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

By Carole Levin; Debra Barrett-Graves et al. | Go to book overview

ELIZABETH JANE WESTON
(1582-1612)

Britain
Exile and Poet

Elizabeth Jane Weston, known as "Westonia," was a brilliant poet, a scholar, an exile, and the stepdaughter of alchemist and magician Edward Kelley. Weston's background is ambiguous, and there seems to be some question over whether Elizabeth and her brother John Francis Weston, two years older, were the illegitimate children of a noble. The father of record, one John Weston, "clerk," was buried near Oxford in May 1582. Kelley may have been paid to marry Joanna Weston and eventually take her children out of the country as a means to avoid aristocratic embarrassment. In the poems Elizabeth wrote in her teens, she referred to a noble background.

Whoever their father was, and whatever arrangement was made, when her children were infants, Joanna Weston married Kelley, an alchemist and medium who was the assistant of the learned magician John Dee, who had cast the horoscope of Elizabeth I. Elizabeth respected Dee enough to have her coronation on the day he suggested. Historians have often characterized Kelley as a charlatan who may have taken advantage of Dee. In September 1583 Joanna accompanied Dee to the Continent with her new husband but left her children in England. They joined their mother in December 1584, and John Francis Weston was registered as a student at the Jesuit Clementine School in Prague in 1585. In Prague, Kelley and his wife had a second wedding ceremony, possibly to have their marriage recognized as Catholic, though they also seem to have traveled in Reformed, humanist circles. Some scholars suggest it is also possible that Joanna Weston was Kelley's second wife, and that Joan Cooper Kelley was a different individual who had either died or gone back to England and the marriage in Prague was not a second ceremony but a second marriage with a different woman who had the same first name. The obscurity of Elizabeth Weston's background makes it difficult to know definitely. We do, however, know that at the time of the Prague

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