Perdita woman: Mary Honywood


Mary Honywood was the daughter of Thomas Godfrey of Lydd, in Kent, and his third wife Elizabeth Allard. Her date of birth is conjectural, but must post-date 1589, the year when, according to her brother Thomas's diary, their father's second wife died. Thomas Godfrey, Honywood's father, was a substantial landowner and benefactor. Her mother was the only one of Thomas Godfrey's wives who was not her father's heir, and Honywood remarks somewhat defensively that her mother's dowry of £400 was 'a portion more valued in those days than now, when gentlemen of great estates and eminent condition, oftener gaue less with their daughters than more' (fol. 9v; p. 6). Thomas and Elizabeth Godfrey had six children, of whom only two - Mary and her brother Richard - survived to adulthood. They also had two elder half-brothers: Peter, from their father's marriage to Partridge, and Thomas, from his second marriage, to Pix. According to her brother Thomas's diary, Mary Godfrey's marriage to Sir John Honywood took place on the '3rd of August, being Tuesday, anno 1619, in St. Michaell's at the Querne, at the upper end of Cheapside, in London' (British Library MS Lansdowne 235, fol. 5v; Nichols, Topographer and Geographer, p. 458). Thomas also remarks with evident satisfaction that she gave birth to a daughter on 10 May 1620, exactly 40 weeks after her wedding. The family register in Bodleian MS Rawl. D. 102 lists nine children born to John and Mary Honywood, as well as one miscarriage. Of the children, four were girls and five boys; two of the boys died young. All of the surviving children except the youngest, Katherine (born in May 1637), would have been addressed by the prefatory letter 'To my Children' in MS Rawl. D. 102. There is no record of Mary Honywood's education, and the only secondary sources quoted in her manuscript are the Bible and Bishop Joseph Hall. However the clarity with which her account of her father is expressed and set out strongly suggests that she was both well-read and intellectually capable. Her explanation of the numerous and very complex legal and family problems which beset the Godfrey heirs after Thomas Godfrey's death is largely clear, and shows a sound understanding both of the law and of financial affairs. Where the facts of her story can be checked against other sources, they are always confirmed. Both her representation of her own actions within the narrative, and her decision to write an account of this sorry period in her family's history, demonstrate that she was ready to take an active part in resolving the family disputes. She appears to have been close to her younger brothers, Thomas and Richard, and is overt in interpreting the actions of her eldest brother Peter and his wife Dorothy as charitably as possible. She died on 7 November, 1638, and was buried at Elmsted.

Bodleian Library: MS Rawlinson D. 102
(c. 1635-8)
(author) Mary Honywood