Barton, Elizabeth

Barton, Elizabeth,

1506?–1534, English prophet, called the Maid of Kent or the Nun of Kent. She was a domestic servant who, after a period of illness, began (c.1525) to go into trances and to utter prophecies, which were claimed to be of divine origin. She entered a convent in Canterbury, and, under the influence of Edward Bocking, her prophecies became increasingly dangerous politically. She foretold dire consequences to King Henry VIII should he divorce Katharine of Aragón and marry Anne Boleyn. Bocking probably hoped to stir an uprising against the king, but his protégée was arrested (1533) and brought to confess herself an impostor. She and her accomplices were put to death.

Bibliography

See biography by A. Neame (1971); study by E. J. Devereux (1966).

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Rejecting this privileging of upper-class agency in Alton Locke and her own Mary Barton, Elizabeth Gaskell's North and South imagines a cooperative where owner Thornton and worker Higgins engage in direct discussion.