring to read his article, which goes beyond the Perotine Massey case but starts with it, it is entitled NEW-BORN CHILD MURDER IN REFORMATION GUERNSEY, by Darryl Ogier.

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