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The Abbots and Priors of Late Medieval and Reformation England$
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Martin Heale

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780198702535

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198702535.001.0001

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Election and Selection

Election and Selection

Chapter:
(p.15) 1 Election and Selection
Source:
The Abbots and Priors of Late Medieval and Reformation England
Author(s):

Martin Heale

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198702535.003.0002

This chapter focuses on the elections of abbots and priors in late medieval England, considering both the process of appointment and the choices made by convents when selecting a new superior. Abbatial vacancies were often anxious and expensive moments for monastic communities. However, in stark contrast to religious houses in many regions of western Europe, late medieval English monasteries enjoyed considerable freedom from royal, patronal, and papal intervention in electing their superiors. This was a crucial privilege that allowed communities to remain to a large extent master of their own affairs. Judging from the candidates elected, administrative experience and expertise—rather than learning, high birth, or spirituality—was the quality most highly valued in a superior by late medieval monastic communities. In the early sixteenth century, however, the long-cherished freedom of English monasteries to appoint their abbots and priors without external interference came under challenge from the Crown.

Keywords:   election, vacancy, installation, dispute, age, experience, education, social status, prosopography

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