An Abortive Attempt to Defend an Episcopal Reputation: The Case of Archbishop Edwin Sandys and the Innkeeper's Wife

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Abstract

In 1581 the archbishop of York, Edwin Sandys, resided overnight at a Doncaster inn whilst making a visitation of his archdiocese. This seemingly innocuous visit triggered a series of events that cast light on early modern ideas regarding respectability, reputation and wider views of Protestantism. The trigger for all of this occurred when Sandys was found in bed with the innkeeper's wife. He claimed this was all part of an elaborate plan to blacken his name by associating it with sexual scandal and that moreover this was an attack on the reformed Church. The observer to the events at the inn and the accused in the subsequent legal proceedings was a local gentleman, Sir Robert Stapleton, who was accused of blackmailing and slandering the archbishop. This article will not seek to condemn or exonerate either Sandys or Stapleton, but rather to examine the motives and actions of all involved. The nature and fragility of reputation in early modern England in relation to both sexual behaviour and religion will be discussed and the importance of preserving one's good name will be seen to be paramount to both men. In addition the interaction of regional and national tensions will become evident as a minor incident turned into a cause célèbre.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)380-401
Number of pages22
JournalHistory
Volume97
Issue number327
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2012

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