Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2012

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Paul E. J. Hammer

Second Advisor

Marjorie K. McIntosh

Third Advisor

Matthew D. Gerber

Fourth Advisor

Virginia D. Anderson

Fifth Advisor

Jeremy L. Smith


Networks of affinity and clientage were common features of aristocratic life in early modern Europe. In post-Reformation England, Catholic gentry and nobility utilized networks of family, friends, neighbors and patrons to mitigate the effects of the state's anti-Catholic policies and also to remain connected to the state. Catholic aristocrats remained significant participants in the exchange of patronage, both as clients and as patrons themselves. Patronage relationships were an important means by which Catholics and the state related to one another and remained bound to one another, and by which Catholics continued to wield influence, both in their local communities and at the national level.

Aristocratic families utilized their various relationships -- family, extended kin, friends, neighbors and patrons -- as a network from which they drew various forms of support. Catholics relied on their networks for the usual aristocratic concerns of advancement, promotion and marriage, for example, but also for more pressing needs related to their religious nonconformity. This was especially true for recusants, the Catholics who refused to conform even occasionally to the English state church. Catholic families relied on their natal and marital networks, and also on the networks formed and maintained by women. Female networks overlapped but did not replicate male-dominated (or at least male-directed) family networks and thus provided additional avenues of support and patronage on which family groups could draw.

For the gentry and nobility, social status was more important than their religion. Catholics, both men and women, continued to participate in political life in part because that was the role into which they were born. Many of them also engaged in cultural pursuits that identified them as members of an elite social and economic group, pursuits such as Renaissance building and gardening activities. By engaging with typical features of aristocratic life, which included political engagement, specific cultural activities and participation in the patron-client system, Catholic gentry and nobility remained integral components of English society and political culture.