Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Question from Annette - Catherine Fillol's convent

Question about catherine fillol and John Seymour, after they allegedly had an affair and her father found out about it..she was sent to a convent...can anyone hazard a guess or Actually know which convent she was sent to? Would it have been in Wiltshire or her native Dorset ? Did convents allow visitors? I also read that convents only took wealthy women with dowrys, how is this possible if her dowry would have gone to her husband edward surely? Thanks again.


Foose said...

I looked into this, and honestly couldn't find the name of that "convent" - "Dame Katheryn Seymer"'s father specified in his will only that she had to abide in some "honest house of religion of women" to collect the maintenance he left her - 40 pounds a year.

It doesn't sound like much, but it was a pretty hefty sum, actually, and it went directly to her and not the convent management - which would have been the case if he bought her a "corrody," often an option for wealthy people who needed to have a relative put away, respectably.

I can refer you to a Website put up by Suzannah Dunn at http://suzannahdunn.net/the-may-bride/inspiration-behind-may-bride/. Dunn recently released The May Bride, a novel focusing on the relationship between Jane Seymour and her wayward sister-in-law.

Dunn makes some interesting points about the case, noting that 40 pounds a year was double the Prioress of Shaftesbury's pension, and it was Catherine Fillol's entirely. However, her father's will was set aside in 1530, two years after he died, and we don't know how her maintenance was managed thereafter. (I read online the 1530 act divvying up the Fillol property between Seymours and Willoughbys and Rogerses - Catherine's mother was remarried to a Rogers - on the grounds that Sir William Fillol was "havyng many sondrie and inconstant fantasis in his latter daies", but it's difficult to see where Catherine herself has any money settled upon her.)

But you are right that most convents would have required some kind of payments; Eileen Power's Medieval English Nunneries notes that although "boarders" were ecclesiastically frowned upon, most nunneries accepted them because they needed the money.

Dunn also briefly discusses the question that preoccupied me; what sort of convent would have been the mostly likely candidate for immuring Catherine? Would one of the big, wealthy, prestigious convents have taken her? Or would the Fillols and Seymours preferred a smaller, more obscure place for the family scandal? Dunn notes two likely candidates for Catherine's nunnery were Shaftesbury, in Dorset (where one of her father's major properties was), and Wilton, in Wiltshire (where the Seymours were resident). But there are no records or evidence to identify the nunnery/abbey/priory positively.

I had a moment of hope when I found the Abbess Cecelia Willoughby ruling Wilton in the years when Catherine was put away (Catherine's sister Anne married a Willougby). Unfortunately Abbess Cecelia was a genuine Willoughby d'Eresby, whereas Anne Fillol was married to a Willoughby of Wollaton, whose ancestor was a merchant named Bugge who had understandably changed his name to something more fancy. So no family connection there.

Searching is complicated by the fact that Fillol can be spelled Fyliol, Filliol, Filyol, Filleul, and about 10 other variations.

As to visitors - it would depend on the convent and how closely or laxly the rule was observed. Religious houses were enjoined to hospitality, but visitors were recognized by the religious authorities as "subversive to discipline," according to Power, and the records show that in some convents the nuns complained often of the frequency of visitors and the disruption they caused. It all probably depended on the attitude of the individual prioress or abbess, the status of the vistant, and the influence brought to bear by the visitor. With her original 40 pounds a year, Catherine might have been able to receive visitors; stripped of her independent 40 pounds, she might not have had much status in the convent.

Foose said...

One thought that occurred to me in connection with this search: There might be a clue in Sir William Fillol's full will. I can only get at excerpts online, but the will is apparently among the "Middleton Collection" held at the University of Nottingham. Although I'm sure scholars have already been over the will, there's a possibility it contains bequests or donations to religious foundations - one might be the convent in question, as Sir William might have wanted to give the nuns an endowment separate from his daughter's income, perhaps to avert any efforts to deprive her of the 40 pounds.

It's a long shot, but maybe contacting the University might produce a copy of the complete will. In addition, other family manuscripts in the collection might reveal long-standing connections between the Fillol family and certain houses of religion, which would provide another possible line of inquiry.