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Name: Diane Strange

PhD: History

Thesis Title: "The contempt and reproach of our nation": widows, minors and the Court of Wards, 1625–1650.


Thesis Description:

The impact of wardship on families in early modern England was profound. It was considered by many to be a feudal relic, a revenue-generating tool of prerogative kingship and a national disgrace, yet it survived until 1646, complicating the lives of widows and minors at all levels of society. The aim of my research, which will be primarily archived based, is to analyse the effects of wardship on minors and widows from 1625 to 1650 within the context of patriarchalism and prerogative government.  My project will investigate how women rose to the challenge of widowhood and how they tried to protect their children’s interests. It will also assess how the crown catered for infants in its care, and examine how, by undermining domestic patriarchy, Charles I’s prerogative rule contributed to the court’s unpopularity.

My key research questions include:

  • What were the socio-economic effects of wardship on minors?
  • How did widows approach the challenges of wardship?
  • How were estates managed by committees and how did this affect wards?
  • What provision was made by the crown for the welfare of minors in its care?
  • How was the unpopularity of the court affected by emergent ideologies and prerogative rule?
  • How did wardship affect the lower orders?
  • What effect did the Civil Wars have on wardship?
  • What was the fate of infant heirs after 1646?  

The period covered by the study is 1625 to 1650, which will enable me to investigate how wardship operated during the Civil Wars and the fate of infant heirs after the abolition of the Court of Wards in 1646.


Supervisors and Institution(s): 

Professor Andrew Hopper, University of Leicester

Dr David Appleby, University of Nottingham

Professor Richard Cust, University of Birmingham


Publications (please include full details with page nos. or web links):

  • 'From private sin to public shame: Sir John Digby and the use of Star Chamber in Northamptonshire and Bedfordshire, 1610', Midland History (Vol. 44, No. 19), pp. 39–55. Winner of the Midland History Essay Prize 2018.

Scholarly / Public Engagement Activities:

Year: 2015

  • 7th November 2015: "Wicked women and wolf-hooks: Digby v. Brounker and the case of the disputed bond", at the Midland History 2015 Postgraduate Conference, University of Birmingham.

Year: 2016

  • 17th May 2016: 'The wrong, disadvantage, and disservice you did': honour, myth-making, and the end of the Spanish match, 1623–1624' at the University of Leicester 2016 Postgraduate Conference.


Other Research Interests:

  • The court of Star Chamber under James I and Charles I
  • The imact of wardship among the lower orders of society 
  • Wardship in the localities – the operation and work of feodaries and escheators in the English shires
  • The social constructs of early modern law – ordinary voices though elite litigation 
  • Anglo-Spanish diplomacy in the reign of James I, 1603–1625
  • The political career of John Digby, first Earl of Bristol (1580–1653) 
  • Digby's litigation in Star Chamber and Chancery from 1610 to 1640
  • Male and female honour concepts and self-fashioning in early modern England
  • Women, wives, widows – being female in early modern England
  • The experience of childhood in early modern England

  • The English Civil Wars



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