It is the 21st of March 2021. Welcome to the Christian History Almanac brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org. I'm Dan van Voorhis.
The year was 1557
Today we travel back to Reformation Era England for an unfortunately sad story about religious persecution. And perhaps the year 1557 rings a bell because this is during Mary's reign. And there is nothing Protestants love doing more than jumping on the lady's grave and telling stories about her cruelty.
Except this is a story about a young woman born in 1557 and would live through the confessional whiplash brought about by Catholic Mary's death the following year, the reign of Protestant Elizabeth, and the ascension of Protestant, but chill James as king of England and Scotland. Today we remember the rather tragic fate of Anne Howard (nee Dacre), who was born on the 21st of March in 1557. She was born one of three girls to Thomas and Elizabeth Dacre. When Thomas died, the mother of three young girls married Thomas Howard, the Duke of Norfolk. The duke had three sons. In some kind of bizarro Brady Bunch situation, the parents had the three boys marry the three girls. They weren't technically related (and that didn't stop many folks back then, either). Anne's husband was the oldest of the three boys and thus in line to become the earl of Arundel.
We don't know the two families' theological backgrounds, but we know that by 1582 Anne had converted to Catholicism. She was arrested for failing to attend Anglican Church services and served her time under house arrest while pregnant. When she gave birth to a daughter, she named her Elizabeth… which is a hard flex seeing that Queen Elizabeth imprisoned her. However, Anne was horrified when the Protestants baptized her daughter as a Protestant.
(Fun fact: you can't be baptized as a "Protestant." Anglican and Catholic baptisms are actually the same… small differences, but there is water and the name of the Triune God…)
Anne was released from House arrest in 1584 and reunited with her husband, Philip Howard, who also decided to enter or re-enter the Catholic church. His name and title staying in Elizabethan England were too dangerous, so he left his now pregnant (again) wife at home while he took off for France. Except he was caught. The two would never see each other again as Philip would die in the Tower of London.
Anne spent the remainder of her life supporting various Catholic causes and authors. Most famously, she supported the Jesuit poet Robert Southwell. We've mentioned him before on this show as a poet, and you will hear from him at the end of today's show. When James came to the throne, he allowed Anne to reclaim the land taken from her, and she would come to know James' wife Anne of Denmark. The confession of Anne was a contentious issue, and there is a rumor that she converted to Catholicism on her death bed and that her relationship with Anne Howard partially occasioned this. Despite some accounts that she was a poet, modern research has questioned this. She lived until 1630 and thus through the reigns of 4 monarchs, each with a different confession of faith than the last. When Anne died in 1630, Charles I was on the throne, and well, the story is reset for a new generation. Today we remember a woman caught in those confessional battles, a patron of the arts, and wife of a Catholic martyr. Born on this day in 1557, Anne Howard died in 1630 at the age of 73.
Quick footnote: maybe she was born on the 31st instead of the 21st. The specific dates are usually irrelevant and simply the means by which I tell stories from the history of the church.
As mentioned before, the reading for today comes from Robert Southwell, one of the 40 Martyrs of England and Wales. These are two stanzas from his poem "The Nativity of Christ."
O dying souls, behold your living spring;
O dazzled eyes, behold your sun of grace;
Dull ears, attend what word this Word doth bring;
Up, heavy hearts, with joy your joy embrace.
From death, from dark, from deafness, from despairs
This life, this light, this Word, this joy repairs.
Man altered was by sin from man to beast;
Beast's food is hay, hay is all mortal flesh.
Now God is flesh and lies in manger pressed
As hay, the brutest sinner to refresh.
O happy field wherein that fodder grew,
Whose taste doth us from beasts to men renew.
This has been the Christian History Almanac for the 21st of March 2021 brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org. The show is produced by Christopher Gillespie, who sees the Brady Bunch and laughs at how easy it must be only to raise six kids. The show is written and read by Dan van Voorhis who looks at his two kids and wonders how other parents could possibly do it. You can catch us here every day, and remember that the rumors of grace, forgiveness, and the redemption of all things are true…. Everything is going to be ok.