Extraordinary Women of the Medieval and Renaissance World: A Biographical Dictionary

By Carole Levin; Debra Barrett-Graves et al. | Go to book overview
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JANE DORMER
(1538-1612)

Britain
Catholic Loyalist

The sixteenth-century Catholic English exile Jane Dormer knew personally many of the players on the international stage. Jane was a woman who both kept her faith and followed her heart. She was a loyal and loving wife and mother and a great supporter to those of her religion. Jane was the older of two daughters of Sir William Dormer and his first wife Mary Sidney. Jane was the first cousin to Philip Sidney, one of the great writers and heroes of the age. But Jane's mother died when Jane was only four years old, and her connections with her mother's relations, who supported the Protestant Church in England after Henry VIII's break with Rome, were never emphasized.

Jane was brought up by her grandmother, a devout Catholic, who insisted that Jane be thoroughly educated; by the time she was seven she was reading both English and Latin. In the reign of Henry VIII's young son Edward VI, at her grandmother's urging, she joined the household of Mary, Henry's daughter by his first wife Catherine of Aragon. Jane was very loyal to the Catholic Mary and cared about her deeply. In July 1553 Edward VI died. John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland and close adviser to the young Edward, unsuccessfully attempted a coup to put Mary's cousin Jane Grey, whom he had just married to his youngest son, on the throne. Jane Dormer's father William was one of the knights who gathered followers to support Mary instead of Northumberland. When Mary became queen, Jane was made a lady-in-waiting at court.

Jane was Mary I's most intimate companion. Mary kept Jane with her during most of her waking hours and often had her sleep with her at night. When Mary visited families living near her palaces, she brought Jane with her and asked Jane to take notes so that she could help all the children in the families. She had Jane keep a record of any complaints about bailiffs on the royal estates or about ill-

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