Patrick O'Brian Discussion Forum

Who cast the first stool?


On Fri Feb 3, CAPT Caltrop wrote
. . one of the parties, at least, has pronounced Brownist/Covenenter/Lutheran origins.
I know nothing of the Brownists and little of Luther, whose 500th anniversary falls this year. I am a bit familiar with Covenanters, a fractious bunch, typified by ‘the Widow Geddes’:

‘Geddes, Jenny (fl. 1637), supposed religious activist, is traditionally credited with having begun the demonstrations against Charles I's new Scottish prayer book when it was used for the first time in St Giles's, Edinburgh, on 23 July 1637. Her parentage is unknown, and indeed it is not entirely certain that she existed at all. There is no doubt that the riot in St Giles's was started by women, and a near-contemporary anonymous satire mentions a woman who ‘did cast a stoole’ at the dean of St Giles's, James Hannay, as he read from the new book.

. . Geddes's ‘immortality’ evidently lay in her being alleged to have been the first to resort to violence in the events that led to Britain's civil wars* . . (her fame) survived in popular tradition, as is shown by The History of the Most Famous and Most Renowned Janny Geddes (1730s?), which indicates that ‘a scolding woman mad’ was known as ‘a Janny Geddes’:

So—when a scolding woman mad is,
She's called, e're since, A JANNY GEDDES.

(Lothian, 25)

. . Jenny was used as a generic name for Scottish women, the equivalent of Jock for men, and a satirical Scottish ‘litany’ of about 1640 asks for deliverance:

From Gutter Jennie, pulpit Jockie,
From all such head-countrolling tayles

(Maidment, 57)

It may be that the generic Gutter Jenny evolved into the heroic Jenny Geddes to create a symbolic individual commemorating the major role played by women demonstrators in the early months of the covenanting movement.’ (DNB)
So I have no difficulty imagining the bold Capt’n ancestors as one: ‘The National Covenant was signed at Edinburgh on 28 Feb. 1638 for the defence of Presbyterianism against the Episcopal system that had been introduced by James I and Charles I . . ’

* First Bishop’s War; Second Bishop’s War; Parliament summoned tp raise taxes to pay off the victorious and occupying Scottish army; the Wars of the Three Kingdoms (England, Scotland and Ireland); Execution of Charles I; English Republic; Restoration; Glorious Revolution of 1689; etc. etc. A whole lot of history in a short time and all begun by 'yan wee wifie'.

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