Susan Maddock
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Margery Kempe’s home town and worthy kin
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This reassessment of the familial, social, and political contexts which helped shape Margery Kempe’s life and character is rooted in new evidence from archival sources. An examination of the Brunhams’ and Kempes’ family and other connections outside, as well as within, Margery’s home town shows that her father’s status was higher than has previously been appreciated and her implied judgement of John Kempe as of lower social worth not unreasonable, suggesting her marriage was a genuine love-match rather than the strategic alliance which might have been expected. The nature of the conflict which beset Lynn’s governing community in the early fifteenth century is reviewed together with the roles played by Margery’s friends and supporters, among them the Carmelite friar Alan of Lynn (here identified for the first time as a member of a third-generation immigrant family), her revered confessor, Robert Spryngold, and the ‘worshipful burgess’ and later mayor who interceded on Margery’s behalf with the intolerant friar-preacher. The mayor is plausibly identified as John Permonter, who successfully brokered a settlement between the merchant-burgesses who had traditionally held sway in this supremely mercantile borough and the ‘artificers’ once dismissed as unfit to hold civic office. Not only do Margery’s friends prove to have been peacemakers in the long-running conflict over the borough’s governance, but Margery herself appears to have embraced, rather than resented, the changing social order in her home town, forming associations in later life with members of the newly empowered class of artificer-burgesses.

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