‘The birthe of all my children’: Frances Matthew’s family notes

In this document Frances Matthew [1550/1-1629] leaves a very different record of a life to that represented by the preaching diary kept by her husband, Tobie Matthew. Frances’s notes are at once both intensely personal and a record clearly designed for posterity. A note on the back describes these as ‘The birthe of all my children’, and Frances gives details for all six of her children including the place, date and time of birth, and details of godparents. She clearly decided later to add the details of the deaths of the four children who died before adulthood, creating a poignant record of loss. The document also bears testament to a phenomenon created by the Reformation: the clerical family. Frances was the daughter of one bishop and married into two other episcopal families: she married Matthew, who became bishop of Durham in 1595 and archbishop of York in 1606, after the death of her first husband, the son of Matthew Parker, the first Elizabethan archbishop of Canterbury, in 1574. While reformers celebrated the ideal of such ‘godly families’, many continued to feel uneasy about the status of a woman such as Frances. Even such a Protestant pedigree as hers, however, brought no guarantees: her son Toby [1577-1655] converted to Catholicism, much to the distress of both his parents. CL

Document in the hand of Frances Matthew, wife of Archbishop Tobie Matthew, endorsed ‘The birthe of all my children’.

YML: MS 322

Further Reading

Claire Cross, ‘Matthew , Frances (1550/51–1629)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford, 2004; online edn. 2015), http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/72735.

A. J. Loomie, ‘Matthew, Sir Toby (1577–1655)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford, 2004), http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/18343.

Rosamund Oates, ‘Tobie Matthew and the Minster Benefaction’, in Hanna Vorholt and Peter Young (eds), 1414: John Neuton and the Re-Foundation of York Minster Library (June 2014): https://hoaportal.york.ac.uk/hoaportal/yml1414essay.jsp?id=40.

Peter Sherlock, ‘Monuments, Reputations and Clerical Marriage in Reformation England: Bishop Barlow’s Daughters’, Gender & History, 16 (2004), pp. 57-82.

Extended captions