Claudia Rufina
in Making and remaking saints in nineteenth-century Britain
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For centuries, British antiquarians had debated whether the Claudia mentioned by Paul in his second epistle to Timothy and by Martial in his Epigrams was Claudia, the Christian daughter of a British king, wife of a Roman senator and – according to some accounts – mother of Linus, Peter’s successor as Bishop of Rome. Protestant scholars were especially keen to stress lineages that downplayed or conveniently bypassed their nation’s Catholic past. If the two Claudias were the same, the argument ran, then far from Rome converting the Britons, it had in fact happened the other way around. The satisfying story that Claudia was the first British Christian and was responsible for the spread of Christianity in her native land took on renewed significance in mid nineteenth century, as this chapter shows. It explores how Claudia was associated both with new archaeological discoveries and with broader debates between Protestants and Catholics over British history, inspiring fictional portrayals, scholarly accounts and appearances in hagiographical and heroic anthologies. It shows how she was linked with other ancestors and ‘patron-saints’ from the Romano-British epoch, both real and imagined: the warrior-queen Boudica and Helena, mother of Constantine the Great. Of especial significance was Claudia’s ‘celtic’ background; and it was in the guise of a Christian among the druids that Welsh nationalist commentators came to imagine her from the 1850s onwards.

Editor: Gareth Atkins

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