The Afterlives of Abbots and Priors in Reformation England
This chapter sheds light on the subsequent careers and fortunes of the last generation of monastic superiors in post-Dissolution England. Many former heads retired quietly and comfortably with their pensions, and others succeeded in acquiring parochial benefices to augment their income. Extant abbatial wills, however, display evidence of dislocation and a concern to preserve some measure of continuity with the past. These sources, moreover, indicate that most former superiors continued to hold traditional religious views. The accession of Mary was accordingly welcomed by many, and the modest restoration of religious houses during that reign seems to have prompted a renewal of monastic identity among former abbots and priors. This evidence casts doubt on the alleged ‘idyllic fate’ enjoyed by heads of houses after the Dissolution, and suggests that a good number sincerely regretted (or came to regret) the loss of their vocation and office.
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