The Holy Maid of Wales: Visions, Imposture and Catholicism in Elizabethan Britain
English Historical Review
Oxford University Press
MetadataShow full item record
Walsham, A. (2016). The Holy Maid of Wales: Visions, Imposture and Catholicism in Elizabethan Britain. English Historical Review https://doi.org/10.17863/CAM.4639
This article explores the case of Elizabeth Orton of Overton in Flintshire, a young girl who experienced two ecstatic visions in February and March 1581 and was later exposed as a fraud. First, it uses this intriguing incident to illuminate the precarious stability of the Elizabethan polity at a moment of acute political crisis, when the fate of the Reformation itself seemed to be balanced on a knife edge. It contends that religious developments in north Wales and the Marches were far more significant than has previously been recognised and investigates how far it was inflected by Welsh patriotism. Secondly, it focuses attention on the rhetorical strategies by which Elizabeth Orton was discredited – on the modes of argument that were utilised in the ensuing contest about her own authenticity and about the truth of the Catholic religion. Setting aside the question of whether or not she was guilty of faking her trances and revelations, it suggests that the incident sheds fresh light on the nature and evolution of the entangled concepts of the imposture, hypocrisy and fraud. It shows how anxiety about the status and source of Elizabeth’s ecstatic experiences converged with intense concern about a second species of deceit and dissimulation: religious conformity.
This record's DOI: https://doi.org/10.17863/CAM.4639
This record's URL: https://www.repository.cam.ac.uk/handle/1810/260405